In the kicky documentary "Bettie Page Reveals All," the 1950s cult pin-up gal with the trademark bangs is called "the first icon of her nature," "an extraordinary creature" and a "revolutionary." But according to Page herself, who was captured in an audio-only interview by director Mark Mori more than a decade before her 2008 death, she was just an uninhibited young woman, comfortable with her photogenic looks, who enjoyed sex, posing and making folks happy. She was the girl next door, if the girl next door rocked fishnets, snub-toed stilettos and a leather corset.
Page's candid conversation with Mori serves as the narration for the film, which retraces the iconic model's often remarkable life from her impoverished Tennessee roots to her seven groundbreaking years as a wildly popular pin-up (she posed both bikinied and nude) and fetish model to her mysterious exit from her career in 1957. En route, she playfully posed for countless "camera club" enthusiasts, was crowned Playboy's Miss January 1955 and ran afoul of McCarthy-era repression.
As captivating as this part of the movie is — it's jam-packed with provocative photos and film clips of Page, as well as with vivid period archival footage — the retelling of her post-modeling years proves even more riveting: torrid affairs and troubled marriages, born-again Christianity, recurring paranoid schizophrenia, 10 years in a state mental hospital (1982-1992) and the exceedingly private Southern California life that followed. Meanwhile, her heyday imagery would inspire a whole new generation of models, artists and performers.
Interviews with Paula Klaw (now deceased), who with late brother Irving ran the Manhattan-based mail-order photo firm for which Page did much of her most memorable modeling; several ex-lovers and veteran photographers; and celebrity fans, including Hugh Hefner, Dita Von Teese, Rebecca Romijn and Todd Oldham, round out this highly watchable portrait.
"Bettie Page Reveals All"- 3 stars
MPAA rating: R (for sexual content and graphic nudity throughout)
Running time: 1:41
Opens: Friday at the Music Box TheatreCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun