Bettie Page Reveals All Directed by Mark Mori. Rated R. Opens Friday.
As a documentary, Bettie Page Reveals All has one main thing going for it: an audio-only interview conducted with the reclusive pinup legend before her death in 2008, which director Mark Mori uses as narration for his otherwise sort of low-rent movie about Page’s life. For seven years in the 1950s, Page was the most popular and recognizable pinup and fetish model in the country, and the photographs she took during those years established a legacy that can still be seen in licensed Bettie Page merchandise and the resurgent burlesque movement.
Mori spends the bulk of the documentary on those seven years, and he has access to a wealth of photos and short films that show off Page’s stunning looks and inviting personality. He struggles more when Page recounts her early years, and then later when she talks about her difficulties with failed relationships, religious conversion and mental health problems following her pinup days. Relying often on stock footage and a number of recycled interviews (some still bearing an E! watermark), documentary veteran Mori comes off more like an enthusiastic amateur (the chintzy score, which sounds like it was acquired from a stock-music site, doesn’t help).
Still, it’s hard to counteract the power of Page’s own words, and interviewees including Hugh Hefner and Dita Von Teese make a strong case for her legacy. As a film, Reveals All may be lacking, but as a historical document (of a sort of underground, alternative history), it does exactly what its title promises.