Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Making of Let's Go For Broke

On Wednesday evening, October third (2007) from approximately 10:20 PM until 12:30 AM EDT, I spoke with Ron Walsh, the credited director of LET'S GO FOR BROKE. What follows is an excerpt from a summary of our conversation based on several pages of notes.

First of all, Mr. Walsh was amazed that anyone would even know about Christa Helm or LET’S GO FOR BROKE at this late stage. He inquired as to how I found him. He asked if I had spoken to Stuart Duncan and I explained that we had found him in Princeton but had not yet been able to speak with him. He said that Duncan had “always been in Princeton.”

Walsh stated that Stuart Duncan had been one of the three principal producers of the Broadway stage musical GODSPELL in the early 1970’s and that, at the time, he was already known as Christa’s “promoter” or “godfather” and was always trying to help her further her career as an entertainer. Duncan had set Christa up in the apartment known as “Merlin’s Magical Den” and hired a PR person to make sure she was constantly in the gossip columns and seen on the “right” arms.

Although he had nothing to do with the 1972 musical film version of GODSPELL, Duncan did not think that it was well-made and decided to get into film production himself. This MAY have been only to help Christa as his first effort, GO FOR BROKE, was to be a star-making vehicle for his protégé. Ron Walsh had been Assistant Director on the film version of GODSPELL and was brought on board Duncan’s project as Associate Producer and Production Manager. In what would turn out to be a major mistake, it was decided that the film would be shot in Haiti to save costs.

Under the Baby Doc regime at the time, Haiti was a poor country in political turmoil. All of the equipment had to be imported on Hercules stratocruisers. The film cast and crew set up a headquarters on top of a mountain in a vacation resort owned by a Frenchman. It was known as the Chateau. They had to have a special license from the Secretary of State stating in essence that “this film has the blessings of the government” which had to be shown many times to various people and forces that disputed their right to be there at all.

All of the initial filming was done in the fall of 1973. The original director was an ex-boyfriend of Christa’s, a stuntman who had never before directed. Christa had suggested to Stuart that a stuntman would be good for an action film. The picture had a six week shooting schedule with a definite cut-off date but by the end of that time it was nowhere near finished. Walsh suggested to Duncan that he (Walsh) take over as director and Duncan agreed. Along with his writing partner, Bob Zampino, they rewrote the film moving the action to Miami and camping the whole thing up quite a bit more than it had been originally. They wrote a scene in which Christa’s character escapes Haiti. Then the production took a break over the Christmas holiday and regrouped with a new crew back in Miami in January of 1974.

George Fisher was a stuntman friend of Walsh’s who was stunt coordinator on the film as well as playing one of the villains. He’s now retired in Southern California. Actor Herbert Kerr was the black villain. Former police officer Eddie Egan appears in the film making this probably his second feature film appearance after THE FRENCH CONNECTION. Walsh had met Egan, upon whom Gene Hackman’s character in William Friedkin’s award-winning film was based and knew that he was running a private detective agency in Ft. Lauderdale at the time.When they moved production back to Florida, he called Egan and said he had a part. “You want me to play a cop don’t ya?” was reportedly his response. He did. Walsh and Zampino gave themselves small roles also as a couple of “really scrungy guys.” Frank Raiter as the main villain gave the best performance according to Walsh.

The man who wrote the music was another ex-boyfriend of Christa’s. She sang the closing theme herself. She was flown to London to record it as it was supposedly cheaper to do it there at that time.

Walsh said thatreprts were definitely true about a “Montezuma’s revenge” outbreak. Christa, herself, was largely responsible for running the film over time and over budget. Along with other star-like trappings, she had insisted on bringing down her friend Ilana Harkavi as her make-up artist. The problem was that Ms. Harkavi was not a FILM makeup artist and often had to redo and/or rework Christa’s makeup for the cameras.

Once when more time was needed, Walsh and Christa staged a fake accident in which Christa fell off of a boat in order to allow a few days for her to recover from hurting her back. In reality, Christa had a “really curved spine” and a “really bad back.”

Christa almost refused to work at her chosen craft and thus was never a good actress. Walsh said she resisted his attempts at feeding her lines to rehearse and was unaware that Duncan reportedly had Chitra attempting to coach her to no avail also.

Somewhere along the way, it was decided to add the word “Let’s” to the title GO FOR BROKE in order to avoid confusion with an earlier film of that name. This explains why many of the gossip column entries refer to the picture by the truncated title.

LET’S GO FOR BROKE was edited in New York in the summer of 1974. Although Stuart Duncan’s relationship with Christa was widely known during shooting, by the end of the filming, after growing close during the Miami section, she was coupled with Walsh. Ron and Christa rented a cottage in Southampton for that summer. They flew up in shuttle planes off the East River. Because of the shift in relationships, Walsh never spoke with or saw Stuart Duncan again.

