Dagmar’s Hot Pants, Inc. / Dagmar & Company / Dagmars Heta Trosor (1971/1972) **
Starting in the late 60’s and persisting a little ways into the 80’s, there used to be a phenomenon in rock music known as the “supergroup.” It was what happened when members of several different popular bands (or performers who already had successful solo careers) joined forces, generally after the bands in which they’d made their names broke up. (Obviously that sort of thing still goes on, but the last time I can remember the term “supergroup” actually being used was in connection with Asia, comprised of guys who previously played with King Crimson and Yes. When did you ever hear anyone call, say, Fugazi or Pigface a supergroup?) Notable examples would include Cream; Crosby, Stills, and Nash; and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Anyway, at least in the United States, Dagmar’s Hot Pants, Inc. was promoted as a sort of supergroup of Scandinavian smut. The posters proudly trumpeted, “The fabulous girls of Fanny Hill, I, a Woman 3, and Without a Stitch… together for the very first time!” That ad campaign says something about the impact that Danish and Swedish erotic cinema had overseas. At the very least, it presupposes that audiences would remember those movies, remember those actresses, and be excited about the prospect of seeing them again— this at a time when sex films were the most disposable of cinematic commodities, apt to be forgotten as soon as the customer finished shooting his wad into the pocket of his overcoat. I mean, I can’t recall David Friedman, for example, ever attempting to sell one of his turkeys on the strength of such a team up (“The bollock-boggling beauties of Bummer!, Starlet, Thar She Blows!, and The Lustful Turk… fornicating as a frolicsome foursome for the very first time!”), and if he left a marketing strategy unused, then you can bet there was simply no profit in it. But the Scandinavian stuff stuck with people for some reason, just like French, Italian, and German skin flicks would later on. I haven’t seen enough of it yet to offer a confident guess as to why, but what Nordporn has come my way certainly has unique and appealing qualities, even when— as in the case of Dagmar’s Hot Pants, Inc.— it isn’t very good. Production values are much higher than in contemporary American smut, for one thing, and for another, the women are significantly prettier on average. That too is an obvious parallel with sex movies from further south in Europe, but there’s something else about Dagmar’s Hot Pants, Inc. and the rest that seems purely and characteristically Scandinavian. It’s the attitude. In stark contrast to even the most liberated pornographers elsewhere (and to American pornographers most of all), the makers of Danish and Swedish erotica show no sign of thinking that sex is anything to be ashamed of.
Dagmar Andersson (Diana Kjaer, the aforementioned fabulous girl of Fanny Hill, who was also in Hangover) is a Swede living in Copenhagen. We meet her as her alarm goes off on the morning of her last day in town. For the past several years, Dagmar has enjoyed such extraordinary success as a prostitute that she’s been able not merely to support herself in style while socking away a considerable savings, but even to put her boyfriend, Lennart Peterson (Ole Søltoft, from Amorous Headmaster and In the Sign of the Gemini), through medical school. But now that Lennart is officially Dr. Peterson, Dagmar is hanging it up and moving back to Stockholm. She’s a conscientious and considerate sort of gal, though, so she isn’t getting on that plane until she sees to it that everyone she cares about in Copenhagen is well taken care of: her regular customers, her fellow whores, her housekeeper— even Lieutenant Johansen (Svend Johansen), the bent cop who’s kept the heat off her all these years in exchange for frequent complimentary rolls in the hay.
