Society Affairs (1982)

The last of the really big budget collaborations between producer Ted Paramore (a/k/a “Harold Lime“) and director Gary Graver (a/k/a “Robert McCallum“) before the recession set in, paving the way for a string of progressively scaled down sex sagas like SatisfactionsSummer Camp Girls and Sex Play as a formerly flourishing fornication film industry packed its bags in resigned preparation of the impending move from theater to TV screens. Bye, bye, Pussycat ! As a harbinger to the foreclosure of adult cinema’s avowed Golden Age, wheezing and coughing until eventually expiring somewhere around the mid-’80s, Society Affairs completed a lavish line-up of highly successful joint ventures kicking off with 1979’s The Ecstasy Girls, swiftly succeeded by Coed Fever, Amanda by Night and Indecent Exposure. Setting the sex flick standard by raising the bar, these movies cemented the reputation of the creative forces behind them for top notch production quality and good old-fashioned storytelling skills.

In the case of Society Affairs, its makers sold it on the strength of much-maligned Harry Reems who had quit the business, battle-weary of the tireless legal prosecution in the wake of Deep Throat, and would now make his into the blue comeback following a seven year spell of intimate inactivity. Essaying the double role of Howard Austin II, scion of an obscenely wealthy industrial dynasty, and con man Rick whose attempts at impersonating his fortuned lookalike jumpstart a veritable comedy of errors, Reems rises to the occasion beautifully with a knockout career performance, keeping him on carnal casting directors’ short lists as a lightweight alternative to the industry’s intense leading men like Jamie Gillis or John Leslie. Rick’s erstwhile partner in crime, the ambitious Alexis (Veronica Hart), first spots the uncanny resemblance when her current beau, Austin family retainer Arthur (Robert “Bolla” Kerman), introduces the stuffy socialite about to be wed to the equally prominent Lillian Bushnell (Kelly Nichols). The upcoming nuptials inspire Alexis to rip off the couple’s wedding gifts rumored to total in the region of $ 1,000,000 !

Ever envious of how the other half lives, Rick’s having a field day posing as the now drugged out Howard, only to have his eyes opened as to how devious the rich can be in their unending pursuit of fortune, the groom’s nearest and dearest coldly scheming to screw him over and the marriage itself a mere ruse for his ruthless dad (the inimitable industry character actor John Alderman a/k/a “Frank Hollowell“) to regain full control of the family business. Howard’s sister and black sheep of the family Dorina (an appropriately spaced out Tiffany Clark) almost comes off as innocent by comparison, coming on to her brother in the mansion’s bowling alley for a red hot bout of incest that, unbeknownst to her, isn’t incest at all. Lillian’s folks prove just as bad, mom Coreena (Honey Wilder) devouring anyone in her path – starting with the Austin household “head maid” Tara Aire, attempting a fleeting Brit accent – to compensate for the impotence of a neglectful husband, perfectly played by longtime jizz bizz hanger-on John F. Goff. Of course, none of this should even remotely bother Rick and Alexis who just plan to stay around long enough to take the money and run. Until Rick’s conscience decides otherwise, that is, ironically marking him out as the most decent denizen among the corrupt upper crust.

Almost everything about this movie’s absolutely first rate, from another clever C.W. O’Hara script (eschewing the disorienting third act gear shift that sabotaged Indecent Exposure for some) right down to Richard “Ronny Romanovitch” Hieronymus’s ragtime score refusing the pace to lag. Graver’s gorgeous cinematography has been poorly served by Caballero‘s muddy looking DVD transfer however, a digital age faux pas that will hopefully be rectified by some other enterprising company somewhere down the line. As convoluted a caper as this is on a near flawlessly maintained narrative level, movie doesn’t lose sight of its sexual content which comes in all shapes and sizes, the hirsute Harry reaming his way through just about the entire female cast with naughty Nichols – then fresh off Chuck Vincent’s Roommates – literally bringing up the rear. Wilder’s mature sensuality always perks up this old codger and her marathon session with Harry in the steam room provides an undisputed highlight.

Too bad the bachelor party sequence does go on a bit, Harry and Bob going at it with – for the record – Lisa Cintrice (the mobster’s wife from Fred Lincoln’s That’s Outrageous!), Cecile DeVille (one of Hal Freeman’s Naughty Cheerleaders) and Carmel, whose only other credit’s for the same production team’s modestly effective portmanteau porn Satisfactions. Another gratuitous bit’s the obligatory lesbian interlude between two frisky bridesmaids but, since it involves fan favorites Laurie Smith and Anna Ventura (billed as “Carla Russell“), few should mind too much in this case. Personally, I would happily scrap both scenes in exchange for an encounter between Reems and Hart – the latter shining as an actress if all but wasted sexually in a throwaway number with Bolla – which, amazingly, fails to materialize even though their rekindling affection over a new coup in the wake of an acrimonious breakup supplies the movie with a warm beating heart to offset the other characters’ callousness.

Directed & photographed by Gary Graver (as Robert McCallum). Written by C.W. O’Hara. Produced by Ted Paramore (as Harold Lime). Music by Richard Hieronymus (as Ronnie Romanovitch). Edited by Terrance O’Reilly. Starring Harry Reems (Rick/Howard Austin II), Veronica Hart (Alexis Cavanaugh), Kelly Nichols (Lillian Bushnell), Honey Wilder (Coreena Bushnell), Tiffany Clark (Dorina Austin), Robert Bolla (Arthur), Tara Aire (Tara), Laurie Smith (Brunette Bridesmaid), Anna Ventura (as Carla Russell) (Blonde Bridesmaid), Lily Rodgers (as Laura West) (Rick’s Opening Trick), John F. Goff (Dan Bushnell), John Alderman (as Frank Hollowell) (H.K. Austin Sr.), Lisa Cintrice, Carmel & Cecile DeVille (Strippers). Running Time : 91 minutes.

Although the movie doesn’t make full use of her extraordinary erotic talents, Veronica Hart’s acting keeps the plot humming along nicely

By Dries Vermeulen

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