The film premiered in Cincinnati at the 20TH Century Theater which Duncan bought out for two weeks in a then-popular practice called “four-walling.” Walsh did NOT attend the Cincinnati World Premiere the week of Christmas, 1974 although Christa did put in an appearance that weekend along with several other still unknown cast and/or crewmembers. All we know is that Chitra Neogy was NOT among them as she was not even aware that the film had had a final edit.
Walsh’s take on why it had no further distribution was that it had no stars attached to it. This doesn’t ring true as the seventies were filled with scores of low-budget (or no-budget) features that someone was willing to release in order to try to make a quick buck. He says he had nothing to do with the additional scenes reportedly shot in Hollywood after the premiere that allegedly would get the picture an R rating. He says he’s pretty sure these scenes would have been shot in Hollywood, FLORIDA, not California and that they were directed by a director named Bob Woodburn who was based in Florida. He is not certain if there was ever actually a final edit on the LADY J version as the copy he’s had all these years would be the Cincinnati premiere version.

At some time after the summer of 1974, Walsh moved into Christa’s Manhattan apartment with all of its bells and whistles. He met her daughter several times during that period and remembers the photo session featuring mother and daughter at the apartment. While they lived together for ten months, he adds that from the beginning, “We knew it wasn’t permanent because of our personalities.”

One of Christa’s closest friends was gay clothing designer Lennie Barrin and the two of them decided to start a clothing line with Barrin designing and Christa promoting. Since neither of them knew anything about business, Ron Walsh stepped in as the business manager for the enterprise but it nonetheless fizzled fast.

During their time time together, Christa took singing lessons a couple times a week with the ultimate goal of becoming a singer. She took this goal more seriously than that of becoming an actress.

“She definitely was into the drug scene, “ said Walsh. She had “quite a history before I knew her” but it “never seemed to hold her back.” She once bragged of taking “an incredible number—maybe 40 or 50 acid trips” and “of course one of her favorite things was pot.” “She never mainlined anything” and reportedly “got much more into it when she came out to L A.”

Walsh describes Christa Helm as “a party girl for sure.” “Always living on the edge.” She “gobbled up life.” “Sexy, sensual and very, very determined.”

Eventually, Christa decided that she would have to move to California in order to further her career but she and Walsh stayed in touch, mostly by phone. He heard of her relationship with Michael Sarrazin and actually worked with him on a film entitled SPEED IS OF THE ESSENCE. “Every once in awhile,” he says, “ Christa got very serious about somebody.”

In their last conversation, she told him of a new boyfriend with a fancy car that matched the color of his eyes. She hinted that he was mob connected. Walsh did hear later that they had had “ a falling out.” “Her social life was always on the fringes of mob life,” he recalled but added, “not when we were together.” She was “very, very good at connecting with men with a lot of money.” “Women, particularly, tended to dislike her,” he also said.

“I did hear that she had run out of money toward the end.” He says that the story he heard was that she was on her way to a drug dealer when she was killed. He can’t recall the street name but says it was a side street in Beverly Hills “off Doheny.” It was particularly sad, he added, that she was killed in the manner she was as she had always had a morbid fascination with the Sharon Tate killings.

Exclusive Christa Helm Screenshots

New Christa Photos

Originally published at Booksteve's Library 12/18/08
Discovered this today by backtracking someone who came to my blog looking for Christa Helm. It's just a series of photos of the late actress strung together on YouTube (no music even). Most of them are the same ones that Christa's daughter provided me and CBS BUT...there are a handful of pictures I had never seen (including the cell phone capture seen here). There are even some new stills from the unreleased LET'S GO FOR BROKE and what appear to be behind-the-scenes shots from the same! I have a slight suspicion as to who compiled this but not sure. If you've been following the case (still waiting on the DNA results last I heard) here at the Library, check it out here:

Chitra on Let's Go For Broke

Originally published 8/14/08

A lifetime ago, Manoshi Chitra Neogy made a movie that hardly anyone saw, that quickly disappeared and was forgotten by nearly everyone. As regular readers know, I found what may be the only remaining 35MM print of the picture, Christa Helm's LET'S GO FOR BROKE, and, through the courtesy of original producer Stuart Duncan, secured a DVD copy (thanks CBS!) under the agreement that I do not copy or distribute it in any way. I did, however, feel that Chitra--who didn't even realize that the film had ever had a final edit!--should get to see it. Recently, I mailed her my precious copy of LET'S GO FOR BROKE and she was able to revisit a time and place from deep in her own past. Imagine seeing yourself 35 years after the fact dealing with people and situations you barely remembered and yet, like everything we do, helped define the person you are today.

