By Richard Winters
My Rating: 0 out of 10
4-Word Review: Sex with masked stranger.
It’s not often that I can say this, but I personally know the man, Anton Diether, that’s credited with writing the screenplay (and story idea) for this film. He’s a member of the Austin Screenwriter’s group that I also attend. He’s harshly critical of everyone else’s screenplays, so I was intrigued to see something that he had written in order to ascertain if his stuff was any better. To give him credit I’ve asked him about this film many months back before I had seen it. He stated that director Roger Vadim had ‘ruined it’ and that he had a big fight with him on opening night when he realized how much Vadim had changed the original story. For his sake I hope he’s telling the truth because this thing is nothing I’d ever want my name to be attached to.
This was also intended at being a star making vehicle for Cindy Pickett, who’s excellent and seen quite a bit in the nude. Vadim was famous for directing films that turned his lady stars into international sex symbols like Bridgitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, and Jane Fonda as well as dating them and even marrying two of them. While Pickett did date Vadim as the film was being shot they quickly broke-up once it was over and it failed to make her a superstar like the other three, but much of that can be blamed on the lame script more than anything.
The story centers on Valerie (Cindy Pickett) who’s married to Hollywood producer Jason (Barry Primus). While their marriage may seem perfect to an outsider it’s filled with turmoil behind-closed-doors mainly because Valerie cannot have intimate relations with her husband due to still suffering from bad flashbacks of a rape that happened to her several years before. She is supposed to see a therapist to help her get through the traumatic experience, but she feels it’s not helping her enough, so she quits going. With their sex life stagnant Jason moves-out and goes on an extended ‘vacation’. Home alone Valerie begins hearing strange noises at night and convinced that an intruder has broken-in. She searches around, but doesn’t see anyone, but then the next night the intruder comes back wearing a mask and suit that makes him resemble a giant bird. Valerie finds herself put at ease with his presence and able to enjoy sex again without being tormented by her ugly memories.
The one thing that I did like was showing how difficult it is for the victim to get over a sexual assault. Sometimes people may never full recover from these types of events and this is one of the first films to tackle the post traumatic stress of it, so in that realm it should be applauded, but it never gives any details about the assailant, or whether he was ever caught, which I found frustrating.
The film though fails when it shows Valerie change into this promiscuous vamp who during the first half was hyper-paranoid about any man getting near here and yet when one appears in tacky costume late at night she’s cool with it and lets down her defenses completely. Most women who hadn’t been raped would be panicked at seeing a strange man wearing a wild getup in their home, so why isn’t Valerie and why the sudden flip in her personality, which are never answered (at least not sufficiently).
She also allows a man, played by Gene Davis, that she only knows very casually, to come-over to her place where she is all alone, so that she can paint a portrait of him in the nude. You’d think that if she has such anxiety around men that she wouldn’t do this. Anyone else would be concerned, at least a little, about the man taking advantage of the situation, but Valerie doesn’t until it’s too late, which again given her past doesn’t make any sense.
The twist ending, where it’s found that the guy in the bird suit is really Sean (Paul Jenkins) a friend and collaborator to Valerie’s husband, is by far the stupidest thing about it. For one thing Sean is shown downing large amounts of alcohol constantly making it seem like he’d barely be able to stand-up let alone make love, or beat-up another man who is much younger and better built. It’s also quite clear that even with his clothes on Sean is middle-aged with a potbelly, but when he’s playing the bird man his stomach is flat and muscular. This is because these scenes were done by a stand-in named Mark Hanks, but the viewer is supposed to believe that it’s really Sean, so why is the body type so different?
For these reasons and for the incredibly corny wrap-up, which should win the award for corniest ending ever, is why this movie was a definite career killer for Vadim whose talent was already considered overrated even before this one came-out.
My Rating: 0 out of 10
Released: April 11, 1980
Runtime: 1 Hour 40 Minutes
Director: Roger Vadim
Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures
Available: DVD-R (j4hi.com)