Upbeat Cynicism

what do you mean i lost my mind?

The Sister in Law, 1974

with 4 comments

All the pictures have been disappeared because Herself, in a kind and generous mood, reported to Picasa that every one of them violated terms of use. They did not, as they were in a private, not public, album, and did not incite hate or violence, nor were they pornographic. But Herself, when angry, must do anything she can to destroy as much as possible. And Herself is very angry.

James Lileks could probably build a whole book around this movie, a companion to Interior Desecrations most likely.

It’s amazingly bad in an amazingly 1970s way. Despite being a blatant sexploitation film, it works very, very hard to make you sorry you ever watched it, let alone enjoyed it. Because, apart from being sexploitation, it is also a “The System Is Broken, Man, And The American Dream Is A Lie, Too, Maaaaaaan” movie. And subtlety is not its strong suit.

The Sister in Law opens with a dialogueless exchange between a Bearded ’70s Guy (we’ll learn later that this is Edward) and a Typical Mob Boss. Then we get to watch a stunning redhead (Anne Saxon) in a turquoise dress (and no bra! woo hoo!) stroll down the street while John Savage warbles out the awful title song. Mr. Savage will play our “hero”, but we’ll get to him.

Anyway, the Sister in Law (that gorgeous redhead, whom we will soon learn is named Joanna) goes home, plays basketball (badly) with a kid who is in the driveway, and knows where everyone is and who she is, seemingly, but who disappears from the movie in just a few more scenes. Then she goes in, combs her hair (giving us a little naked time, thank you Miss Saxon!), and swims in the inground pool (in a bikini, alas).

Then our “hero”, Robert, arrives, dropped off by a convertible.

He goes out to the pool, after watching her sun herself and stretch (this is your reviewer, not complaining about the length of time she does so), and they greet each other. Here’s where we get smacked over the head by the 1970s-ness of it all, and also begin to get thumped by the movie’s self-importance.

She asks him: “How’s America?”

So what does Robert answer? “Oh, big.”

In the next scene, dinner, Robert’s mother laments “I don’t know why you had to bum around so long.” To which his father replies, “To find himself, mother, to find himself.”

Then (after a little more dialogue) his father asks “So, how is America?”

“Small. Very small.”

From those two responses, we are supposed to infer that Robert is a Very Deep Thinker. Or something.

Anyhow, as we learn in exposition, older brother Edward is a writer who got rich off of his first book, then blew it all on gambling. He hasn’t written anything good in years, hasn’t had another word published, and is divorcing Joanna in favor of his mistress. Joanna is living with her in-laws for the time, while Edward lives in town (New York).

As it turns out, Edward has been couriering heroin for the mob (ah, so that first scene does make sense), and is in debt to them or at least has to do what they “suggest”.

The film goes on, and Robert proves and reproves that he’s a ’70s kind of guy — he boffs both his sister in law Joanna and the mistress, is too much of a wuss to call his brother out for being a jerk and a cad, and when entrusted with doing a courier run for his brother, dumps all the heroin into a forest stream. That’s just how real and with-it and authentic he is.

This, naturally, does not endear his brother to the mob (who never realize someone else was doing the actual work). They give Edward a few days to make up their loss, and Edward uses the time to whine about how unfair it all is, make plans to move to France ((Man, how perfect is that detail? )), and set his brother up to take the fall.

Robert, being not only a wuss who can’t stand up to his brother, but also a dunce, fails to question the significance of Edward giving him his Jaguar just as he leaves for France.

So yeah, the end of the movie? The deep and significant final shots? Robert gets executed — on a busy New York thoroughfare, in broad daylight! — by the mob, with the (rather cute) mistress looking on in horror, and Edward the louse and Joanna walk down the hallway of the airport terminal, leaving together for France.

Notice what’s lacking in that synopsis of the story? Yeah, the sister in law. Joanna is certainly a character in the story, but it’s not her story. At all. It’s really about the brothers (and about Amerikkka, man!). The women are (highly decorative) props. Joanna does not drive the plot, does not inform the story, she’s more or less along for the ride.

Now, idiot story aside, this movie is kind of interesting for what its cast and crew went on to do (or not to do, in some cases).

The writer and director, Joseph Ruben, is still working, and in fact has had two previous movies reviewed on this blog — 1976’s The Pom Pom Girls, which I enjoyed more than I really should have, and 2004’s execrable The Forgotten, which inspired me to try to write a good version of the kind of story it failed to tell.

He also, it should be noted, directed one movie that is almost universally well-regarded, 1987’s The Stepfather.

John Savage, star and horrendous singer in this film, has had a long and very productive career. However, he is apparently not very memorable in his roles, because I’ve seen at least three movies on his filmography in which he had not-small parts, and don’t recall him at all.

And the two people I actually liked from this?

Well, this is Anne Saxon‘s only film. Which is a shame, because not only was she quite attractive (and willing to drop trow at a moment’s notice), she was also pretty darn good in this. Not perfect, not great, but more than respectable.

Meredith Baer, who played the mistress and was cute as a button, did a few more exploitation flicks for Crown International, then also dropped out of acting. Which, again, is too bad, because she’s more than cute, she acquitted herself respectably, especially given what a thin part she was handed.

NSFW eye candy below the fold.

From The Sister in Law
From The Sister in Law
From The Sister in Law
From The Sister in Law
From The Sister in Law
From The Sister in Law
From The Sister in Law
From The Sister in Law

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4 Responses

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  1. Some pics contained nudity, which violated Picasa’s TOS.

    Roanne Jean Isisdro Valenzuela, Maryland RN license no. R188912

    26 September 2008 at 4:00 am

  2. Here’s Picasa’s TOS, search the word “nudity”. It’s not there.

    So, first of all, you’re wrong on the facts.

    And second of all, you did this to be vindictive, not out of any public-spiritedness. It’s petty and it’s plain for anyone to see.

    Ian Michael Hamet

    26 September 2008 at 5:33 am

  3. *shrug*

    There was an option that said something like, “This photo contains nudity.” in the “report inappropriate content” thingie. See it for yourself.

    Roanne Jean Isisdro Valenzuela, Maryland RN license no. R188912

    26 September 2008 at 7:52 am

  4. And if you had had only the nude pictures (which, again, were in a private album, and were marked off clearly on this post, requiring a click-through), then you might be able to claim that you were only concerned about the TOS.

    Since you flagged ALL of the pictures, you were using the TOS to be petty and vindictive.

    Ian Michael Hamet

    27 September 2008 at 8:32 am


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