I asked Chitra to jot down a few lines of her memories after she saw her performance as the evil villainess in this would-be crime/spy movie spoof. Herewith, her comments:




FOUND-Let's Go For Broke!

Originally published at Booksteve's Library 4/29/08
This morning, just two days shy of the day two years ago when I scanned the fading ad for LET'S GO FOR BROKE, I received a copy of the film made from the only known surviving print that I found a few months back. While it is an interesting story, I won't go into the details. I just would like to publicly thank Director Ron Walsh, CBS Producer Anthony Vendiiti and particularly the film's producer, Stuart Duncan for arranging for me to get my copy. Unfortunately for you all, I am precluded by the arrangement from sharing it with you. I will say that our original anonymous correspondent way back when was astonishingly correct in his memories of the details of the picture! If I didn't know better, I'd think he was sitting there with a copy himself! Other observations from my first viewing (and I must admit a thrill knowing that only the tiniest handful of people have seen this picture in over thirty years!):
I don't think that we previously knew that Lennie Barrin--Christa's sometime fashion designer business partner (and 48 HOURS MYSTERY's suspect for the person who had Tony Sirico "clean up" her apartment after her death.-- did the costumes. (2009-Barrin would later be credited with costumes in at least one WONDER WOMAN episode and in Linda Blair's HELL NIGHT.)
Nice touch that characters had the names of Christa's friends like "Lennie" and "Nikki"
As the head villainess, Chitra Neogy (pictured above) acted rings around everyone else without even trying! She's the only one who seemed to stay in character between her lines. Everyone else seemed to be waiting for their cues.
Frank Raiter seemed to be attempting to channel Paul Lynde (who wasn't even dead yet) as the camp villainous brother!

The musical score was quite good but since an instrumental version of the 5th Dimension's "Beautiful Balloon" closed the story, I wonder how much of it may have been pre-packaged.
Christa's Jackie Broke wears about a dozen outfits, all of which fit her perfectly even after she's been kidnapped and takes no extra clothes with her. She also starts out with curly hair, soon has wavy hair, then straight hair...of varying lengths.
Christa's acting only seemed to come to life when she had a funny line. Along with her STARSKY AND HUTCH bit it makes me wonder if her future might have been in comedy character parts.
The picture seemed at least twenty minutes too long but when you consider it was pieced together from what was essentially two (serious and camp) versions they shot it was edited pretty well.
Overall, I think it would've made for a passable evening at the drive-ins back in '75. One can't help speculating that if it had, Christa probably would not have ended up where she was that night in '77. Sigh. At some point soon, I will undoubtedly do a more detailed critique. Maybe I can even convince IMDB to list it now. Just last month they finally corrected her name and within the past 24 hours, they've also fixed her birth name and date of death! Now about that alleged porn feature...?

48 Hours Mystery

In April of 2008, the CBS news series 48 HOURS MYSTERY covered the Christa Helm murder. For the next few days, the name Christa Helm went from being unknown to becoming one of the most searched for Google keywords. CBS had sent a producer out to interview my wife and myself as well as to New Jersey to visit with my collaborator, John O'Dowd. Our names appeared in the closing credits with a "Special thanks." the episode would rerun in October of 2008 with new information on the main murder suspect.

Watch CBS Videos Online
Originally published at Booksteve's Library on 4/26/08

Here's the official Press Release from CBS for the 48 HOURS MYSTERY broadcast. I'm still questioning a couple of the "facts" that don't quite jibe with John's and my research but it certainly looks like they have found new information...including an unexpected SOPRANOS connection!!

April 25, 2008




In 1977, aspiring actress Christa Helm, who appeared in television shows such as “Wonder Woman” and “Starsky and Hutch”, was found stabbed and bludgeoned to death in front of her agent’s house. Now, 31 years after the case went cold, Helm’s daughter and investigators sort through a twisted web of sex, celebrity and possible blackmail in the hopes of finally finding her killer.

Helm was the classic small-town girl with big Hollywood dreams. Armed with her model-looks, the seductive blond left Milwaukee, Wis., and her daughter, eventually making her way to Hollywood. A fixture in the L.A. party scene, Helm was rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. Never at a loss for male attention, she kept company with a who’s who of A-list actors and musicians including Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Mick Jagger and even the Shah of Iran.

In what many suspect was groundwork for blackmail, Helm kept a diary and even tape recordings of her star-studded sexcapades, both of which mysteriously disappeared after her murder. But Helm’s sex life was not limited to celebrities. A special cold case squad recently uncovered a long string of boyfriends and girlfriends that Helm had left in her wake, sometimes having multiple affairs at the same time and possibly breeding jealousy among those involved.

