Friday, September 11, 2020

Cry for Cindy (1976)

Jesus, this was a wild ride.

Anthony Spinelli’s Cry for Cindy is like an episode of The Deuce crossed with Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and directed by a somewhat-restrained David Lynch. That sounds like an incredible film, actually, but my time with Cry for Cindy was...complicated. 

In a nutshell, the plot is that Anna (Amber Hunt), a hairdresser, is concerned her medical student boyfriend, Dennis (Spender Travis), will drop out of school. Clients Yvonne and Nora (Maryanne Fisher and Mitzi Fraser, one-time wonders), both sex workers*, convince Anna to become “Cindy” and start turning tricks for big money. Cindy’s an instant success but is deeply conflicted when she finds herself drawn into her new life as Cindy - though also trapped by her pimp Ben (Jack Wright) -  and away from her old life as Anna and with Dennis.

The fairly rote story is made more interesting by the way it’s told. At the beginning, Cindy’s already disillusioned with her life and ends Act I by leaping from her apartment window to her death. Then, how she got to that point is revealed through memories of the few people attending her funeral.

I spent the first two thirds of the movie waffling between being ambivalent about it and sort of disliking it, in no small part because the hardcore scenes were almost aggressively un-erotic. I could be generous and suppose that they were filmed and edited as dispassionate and clinical to underscore the fact that they were simply business transactions, with no pleasure or emotion. But that directly contradicts Cindy’s tearful admission to Yvonne that she “loves every minute of what [she’s] doing.”

My opinion of the movie improved dramatically in the final third, highlighted by a non-sex scene with Cindy and a regular client, Sir Godfrey (Peter Whigham). After she’s given a glass of sherry and paid her fee, she proceeds to explain that on the way to meet him, she was attacked by “six motorcycle freaks” with Godfrey asking for details and Cindy “yes and-ing” through the entire tale. (Well, technically, she did say “no” when asked if the “freak” that forced her to blow him came in her mouth, but it still counts as a yes-and since “No, all over my face and my neck,” certainly heightened the game.)

The film finished strongly enough that I went from thinking of it as, like, a CC1000 to lamenting the fact that it was a few tweaks away from being a CC5. The first thing is that all of the hardcore scenes would need to be better. Way, way better. Rare is the adult feature that would be improved by cutting all of the sex, but Cry for Cindy is one of ‘em. Even if half the scenes were at least moderately hot, the film would be exponentially better. The second thing would be having a stronger acting lead. Amber Hunt isn’t terrible as Anna/Cindy (and she actually does pretty well in the aforementioned “tearful admission” scene), but the role requires some heavy lifting and she’s just not up to it.

Outside of the sex scenes, there was some really terrific camera work and photography:

(Inside of the sex scenes, there were so many - so, soooo many extended, extreme close ups**. Greasy, hairy close ups. Ugh.)

How about ol' Robert Rimmer's impressions:

"Many women may identify with this sexvid. Amber Hunt does one of the better acting jobs."

I can't say I particularly agree (or disagree, I guess) with either statement. Women may identify, I guess (particularly with Anna being the voice of reason when Dennis floats the idea of taking a few years off from school), and "better acting" is relative. Maybe sometime I'll sit down and look at actors that were active in '75-76 to see who I wish had been cast. (Probably not, though, let's be real....) I wonder if Amber Hunt's chops improved over time. Looking at her filmography, I've actually seen a decent chunk of it but don't have any specific recollections of her, which doesn't bode particularly well.

Overall, I definitely have a deeper appreciation of the film thinking back on it than I did while watching it. And I can see myself returning to it in time (skipping the sex scenes, for sure). I wouldn't be surprised if Cry for Cindy really improves with multiple viewings (but not the sex scenes, I'm positive of that). So, I'll give a solid CC50.

° It's a travesty that whoever did the hair and make up to age John Leslie wasn't listed in the opening or closing credits, because they did a Marlon Brando as Don Corleone-caliber job:

From Autobiography of a Flea, also 1976

* I initially wrote “prostitutes” since that - or worse - would be the term used contemporarily, but opted instead for today’s preferred nomenclature since I wouldn’t refer to Linda Wong or Mai Lin as “Orientals”, even though I've heard Mai Lin refer to herself as such in old flicks.

** I believe that Vinegar Syndrome is passionate about restoration and presentation. And I know Joe Rubin can get real bent out of shape when people tell him that the aspect ratios on their VHS copies of old pornos are “better” than what VS released. But there are some shots - primarily hardcore, but some non-hardcore scenes, too - that are so claustrophobic they border on abstract.


Okey doke, so what's up next?

Well, hello, Colleen Brennan!


  1. Carlos next... poor you. At least this one isn't too bad for him.

  2. Haha! I see you are no fan of Mr. Tobalina.... Glad to hear this is one of his less boring offerings, in your opinion!