Cry for Cindy (1976)

Though the couples film craze didn't properly take off until the early '80s, when they were massively hyped and promptly died (at least in terms of quality), this subgenre has been present in embryonic form since the dawn of theatrical porn, specifically starting with the Mitchell Brothers' classic Behind the Green Door in 1972. The late Sam Weston (a/k/a "Anthony Spinelli") had some mainstream experience as a producer, funding Larry Peerce's then groundbreaking interracial romance One Potato, Two Potato with the brilliant Barbara Barrie in 1964. He was also the brother of popular comedian and character actor Jack Weston, both downplaying their Judaic background having anglicized their name from the original Weinstein. In his subsequent sexploitation and hardcore porn efforts, Sam always attempted to add those qualities readily associated with Hollywood studio releases, such as credible characterization, professional acting standards and occasionally ostentatious production value, in this case the renting of a private plane seemingly piloted by lead actress Amber Hunt. Speaking of whom, Hunt had caused quite a stir as Hustler magazine's November '75 "Honey", which was their version of the Penthouse Pet or Playboy Playmate, on the strength of which she was cast in this, her acting debut.  Publisher Larry Flynt is explicitly thanked in the credits for "introducing her to us" ! A wide-eyed beauty possessed by a demonic sexuality (witness her fist-taking abilities – yup, you read that right ! – in Bob Chinn's classic doctors 'n' nurses romp Candy Stripers), she proved rather inconsistent as a thespian, as painfully evidenced by the out of her depth lead performance she gave in Shaun Costello's Laura take-off Fiona on Fire. Weston being the consummate actor's director in adult however, he got a career performance out of her, on her maiden voyage (in a manner of speaking…) no less.

Callgirl Cindy flies back after an outcall date with wealthy Turk Lyon (a mighty busy performer best remembered for playing Randy West's bumbling sidekick on Svetlana's Sex Boat) and is immediately chastised by sadistic pimp Ben (the excellent Jack Wright, billed as "Mark McGuire", a Weston mainstay often - if not always - "stunted" in sex scenes) for holding out on her earnings. She claims she's supporting a sick aunt yet who should show up but destitute boyfriend Dennis (Spender Travis, who resembles Richard Pacheco, a Lenny Kirtman dick for hire on Female Athletes and Deep Rub given a rare chance to act), the guy she's putting through medical school thanks to her "modeling assignments" and who learns the bitter truth right there and then. Heartbroken, Cindy dolls herself up and throws herself out of the window onto the pavement below in an economically and effectively shot and edited sequence involving nothing more than a freeze frame, a spiraling camera and a shocked reaction shot. Around her coffin, those who knew and loved her remember how kindhearted hairdresser Anna became high-priced hooker Cindy.

Taken in by friendly prostitutes Yvonne and Nora (Maryanne Fisher and Mitzi Fraser, both of them one shots and more mature than was the norm) to make ends meet, Anna soon finds out she really enjoys this line of work and may never be able to go back to being a one man woman. Whether this constitutes male fantasy or fuck film feminism remains open to debate – presumably a bit of both – but the character's eventual fate reeks of the type of moralizing necessitated by exploitation cinema's need for "socially redeeming value" with the "wages of sin" clearly stipulated. Soon to be superstar John Leslie kept bugging Weston to let him play a much older man, commencing one of the most fruitful actor/director relationships in porn. He's Cindy's first client, so it's little wonder that she's immediately, well, hooked ! Their very hot encounter is intercut with Fisher passionately devouring the ever dependable Ken Scudder (the blind piano tuner from Weston's Easy) and Frazer's more comedic tussle with potbellied Al Russo from the Mitchell Brothers' minor league C.B. Mamas. Neither actress looks even remotely like a porn performer to begin with, their convincing work lending credence to the rumor that they may have been legit stage talent moonlighting in adult to make ends meet. Reliable John Seeman, the goodlooking guy with the balding front who played the sympathetic chauffeur in Richard Kanter's superlative Desires Within Young Girls, stretches Hunt's talents along with her rectal cavity in a particularly welldone back door number.

Weston may have eschewed graphic close-ups throughout much of his subsequent couples-friendly fare, this early effort still closely adheres to the genre's demand for monster shot explicitness and is none the worse for doing so. Acting is solid across the board, Hunt handling her big emotional outburst when torn between lover and pimp with surprising aplomb.  Photography alternates between bright and colorful outdoor scenes and soft and hazily lit romantic romps, the ubiquitous fireplace crackling in the background. The soundtrack contains several original songs, unfortunately all of them in a rather syrupy veneer. If the credits number, entitled Cry No More and warbled by Marilyn Meyers, sounds familiar, that's because it's another reworking of the Civil War tune Aura Lee which also inspired Elvis Presley's Love Me Tender.

Directed by Sam Weston (as Wendy Lions). Written by Dean Rogers. Produced by Henry Locke for Cindy Productions. Photographed by Casey Maxwell. Music by Gene Richard. Edited by Roddy Knight. Starring Amber Hunt (Cindy/Anna), Jack Wright (as Mark McGuire) (Ben), John Leslie (as John Leslie Dupré) (Hank), Maryanne Fisher (Yvonne), Mitzi Fraser (Nora), Ken Scudder (as Ken Scott) (Paul), Spender Travis (as Fred James) (Dennis), Turk Lyon (as Robert Magatoney) (Arnold), John Seeman (as John Shipley) (Motel John), Al Russo (Tony) & Peter Whigham (as Peter White) (Sir Godfrey). Running time : 93 minutes.

Dearly departed John Leslie was to embark on a long and fruitful collaboration with filmmaker Anthony Spinelli