With many of Helm’s friends now dead or missing, and other insiders refusing to talk, the case has hit numerous dead ends. Among those declining to speak with police is Tony Sirico, better known for his role as Paulie Walnuts on “The Sopranos”, who investigators believe may have some useful information.

Despite these obstacles, Helm’s daughter and authorities remain undeterred in their quest for answers. Was Helm in over her head, murdered to shut her up? Was she the victim of a jealous lover? Or, was this simply a case of robbery?

Maureen Maher reports on 48 HOURS MYSTERY: "The Last Take," on Saturday, April 26 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. This broadcast is produced by Chuck Stevenson and Paul Ryan, and Anthony Venditti is the field producer. Judy Tygard is the senior producer and Al Briganti is the executive editor. Susan Zirinsky is the executive producer.

Click here to watch an excerpt of Christa Helm's movie debut, "Let's Go For Broke."
Originally published at Booksteve's Library on 4/27/08

So...anybody catch anything interesting on TV this weekend? Seriously, I think Anthony Venditti and crew did a pretty good job with Saturday evening's Christa Helm investigation on 48 HOURS MYSTERY. Christa was a complex, complicated and conflicted woman but she was also a strong, smart, charismatic woman. It's easy to call her names for her lifestyle and her excesses but the seventies WERE the "Me Decade" after all and she was hardly alone in those ways. It's just that she's the only one we're holding under a microscope here. No matter what, she certainly didn't deserve the violent ending fate dealt her.

One of the pluses to the show has been the immediate resurgence of interest in the case. I'm told that on Sunday at one point, the Top Ten Google searches including 9 on the football draft and Christa! One of the minuses would be the rampant promoting of mistaken "facts" as if they're real as well as the surprising amount of judgemental posts about her. One poster described her as a celebrity "groupie." Nope. Can't give you that one. A traditional groupie is submissive to the celeb of her choice. Christa Helm was drawn to powerful men and knew how to utilize her charms to get what she wanted from them--publicity, money, gifts, houses, career boosts.

There's also been a lot of self-righteous taking her to task for abandoning her daughter. I'll grant you it certainly seems a terrible thing to do but I've spoken with her daughter and I'm happy to say she has turned out just fine thanks to the way she WAS raised. Had she been more involved in Christa's quest for fame and show business success, the odds would have been quite different.

Finally, I would never presume to know more than a retired LAPD detective but I have to say that the Sal Mineo connection that he so strongly espoused on the show seems very unlikely to me. In our own investigation, we came across the contemporary speculation about a connection. There was also talk of Christa's murder being connected to that of actress Barbara Colby. In actuality, none of the three cases are all that similar and Mineo's, in spite of the coincidence of the date being exactly one year earlier, appears completely unrelated to me.

If anyone reading this knew Christa Helm or has any information at all on her life and/or career, please contact me at .

Legacy of Satan

Revised from two parts originally published at Booksteve's Library on 4/16/08 and 4/17/08
I have finally gotten a watchable (and it IS surprisingly watchable) copy of LEGACY OF SATAN, Christa's first movie. Although our research has yet to really determine how she came to be in this film, here's what we DO know:
1-The R-rated LEGACY OF SATAN was directed by Gerard Damiano who also directed DEEP THROAT right around the same time.
2-Although released in 1974 it was probably made as early as 1972.
3-Her tiny role as "girl" (listed as "the blond blood farm" in IMDB) is miscredited to "Christ" Helm which led to her misbilling on IMDB under that name until just recently.

4-In the film, Christa's character is stabbed to death in an eerie prediction of her own future demise.

5-The relentless and terrible synthesizer score is the worst thing about the picture!
Okay, when I said yesterday that this film was "surprisingly watchable," I did NOT by any definition mean to say that it was any good! The sets and costumes are generally colorful. The photography, although inconsistent and sometimes badly lit indoors, is quite lovely in the outdoor scenes. Even though nearly everyone in the entire cast seems to have made only this one picture, the acting is on a par with that of some Lifetime TV movies and above that of most non-professional no budget films. In fact, being directed by porn film legend Gerard Damiano, it's possible many of these folks were low level porn actors. There are a couple of scenes (none of Christa's) that suggest that this picture may even have originally had hardcore sex scenes in it. If you've seen DEEP THROAT (and I know you have. Don't lie!), forget about the content of it for a second--Damiano's direction is terrible! Long aimless shots of cars driving, no pacing , disjointed scenes, scenes that go on too long or go nowhere at all. Okay, okay, you say. It was just porn. You see, that's just it! In those days there were adult film directors (Radley Metzger anyone?) who were obviously talented and legitimately attempting to make artistic adult films. Former hairdresser Damiano just didn't seem to be one of them. Thus the surprise here that the film is so well above the expected Ed Wood style. Christa's acting, I'm sorry to say, is as bland as it gets. She looks pale and wan and while that's keeping with her "character" in the picture I doubt that they went to that much trouble. One can make a logical argument that this was made just before her fortunes turned around with GODSPELL but supposdly her name change from Sandy to Christa occurred after that so... All I know is that she sure looked a lot better in her STARSKY AND HUTCH appearance from just a few years later.

