The Eternal Return of Angie Dickinson

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If you enjoyed Kerry Howley's sex-zoning piece, if you're a scholar of the changing (and unchanging) semiotics of gender roles, if you have a jones for Skinemax erotic thrillers featuring Peta Wilson and Julian Sands, or even if you're just an Earl Holliman fan, you'll enjoy the trailer for the Lifetime movie Human Trafficking, starring Mira Sorvino. The movie looks like a pretty standard (if well cast) issue-of-the-week piece, with Sorvino playing a tough, no-nonsense federal cop on the trail of sleazy white slavers. But it wins me over by featuring the very chestnuttiest of lady-cop chestnuts: A minute and a half into the four-minute preview, Best Supporting Actress Sorvino is already going undercover as a sexy mail-order bride, and is promptly getting smacked around by a couple of heavies.

Experts will recognize that Sorvino is just following in the stiletto-heeled footsteps of Sergeant Pepper Martin, the tough, no-nonsense L.A. cop played by Angie Dickinson in the classic series Police Woman. That show won fame and controversy by having Dickinson go undercover each week in order to catch various crooks and scumbags. Needless to say, cases in which Pepper would have to play an accountant at a shady firm or a Nobel-winning physicist targeted by foreign agents were few and far between; episodes in which Pepper had to get down and dirty as a hooker, a stripper, or an erotic masseuse, on the other hand, happened, well, just about every week. Dickinson, who had already established a pretty creditable career receiving open-hand beatings from the likes of Lee Marvin and Ronald Reagan, was always game, and always ready for a few bitch-slaps per episode. Of course, it was all in the service of justice, until those lousy feminists started going on and on with their exploitation this and promoting violence against women that, forcing the producers to tone it down (which explains why Police Woman's first season is, by nearly unanimous acclaim, its best).

In the plus ça change department, what's striking is not that these kind of exploitation tropes are still in use but that they've been drained of whatever brio and unselfconscious fun made them enjoyable in the first place. Sorvino is full of high sentence about what an important and necessary film this is, and she's probably got enough clout left to pull a Charlize Theron—playing an exploitation part but self-righteously refusing to do anything that might result in enjoyment for the audience. Yet again we see Samuel Johnson was wrong when he said that no man is a hypocrite in his pleasures.

Related:

"Female Cop Goes Undercover In Strip Club"

Joe Bob Briggs salutes Mom and Dad, the original movie that sneaked solid-gold perversity in under a tent of good-for-you uplift.

NEXT: Party Like a Regulator

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  1. There’s a reason Donald Southerland has never won an oscar.

  2. Because he’s not Denzel Washington?

  3. Reefer Madness, anyone?

  4. I didn’t understand a word of that, whether through not having a TV or not going to the movies, I can’t say.

  5. whether through not having a TV

    Why no TV?

  6. So Fucking Impressed With Ron Hardin

    Please develop some tact. Thank you in advance of your efforts.

  7. People brag about not owning TV’s like they’re washing the feet of the homeless or something. They drop that factoid into every conversation they possibly can. [see above] Admit it Hardin, you smug bastard…

  8. The thing is Angie Dickenson was like 40 when she was on Police Woman. Man did that woman age well. Lets not even talk about Dressed to Kill.

    Tim,

    What has happend to Joe Bob Briggs lately? I have not seen hide nor hair of him in about three years.

  9. I don’t get the whole “I don’t even own a TV” deal. I read as much as anyone but there is some great stuff on TV. Yeah there is a lot of bad crap, but there are a lot of bad books to. I don’t consider “I don’t own a TV” to be much of an endorsement of your intellectual capacity or curiosity.

  10. What has happend to Joe Bob Briggs lately? I have not seen hide nor hair of him in about three years.

    Nor have I. I check wherever his syndicated column is supposed to appear from time to time, because I’d like to get him into Reason more often, but no cigar. I especially love what Briggs said about Reason at some press conference: that he didn’t even realize it was a libertarian mag until somebody told him. Until then he thought it was just a contrarian magazine. His quote: “Reason is the kind of magazine where I’m always expecting to see an article called ‘The Case For Child Abuse.”

    Angie Dickinson mellowed like fine wine, it’s true. I haven’t seen Sally Kellerman in a few years, but as of the late nineties, I’d have to say she had aged the best of all the women from that period.

