By the time Joan Collins became one of the biggest television stars in North America on Dynasty she had already been appearing in movies since the early 1950’s and was a regular guest on numerous TV shows ranging from arguably the best ever episode of Star Trek (City on the Edge of Forever) to The Persuaders and even Starsky and Hutch. As a youngster in the early 1980’s I only knew of her for a few reasons. Mainly that she was the older woman catching the eyes of men of all ages thanks to her role on Dynasty including my own father and with the video age upon us she was the woman who was gracing the racy covers of a couple of VHS rentals that had tongues wagging, The Stud and The Bitch. Alas I was a bit too young to get a hold of those tapes and I never did see those sexy Joan romps or her Playboy coverage either.

Until now.

At the time I was more likely to spot Joan in her horror ventures. Films like Empire of the Ants, Dark Places and Tales From the Crypt. So with the release of Stud and Bitch to blu ray from Kino Lorber I figured I’d turn the clock back to a time before Joan struck television gold and for good measure I’ve added to the mix a sleazy Euro-crime thriller that she co-starred in opposite genre favorite Maurizio Merli.

Magnum Cop   (1978) aka Poliziotto senza paura

Directed by Stelvio Massi, this crime thriller does it’s best to recall the Noir genre of the past thanks to images of Mitchum as Marlowe and Newman as Harper being plastered about the walls of leading man and private eye Merli’s apartment. He’s got a movie poster collection I’d be proud to own with one sheets of Eastwood and John Wayne flicks tossed in for good measure. Merli is going to find himself wrapped up in parallel cases that connect leading him from Rome to Vienna.

He’s at first hired to find the whereabouts of a banker’s missing daughter that at first proves easy but when she escapes his custody after offering a full frontal nude scene to the viewers in exchange for her freedom, she’s nabbed by some unsavory characters which will connect to that parallel investigation Merli will get caught up in when travelling to Vienna.

It’s here that we’ll meet Joan Collins as she struts on stage to offer up a striptease at a local strip joint and Merli is taking notice of the wavy haired brunette. While he’s got Joan in his sights, he’s got local mobsters roughing him up for asking the wrong questions around the city and digging into the death of a local school girl. Sadly this tale is going to seep into the domain of child prostitution and Merli is going to get drawn in to the point of vigilante justice.

Merli is going to find that this child prostitution ring has deep roots and long arms meaning no one is as they seem. This includes Joan and when the time comes she’ll be revealed as more like Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon than the big hearted hooker who you want to take home to mom.

Overall this isn’t a bad genre effort with an in your face killing I didn’t really see coming that shocks the senses. While the dubbing is generally atrocious we’re fortunate enough to have Joan doing her own voice. As for nudity, yes Joan puts it out there for all to see from the moment she gives us a topless flash on stage to the showdown with Merli at the film’s end when she bares it all with some delicate camera maneuvers.

The copy I have of this one leaves much to be desired as it’s on a budget label with some other Euro-crime thrillers of varying quality. Kind of hit and miss on what you get in these collections. Now it’s on to ……….

The Stud   (1978)

Who better to star in a big screen adaptation of Jackie Collins novel that features the sex life of the rich and not so famous then her very own sister Joan? Joan takes the lead here as the well to do wife of the wealthy Walter Gotell. Film buffs will instantly recognize the German actor from his six appearances as General Gogol in the James Bond series. While Gotell is building his fortune, Joan is toying with Oliver Tobias who she has hired to run her disco club.

Let’s just say that Joan likes to have her way with the younger man and that includes a romp in the elevator caught on the security cam. Heck she even loves to rewatch her video taped performance while accompanied by her gal pal Sue Lloyd who can’t wait for her own go around with the younger man. For his part, Tobias as The Stud does enjoy his freedom with the ladies of all ages who frequent Joan’s disco club that he manages but he’s having a (lol, I was about to say a hard time but let’s go with an alternative word on this point) he’s having a tough time keeping up with the boss’ libido. As the club owner, Joan lays claims to everything in it and that includes Tobias and the fringe benefits he can supply. She’ll even order him over to Paris and how about a “quickie” in the cab upon his arrival?

