“One part sex. One part rebellion.”
That’s how Sony describes their Martini Movies. The films come from that time in the 1960’s and 1970’s when there was a lot of unrest in the country. It was a time of protests and questioning of authority. It was the time of free love and a socialism experiment in communes all across America. Now, what exactly all of this has to do with martinis, I’m not exactly sure. In fact, there’s not a lot of drinking in most of these films. It’s more likely just a blanket way to release some obscure films in their catalog.
Here’s a list of the films that are available. All of them are out on DVD for the first time.
Model Shop (1969)
Gary Lockwood stars as George Matthews. He’s a drifter with no real purpose in his life until he meets Lola/Cecile (Aimee). He falls in love and follows the girl from place to place. All of this against the backdrop of getting drafted. Matthews lives pretty much from day to day depending on the charity of others to survive. The entire film is basically a day in the life. He sets out to find $100 to keep his roadster from getting repossessed until Lola sidetracks him and perhaps his entire life.
This film is notable as French director Jacques Demy’s first American film and a reunion, of sorts, with one of his former French leading ladies, Anouk Aimee from his 1961 film Lola. If you’re looking for much of a plot in this one, you’re going to be very disappointed. Demy intended it as somewhat of a character study and a portrait of a particular time and place. These are merely moments that he captures on film, almost with a mission to document them before they are gone. And of course, now they are. The film is overly stylish and more than a little political. It’s ironic that I also recently reviewed M*A*S*H in these pages, because there are many parallels in style and message between these two films. One thing is certain. While this is far from a good film, Demy succeeded in his attempt to capture the era as well as the area. His images are accurate depictions of southern California of the time. It’s safe to say that the world this film captures no longer exists. The film sports a rather unusual soundtrack from the cult band Spirit.
The Buttercup Chain (1970)
Franz (Bennett) and Margaret (Asher) haven’t seen each other in years. They decide to get back together for an adventurous vacation. They are joined by Fred (Taube), ostensibly as a companion for Margaret. Eventually they also happen upon Franz’s lover in the form of Leigh Taylor Young as Manny. Together they explore Europe and the age of sexual freedom.
This might well be the oddest of the collection. The relationship between cousins Franz and Margaret boarders on incest. The film merely follows the eventual foursome as they play around with their various relationship dynamics. Honestly, the film is incredibly dull until the arrival of Young, who is by far the most energetic and compelling presence in the entire film. Director Robert Ellis Miller billed it as a coming of age story, but it’s honestly nothing of the sort. It attempts to shock without actually ever becoming shocking. A complete bust with this one.
The Pursuit Of Happiness (1971)
William Popper (Sarazin) is a typical rich kid until he falls in love with Jane (Hershey). She’s very active in many of the era’s social awareness movements and slowly begins to win William over to her causes. His aunt doesn’t approve of Jane, and in a fit of frustration William takes his car out in inclement conditions, and through his own carelessness, he hits an old lady trying to cross the street. Of course, his wealth and stature mean that justice is different for him. His lawyer, played fantastically by E.G. Marshall, does everything he can to keep William’s actions from any consequences. The problem is that William’s not that sure he wants to get off. A look at prison life forces William to question the entire justice system. Unfortunately, no good deed goes unpunished.
Hey, the film features some Randy Newman music. What’s not to love? I have a lot of respect for Michael Sarazin, but this role is so off the wall it makes Monk look normal. William jumps to incredible conclusions that are always on the edge of radical-ness with each obstacle he faces. I understand the film is intended to be somewhat of the typical early 70’s anti-establishment culture, but this film is too extreme to have any chance of being effective. It was directed by Robert Mulligan, who only really gave us one outstanding film. The Summer Of ‘42’ was his one and only notable work. Looking at this obscure title, there’s not much mystery as to why that was. Mulligan makes the fatal mistake of attempting to believe that he can comment on a culture that his own film is by necessity a very part of. He wants so desperately to be that outsider throwing stones and never understanding what that was that keeps hitting him on the head. There are actually a number of good performances. Barbara Hershey is wonderful as Jane. I already mentioned E.G. Marshall. Sarazin is a bust, however, and so is the film.
Jerry (Douglas) is a college student who seems to have lost any sense of purpose. His parents are rather conservative and don’t really understand him. He kind of meanders through life. He attempts to get involved by becoming a Big Brother to a wise guy kid who doesn’t really have much use for him most of the time. After an accident playing football, Jerry meets Vannetta (Vaccaro), a nurse at the local clinic. He falls for her, and through some bordering on stalker tactics he wins her heart. With new confidence, he drops out of college and auditions at the school’s music conservatory. He has superior guitar skills, but his lack of formal training hurts his chances. If he doesn’t get into the school, he’s going to be drafted. In a short time his new confident life begins to fall apart with potentially devastating results.
This was by far my favorite of the collection. It wasn’t necessarily a better film, but it certainly had the best performances. Michael Douglas is very young here, but already he is showing that he got these roles not because of his father, but because he was very good in his own right. The growth that Jerry exhibits isn’t really in the thin script. It’s all in Douglas and his wonderful performance. Jack Warden has always been one of my favorite sleeper actors. He’s underused here, but extremely effective. Without giving too much away, it was a mistake not to end the film on a reaction shot from Warden when the big reveal is finally made. Brenda Vaccaro looks so very young here. She’s not nearly the most attractive actress out there, but she sells it as well as any model body actress could have.
This is yet another Vietnam War inspired anti-authority film, which seems to be a theme for this collection. Tell me again what all of this has to do with martinis.
All of the films are presented in their original widescreen aspect ratios For the most part colors are good, and the studio used relatively clean prints. The films are mostly alone on the discs, so you won’t find any compression artifact to distract from the prints.
All are presented in Dolby Digital mono. The films are mostly dialog driven, so that’s really all that is serviced here.
Each of these discs are sold separately as part of the third wave of Martini Movies. There’s a martini specialty recipe with each disc. I’m not into those kinds of drinks, so I can’t really vouch for the quality. I can only hope that the drink is better than the films. I suppose that if I had a few of those drinks, the movies might not have been so bad. Of course, I likely wouldn’t have remembered enough to write this review. On second thought, where can I get my hands on a good bottle of Vodka before the fourth wave comes rolling my way? “I just thought it might be easier that way, don’t you think?”