Films of Doris Wishman, The: The Daylight Years (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Dec 28, 2023
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Films of Doris Wishman, The: The Daylight Years (Blu-ray Review)


Doris Wishman

Release Date(s)

Various (December 27, 2022)


AGFA/Something Weird Video/Vinegar Syndrome
  • Film/Program Grade: See Below
  • Video Grade: See Below
  • Audio Grade: See Below
  • Extras Grade: B-
  • Overall Grade: A-

The Films of Doris Wishman: The Daylight Years (Blu-ray)

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Since Hollywood has had a long history of being hostile to female directors, they’ve often had to make their way in the world of independent filmmaking instead. While some aspects of the mainstream movie business have been a bit more welcoming to women, such as editing and screenwriting, the doors for directors have stayed firmly shut for the majority of Hollywood’s history. There have been rare exceptions like Dorothy Arzner and Ida Lupino, but for the most part, women have had to look elsewhere to find work behind the camera. One such place is exploitation cinema, where directors like Stephanie Rothman have plied their trades, and another is adult filmmaking, which has had distinctive voices like Suze Randall and Candida Royalle. Doris Wishman was a director who straddled the two, making softcore adult exploitation films on shoestring budgets throughout the Sixties and Seventies.

Wishman’s career spanned the early days of nudist camp films to the advent of hardcore action during the Seventies, but she stubbornly followed her own path during that entire timeframe. She did eventually make a couple of hardcore films of her own, but her heart wasn’t in it, and she retired after struggling to finish the slasher film A Night to Dismember in 1983. She did briefly return to filmmaking in 2001 just before passing way from complications due to lymphoma in 2002. The Films of Doris Wishman: The Daylight Years collects six of her early nudist films that she made between 1960 and 1965.

Nude on the Moon (1961) is arguably the crown jewel of Wishman’s nudist period—although there’s no denying the fact that the value of any gem is purely in the eye of the beholder. It may be as ridiculous as any other nudie cutie, but it has an undeniably offbeat charm and a bit more ambition than other similar films, Wishman’s included. It was the first time that she left the nudist camp milieu in order to explore a completely different setting, in this case the surface of the moon—although her version happened to look just like a nudist camp anyway. She co-wrote and co-directed Nude on the Moon pseudonymously, and there’s a little more story involved than in some of her other efforts from the period. Dr. Jeff Huntley (Lester Brown) and his fellow scientist Professor Nichols (William Mayer) have been designing a rocket in order to journey to the moon, and their dreams finally become reality when Huntley inherits $3 million from his recently deceased uncle. Yet dreams and reality collide once they reach the moon, since they find a lush garden of Eden filled with topless humanoids under the command of the alluring Queen of the Moon. Much nude frolicking ensues.

Wishman managed to make the best of her complete lack of resources to help make Nude on the Moon look a little bit better than it should. There’s some honest-to-goodness special effects involved, however primitive that they may be (stock footage, perhaps?), and she made clever use of limited camera angles in order to make existing locations look like set pieces—for example, the “hatch” to the space capsule is nothing more than the door to a passenger plane, with the rest of the aircraft carefully cropped out. Wishman also had all of the moon’s denizens communicate with each other telepathically, which was convenient since her films were entirely post-synced anyway, and that way she didn’t have to bother trying to match the ADR to lip movements. The seams do show occasionally, like when Huntley and Nichols are so distracted by the gold that they find on the verdant surface of the moon that they don’t even notice that there’s a flock of ducks in the distance behind them (Wishman probably didn’t notice that they crept into the shot, either). Still, if you’re hunting for mistakes in a film like Nude on the Moon, you’ve already lost the plot. It is what it is, and needs to be appreciated as such.

Blaze Starr Goes Nudist (1962) is a more traditional nudist camp film, with one significant difference: the presence of legendary stripper Blaze Starr, who plays a more or less fictionalized version of herself. Wishman wrote under a pseudonym again, although this time she did take credit for directing it. Starr plays an actress who’s tired of constantly being in the public eye, so she keeps dodging the publicity department of the studio as well as her manager/boyfriend Tony (Gene Berk). One day after hiding out in a movie theatre that’s playing a nudist camp film, she decides to and try out the nudist lifestyle for herself as a way of escaping from the pressures of her career. She ends up finding herself attracted to the camp manager Andy (Ralph Young), but Tony and the studio head D.W. (William Mayer) are nipping at her heels. Much nude frolicking ensues, with a surprise resolution.

Aside from the presence of Starr, Blaze Starr Goes Nudist is much less ambitious than Nude on the Moon. It sticks to the basic nudist formula throughout, with the framing story not amounting to very much other than as an excuse to get Starr involved with the frolicking. All of the basic tropes are here, including the amusingly obvious tricks that Wishman employed in to avoid showing any frontal nudity—at one point, Starr watches a volleyball game where the players facing away from the camera are fully nude, while the players facing the camera are all wearing bottoms. The nudie era was slowly starting to break down taboos, but there were still prohibitions on frontal nudity and overtly sexual content, and Wishman played by the rules. Yet when those taboos continued to relax further, she was ready to change with the times.

Hideout in the Sun (1960) is another nudist title that Wishman directed pseudonymously. The framing story this time involves two brothers who stage a bank robbery and go on the lam. Duke Martin (Greg Conrad) is the mastermind and active participant, while Steve Martin (Earl Bauer) is his reluctant getaway driver. With the police in hot pursuit, they kidnap Dorothy (Dolores Carlos), steal her car, and have her take them to her private club for married couples—which happens to be a nudist colony, of course. Steve pretends to be her husband to blend in, while Duke hides out in their room and sulks. An even bigger wedge is driven between the two brothers when Steve starts to fall for Dorothy, and after much nude frolicking has ensued, Duke forces the issue and takes his brother on the run once again. Yet Steve’s heart just isn’t in their caper anymore. Instead, it’s back frolicking in the nude with Dorothy.

There’s more mismatched volleyball on display, as well as other tricks to help disguise any frontal nudity (not always successfully so in this case, since some flashes of it still slipped through). In reality, Wishman cribbed some of the footage from this film for Blaze Star Goes Nudist and others; she happily used stock footage whenever she could to pad things out. There’s a little primitive action at the end of the film, foreshadowing the more energetic sexploitation efforts that Wishman would make later in her career. It’s a sort of a chase scene while Duke tries to escape the police through the Miami Serpentarium, which turns out about as well as you would expect. Duke left the temptations of a peaceful garden of Eden, only to be taken down by a serpent on his way through a far more treacherous one. On the other hand, Steve returns to the idyllic paradise instead, at least temporarily, in order to declare his love for Dorothy. Fate may keep them apart, but Dorothy still dreams of a better future. While many of Wishman’s later films had characters plunged back into their own nightmares, Dorothy is allowed to remain in a much more pleasant dream world. She may be the victim of Stockholm Syndrome, but if so, she’s content to remain a victim.

Gentlemen Prefer Nature Girls (1963) trades in disgruntled actresses and bank heists for a much more conventional melodrama. Wishman took full credit for directing this one, even if she still used a pseudonym for the screenplay. Thomas (Lou Alexion) and Annie (Joan Bamford) work together at a real estate office owned by Charles Bennett (William Mayer). They’re a married couple, but they’ve been keeping that fact secret from Bennett due to his disapproval of office romances. They’ve also been keeping their alternative lifestyle a secret, since they both spend their weekends at a nudist colony. When Bennett accidentally finds out about Tom’s nude shenanigans, he fires the man but retains Annie since he still doesn’t realize the connection between the two of them. Tom runs off to the camp to take his mind off of things, and while much nude frolicking does ensue, he hatches a plan to give Bennett a taste of his own medicine. Yet everything ends up working out in unexpected ways.

