Sunday, June 7, 2020

Small Town Girls (1979)

Aaron Stuart torpedoed Small Town Girls. Before elaborating on how, allow me to give a brief account of the film at large.

“Play Around” magazine is holding a contest to find their next centerfold. The editor (Harry Freeman) has narrowed the field to four finalists in the Sex Queen Fantasy Contest based on submissions they’ve provided detailing their secret sexual fantasies. They are:

Literally, ABCD

Ann (Sharon Kane): “[L]ove, pleasure, luxury, and uninhibited sex with a very handsome and ideal partner.”

Barbarella (Valerie Darlyn): “Group sex with lesbianism and to be dominated by uniformed people.”

Cindy (Dorothy Lemay): “To have men worship me and I love to tease them and I also like to travel a lot.”

Danielle (Serena): “[T]o be really decadent and be able to dominate people sexually without fear of rebuttal.”

Frankly, if these were the finalists, the other submissions must have been some really lemons.

The women are given $5000 and 48 hours to live out their fantasies, write and submit a story about their experiences, and whoever does it best will win the contest. In order to ensure everything’s on the level, a man is assigned to keep tabs on each woman (Jesse Adams to Ann; Michael Morrison to Barbarella; David Morris to Cindy; John Seeman to Danielle). The men are informed that they “may participate in their fantasies in any way [they] see fit.”

Look at these smooth operators.

With this set up, the film basically plays out as a series of vignettes. Before they can get on with their individual missions, Ann and Barbarella have a brief tryst in a fancy treehouse. Halfway through their explorations, there’s a cut to Cindy booking a flight to “Alcapoco” and a reservation for the best hotel for two days (see: she likes to travel!). After hanging up, she says she’s going to treat herself to an “outrageous wardrobe.” The scene cuts back to Ann and Barbarella so they can finish up there treehouse fun.

Next up is Cindy trying on a bunch of clothes, among a half dozen other women in varying states of undress. Listening to a baseball game on the radio in his car, David Morris keeps tabs from the parking lot. It’s a weird little montage, set to Alan Parker’s “Manhunt” with a looped 8-second sample of crowd noise. The intensity of the song and repetition of the crowd noise - particularly a very distinctive laugh - gives a real sense of unease, foreshadowing what’s to come. After returning to her car, a man (Aaron Stuart) lurches from the back seat, holding a knife to her face, and threatening to cut off her nose if she doesn’t follow his directions. Morris sees them drive off, heads to a payphone and calls the editor. Based on the editor’s side of the conversation “My she did get into her fantasy, didn’t she?” we’re to understand that Morris thinks the abduction was arranged by Cindy, even though that has nothing to do with what she wrote!

Here’s where I’m going on a bit of a rant as to the aforementioned film torpedoing at the hands of Aaron Stuart. Some people can play dark and menacing well (Jamie Gillis, of course, was a master). Aaron Stuart could not. It seemed like his motivation was “deranged clown.” Some people are able to ad lib and improvise well. Aaron Stuart could not. People that aren’t adept at improvisation tend to say the same few things over and over. And over. And over. (I was reminded of Veri Knotty’s unsuccessful turn as a domme in Tramp, which I watched recently in memory of Samantha Fox, RIP. Maybe the combination of improv and “menacing” is particularly difficult.) Counting cuts to Morris the scene takes up a brutal 13 and a half minutes. The last minute of the scene - when Morris finally realizes Cindy’s in jeopardy and rescues her by bludgeoning Stuart with a wrench - is over fifteen minutes after the film previously cut away.

Fucking finally!

Forty minutes of screentime elapse between the time Cindy is abducted and when she’s rescued. Predictably, there’s a sex scene between Lemay and Morris shortly thereafter, mind-bogglingly including her talking about how “it’s fun being adventurous, but the risks are too great,”  “if you had a lover that would tie you up once in awhile, and make love to you, it wouldn’t be so bad,” and that she found some of the “moments...perversely exciting” during her abduction. It almost seems like writer/director Tom Janovich gaslit himself into believing Cindy’s fantasy was seeking sexual thrills and danger and bondage instead of being worshipped by men and traveling. Plus, the Lemay/Morris scene is introduced just three minutes after her rescue. Just a monumental editing debacle.

You can’t consume popular media - porographic or otherwise - and deny that the threat of sexual violence against women is a trope. And that romance borne of rescue from the threat is a sub-trope. If this was a plotline deemed integral to the film, what should have happened is that the first time Morris peeps through the window, after Cindy’s been tied to the weird spinning St. Andrew’s cross but before she’s raped, he should realize she didn’t actually plan what was happening, bust in, and brain the abductor with a wrench, the whole scene amounting to three or four minutes. Then, after some of the other plot lines resolved, they could have their sex scene. Who knows, maybe I’ll recut it to substantially improve the movie.

Okay, with that said, on to what the other ladies were up to.

Barbarella tells Ann that she’s always wanted to have “magic powers” so she’s going to “put an ad in the paper posing as a clairvoyer* [sic] for people with sexual problems.” Ann says she wants to make love on a yacht.

* I suppose it could be a "clairvoyeur" a portmanteau of "clairvoyant" and "voyeur", but given the rest of the script, I think that's a strech.

Barbarella sets up as a phony psychic (taking a shitload of pills for some reason).

A couple, Elaine and Roger (Kandi Barbour and Jon Martin) come to her to fix their relationship, and Barbarella “sees” that they want new sexual experiences, specifically Roger “making it” with another woman and Elaine watching. Conveniently, Barbarella’s there to help! By the time Roger finishes, the drugs Barbarella took have fully set in and she passes out. Her watcher - Michael Morrison - comes in to check on her and while he’s telling her he’s going to take her away, the scene dissolves into a psychedelic orgy playing out in Barbarella’s mind including Bonnie Holiday, Kandi Barbour, Jon Martin, Morrison dressed as a cop and Mick South dressed as a fireman.

So group sex (check) with lesbianism (check) and domination by people in uniform (check!). If it weren’t a drug-fueled hallucination, Barbarella would have nailed her fantasy.

Ann heads down to the pier and finds her captain (Jesse Adams). They have a nice romantic picnic and some nice romantic copulation.


Kane and Adams are capable actors and have good sexual chemistry. I could definitely see this arc included in a compilation of “Scenes for Couples” or something. Ann aced her fantasy, but unlike Barbarella, did it in real life, so she’d have to be presumed in the lead.

Danielle gets gussied up, hires a limousine (driven by John Seeman), and cruises around listening to Rachmaninoff.

Prelude to a peeping.

She drinks some champagne, does some blow, and tells the chauffeur to stop the car and fetch her a man in a tuxedo (Blair Harris). In the car, she orders him to anally penetrate her with a vibrator, then sucks him off while Seeman peeps on them and jerks off. After Danielle’s through with her tuxedo pickup, he’s jettisoned onto the sidewalk. Danielle proceeds to command the driver to tend to her sexually since she knew he’d been spying. She was decadent and sexually dominant (though in the pantheon of Serena’s career, the dominance demonstrated here is basically G-rated), so we have another successful fantasy realization.

Back at the editor’s place, the women are informed that (some of) the men they’ve been involved with were actually judges, and that the stories submitted - corroborated by the judges, even though neither Cindy’s nor Barbarella’s fantasies were actually completed - were all so good that they’re all winners, and everyone’s happy.

Without a doubt, the Kane/Adams scene and the fantasy orgy were the standouts. From a creative standpoint - the lighting, editing, and song choice - the orgy gets the nod and it’s a real shame that it’s barely over six minutes (especially since it features six people). If this scene were the length of the Stuart/Leman debacle, and vice versa (or, hell, cut the latter altogether!), the film would have benefited immensely.

Let’s see how Robert Rimmer defends his Collector’s Choice designation:

“The CC rating may be dubious, but you’ll keep watching because you can’t believe your eyes!”

Uh, okay.

It should also be noted that he has Small Town Girls included in the “Classics” section. As makes sense, all Classics are Collector’s Choice, but not all Collector’s Choice are Classics. You’d think something that seems to have barely attained CC, though, might be better filed elsewhere….

In his recap, he also misidentifies Sharon Kane as Blair Harris (a man), though in Rimmer’s defense, it seems like early on in Kane’s career, her credited name changed a lot; seemingly more than anyone that had as many credits as she did. (Maybe at some point I’ll try to pin down when she more or less settled on “Sharon Kane”.) He also says that “Cindy has rape and bondage fantasies” (nope) and that “Barbarella pretends she’s a fortune teller at an amusement park.” Maybe he saw a version with additional B-roll footage, but nothing indicated “amusement park” to me.

Plus, she ran an ad in a newspaper fercrissakes!

(Maybe I should call this feature “Dunking on Robert Rimmer” since that’s what I’ve been doing so far….)

Overall, there was a lot in this film I liked and one thing I obviously hated. Without the “violation of Cindy” subplot, I probably would have rated Small Town Girls a CC100, but as is, couldn’t go higher than CC250


° Like Thoroughly Amorous Amy, Small Town Girls has an original theme song. The song, “Small Town Girls”, was nominated for Best Song at the 1979 AFAA Annual Erotic Film Awards, but lost to “This Time We Might Make It” from The Ecstasy Girls. I think the song kind of sucks.

° The film also received a nomination for Best Art and Set Direction (again losing to The Ecstasy Girls), but in the 1980 awards (assuming The Rialto Report didn’t get some wires crossed).

° Small Town Girls was Tom Janovich’s only credit, which surprised me. There was obviously a decent budget and the film was capably made.

° Harry Freeman is the final cast credit and the only actor with an "as":

...which lead me to believe he was someone of note. He only has a few Nonsex acting and one directing credit (an all-male film called Cousin Buck). There was a producer named Harold (Hal) Freeman who was involved in a pretty high-profile anti-porn trial, but I'm almost positive they're different people.


Next up, 1973's Teenage Cowgirls!

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