Naked ambition

Sacramento filmmaker Jason Rudy revives the nudie-cutie subgenre

Sacramento filmmaker Jason Rudy’s latest film reimagines the 1965 flick <i>Orgy of the Dead</i>.

Sacramento filmmaker Jason Rudy’s latest film reimagines the 1965 flick Orgy of the Dead.

Photo by Steven Chea

Catch a screening of The Desires of Dawn on Saturday, January 11, at the Crest Theatre, 1013 K Street; 8 p.m.; $10. For more information, visit

There were two things that local indie filmmaker Jason Rudy knew he wanted for his eighth and latest film: something that would be easy to shoot and lots of nudity.

The resulting film, The Desires of Dawn,premieres on Saturday, January 11,at the Crest Theatre, and, in fact, does feature much naked flesh. It was, he said, also relatively easy to make—the entire production only took a few days and nights.

That said, its subject ended up being a little more nuanced than the erotic B-movie Rudy originally intended to make.

Like the other films Rudy has made with his Desperate Visions Productions company, The Desires of Dawn is based on a particular campy, drive-in subgenre. Previously, he’s made a “pinky violence” movie, which is a type of Japanese-girl action film (Sukeban: Octopus Pot); a gross-out horror comedy (Chump Change); and a silent horror film (Lady M.).

The Desires of Dawn was inspired by the nudie-cutie films of the ’60s that were popular in adult theaters prior to the pornography boom that showcased more explicit films in the ’70s. Herschell Gordon Lewis and Russ Meyer were prominent filmmakers in this genre, and although nudie-cuties are tame by today’s standards, the films seemed to exist solely as a means of parading naked women on the screen. Because of censorship standards of the time, however, filmmakers were forced to be more creative.

The genre proved a bit challenging for Rudy.

“With Desperate Visions, every film I make I have to explain what the theory is. Most movies just come out. People know what they are. With this, I had to explain what a nudie-cutie film is. I like and want to educate people,” Rudy said.

One reason Rudy wanted to make an “easier” film this time around was because of the two movies he finished beforehand, Mondo Sacramento and Mondo Sacramento 2. In the’70s, films in the “mondo” genre were exploitation-styled documentaries.

For his own films, rather than shooting documentary footage, Rudy staged recreations, though he based them on several true, bizarre and quite macabre Sacramento-specific crime stories, including bits on Richard Chase, the 1970s-era “Vampire of Sacramento” known for drinking his victims’ blood; and Karen Greenlee, a necrophiliac who, in 1979, was arrested for stealing a dead body from a morgue.

Rudy said he grew up on these gruesome stories.

“I was born in 1973, and I’ve [lived] in Sacramento my whole life. As a kid, I heard about the Vampire Killer, and when I was in high school, I heard about [serial killer] Dorothea Puente,” he said.

Those stories, he added, inspired his work as a filmmaker.

But the making of the Mondo films was an extremely arduous task, with Rudy spending months in the library researching true crime stories. So, for The Desires of Dawn, Rudy said he wanted to do something that required less extensive research.

The Mondo films influenced Rudy’s current flick in other ways, too. While the recreations in those films were fact-based, Rudy also shot them in a salacious, ’70s drive-in-worthy style with lots of gratuitous blood and nudity.

As it turned out, the nudity was a hit with audiences.

Later, as he researched flicks from the nudie-cutie subgenre, Rudy came across one that really stood out, the 1965 film Orgy of the Dead. Written by Ed Wood (though not directed by the legendary filmmaker), it’s the story of a couple who survive a car crash, only to land in a mysterious cemetery-styled purgatory, where they are tied up and forced to watch spirits of the dead dance for them. The “spirits” are, not surprisingly, topless women.

And so Rudy decided to make The Desires of Dawn as a reimagining of Orgy of the Dead.

“I figured I could make my interpretation of it,” Rudy said. “It basically serves the same function as the original, to see beautiful, naked women onscreen.”

In Rudy’s film, the main character, a shy college student with repressed sexual fantasies about women, falls asleep and wakes up in a mysterious outdoor setting similar to that from Orgy of the Dead. Here, she finds the purgatory has two queens who run things. The queens are aided by eight different girls who strip for Dawn.

“I wanted to make a film that was all style and nudity, but in the process, ended up still making a film that is layered, dealing with fantasies, social anxiety and fear,” Rudy said. “It looks at different ways women seduce. It’s very psychological.”

The film will certainly appeal to camp aficionados. Rudy even throws in some lines directly from Orgy of the Dead as a reference for hard-core fans.

The film’s footage, like that from all of Rudy’s movies, is deliberately given an aged look in post-production. Rudy said this touch is key.

“[All] artists should have a style, like David Lynch has a style, and [Quentin] Tarantino has a style. You always know you’re seeing their type of movie. I try to have my stamp on it,” Rudy said.

Rudy’s peers believe he’s succeeded in this goal.

“Jason is definitely the most prolific, and one of the best indie filmmakers working in Sacramento,” says Christy Savage, a filmmaker and producer with the Trash Film Orgy and TFO Productions. “I have a lot of respect for his ability to constantly create new and exciting films in a variety of genres.”

While Rudy’s films clearly pay homage to their predecessors, they also stand on their own, artistically speaking.

“[My films] are recreations … but different because there’s nothing like [the old films],” he said.

As many films as he’s made, Rudy said he’s still learning. He made his first movie in 2007, and has done at least one movie a year since then.

Rudy recuperates costs through screenings, using the profits to produce a corresponding DVD, which he then sells on his website and at conventions. A Desires DVD release is planned for later this year.

Money aside, filmmaking is about entertainment, he said.

“When I was a kid and my parents were getting divorced, you’d go to the movies and just forget about all the crap that was going on,” said Rudy.

“You’d get out of there and still have to deal with your shit, but you’d feel a little better. That’s really what movies are about—escaping.”