Gentlemen Prefer Nature Girls is much more polished than Wishman’s previous nudist films, although that’s a relative term. Everything is staged and edited with a bit more confidence, and the acting is at least serviceable. No one will mistake Gentlemen Prefer Nature Girls for Scenes from a Marriage, but it’s still put together with a little more craft than her earlier films. Yet there’s no question that Wishman was hitting a wall in terms of the nudist genre itself. There’s only so many ways that nude frolicking can be shot, and her tendency to reuse footage over and over again certainly didn’t help the fact that things were starting to become repetitive. It’s not really surprising that she went in a drastically different direction two years later with the first film in her “roughie” cycle, The Sex Perils of Paulette. Still, you have to start somewhere, and you also have to work within the bounds what the system will allow. In the first half of the Sixties, that meant nudist films, but Wishman was always ready and waiting to change with the times.

Diary of a Nudist (1961) is another earlier nudist title, and along with Hideout in the Sun, it provided the source of much of the footage that Wishman would recycle in later films. Her story this time kicks into gear after Arthur Sherwood (Norman Casserly) accidentally stumbles into a local nudist camp. As the editor-in-chief of The Evening Times, he decides that this would make a great subject for an exposé, so he assigns his star reporter Stacy Taylor (Davee Decker) to go undercover at the camp and write about all the indecency that he expects her to find. Yet while observing much of the nude frolicking that ensues, Stacy becomes a convert, and so she refuses to deliver what he wants. Arthur is furious that he didn’t get his exposé, so he decides to take things into his own hands. Yet when he goes undercover and joins the camp, he becomes equally enamored of the innocence and purity than nudism represents. All of that leads to one of the single most abrupt and out-of-left-field declarations in any Wishman film, one that isn’t even remotely set up by anything else that had happened previously.

Other than the framing device and the ending, there’s not much in Diary of a Nudist that differentiates it from Hideout in the Sun. The standard nude frolicking tropes appear, including all of the tricks to avoid showing frontal nudity. Aside from the standard one-sided nude sporting events, there’s a hilarious moment when a series of women walk out the door of a cabin, one after the other, each of them conveniently carrying something differently in order to hide their relevant naughty bits. Wishman was nothing if not creative, and she wasn’t shy about doing whatever she had to do in order to make everything work—or for that matter, to make whatever creative leaps necessary to get the results that she wanted. If you’ve ever watched a film where one character makes a sudden declaration of love for another and said to yourself, “Where the hell did that come from?”, it’s probably got nothing on what happens in Dairy of a Nudist. Yet it’s still what Wishman wanted, and she never cared about how far that she had to jump in order to get to that point.

The Prince and the Nature Girl (1965) was Wishman’s final nudist film, and it really demonstrates her desire to break free from the standard formula. The framing story this time shows a bit more flair, and the connections to the nudist milieu are tenuous at best. On the other hand, the majority of the nudist footage this time around is material from her other films, edited together awkwardly with the new footage. Appropriately enough for what’s effectively a fairy tale, The Prince and the Nature Girl has a narrator who relates the story of a prince who’s a prince in name only: Frank A. Prince, to be precise. He’s a heartthrob businessman who spends his weekdays working in an office, and his weekends relaxing in the sun. When identical twin sisters named Eve and Sue (both played by Joni Roberts) start working in the office, Prince is attracted to Eve, but Sue secretly pines for him at the same time. So Sue hatches a plan to impersonate her sister and join Prince at his nudist resort, where much nude frolicking of a weirdly disconnected nature ensues. Yet their happiness might be threatened if Eve (or Prince, for that matter) discovers the masquerade. Or will it?

The Prince and the Nature Girl does offer as happy ending of sorts, although it also provides a sour twist for one of the sisters, almost foreshadowing the darker endings in some of Wishman’s later efforts. Yet she still relents by offering a twist to the twist that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in Diary of a Nudist, but at least it lets the poor woman off the hook. None of that really mattered to Wishman, who was far more interested in playing around with the form that her films had been taking up to that point. Since her films were already post-synced, the narration could have come across like something out of Russ Meyer’s The Immoral Mr. Teas, but Wishman freely broke the fourth wall and had her characters look right into the camera to question what he’s saying. She also did some actual split screen work to let Roberts play against herself in the same shot (this must have been before Wishman met the real-life Bennett twins, who worked with her repeatedly during the years that followed). It’s clumsily executed, with one sister’s hand disappearing behind the join line, but it shows how she wanted to do something different than just pointing her camera at frolicking nudists. The Prince and the Nature Girl is a bit of a mess due to the overuse of stock footage, but it’s still an important step on Wishman’s journey into the larger sexploitation world that was about to break wide open.