Christa-the Website

Revised from Booksteve's Libraruy 11/8/07
When you consider that my involvement in this project began when attempting to find info on an obscure movie that I never even saw, we've made a considerable amount of progress in the last two years! One result is the website whose header is seen here and which features an article format piece John O'Dowd and I wrote on Christa awhile back. The goal of the website is to generate more online publicity and interest and hopefully get more and more information about this continually fascinating woman, her tragic demise and her "lost" (more on that soon) movie, LET'S GO FOR BROKE. The site is still being tweaked but check it out and feel free to comment on it here. You can find it as a spin-off of John's Barbara Payton site here: The Unsolved Murder of 1970's Hollywood Starlet Christa Helm - Page 1 of 5
Here, also, is a link to a MySpace page set up by Christa's family in her memory: - Christa Helm

Let's Go For Broke Co-star Found

Originally published on Booksteve's Library 8/16/07

Not that she was hiding, she just didn't know how anyone could be interested in a film that for all intents and purposes never saw the light of day! I spent about an hour this afternoon listening to Manoshi Chitra Neogy reminisce about the making of the late Christa Helm's only starring feature. "Chiitra," as she was billed in the ad, turns out to be a real renaissance woman. Actress, poet, filmmaker, author, she is delightfully honest, spiritual and passionate about women in the arts. Her resume (found online at Manoshi Chitra Neogy - Resume) is impressive as is the woman herself. She's looking for a producer for her long-planned independent film SAND SHADES in case anyone out there is interested. Just wanted to say a very big "Thanks!" to her for helping with my ongoing Christa Helm Project with John O'Dowd.

Starsky and Hutch

Revised from Booksteve's Library 8/2/07
Christa Helm was a starlet with all the right connections who never quite made it in Hollywood and was brutally murdered in 1977, her one feature starring role (the film LET'S GO FOR BROKE) remaining unreleased to this day.

Among the projects that were seen by the public, however, was an unbilled small role as a carhop waitress in the classic STARSKY AND HUTCH episode entitled SILENCE, aired just about a year prior to her tragic death. With the aid of our new, cheap digital camera, here are a few little seen images of our heroine.

More Publicity Photos

If It Ain't Broke

Revised from Booksteve's Library 1/1/07
"Christa Helm IS Jackie Broke!"
That's what the ads touted back in 1974. Now, thanks to Christa's daughter we have this pristine look at that very cool but grainy image from the ads for the unreleased movie LET'S GO FOR BROKE!

"My Name is Christa Helm"

Originally published at Booksteve's Library 12/31/06

This is a piece written by Christa's daughter. I had seen the piece before and would not have presumed to post it without permission but she herself had posted it as a comment under an earlier piece I wrote about her mother. I thought it might get noticed a bit more as a full post.

MY NAME IS CHRISTA HELM The early 1970's were a difficult time for the women of the day. Their moms were of the 50's, housekeepers, held against their will, by the "Right thing to do'. Those divorces hadn't much in the line of options either. Then there was the incoming age of peace, rock and roll, and the newfound sex, drugs and freedoms that no generation of women before had the pleasure, and pain of experiencing.My mother was one of these women, finally finding power in her sexuality, as opposed to the shame her earlier experiences had taught her. Her beauty was undeniable, and once she mastered the art of manipulation and charm, she found her way onto the path of her dreams. She was going to be a Movie Star!A few years of modeling and "Faking it" paid off when she moved to Hollywood and changed her name to Christa Helm.Living in a mansion, driving a new Jag, rich men falling all over her. Movie stars, sports figures, rich producers, politicians and musicians. They were all hers for the taking, and she took, and she worked, until she found herself on on the Yellow Brick Road of fame.Guest starring in Wonder Woman, Starsky and Hutch, making B rated movies, lathering in the Coppertone commercial of the day with Tarzan, and finally starring in her own debut film that was never released, all introduced her to the thrills and dangers of stardom.The lifestyles of Hollywood starlets of the time were filled with drugs, sex, murder, and money. My mother gained it all, and lost it all in a very short time.Down to her last dollars, waiting on a prime role and desperate to survive, she logged all of her escapades in a journal. The journal is rumored to have been filled with lovers, events and details of her private moments.Her affairs, beauty and strength enraged many who knew my mother, but those same attributes also brought respect, career growth, and an array of people who truly loved and respected the beauty within her. In the end those who loved and hated her would all become scrutinized under an investigation that remains open today, almost 30 years later.In the early morning hours one February morning in 1977, my mother was murdered. Stabbed over 30 times. beaten with a blunt instrument and left to bleed to death under a parked car in an upscale Hollywood neighborhood.The case remains unsolved. She was born Sandra Wohlfeil. She died Christa Helm.