  11. I looked it up Tim and Angie was born in 1931 which would make her in her mid to late 40s on Police Woman and over 50 in Dressed to Kill (although she used a body double for the nude seens), fine wine do it justice.

  12. “although she used a body double for the nude seens”

    And that may have been due to sheer modesty and not because she had furniture disease.

  13. I haven’t seen Sally Kellerman in a few years, but as of the late nineties, I’d have to say she had aged the best of all the women from that period.

    I have two words for you: Barbara Eden.

  14. Mira is a total babe and worth watching in any role. She played Col. Chamberlain’s wife in “Gods and Generals” – if every Union soldier had a wife who looked like her, the slaves would have had to free themselves.

  15. Dog,

    Barbara Eden sets the standard by which all women age.

  16. i wish i didn’t own a tv. and i’m this close to getting rid of it (picture fingers held very closely together)

    you know, sometimes it becomes impossible to avoid mentioning it because tv is a weird touchstone that everyone relates to. i’ve never seen the sopranos or sex in the city or any of that stuff, and having to explain that to people repeatedly leads to questions like “why don’t you have cable?” and the like.

    short version: tv, i’m just not that into you.

  17. Dhex,

    I have never seen the Sopranos either. I am sure its a good show and all, but I refuse to pay HBO every month for one show I might watch and a bunch of movies I have either already seen or don’t want to watch.

  18. I don’t consider “I don’t own a TV” to be much of an endorsement of your intellectual capacity or curiosity.

    I fully concur. And given the vast array of choices on TV these days (especially on PBS, The Discovery Channel, The Independent Film Channel, et al.), anyone bragging about not owning one is a textbook example of gleeful ignorance.

  19. Okay folks let’s review:
    I didn’t understand a word of that, whether through not having a TV or not going to the movies, I can’t say.

    What part of this seems like BRAGGING to you?? The man just admitted that he doesn’t own a TV and doesn’t watch movies that he didn’t understand an entire article’s content because of it.

    Bragging would be, “Even though I don’t own a TV or watch Movies I understood all of that intellectual drivel.”

    Now, if somebody can show me where Mr. Hardin brags about not owning a TV then I will stand corrected.

  20. Nothing wrong with owning a TV, but honestly, I don’t understand why my roommate blows money on the dish.

    All of the best TV shows are available on DVD, free of commercials and those annoying-ass animated bugs in the corner of the screen.

    Now if Adult Swim would just include their bumps on the DVD releases of their show, all would be right with the world.

  21. what’s wrong with being gleefully ignorant of a medium whose signal to noise ratio is absolutely absurd? i mean, really, have i missed out on that much? if i really want crazy catchphrases i can just, you know, hang out on the internet and drown myself in corn syrup because while kerry would be worse i still won’t fuck you.

    etc.

    i find the tv to be annoying. this doesn’t mean by default i think people who don’t are stupid. different strokes for different folks, etc.

    now people who do infer that, well, they’re dicks.

    but it’s fucking annoying, i try not to be around them, etc. i do not interfere in others’ rights, and if someone has a tv in their house and are watching it i don’t fuck with their good time. i don’t think it’s a brainwashing machine or a narcotic – it’s far too boring to be either of those – but if i’m happy to be gleefully ignorant about anything, tv and the general state of pop music are nearly tied.

  22. I didn’t get most of this, but mostly because my happy ass doesn’t give a flying crap about women born much before myself. Mira who? Angie what? Charlize Theron, now there is a name I know.

  23. I just moved and I have gone the last two weeks without regular access to cable. (Don’t get me started on disk network) I have survived, but I missed it more than I thought I would. More than anything just for the background noise it provides in my house. If you live alone, TV if nothing else keeps your house from being deadly quiet. I think that and my addiction to sports may be the two most important reasons I keep it around.

  24. “All of the best TV shows are available on DVD, free”

    this should read:

    “All of the best TV shows are available on the internet for free.”

  25. Does anyone else think that The Learning Channel should perhaps change its name?

    Trading Spaces, Miami Ink, and What Not To Wear are not exactly the most educational of programming.

    For that matter, I’m not sure that American Chopper/Monster Garage lend much creedence to the Discovery Channel being educational, either.

  26. john: that’s what grindcore is for.

  27. Dehex,

    I would go insane if I played that stuff in my house all of the time.

