Please Don’t Touch Me!

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A black & white publicity still for Please Don’t Touch Me!

Written and directed by Ron Ormond (though credited to his real name Vittorio Di Naro) and produced by Ormond’s wife June, Please Don’t Touch Me! (1963) is a sensationalist melodrama about a young woman struggling with the trauma of sexual assault. The film is frank and rather progressive for its day, though the dramatic gestures and narrative conceits of the film possess all of the subtlety of a barker’s call at a carnival. Yet, in a way, this suits the film which puts front and center the mystic art of hypnosis that has remained a constant attraction at carnivals and circuses for decades.

The films made by the Ormond family are distinctly American for this very reason. Ron and June Ormond came into the entertainment industry through vaudeville and circuses. These experiences shaped the aesthetic practices and thematic interests of the Ormond films from their early days making exploitation films till long after their Road to Damascus epiphany. The films of the Ormond’s are best grouped under the heading of Americana rather than any specific genre or by any means of production. The Ormond’s learned to make films as they made them, and they made them for the same audiences that gathered to witness their acts on the vaudeville circuit. In this way Please Don’t Touch Me! (and the other pre-car crash films made by the Ormonds) could be described as the most mainstream of “Outsider Art”.

Please Don’t Touch Me! predicts the classic films Marnie (1964) and The Naked Kiss (1964) thematically although it is a far cry from the formal complexity of either of these two masterpieces. Ron Ormond opens his film with a rape before proceeding into a Mondo Cane (1962) style montage of hypnotic practices from Southeast Asia. It’s an opening series of sequences so shocking and tasteless that the viewer is almost helpless to look away. Ormond grabs his spectator and pours on these images of sex, violence and mysticism until he is confident that the viewer is hooked. Only then does Please Don’t Touch Me! return to the story of the woman whose rape began the avalanche of images.

Despite the overtly exploitative strategies of the opening, Please Don’t Touch Me! is predominantly a sensitive drama that goes to great lengths to present a kind and “realistic” view of trauma. Lash LaRue is particularly good as the psychologist who acts as a guide through the nature of trauma. Please Don’t Touch Me! employs a Hollywood version of therapy that includes fast acting treatments and rapid results, but Ormond is able to retain a certain truth to the spectacle. Vicki Caron, who plays the lead Vicky, is also very good in what proved to be her only role in a movie.

While Please Don’t Touch Me! is compassionate regarding its subject matter it remains an exploitation film made on a minimal budget. This makes for the most intriguing paradox as the visual economy of the film locks horns with the sensitive drama the images have recorded. While Ormond and LaRue hypnotize and treat Vicky’s trauma, the camera objectifies her body with relative consistency. As Vicky’s trauma is validated and explored the camera moves to look down her blouse at her ample bosom. Please Don’t Touch Me! simultaneously humanizes and sexualizes Vicky to the extent that the spectator is made to feel complicit in a new assault on the female protagonist.