Fly Me (1973)

Director: Cirio H. Santiago

Tagline: “This airline serves three wild dishes. Take your choice: ‘I’m Toby, fly me as far as you want.’ ‘I’m Sherry, buy a ticket and I come free!’ ‘I’m Andrea, my foreign lay-overs are very stimulating.’”

Key IMDB Keywords: Kung fu; hijack; stewardess

Plot: Feeling anxious over the imminent cancellation of ABC’s Pan Am? Fret not! Roger Corman’s New World Pictures has all the sexy stewardesses and globe-hopping adventures any aviaphile could demand. “But is it episodic?” you may ask. “Is it preposterous?” “Is there a white slavery angle?” Yes, yes, and… it’s a Roger Corman production from 1973, do you really have to ask?

Much like Pan Am, Fly Me divides the action among its three air-hostesses. First up: Sherry (played by Lyllah Torena), whom we first meet at the airport, being dropped off by one man, and then sneaking off to the airplane lavatory with another man for a quickie (once they reach “cruising altitude”). When the plane lands in Hong Kong, we learn that Sherry has been spending her non-fornicatin’ time smuggling dope. But she’s shorted one of her suppliers, so they abduct, strip, and bind her, leaving her to try to wriggle her way free while wearing only panties. When Sherry fails, her captor informs her that the big boss has a “side business.” “Call it a ‘rental service,’” he sneers. “Girls,” he adds in a whisper, in case Sherry has missed the point. (“You… fucker!” she hisses in reply.)

Meanwhile, Andrea (Lenore Kasdorf) goes looking for one of her own man-friends in Hong Kong, only to find that he’s abandoned his apartment under mysterious circumstances, which bums Andrea out so much that she’s unable to enjoy her dimly lit yacht-party.

So Andrea enlists a local importer/exporter for help in investigating her pal’s disappearance, but the more she probes, the more she draws heat from swarms of martial artists, who kick at her and rip her clothes and shoot blow-darts at her. Some of her stalkers are Asian; some are white and female; some are blind. All move fairly slowly, giving Andrea plenty of time to counter their moves with her own.

As for novice stew Toby (Pat Anderson), she’s looking forward to the hedonism of her first trip abroad until she learns that her mother (Naomi Stevens) has decided to serve as her chaperone, to make sure that she doesn’t get into trouble. (“I put a virgin on the plane in Los Angeles. I’ll put a virgin on the plane in Hong Kong,” she promises.) Mama complains about everything, from the food she gets in Asia—even “the finest chop suey in Hong Kong” can’t satisfy her—to the handsome doctor (Richard Young) who’s courting Toby from port to port. The young couple has to sneak off to a bathhouse in Tokyo to try and find some privacy. There, the doc reassures a shy, naked Toby that he’s “not only a doctor… I’m a bone specialist.” Alas, mama crashes the party before he can show Toby exactly what that means.

The three storylines come together improbably when Toby’s mother demands to be let aboard an aerial “tourist excursion” that turns out to be a front for the brothel where Sherry’s been imprisoned. Andrea’s gumshoeing too leads her to the same place, where a brawl ensues and the ladies fight back to a life where they can sleep with lots of men on their own time, not under orders from a drug kingpin.

Key scenes:
Fly Me gets off to a wild start: even before the opening credits, Toby runs out of the ocean and into the back of Dick Miller’s cab, where she changes from her bikini into her uniform, causing a distracted Miller to crash the car.

Once she gets into the air, Toby has a meet-cute with her “bone doctor” when she spills a drink on him while he’s explaining to a Chinese passenger why socialized medicine is bad. (Meanwhile, in a teaser for what’s to come, Toby’s mother complains about the airplane food in a broad Italian-American accent.)

Actually though there aren’t a whole lot of proper “scenes” in Fly Me. The movie barely makes it past 70 minutes, and only gets that far because director Cirio H. Santiago—or, more accurately, Corman’s team of editors—pad the story out with what appears to be every scrap of sightseeing footage they shot while on location overseas.

Can easily be distinguished by: Snap zooms, snap zooms, snap zooms! Santiago is so enamored of the sudden zoom—in or out—that he uses it on people and inanimate objects alike.

Sign that it was made in 1973: The prog-funk soundtrack, coming on much heavier than these kinds of movies usually sound.

Timeless message: There are airport lounges and then there are “airport lounges.” (Wink, wink.)

Memorable quotes: At the start of the movie, as Sherry’s latest lover drops her off at the airport for her trip, he smirks and asks, “Hey, do you guys know any stewardesses landing about now?” Big smiles and laughs all around.

Now available on DVD from Shout! Factory in a package with The Arena and Cover Girl Models, as the “Lethal Ladies 2” collection.

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