Much of the movie’s action consists of Dagmar favoring this or that middle-aged bozo with a schtup goodbye. That covers Johansen, obviously, but also Mr. Blackstone (Robert Straus, of 4D Man and The Atomic Kid), the rich American who would leave his wife for Dagmar if she’d have him; opera singer Englebert Ekmanner (Poul Bundgaard, of 1001 Danish Delights and Agent 69 Jensen: In the Sign of Scorpio); and Mr. Bergman (Manne Gündberger), the pervert who likes to watch from inside a closet while she fucks her other customers. Dagmar also pays one last visit to businessman Harold Hansen (Göthe Grefbo, from Bel Ami and What the Swedish Butler Saw), but he isn’t strictly the customer on this occasion. Rather, Hansen has hired her to make a man of his hapless virgin weenie of a son (Lars Söderström). Next, she gets a final checkup from her amorous gynecologist (Karl Erik Flens) to make sure she isn’t bringing home any venereal diseases as an unwanted graduation present for Lennart, then it’s off to see her amorous lawyer (Lars Granberg) to finalize the handover of her apartment to her friend, Vivi Eriksson (Annelie Alexandersson). Dagmar also gives Vivi her address book, annotated with the standard fee she’s negotiated for each of her clients, plus any special kinks they like to indulge. Finally, Dagmar has a pair of emergencies to attend to. Her rock musician brother (The Seduction of Inga’s Tommy Blom) has knocked up his girlfriend (Inger Sundh, the aforementioned fabulous girl of The Daughter: I, a Woman, Part III, who brought a taste of Scandinavia to Japan’s pinku eiga industry with Inn of Perverted Beasts), but doesn’t have the money for an abortion. Meanwhile, another prostitute named Ingrid (Bedside Manner’s Greta Nissen, the aforementioned fabulous girl of Without a Stitch) urgently needs a second girl for a high-paying gig with a pair of Japanese electronics tycoons (Bobby Kwan and Cecil Cheng, the latter from The Brides of Fu Manchu and The Bed Sitting Room).
You might have noticed something rather basic missing from that synopsis. Where the hell is the conflict driving the story? Quite simply, there isn’t any until the penultimate scene in the film, when we belatedly learn that Dagmar has a pimp (Tor Isedal, from Exposed and Terror of Frankenstein), and that he was never consulted about this “moving back to Stockholm” business. Vince— that’s the pimp’s name— shows up at Dagmar’s flat just minutes before she’s supposed to leave for the airport. She’ll have to do some fast and tricky thinking if she intends to make her flight.
That absence of conflict is what most hurts Dagmar’s Hot Pants, Inc. If Vince had been introduced earlier, if he had been shown just missing Dagmar’s various comings and goings a few times throughout the film, if some sense were conveyed before the last ten minutes that Dagmar was under any pressure save that of her takeoff time, it might be easier to enjoy the quiet strangeness of this movie. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sex film so singlemindedly focused on niceness before. The whole picture is ultimately about Dagmar behaving responsibly, doing good deeds for people, and just generally striving to spread the benefits of her success at the Oldest Profession as widely as possible— albeit in a way that involves packing as much screwing into twelve hours as I manage in the average couple months. The mood of the film is relaxed and amiable, the attitudes it expresses are humane and progressive (despite a few cringe-inducing ethnic gags courtesy of the Japanese businessmen), and there’s barely a trace of cruelty or exploitation to be found. It’s as if writer/director/producer Vernon P. Becker and co-writer Louis M. Heyward set out to demonstrate in soft-pornographic form the ethos of Swedish social democracy! I want to love that, but in practice I really do require a story in which something is clearly at stake throughout. Dropping in a menacing pimp at the end simply doesn’t cut it.
That’s doubly a shame, because there’s a lot of little stuff to like in Dagmar’s Hot Pants, Inc. as well. Diana Kjaer acts with the same gently efficient competence that her character brings to hooking, making for an unusually believable performance. I found the film’s unaffectedly dopey sense of humor charming more often than not, and I enjoyed the cognitive dissonance between the seriousness of the threat that Vince poses and the comedy of errors that Dagmar engineers to neutralize him. But most of all, I appreciated seeing a movie be ribald without being sleazy, while also not shirking its duties as a skin flick. Perhaps if you have a taste for nigh-plotless slice-of-life art films as well as a taste for European soft porn, you’ll be able to view Dagmar’s Hot Pants, Inc. more favorably than I did.