More Christa Pics From Wonder Woman

Here are a few nice sots of Christa as the memorably bitchy and egotistical "Rita" in an early episode of WONDER WOMAN entitled "Beauty on Parade." One of Christa's friends that I've spoken to said that this character was very close to the real Christa that he or she knew. The episode has taken on a bit of a cult on the 'Net due to it being Christa's sole TV appearance of any consequence.

Christa Tidbits

Edited from a piece originally published on Booksteve's Library 8/3/06

Around this time, I was asked by author John O'Dowd to collaborate with him on an article about Christa Helm.

In the meantime, just a few tidbits I’ve recently come across regarding the ill-fated Ms. Helm:

In a January, 1974 newspaper piece, Broadway columnist Leonard Lyons noted that "Christa Helm, Frank Raiter and Chitra, the three stars of the new movie, GOING FOR BROKE (sic and perhaps the film’s working title) were discussing a voodoo sequence in the story in a Miami restaurant near the location. A patron overheard the descriptions of the strange, secret rites and called the police. The next day the set was visited by police officials who briefly watched the scene being filmed. They laughed—and left." (2009 Update-Chitra has no memory of this happening and thinks it may have been planted by the film;s producer as advance publicity.)

Further back, a September ’73 wire service filler paragraph proclaimed that "GO FOR BROKE will introduce Christa Helm in the title role as a New York television reporter who uses James Bond tactics to uncover an international kidnapping ring."

A 1975 piece by Earl Wilson has Christa herself describing yet another film with which she was associated! According to her she and film producer "Joseph Middleton" wrote and produced the movie, ILLUSIONS OF A LADY together. They were a couple at the time and broke up, said Christa, over his insistence on shooting hardcore scenes for the picture. "He said ‘I’m shooting it hard’ so I got in my car in my bikini and drove home," Christa said. "He sat there and let me carry out my own bags. I was livid." ILLUSIONS OF A LADY was actually written, produced and directed by one "Jonas" Middleton and starred future disco superstar Andrea True and porn legend Jamie Gillis. (2009-At one time I had a telephone number and a few emails from Mr. Middleton who had agreed to an interview but they were lost in a computer crash. If anyone knows how to get ahold of him, please let me know.)

Michael Sarrazin and Christa

Edited from Booksteve's library, 7/28/06
Unlike just about anyone who ever set foot on a soundstage, Michael Sarrazin has no real web presence-- no unofficial homepage, no Yahoo fan group, and very little info about him on IMDB or similar sites.
Here’s the thing, though. At one time Michael Sarrazin was a major film star! Seriously! He even dated famous starlets like Christa Helm, seen with him below. The sad-eyed Canadian actor that looks like his face was flattened with a few blows from a frying pan was not your conventional leading man but he worked his way up impressively until it all just seemed to stop. Oh, he still turns up from time to time, usually with tenth billing and one scene in some obscure international production or TV movie. The years have not been kind to his already less than traditionally handsome face though, perhaps limiting him to the character roles he now plays.
I guess I first saw Michael Sarrazin in EYE OF THE CAT, a 1969 Hitchcockian thriller with little really to recommend but it was so scary for ten year old me that I went back to see it a second time! Soon after, I caught him in 1967’s THE FLIM-FLAM MAN on television and began to take notice. By that time, he was appearing in the prestigious, Oscar-winning release THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON’T THEY? and a string of major co-starring roles followed. This arguably peaked with Barbra Streisand’s FOR PETE’S SAKE in 1974. It was around that time that he met Christa Helm. Michael was given above the title roles. THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD was a high profile horror film released in the wake of THE EXORCIST and 1976’s THE GUMBALL RALLY was a less gimmicky version of Burt Reynolds’ CANNONBALL RUN. Somewhere during this period, though, Michael went to Italy (First Goldie Hawn, then Tony Curtis, now Sarrazin. Is it the lure of a free Italian vacation or what?) and made THE LIVES AND LOVES OF SCARAMOUCHE.
With no credits in 1977 (perhaps in shock after former girlfriend Christa’s murder that year?) Sarrazin was still hip enough to host SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE in 1978 but his career continued to lose momentum from around the time of his Italian excursion and appearances in anything came less and less often. After LOVERS AND LIARS, Goldie Hawn made PRIVATE BENJAMIN and she was back on the fast track. After SOME LIKE IT COOL, Tony Curtis slowly settled into being a living legend. Michael Sarrazin, though, last appeared as of this writing with twelfth billing in an obscure 2005 TV movie.

