Hot Rackets (1979)
Rhonda Jo Petty
A review for Hot Rackets may be the most apt time to bring up an article about library music I read months ago in Wax Poetics. In a nutshell, library music was music recorded for use in television and movies when the directors and editors didn't have the budget to record original music. It was always instrumental, and frequently thematic (whether there were different musical themes that repeated in various styles and tempos or multiple songs that featured a similar instrument - Hammond organ, say). The article mentions the use of library music in porn - Barbara Broadcast and SexWorld are cited. Reading the article made me think of Golden Era soundtracks in a different light (an interesting correlation because library music, while in use since the 1920s arguably had it's heyday in the late '60s and through the '70s and was virtually extinct in the mid-'80s). Not only did the music help define the films from the era that I'm most focused on, but the extensive music composed and performed by talented musicians lend these films a feeling of depth and professionalism that, in my opinion, is frequently absent in movies after video killed film in X. A twenty five minute sex scene can be boring enough, but when its scored with a looping single techno bar, it can be downright punishing.
I mention all this because the most striking part of Hot Rackets is the music. The plot is pretty thin - even by adult film standards: Herb (Jon Martin), frustrated with his wife Liz's (Candida Royalle) disinterest in sex, finds solace - and satisfaction - at his tennis club. After finding out from her friend Mona (Rhonda Jo Petty) what really goes on at the tennis club, Liz goes to the club to check up on Herb only to have her libido unleashed by Larry, the wise bartender (Ray Wells) and the club masseuse, Kelly (Lauren Dominique). Of course, Liz and Herbs paths eventually cross and they end up embracing the swinging lifestyle that, apparently, tennis clubs secretly encourage.
There are also a few other characters (Turk Lyon and Cris Cassidy as a butler and maid; Desiree Cousteau as a tennis club bimbette named "Googie") shoe-horned in in order to have a few other sex scenes.
Two other things that occurred to me:
1. If I ever have access to a time machine, after taking care of important things (like going to the future to pick up a sports almanac to get rich through betting and going back in time to kill Hitler), I'm going to seek out the first sound editor to overdub sex sounds and dialog in porn and stop him by any means necessary. Every time I hear some, I'm convinced its the worst example I've heard yet...but this film has the worst example I've heard yet.
2. There's an interesting juxtaposition of female grooming. Rhonda Jo Petty is completely bare - a rarity for the era, no doubt - but also Cris Cassidy is completely unshaved - bush, armpits, and legs. Although she's naturally quite blond - so her hair is relatively subdued on camera - it's virtually impossible to imagine a scenario (outside of a fetish film) that you'd find an actress like that today.
2-and-a-half. Petty's bare-ness is revealed in the second scene of the film. Her nether regions are covered in shaving cream, so I think we're supposed to think that Mike Ranger is shaving her, but as he's wielding an instrument ostensibly designed to strip paint or ice a cake, I think it's a pretty safe assumption that she's already shaved. The inclusion of that action by itself seems odd enough, but when coupled with the fact that the preceding scene - the first "action" of the film - was Cris Cassidy giving Jon Martin a blow job in the shower with his face and hands covered in shaving cream, Hot Rackets starts off with every indication that it's a shaving cream fetish film. Very strange indeed.
So, what's the verdict? Hot Rackets reminded me more than a little of Lips, and since I said of the latter: "I wouldn't actively steer anyone away from Lips, but it wouldn't be the first (or fifth) Vatelli film I'd recommend. C+", I think it's only fitting that I say of the former:
I wouldn't actively steer anyone away from Rackets, but it wouldn't be the first (or fifth) McCallum film I'd recommend. C+
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