Tag Archives: Tiffany Bolling

The Wild Party (1975)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Slumming actor stages comeback.

The year is 1929 and Jolly Grimm (James Coco) the once successful silent film star now finds himself, with the advent of talking pictures, to be in low demand. Although his movies once made a killing his style of humor is now considered cliched and with no studio willing to fund his latest pic he’s forced to use his own money to get it made. He holds a lavish party in his mansion inviting many Hollywood elites who he hopes will show an interest in his movie once he screens it to everyone, but instead his guests are more into each other as the party quickly devolves into a wild sex orgy with even Jolly’s faithful girlfriend Queenie (Raquel Welch) cheating on him with a much younger and better looking actor (Perry King).

The story is loosely based on the 1926 poem of the same name by Joseph Moncure March while the Jolly character was inspired by Fatty Arbuckle a famous silent film comic who was accused and the later acquitted of the rape and manslaughter of actress Virginia Rappe in 1921. The script though by Walter Marks doesn’t seem to know what tone it wants to take as at times it seems like a trenchant drama while at other moments it comes off as a surreal comedy. The original intent was to turn it into a musical, which would’ve been a better idea as the lack of cohesion causes the pacing to be completely off and never allows the film to build any tension or momentum.

The party scenes are not interesting or provocative and in many ways it’s a poorman’s version of Day of the Locust which came out at the same time and had a similar theme, but a far stronger impact. The sex is stagy and mechanical and seeing all the guests sprawled in a symmetric way on the floor the next day throughout the mansion looks too surreal-like to be even remotely believable. The party’s only interesting moment is when Jolly has a meltdown by going on a long angry rant that reveals his ugly side to his guests, but the filmmakers botch this sequence by focusing solely on Coco instead of cutting away to show the shocked reactions of the party-goers.

Coco, in his only starring vehicle, does quite well in a role I didn’t think he was equipped for. Welch gives an equally strong performance, possibly the best of her career, but the relationship of their two characters made no sense. Director James Ivory tries to flesh them out by having the two at different moments go on long soliloquys explaining what attracted them to the other, but in both cases it rings hollow. So what if Coco treated Welch with respect and asked her ‘deep questions’ when they first meet, which is apparently why she fell for him, he’s no longer doing that now, so why stick with him? Coco’s statement, that he couldn’t ‘live without her’ comes off as equally absurd since every time he talks to her he’s abusive.

The relationship angle should’ve been scrapped as it’s Jolly’s mental deterioration that is more interesting.  A far better and more realistic scenario would’ve had Coco coming onto a young starlet such as Queenie at the party but she would reject his advances and then later when he saw her with a younger actor it would set off his already shaky ego, which would then precipitate the violence.

Spoiler Alert!

The shooting that occurs at the end isn’t effective. The film is filled with so many lulls that by the time it finally gets to it you really don’t care who dies and who doesn’t. Having it occur the next morning after the party is already over seems anti-climactic and something that should’ve been witnessed by all the guests. It’s also a bit frustrating to have it end so abruptly without any aftermath or denouncement given.

End of Spoiler Alert!

Tiffany Bolling and Perry King add some zest in support especially with their facial expressions and the sultry dance done by Chris Gilmore (who gets billed here as Annette Ferra) adds a weird sensual vibe. However, having David Dukes’ character break the fourth wall and begin speaking directly to the camera as he describes the party guests is a distraction, which only  further cements this as a misguided misfire that needed better focus.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: March 4, 1975

Runtime: 1 Hour 47 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Director: James Ivory

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video

The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker (1971)

marriage of a young stockbroker

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Husband is a voyeur.

William (Richard Benjamin) seems to be living the dream having both a stable job and a beautiful wife named Lisa (Joanna Shimkus), but underneath he’s bored and as a source of escape begins to get involved in voyeuristic activities. He spends hours at an adult theater and uses any opportunity he can to spy on scantily clad women through his binoculars. Eventually Lisa, in a fit of frustration over William’s behavior, walks out on him and moves in with her sister Nan (Elizabeth Ashley) and her husband Chester (Adam West). Nan is very controlling and makes every attempt to keep Lisa away from William even as William tries to reconcile. Although her marriage seems fine on the outside it is actually as troubled as William and Lisa’s, which comes to a head when both couples get involved in a group therapy session.

The film is based on the novel of the same name written by Charles Webb, who was also the author of The Graduate, which became a hit film that was produced by Lawrence Turman who directed this one. Clearly Turman was hoping for the same success and this one begins well. The opening bit showing William bored with his job is funny as is his trip to an adult theater and the many thoughts that go through his head as he watches a nudie flick. The cinematography by Lazlo Kovacs captures the California coastline in a lush style and the overall narrative takes a refreshingly open-minded approach towards sexual fetishes as well as the institution of marriage while also questioning society’s conventional understanding of both.

Benjamin is good playing almost the exact same type of character living the same type of detached existence as the one he did in The Steagle. In fact this film could easily be considered an extension to that one and both movies were released less than a month apart. This one though fares a bit better as Benjamin gives a more well-rounded performance. In fact this may be his best work second only to the one that he did in Diary of a Mad Housewife.

The beautiful Shimkus does equally well and I enjoyed the scenes with the two of them together. Ashley makes a strong impression as the meddling sister and has a few funny moments. West, who campaigned hard for the role in an attempt to shake his Batman image, seems a bit too transparent and there needed to be more of a backstory involving both his character and his marriage to Nan.

Unfortunately all of these good things get crushed by a script that doesn’t know what direction it wishes to take. The scene with Tiffany Bolling is just one issue as she plays this really beautiful woman who for some indiscriminate reason decides to invite William, who is a complete stranger to her, into her house for sex after spotting him walking down the sidewalk. Why such a gorgeous woman would invite a schmuck like Benjamin into her place on a sexual whim makes very little sense and seems too much like a male sexual fantasy that demanded much more of an explanation to be believable. I realize this scene was part of the story arc to show William’s dissatisfaction with having sex with women who were strangers and thus propel him to try and win Lisa back, but the same point could’ve been made in a more realistic way had he done it with a hooker that he met on the street instead.

The ending is the biggest letdown as it employs too much of a feel-good, happy curve that comes out of nowhere. The two main characters suddenly turn into frolicking, youthful lovebirds that do not in any way resemble the same people that we’ve been following for the first 90 minutes. It comes off like a cop-out that is jarring to the overall tone while undermining all of the other issues that the film had previously brought up.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: August 19, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated R

Director: Lawrence Turman

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: http://www.modcinema.com