Friday, 3 October 2008

Pleasures of a Woman (1972)

Pleasures of a Woman is one of a series of early 70s softcore/sexploitation movies released by Seduction Cinema as part of their Retro Seduction line, with each of the 70s movies paired with a modern remake. It’s an interesting idea and undoubtedly a good marketing idea. Not surprisingly in this case what it demonstrates most clearly is the superiority of the 70s original.

The 1972 Pleasures of a Woman, directed by Nick Millard under the name Nick Phillips, is a tale of erotic obsession and sensual excess. A young woman attends the funeral of her uncle, who has left her a considerable sum of money. She meets his widow, a woman in her 30s who is apparently regarded with some suspicion by the rest of the family, and a lesbian relationship rapidly develops. It turns out that the younger woman is not so innocent after all, and is more than willing to be seduced. Unfortunately she’s seduced by her aunt’s drug habits as well.

There’s no synchronised sound, just a voice-over narration, which does have the effect of increasing the feeling of alienation (as well as presumably saving money). The jazzy soundtrack has a similar effect. The movie is remarkable for the extraordinary emphasis on shoe fetishism! I had no idea you could do so many wicked things with shoes and boots! It gives the movie a kinky edge that is typical of 60s and 70s sexploitation, an atmosphere of overheated and forbidden passions. The movies of Nick Millard came rather late in the sexploitation cycle and they represent a move away from the violence of the roughies of the late 60s. There’s no violence at all in this one. The emphasis is on the hedonism of the hippie era and its accompanying lifestyle of excess.

It’s also interesting in being a movie that is very focused on women. It tries to be a movie about female sexuality rather than just a male fantasy about female sexuality. There’s an attempt to present lesbianism as more than just a male fantasy. The attraction between the two women is much more plausible than is the case with most of the lesbian sex in sexploitation and softcore porn movies of its era. And despite the absence of dialogue the two women are portrayed as real people rather than just naked bodies. Which is not to say that the movie doesn’t have its share of naked bodies. If there’s enough existential alienation to please modern connoisseurs of this genre there’s also more than enough nudity and sex to satisfy the grindhouse audience of its day. In fact there’s a truly prodigious amount of sex, much of it with a decidedly kinky edge.

The acting is adequate, with Lynn Harris being quite good as the younger woman. The older woman is played by sexploitation legend Uschi Digard. Not the world’s greatest actress, but she had a definite presence, not to mention a spectacular figure (she appeared in a couple of Russ Meyer’s films).

The 2002 remake makes an attempt to recapture the feel of the original, and even retains the shoe fetishism. It doesn’t completely succeed but it is at least a genuine attempt to reproduce the flavour of the original. Its main problem is that the original was a product of its time and you just can’t recapture that time.

The original 1972 version probably never looked any better than it does on this DVD, and the graininess actually adds to the sleazy ambience. And the sleazy ambience is what it’s all about, so that’s a definite plus. Nick Millard’s movies have a very definite flavour of their own and Seduction Cinema are to be commended for making at least a handful of his movies available to modern audiences. If you’re a fan of sexploitation you’ll find they’re very much worth checking out.

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