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Lipstick and Dynamite, Piss and Vinegar: The First Ladies of Wrestling

Piledrivers Never Looked More Glamorous

Female professional wrestling often offers little more than sadomasochistic, masturbatory material for adolescents (not that I've ever watched wrestling, of course). Yet, the genesis of female professional wrestling is a fascinating and insightful story of strong, independent women who overcame significant obstacles to find a "way out".

Ruth Leitman's documentary Lipstick and Dynamite, Piss and Vinegar: The First Ladies of Wrestling focuses on the grand dames who helped popularize wrestling in the 1940s and 1950s when the "sport" was little more than a carnival act run by small time promoters and conmen. The Fabulous Moolah, Ella "The Policeman" Waldek, and Gladys "Killem" Gillem are but a few of the colorful athletes Leitman trains her camera on.

Above and beyond being exceptionally athletic and tough, the consistent theme between Moolah and her compatriots is a tough upbringing. Physical and sexual abuse was not uncommon for many of these women. Unquestionably, this tough upbringing prepared many of these women for the challenges they encountered on the road. These challenges ranged from the constant physical wear and tear of their profession to managers and promoters who commonly took 50% of the money they made.

Where Leitman's film falls short is in the coherent assembling of the various vignettes and anecdotes Moolah and the other wrestlers share. While the film is clearly building towards a reunion between these tough ladies, the stories shared by each athlete don't hang together that well. Lipstick and Dynamite often feels somewhat disjointed and meandering in its direction.

Despite the disjointed construction of Lipstick and Dynamite, Leitman has chosen interesting subject matter and some inspiring women to reflect on their experiences. While the execution of Lipstick and Dynamite is not without flaw, it is easily as entertaining as being blasted in the head with a steel chair.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars