Babes in the Woods: A Lost Comedy Film from a Lost Comedy Genre

Some movies like “Babes in the Woods” have been considered completely “lost” over the century in which the medium of the motion picture has existed while in cases like “Greed” the entire movie isn’t considered lost but the full vision of the director is since major portions of original cut have gone missing. Sometimes copies of these movies are discovered by chance at a yard sale or sometimes the film remains lost forever. Lost movies are occasionally considered classics in which the lack of access is placed on the level of minor tragedy. The greater bulk of lost movies are just like found movies: unexceptional examples of the art of film-making. For nearly 40 years a movie from the early 1960’s was considered lost that is an example of how movies capable of being made at a certain point of time could not possibly be made in the same way at any other time.

“Babes in the Woods” struggles desperately to be a comedy. Perhaps in the early 1960’s when comedy was still based on burlesque routines and the revolution brought by the rise of those like Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Richard Pryor was still a few years away, some viewers did find it funny on its own terms. Not that laughter was the primary thing that “Babes in the Woods” is intended to provoke. Here is the capsule description for “Babes in the Woods” from the Fandor channel available on the Roku: “Oh those beautiful babes! Follow three gorgeous young ladies as they go to camp, finding plenty of mischief along the way. These girls aren’t ashamed of their beautiful bodies and show them off at every opportunity!”

What “Babes in the Woods” is, really, is an illustration of the kind of cheapo nudie exploitation movie impossible to imagine during the Hays Code era, but still retaining enough innocent goofiness to seem downright tame even before the decade was over. You will no plot in “Babes in the Woods” other than that that which makes sense of the stringing together of scenes that allow three young women to be filmed completely nude but in a way that exposes only breasts and buttocks. The element which allows this film to be placed into the Comedy category is to be found in the narration. The first indication of the type of humor at play in this little flick that can only seem downright bizarre to modern audiences is that it is spoken by a character already dead before the events in the film take place.

The plot device is not important since the entire enterprise exists solely for the purpose of getting the three girls to take off their clothes whether it makes any sense for them to be naked or not, such as when standing over a stove frying an egg. Dialogue is non-existent as the entire soundtrack is composed of narration. That narration should be required listening for any woman who finds the advertising execs on “Mad Men” to be even the slightest bit alluring. The throwback to the conventions of sexist humor that filled burlesque houses is the defining trademark of the narrator’s observations and quips. These conventions so inherent among men at the time are expressed in ways that mine for laughs through such decisions as comparing women getting naked to a weapon being developed by the military.

It is hard to be terribly offended by “Babes in the Woods” despite the superhuman ability required to find the narration amusing. After all, “Babes in the Woods” is a throwback to a time when those seeking solace or stimulation in pornography actually had to work at finding it. In today’s society where films a million times more offensive are available even to kids at the click of a mouse the admittedly sexist “Babes in the Woods” retains a certain comforting sense of nostalgia.