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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Sports > Wrestling > Lipstick & Dynamite - The First Ladies Of Wrestling

Lipstick & Dynamite – The First Ladies Of Wrestling (Documentary)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Documentary: B



When the idea of a documentary about female wrestlers, everyone I spoke with about this cringed as if they thought it would be awful and uninteresting.  The impression was that it would either be flashy and gaudy like such wrestlers are now in the big money version of the sport (anything that takes this much energy and has this much physicality is sport enough for anyone) or that it would be drab and old beginnings that would be too rough to want to watch.  There is even some homophobia and challenge to gender still to this day about such explicitly empowered women.  Instead, Ruth Leitman’s Lipstick & Dynamite – The First Ladies Of Wrestling (2004) is a very interesting slice of life tale about women in the mid-20th Century trying to find alternatives.


Hardly any of them made any serious money like the big contracts today, so between the abuses they had from men, society & even dysfunctional families (or adoptive families) to the abuses of the ring and their exploitation throughout life, it paints a stark portrait of women who never become economically empowered enough to find the independence that would lead to real happiness.  The ironic thing is their obvious able-bodied capacities.  They built the business and it left them behind.


Included is The Fabulous Moolah, who became a big moneymaking promoter herself, The Great Mae Young, Penny Banner, Ida May Martinez, Gladys “Killem” Gillem, Ella Waldek and the other early stars who made an entire industry possible.  They picked up the slack when the men fell short and even have fans to this day.  We also see how The McMahon Family took over & corporatized the sport as early as the mid 1960s and how that transformed the business for better and definitely worse.  If wrestling is going to be a banal money machine, this is the kind of document that deserves to be made because these women deserve to be heard.  Leitman made this program well and it is more informative, intelligent and entertaining than those colleagues of mine expected.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image is a mix of film, videotape, kinescopes and stills.  It looks good enough for the type of production it is.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo has limited surrounds if that, with the combination more than able to handle the material.  Extras include two radio segments, five featurettes, six extra on-camera interview segments, stills gallery, eight deleted scenes, the trailer and director’s audio commentary.  The only problem is the overlap, but they are usually good additions if you land up enjoying the program as much as I did.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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