Now that we’re in Paris, it’s time for Joan and Sue to host an orgy with plenty of flesh on display and drugs to numb the senses of poor Tobias. By the time he clears his mind he’s had enough of being just a boy toy for Joan and to compound matters he’s set his sights on Joan’s attractive step daughter, Emma Jacobs, a young lass making her film debut under Quentin Masters direction.

Joan isn’t above kicking Tobias to the curb but turnabout is fair play and that’s just what is about to happen to our raunchy leading lady when Gotell discovers the security tapes on playback.

Yeah it’s all rather tame by today’s standards of sexual content and what one can easily find on the internet but placing this in the time of it’s release, I’m not so sure. Unless one put on the proverbial raincoat and headed to the local red light district or the famed theaters of 42nd Street, you weren’t likely to see as well known a star as Joan Collins parading about in her birthday suit. Even if she was on the downslope of a fading movie career at the time.

It’s campy to say the least with a theme song that asks, “What’s his name? What’s his name?” followed by “Stud” and disco clubs that are all but lost to the past so this offers us a nostalgic look back at an era I was too young to experience. Much like those hazy LSD induced flicks of the late 60’s. They’ve all become a time capsule.

Joan’s character Fontaine won’t take her dismissal from Gotell easily and though she wasn’t exactly enamored of the sequel’s title according to her autobiography, Joan returned the following year as …..

The Bitch   (1979)

Pretty much starting where the first film left off, this picks up where we’d expect to find Joan’s Fontaine, in bed enjoying the sins of the flesh with her man of the moment followed by a second go around in a steamy shower before she catches that flight from New York to London. Cue that soundtrack’s title song “Bitch.”

It’s while inflight that Joan is going to become entangled in a heist thanks to Antonio Cantafora (billed as Michal Coby) who is seated next to Joan on the plane. Flirtations soon follow and Cantafora a known underworld figure uses Joan by hiding a large diamond ring inside her fur coat. Of course Joan is whisked through customs with no problem and now all our thief needs to do is track Joan in London.

After a long flight and a brief stop at her disco club, Joan the nymphomaniac bluntly asks her chauffeur, “Do you like to ….. Ricky?” Looks to me like Joan is holding tryouts for a youngster to replace Tobias from the first film. Apparently the young man does indeed like to …… Turns out it’s more of a one night stand cause Cantafora locates Joan after asking around town where he can find her and he heads over to the disco club where admittedly Joan looks ravishing in white out on the dance floor.

Fashion shows, topless runway models and Joan in her dominatrix get up are still to follow along with some mafia goings on. Turns out Cantafora is in deep with the local mob and owes them quite a bit of money. To compound his problems, the diamond ring he tried to pawn off proves a fake. All this leads to the best scene in the film (for me anyway) when he’s hauled in to meet the local godfather played by Ian Hendry. It’s well staged and Hendry is a good fit as he lays some not so subtle threats at Cantafora’s feet.

Enough of that mafia stuff cause the public paid it’s hard earned money to see massage parlors, nude club dancers, skinny dipping lesbians and hot sweaty saunas with good looking people minus their clothes. As for Joan’s Fontaine? This was the end of her on screen adventures despite the door being left open for a trilogy. Oh well, with Joan’s star back on the rise after baring all, the big money was about to come in with her role on Dynasty.

Of the three films I can’t honestly say I’ll ever watch any them again but if given the chance to see a restored version of the gangster film with Maurizio Merli, I can see myself giving that one another go. The Stud and The Bitch will be a case of been there and seen that. I will add that growing up in the era when Joan was a pretty big TV star, seeing these films made just prior to her “comeback” for the first time is actually a bit sad. The fact that she had to resort to these films for both a payday and as a way to climb up and out of TV guest spots is kind of disheartening.

And that Playboy edition? I guess if I want a look at that I’ll have to pay closer attention at the antique malls.