March 16th, 2008

SHAMPOO (1975) **

Warren Beatty stars as a promiscuous hairdresser in the 60’s who has sex with a lot of women.  He tries to get a business loan from Jack Warden to open up his own beauty salon, but unbeknownst to Warden, Beatty is sticking it to not only his wife (Lee Grant), but his mistress (Julie Christie) as well.  Goldie Hawn and Carrie Fisher (in her film debut) also play a few of Beatty’s many booty calls.  Oh yeah, and since it’s a 70’s movie, it ends on a downer. 

 

I like Warren Beatty a lot (heck, I even liked Bulworth), but I just didn’t like his character in this flick.  I know he’s supposed to be a bed-hopping asshole, but he didn’t make his character very appealing and he was completely devoid of his usual charisma.  The supporting poontang was OK, and I enjoyed seeing fleeting glimpses of their major assets, but even they couldn’t save this mess. 

 

The biggest problem with the movie is that it lacks a real cohesive narrative.  Screenwriter Robert (Chinatown) Towne’s screenplay is all over the place and some of director Hal (Harold and Maude) Ashby’s stylish touches add nothing to the proceedings.  Also, I know it’s a period piece, but how many Nixon references, peace signs and fucking Beatles songs do you have to play before we get the fucking point!   

WOMEN BEHIND BARS (1975) **

 

King of Spanish sleaze, Jess Franco gave us this tepid women in prison flick about a chick (Franco’s wife and frequent muse Lina Romay) who goes to prison after shooting her jewel thief husband.  The slimy warden thinks she’s got the 411 on the diamonds’ location so he tries to get his mistress to learn the diamonds’ whereabouts.  Romay eventually escapes with the help of a skuzzy insurance investigator (Franco) who she eventually double crosses. 

 

Franco turns down the sleaze quotient on this one but it still has enough nutty moments to warrant a look from die hard Franco-philes.  There’s some whipping and the requisite lesbian scenes, as well as a particularly well executed shock treatment to the nether regions sequence, but shame on Franco for making a women in prison flick that features absolutely NO shower scenes!  You know better than that Jess.  Half star deduction.  At least he tries to make up for it in the nudity department as there are nearly two dozen breasts on display. 

 

Franco films all the other scenes that don’t feature nudity in a fairly lethargic manner.  The camera hopelessly zooms around looking for something interesting to film with minimal results.  Once Romay finally gets to prison, Franco also utilizes this technique, but lucky for us, the cameraman usually finds a nice furry 70’s bush to zoom in on. 

 

Another thing about this movie is that it’s called Women Behind Bars, but I only counted FOUR bars in the whole movie.  We never see the bars from afar; which makes me think this was filmed in some vacant warehouse and Franco just put up four lead pipes in front of the camera to simulate a jail cell. 

 

At least there is no shortage of cheesy dialogue.  My favorites include:  “How did you kill him?  Was it brutal or refined?”, “If you tell anybody about this, I’ll slit your gullet!”, and “Turn around, I’m tired of looking at your ugly face!” 

THE STEPMOTHER (1972) *

 

Well, you got to hand it to director Howard Avedis and the good folks at Crown International Pictures because they sure do know how to do a bait and switch marketing campaign.  The ads all made you think this was gonna be all about a sexy stepmother who seduces her stepson into humping like hyenas in heat, but the truth of the matter is that this flick has got waaaay more plot than just that. 

 

What we got is Alejandro Rey murdering his wife’s (Katherine Justice) lover then disposing of the body.  Afterwards, he tries to play it cool, but that’s kinda tough to do when his wife is always inviting her flute playing hippie friends over for cocktails.  Alejandro starts having bizarre visions of his victims stalking him in slow-motion on the beach, which doesn’t exactly improve his disposition.  Since he’s still mad about that whole cheating thing, he refuses to have sex with Justice, so she starts seeing his business partner.  This makes Rey even crazier so he throws his buddy off the top of a five story roof.  When his son comes to visit, Rey gets too caught up getting involved with his late business partner’s wife to notice either his son OR his wife.  This leads to Justice (FINALLY!!!) seducing her stepson.

 

You have to wait ¾ of the movie before Justice hops in the sack with her stepson and by the time the filmmakers finally get around to showing it, it’s totally not worth it.  I mean all Justice does is get stoned, then she lays him down on a pool table and jumps on top of him.  Then there’s an abrupt jump cut.  That’s it!  What a tease!  Thankfully when Avedis made the similarly themed The Teacher the next year, he spent more time on the actual seduction and affair, but even that movie was hopelessly riddled with too many subplots. 

 

Not only do you have to sit through a lot of half assed soap opera theatrics and ill advised crimes of passion, but there’s also a lot of boring police procedural stuff that helps keep the flick’s gearshift firmly in the park position. 

 

As the sexy stepmother, Justice provides some nice T & A in the shower, but she isn’t much of an actress.  Rey isn’t very convincing as either a cuckolded husband, or a coldblooded killer and his over enunciated Mexican accent (“CHOO BEEN SEEING HAHR BEEHIND MY BAHCK!”) is pretty irritating.  Familiar faces such as Duncan (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) McCleod and Claudia (Gator Bait) Jennings co-star.  She plays a porn star and in one brief scene, gets completely naked.  For fans of the late Jennings, these brief moments of her in her birthday suit will be justification enough to sit through this crap, but everyone else will want to steer clear.

 

If you can believe it, the theme song “Strange are the Ways of Love” was actually nominated for an Oscar! 

 

AKA:  Impulsion.