Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Movie review - "The Wild Party" (1975) **1/2

Every now and then Sam Arkoff at AIP, despite all his protestations about not wanting to make "arty farty" movies, made a stab at arty farty movies - it's the only explanation I can think of why he invested money in this, which was based on a narrative poem, has a narrator breaking the fourth wall to speak poetry, was directed by James Ivory, has characters break out into song and features nudity but relatively tame nudity.

Maybe the nudity's what sold it to Arkoff - that and Raquel Welch in the lead, and the potential to make a film with some respectability that still hit exploitation beats.

There are apparently a few versions of this movie floating around - Ivory did a version, AIP did their version. I think this is Ivory's one because it clocks in at 100 minutes. Also apparently the AIP cut tried to make James Coco's character more sympathetic, and used flashbacks and flashforwards - which aren't here.

This isn't a successful movie. As Ivory himself admitted, you don't really empathise with anyone - everyone is a bit of a dick. James Coco is an egomaniacal star, whose films (from the extracts we see) aren't particularly funny, who doesn't listen to advice. Raquel Welch stays with Coco for the money and reflective fame and cheats on him. David Dukes makes all these pompous judgements about people - and why is his film feedback so awesome?

On an exploitation level the film isn't that "wild". Some ingredients are there - drinking, drug taking, women making out with each other, an omnisexual orgy (for all his snobbish comments, Dukes' character still takes part in the orgy) - but it's all very politely shot. Ivory is not Jack Hill.

On a dramatic level it suffers from sketchy support characters - Perry King is just required to hang around and be beautiful, Dukes hangs around and makes comments. Coco and Welch are given lots of chances; Coco takes his, though it's hard to care too much about his character, and Welch takes some of hers.

However it is interesting. The art design is pretty, it's stylistically different, with it's poems and songs. The ending is suitably dramatic. It's very flawed but it tries to break the mould.

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