We here at the MM Blog are proud to present this exclusive "video essay" by Arabic film expert Robert J. Kiss, who you may remember as the mastermind behind the complete 60s Arabic language filmography of shlock film director Frank Agrama. Here he illuminates an obscure corner of the cult film world little seen by even the most die-hard collectors of international exploitation oddities. Take it away Dr. Kiss!
When Jared offered me this opportunity to come up with a guest blog entry about Egyptian popular cinema for Mondo Macabro DVD, I knew immediately that I wanted to seize the chance to introduce the incredible Nadia ul-Gindy to his (no doubt equally incredible) readers. And since I feel that moving images can tell the tale far more effectively than a gazillion words... below is my 15-minute 'video essay' charting Nadia ul-Gindy's career and presenting clips and images from around thirty of her movies. Please take some time out of your day to watch this if you have even a passing interest in Egyptian cinema, because that cinema is simply unthinkable without the many delicious excesses of Nadia ul-Gindy.
During the 1980s and 1990s, few sights on an Egyptian cinema screen could get me more excited than the bombastic logo of producer Muhammad Mukhtar, signaling that another movie starring his wife, Nadia ul-Gindy, was about to hit the screen in an orgy of sex, violence, heavy melodrama and bright red stage blood! At that time, Nadia ul-Gindy was akin to a 'guilty pleasure on a national scale': her movies received little advance promotion, articles on her in the celebrity press were scant, to say the least, and yet her popularity with urban audiences was almost unrivaled, with her flicks not uncommonly occupying theaters for thirty or forty consecutive weeks. From 1981, she has been billed in all her movies as 'nagmat ul-gamahir Nadia ul-Gindy' ('the audiences' star, Nadia ul-Gindy'), an epithet intended to foreground the fact that her career was founded primarily on audience popularity rather than on marketing and publicity.
Nadia ul-Gindy's name has echoed through half a century of Egyptian popular cinema, with her back-catalog of 55 features and 5 television series including action movies, pouting melodramas, psycho horror thrillers, drug dramas and wild exploitation pictures, in all of which she might just as easily be playing a diabolical villainess or a blood-soaked victim. Her movies consistently pushed at the boundaries of what local censorship would allow, and on more than one occasion were banned outright or made the subject of vocal campaigns urging their withdrawal from circulation. Prominent critics – such as Duriyya Sharaf id-Din in her 1992 study Cinema and Politics in Egypt, 1961-1981 – would denounce ul-Gindy's works as 'low-grade' and 'indistinguishable from one other', while at the same time tucking away in a footnote the information that these unspeakable movies 'are the most highly attended, being held over in theaters for tens of weeks'.