    Steven Crane,

    I agree with you. All of the cable channels have gone really low end. The history channel especially. When it started the History Channel started, it did almost PBS quality documentaries. Now, we get “Modern Marvels: Makeup”. It is terrible and TLC and the Discovery Channel are just as bad, although Deadliest Catch is the coolest show in years.

  28. I’ve never seen Police Woman. I always thought Stephanie Kramer on Hunter set the standard for “hot cop goes undercover as a hooker” plots, but I guess I was wrong.

  29. I have a TV, but I don’t watch the crap that’s on between commercials.

  30. Human Trafficking originally aired in October 2005, over 8 months ago.

  31. I wouldn’t know. I never watch television.

  32. I always thought Stephanie Kramer on Hunter set the standard for “hot cop goes undercover as a hooker” plots, but I guess I was wrong.

    Oh, you’re in the ballpark. Hunter may well have been the outer limit in sexy undercover cop/beating/rape fetishism.

    There’s a quiz for the ages: Stephanie Kramer, Barbara Hershey, Rae Dawn Chong… Who is our most raped actress?

  33. So would it be safe to say that JJ Abrams ripped off “Police Woman” for his show “Alias?”

  34. Tim wrote: “There’s a quiz for the ages: Stephanie Kramer, Barbara Hershey, Rae Dawn Chong… Who is our most raped actress?”

    Do demons count double, or not at all?

  35. Oh god, Barbara Hershey. There was some cable flick she was in… Paris Trout, that’s it.. with Dennis Hopper. Bent her over, used a beer bottle… kinda rough. And being the sicko I am, I thought they could have lightened it up with some subtle version of Three Stooges sound effects.

  36. Who is our most raped actress?

    Does statuatory count?

  37. I cancelled my cable because I got fucking sick of paying $50 a month or whatever it was when I watched it for maybe 5 hours a week. That’s almost 3 cases of Yuengling. Besides, I can steal all the shows I want from the internet. God bless torrents.

  38. Who is our most raped actress?

    Linda Lovelace

  39. Joe Bob Briggs released Profoundly Erotic last October – http://tinyurl.com/rgot9

    So, he’s still alive and well.

    Also, this is the perfect time for a link to this Onion story –

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/28694

  40. But.

    Without TV. Is there … no football?

  41. “Without TV. Is there … no football?”

    That’s true. There also wouldn’t be *real* sports like hockey or soccer.

  42. An artist and intellectual explains why he doesn’t own a television set in this extremely artistic video.

    WARNING: Contains adult language (spoken aloud) and an extremely avant-garde artistic vision that may not be accessible to the unwashed masses. Probably not safe for work unless you’re in an office where you can close the door or something.

  43. Does Sorvino get tied up in this one?

  44. “There’s a quiz for the ages: Stephanie Kramer, Barbara Hershey, Rae Dawn Chong… Who is our most raped actress?”

    Jennifer Jason Leigh, hands down.

  45. RE: Joe Bob Briggs —

    I dunno about his hide nor his hair, but he just came out with two books in the last three years:

    Profoundly Disturbing: The Shocking Movies That Changed History

    Profoundly Erotic: Sexy Movies That Changed History

  46. Oh, and didn’t Adrian Zmed go undercover a few times as a stripper on “T.J. Hooker”?

  47. “Jennifer Jason Leigh, hands down.”

    Years ago I saw her in a film that was set in the middle-ages and the camera slowly panned her nude body from head to toe. She has the hottest camel toe in the world!

  48. Wow, this thread has really struck a pop culture chord with at least us oldsters. Someone even mentioned Angie’s body double in Dressed to Kill.

    Stefamie Kramer got raped a lot in Hunter. I remember her publicly bitching about it in the later seasons. Every time Steven Cannell got low on plot ideas they’d haul out her character getting raped and having Fred Dwyer revenge her honor.

    I always thought Kramer deserved huge, huge credit for making that series a long running success. Much like Amanda Tapping for Stargate SG-1. Of course, Tapping’s Samantha Carter character doesn’t get raped that much, but she does get regularly infested by Goa’ulds and other alien entities. There’s a sexual surrogate for you.

    Oh, and Tim, yes, I’d love to hear more from Joe Bob Briggs here as well.

  49. Sage:

    Sigh. Here and I thought we could be pals. Now you’re going off with your crazy moon talk.

  50. I dunno, Jason, it’s something I saw on TV. Not that I own one or anything…;)

  51. TLC — No one has learned a damned thing watching that station in about 5 years.

    History Channel — I concur, John. What the hell do the gummi bear manufacturing process and large earthmovers have to do with history? And poker on the Travel Channel and Outdoor Life Network? Cable networks should just adopt call letters, because most of them are straying far afield from their original missions.

    The Onion ran a good article a couple of years ago about the area man who introduces the fact that he doesn’t have a TV in every conversation. I’m far too lazy to search for it.

  52. BP – here’s the article

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/28694

    Also, Joe Bob Briggs just published Profundly Erotic last October, so he’s still alive and kicking.

  53. Not allowing your children to watch some TV is a kind of child abuse. (Allowing them to watch too much is as well.) Generally, kids without any TV are considered total nerds, and they suffer for it in school.

    Nerd: “We don’t have a TV at home.”

    Healthy child: “I watch TV, play video games, play sports, and get good grades. HA!”

  54. I didn’t get most of this, but mostly because my happy ass doesn’t give a flying crap about women born much before myself. Mira who? Angie what? Charlize Theron, now there is a name I know.

    Hey Everybody, Kwix is younger than you! Did you hear? Kwix is younger than you! Think how much sexier he must be than everybody else, because he is younger than you!

  55. Oh, and Tim never watches television. Did you hear? Tim never watches television! Just think how much more cultured he is than you!

  56. I can’t own a TV b/c I’ll spend four hours a day watching crap on it. Worst signal to noise ratio ever — and oh so satisfying until you shut it off and realize shit, absolutely nothing happend there.

  57. The walls in my cave are completely free of pictograms. Always have been.

  58. Most raped (statutory division)?

    Traci Lords, of course. Well, that we know of, anyway. She made 100+ pornos before she turned 18.

    Kevin

  59. When it started the History Channel started, it did almost PBS quality documentaries. Now, we get “Modern Marvels: Makeup”. It is terrible and TLC and the Discovery Channel are just as bad

    What turns me off isn’t the subjects. (After all, half of our population uses makeup.) It’s that so many programs on these channels cram twenty minutes of information into an hour of film, and then repeat segments to fill an hour and a half of TV time.

  60. All y’all who complain about commercials just need to spring the extra ten bucks a month and get digital cable w/ DVR. There are actually a lot of good channels (good in an intellectually stimulating way, although there really isn’t anything wrong with Law & Order or reruns of That 70s Show, except for their ubiquity) way up in the digital tier, pretty much regardless of your cable provider.

  61. That reminds me, I need to go shopping.

  62. So 61 posts, and no one’s started, “If we just made prostitution legal…”

  63. I just googled Barbara Eden, not impressed.
    Angie Dickenson looks ok, hard to tell, the galleries of her suck.

    Now onto some of the other names on the list.

  64. The low information content of some (but not all) of the shows on TLC, Discovery, The History Channel, etc. can be annoying. I recall one time watching a Teaching Company (why don’t they have a channel??) DVD on the Roman Republic or something like that, then watching a cable channel show on a similar topic. If water represents the density of the Teaching Company product, then unpressurized helium gas was what I saw on TV.

    Some of the shows on the cable channels are great. I really enjoyed the Science Channel’s multi-part coverage of SpaceShip One, for instance. And I’ve seen a couple of higher-end productions that were pretty good. Of course, the fluffier pieces are more palatable to me the less I know about the subject matter. Which may explain the fluff in the first place.

    As an aside, did anyone see that Roman history show that had Peter Weller on it as a Roman historian? I was rolling my eyes until I heard him speak–he’s really serious about it and had some interesting things to say. He’s an instructor going on professor, I think. Wonder if he tells his students they have ten seconds to comply when he tells them to sit down and shut up.

  65. (I hate to ruin a joke, PL, but Jon Davidson did the voice of ED-209.)

  66. Eric, I just couldn’t think of anything relevant that Robocop said. Or Buckaroo Banzai or that guy from Screamers. I fancy that Weller saw the script, though, so he can quote from it at will 🙂

    Roman historian. Buckaroo Banzai. Robocop. If only other actors were half as interesting or intelligent. Of course, I omit from that statement Dolph Lundgren, Master of Chemical Engineering. I just can’t get over that one.

  67. Pepper Martin? The St. Louis Cardinal? Now that would have been one hell of an undercover role for Ms. Dickinson. Don’t want to be unReasonable, but I think she portrayed Pepper Anderson…..

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