All but two of these films were shot by cinematographer Raymond Phelan, with the others credited to Larry Wolk and Nouri Habib. Most of them were shot on 35 mm film using spherical lenses at the full Academy Aperture of 1.37:1 These presentations of Nude on the Moon, Blaze Starr Goes Nudist, Gentlemen Prefer Nature Girls, and Diary of a Nudist were all derived from 2K scans of the original 35 mm camera negatives. The negative is no longer available for The Prince and the Nature Girl, nor are any other English-language elements for it, so this version is scanned from the 35 mm elements for the German-language version instead. Hideout in the Sun is the odd man out, since it was scanned from Doris Wishman’s personal 16 mm print.

That means all six of these films can be divided into three basic groups. The highest-quality ones would be Nude on the Moon, Blaze Starr Goes Nudist, Gentlemen Prefer Nature Girls, and Diary of a Nudist. They’re fairly clean overall, with few scratches and other blemishes throughout. Any stock footage that Wisman used naturally looks rougher, and there are some shots taken from dupe elements that look coarser than the surrounding material, especially with any opticals like dissolves or fades. Other opticals like the opening credits can also look a little rough. Blaze Starr Goes Nudist does have some severe fluctuations along the right edge of the screen that finally clear up after the first 17:30 or so, right when Starr reaches the nudist camp for the first time. Gentlemen Prefer Nature Girls and Diary of a Nudist are the cleanest of all, with only a few small scratches along the way (although they do become more frequent in Gentlemen as the film progresses). The colors in these two are better saturated than the rest. The Prince and the Nature Girl looks a little rougher, with more damage throughout and many shots that aren’t as well resolved as the others. Finally, Hideout in the Sun definitely betrays its 16 mm origins, and the print wasn’t in particularly good shape, either. There are abundant heavy scratches throughout, with some larger blemishes as well. There are also hairs and other detritus at the edges of the frame, with some instability and occasional frame jumps. The image is also softer and less detailed overall.

The audio for five of the six titles is offered in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English subtitles. The Prince and the Nature Girl is in German-dubbed 2.0 mono instead. They’re all derived from the mono optical tracks, with minimal cleanup, so there’s some hiss and crackling in the background, plus a few pops as well. In most cases, artifacts like this tend to be worse near reel changes. Most of the dialogue was post-synced, so it rarely integrates well into the soundstages—and in some cases, it really stands out like a sore thumb. There are a few minor variances along the way: Nude on the Moon has audible distortion in the music and effects; Blaze Star Goes Nudist has less distortion, but more sibilance in the dialogue; Hideout in the Sun sounds tinnier than the others; Gentlemen Prefer Nature Girls the cleanest of all, with only a bit of extra sibilance; Diary of a Nudist is similar but has a bit more crackling at times; and The Prince and the Nature Girl suffers a bit from the mismatched dubbing. (Although to be fair, the lip sync in Wishman’s English-language versions weren’t much better.)


AGFA’s Blu-ray release of The Films of Doris Wishman: The Daylight Years is a three-disc set packaged in a clear amaray case that displays a pinup spread on the reverse side of the insert, which is visible when the case is opened. It also includes a 16-page booklet featuring an essay by Something Weird’s Lisa Petrucci, as well as a 1974 interview with Wishman that was conducted by Donald A. Davis for his unfinished That’s Sexploitation documentary. There’s also a spot gloss magnetized slipcase and slipcover available directly from Vinegar Syndrome, limited to the first 5,000 units. The following films and extras are included on each disc:


  • Nude on the Moon Commentary with Frank Henenlotter and Anthony Snead
  • Blaze Starr Goes Nudist Commentary with Michael Bowen
  • Photo Gallery (HD – 2:41)
  • Trailers (Upscaled SD & HD – 3:52, two in all)