The Plot Sickens

Edited from a post originally published on Booksteve's Library on 7/6/06
Success! Finally we hear from someone who actually saw LET’S GO FOR BROKE (and has a remarkable memory)! At my request, an anonymous reader who saw the film not once, not twice but THREE times during its two week Cincinnati run here offers a summary /review for any and all of us "lost movie" buffs. Mr. Reviewer, the floor is yours, sir, with our thanks!
With its theme of white slavery/kidnapping, LET’S GO FOR BROKE definitely had some common ground with the GINGER movies. While GINGER qualifies as soft core porn, though, LET’S GO FOR BROKE was a PG film, just kinky enough to hold my interest, with star Christa Helm appearing in a variety of costumes.
LET’S GO FOR BROKE had some plot devices that were very similar to the James Bond film LIVE AND LET DIE including the voodoo stuff and even an airboat chase. While it was obviously a C film (wannabe B), I still find it hard to believe it was done for only a million bucks, even then.We meet "Pierre Bulova", a wheelchair-bound eccentric who is supposed to be some kind of "dog food tycoon". He is visiting an elderly professor type who is supposed to be developing a synthetic (genetically engineered?) dog food. He brings out a dachshound named, interestingly enough, "Milhous". Hey it was 1974... well, Milhous goes for the dogfood substitute, but then suddenly turns into a dog-shaped blob of raw hamburger. Of course the professor is horrified and proclaims his product a failure, but the evil Bulova of course sees it as a weapon. I don't remember if he kills the professor to get the formula or what, but that part of the plot gets shelved for a while.We also meet a tall blonde reporter named Jaqueline Broke. She is interviewing a self-proclaimed "feminist" named Pepper Carroll. Neither of them much look like Gloria Steinem, but - that's the story. Pepper lights a cigarette and her lighter flames up, and she mumbles something about a defective regulator. Well, meanwhile - the thug squad of Chiitra (a woman with a thick accent who looked a bit like Erykah Badu), Andre,and Kimo set out to kidnap Pepper Carroll and ship her off to Haiti -having targetted her after seeing her on TV. In a scene very reminiscent of the abduction of "Carter Winston" in THE ABDUCTORS, Andre and Kimo crash Pepper's apartment where she is in her feminist nightie. They grab her and she proceeds to kick the shit out of them for a few licks, before finally being subdued and knocked unconscious. We next see her being carried (rolled up in a carpet Ithink) on board a small boat. She is dumped out on deck, now in a bikini (ooh, they changed her while she was knocked out!) where she once again puts up a fight before being knocked out again.Andre then schmoozes his way into a dinner date with Jackie, on the premise that he is a representative for the Haitian government. During the dinner, he deliberately pulls out Pepper's defective lighter, which of course flames up again. So Jackie knows he's involved in Pepper's disappearance, but she doesn't know she's being set up. I think what happens next, or shortly after, Jackie gets drugged and then spirited offto Haiti.Around this time one of Jackie's co-workers, a bald guy named "Lenny" is worried about her and calls Detective Eddie Egan - who actually is going by his real name. So, in Haiti Jackie ends up tied to a giant paper mache' cobra with her hands over her head (the picture in the newspaper ad). But the newspaper photo has been doctored to not show the bonds on her wrists and insteadplaces a gun in her hand - which I don't think ever happens in the movie.She gets put into a voodoo trance of some kind by Chiitra, and thus becomes a compliant slave girl like all the others. This brings us to the best part of the movie... Bulova, the guy in the wheelchair, is ofcourse the mastermind of the kidnapping racket, but he also reports, as do the other, to a mysterious "Mr Z". He's on the deck of his boat, with Jackie, who is dressed in a glittery cross between a matador costume and a belly dancer outfit, and she is playing with him on the deck -- wavinga cape at him as he charges her in his wheelchair. Sometime during this sequence, the voodoo spell gets broken - I forget how. She comes to her senses just as he is charging her. I think she looks the absolute best in this scene, smiling at him with her red lipstick... she coaxes him into charging at her cape, which she yanks out of the way and he proceeds to go overboard. Jackie tries to make an escape but is quickly corneredby the other thugs on board, including Bulova's lovely Asian assistant.To "punish" Jackie, the Asian girl has her tied to this rotating stake,with little targets painted on her, while Bulova enthusiastically shoots at her "pleasure centers" with some kind of ray gun thingy. At some point during this process, Bulova gets distracted and leaves the room. When he returns, Jackie is gone and the Asian girl is now tied to the stake - and gagged - in her long blue dress, rotating back and forth like a washing machine. We don't see how Jackie escaped, we just see her boarding a pontoon plane- which I think is tied up along side the boat. She takes off in the plane, but soon runs out of gas and ends up caught yet again. And I think this time she has actually made off with the dog food formula.At this point I don't remember the sequence but, there ends up an airboat chase and Kimo buys it when his boat explodes. At the end, she is back again with Bulova - I think Chiitra ends up being bitten by her pet cobra and dies. Then Mr. Z is revealed to be Bulova's (non-wheelchairbound) twin brother Horace, the real mastermind. And somewhere in all this, Bulova ends up ingesting his own evil dog food formula and he himself turns into a giant pile of hamburger. I think the finale is Jackie walking away, free (having freed all the other girls) and she runs into the one remaining bad guy - Andre. The only one she hasn't been able to successfully fight. He challenges her next to an empty swimming pool, and she graciously accepts, but first insists on "the ceremonial bow". Andre bows, and Jackie kicks him square in the face where he plummets into the pool. Like I say, not sure of the sequence of events at the end but Christa is really quite stunning, if not a great actress. The brunette that plays Pepper looks pretty good too. I actually even remember some of the music. The theme song "Lets go for broke, take a chance on tomorrow" and was actually sung by Christa. Hard to say how it would play today, but I suspect it's better than a lot of "sexploitation" films of the 70s that you can pick up at any video store in the cheap rack.