Fellow grindhouse auteur and Wishman uber-fan Frank Henenlotter returns to provide the commentary for Nude on the Moon, and he’s joined once again by filmmaker Anthony Sneed. As usual, Sneed hasn’t seen the film that they’re commenting on, so he ends up acting like the straight man to Henenlotter’s enthusiastic extolling of Wishman’s virtues (although he freely admits that he completely unable to rationalize anything that she does). Henenlotter does make the good observation that one of the biggest differences with her earlier films was that she didn’t use all of the pointless cutaways that would become one of the hallmarks of her later work (especially her incessant cutaways to feet). It’s not so much a historical commentary as it is an appreciation, but Henenlotter does know his stuff when it comes to the history of sexploitations films and onscreen nudity, so this is both fun and informative.

Doris Wishman biographer Michael Bowen definitely knows his stuff about Wishman and her career, and he proves that fact when he kicks off his commentary for Blaze Starr Goes Nudist by describing all of the alternate titles for the film, as well as the way that she tinkered with the credit sequences (AGFA’s version of the film actually has an altered title card reading Blaze Starr Goes Wild). He goes into detail about why the whole nudist genre came about, explains how Wishman became involved with it, and offers plenty of information about the film itself. He tends to speak a mile a minute, and he also jumps around quite a bit to follow whatever tangent interests him, but there’s a ton of good information to be had here.


  • Hideout in the Sun Commentary with Michael Bowen
  • Doris Wishman Interview (HD – 13:46)
  • Gentlemen Prefer Nature Girls Trailer (Upscaled SD – 2:03)

Bowen also provides the commentary for Wishman’s first film Hideout in the Sun. He covers some similar territory here to what he did for Blaze Starr Goes Nudist, but given the way that he free associates, he still offers plenty of different angles here compared to that track. Interestingly, since he’s seen the notes from the New York State Censorship Board, he points out that a few more flashes of frontal nudity actually did sneak into Wishman’s original cut, so she had to trim out a few seconds.

The Doris Wishman Interview is the actual film footage that Donald A. Davis shot of Wishman for his unfinished That’s Sexploitation documentary. The audio no longer exists, but this version uses the same transcripts that are also included in the booklet in order to provide subtitles for what she’s saying.


  • Diary of a Nudist Commentary with Elizabeth Purchell

The commentary for Diary of a Nudist is provided by queer historian and filmmaker Elizabeth Purchell, who is the curator of the Ask Any Buddy multimedia film project. She says that she really has a big soft spot for Wishman’s nudist films, but isn’t quite sure why, except maybe for the nostalgia factor. She might offer a bit less historical minutiae than Bowen does, and none of the snark that Henenlotter does, but she has her own unique and fascinating perspectives. For example, she spends some time talking about the title song Sun Lovers Blues, and wishes that Bethesda would use it for a future Fallout game the same way that they used the title song for the 1954 nudist film The Garden of Eden in Fallout 3. She also really delves into all of the performers who appeared in the film. Purchell always has something interesting to say, so this is another great commentary track for the collection.

Needless to say, The Films of Doris Wishman: The Daylight Years won’t be for all tastes. Yet it’s an essential collection for fans of grindhouse cinema, or for anyone else with an open mind who’s willing to meet micro-budgeted films on their own terms. It’s six different titles from one of the most prolific female filmmakers of all time, packed into one compact set. But wait, there’s more! This is actually the third of three different volumes of Wishman’s films that AGFA, Something Weird, and Vinegar Syndrome have released. The first volume The Twilight Years includes seven of her late-period films from the Seventies, and the second volume The Moonlight Years includes nine of her “roughies” from the latter half of the Sixties. That’s a whopping twenty-two Wishman films that cover the majority of her active years as a filmmaker. It’s a veritable bonanza of Wishmania, and yet more proof of what a great era that this is for fans of physical media.

- Stephen Bjork

(You can follow Stephen on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook.)



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