Library Resaerch

Originally posted on Booksteve's Library on 7/5/06

Well, I finally got to the real library today to research Christa Helm but, seeing as how it’s in the middle of a busy downtown, I was hampered by having to leave every hour to feed the parking meter a block away (a spot I was lucky to get at all in midday!). I started by checking their newspaper index which got me exactly nowhere. This meant hit the microfilm with what little I knew of the dates and start digging. "What little I knew" in this case was that Christa’s only strarring film, LET’S GO FOR BROKE premiered at the 20th Century theater in Cincinnati in 1974. Since it certainly seemed like a summer movie, I began my search in May.
Each microfilm reel covered about ten days. Before long I developed a pattern: I would check the front page for the index, find the Entertainment page, check what was playing at the 20th Century, then skip to the last part of the microfilm and check the same there. I did this all through May, June, July and August. After checking on the car again, I then hit September, October, November and December. I was just about to convince myself that I must have had the year wrong when suddenly I found the ad for LET’S GO FOR BROKE premiering on Christmas Day, 1974! Expecting to find some additional information, I scanned the Entertainment sections for days around there but there was nothing. No little publicity plant about the World Premiere, no photo story of the Premiere, not even a damned review of the picture! Sheesh! I knew the Enquirer’s film critic around that time was not a big fan of low-budget pictures but still, it’s a frickin’ World premiere, y’know?
Some observations I did make include the fact that Cincinnati may well have been chosen for the Premiere just because it was a trendy thing to do that year. It had started with BILLY JACK. That film had flopped on its initial release so star Tom Laughlin bought (at least some of) the rights back and re-issued it in a process called "four-walling." Essentially, he bought out the theaters and ran a saturation marketing campaign on radio and TV. BILLY JACK went through the roof! By summer of 1974, they had even re-released BORN LOSERS, the original Billy Jack movie and made that a big hit. HOMEBODIES, a black comedy horror movie about murderous senior citizens also had a world premiere in Cincinnati that Summer. It had been shot in the city with a cast of familiar septuagenarian faces including Paula Trueman, Ruth McDevitt and Ian Wolfe. For a low budget no star picture, it did pretty well.
Thus, the producers of LET’S GO FOR BROKE may well have just have been trying to take advantage of Cincinnati’s lucky record by four-walling the 20th Century. Some credence is given to this theory by virtue of the fact that the 20th Century ads leading up to the premiere say "All seats $1.25" and for the premiere itself the ads specify "All seats $2.50, this engagement only."
The library microfilm doesn’t copy very well as you can see (and it isn’t cheap anymore either!) but I did get a couple slightly different copies of the ad we’ve run here before, one with "Starts Today" and the "World Premiere" topper and the other from three days later, Saturday night, with the "Meet the Stars" box. We know Christa was there because my friend Mike S posed with her for a picture but not sure who else.
Another factor that may have squashed local coverage is that Cincinnati broadcasting legend Paul Dixon died that weekend as did show-business legend Jack Benny. I say "may have" because they both seemed to get a bit shafted in the coverage they deserved, also.
I was out of money for the meter by that point so I couldn’t check how long the exclusive engagement ran. I also didn’t have time to check for any coverage of Christa’s death a few years later. The fact that it didn’t turn up in the index, though, does not make it sound promising. There is a second major newspaper in town. I’m not giving up. Next time, I’ll try it. I was disappointed but I didn’t come back completely empty-handed. I’m not giving up until Christa gets her due.