Retro Film Report #56: Infidelity Cinema

Intimate Agony (1983)/ À Gauche en Sortant de L'ascenseur (1988)/ How to Murder Your Wife (1965)/ Sesso in Testa (1974)/ Alpha City (1985)/ Max Mon Amour (1986)/ La Fiancée du Pirate (1969)/ A Dama do Lotação (1978)

Today we're looking at eight films from around the world which deal with the subject of infidelity and dysfunctional sexual relations  each in their own unique way.

  1. Intimate Agony (1983) - A TV movie which teaches us that sleeping around will get you herpes
  2. À Gauche en Sortant de L'ascenseur (1988) - Perceived adultery leads to French follies "Three's Company" style
  3. How to Murder Your Wife (1965) - Jack Lemmon is a super stud who needs to be rid of his ultra hot foreign wife so he can get back to playing the field
  4. Sesso in Testa (1974) - A woman catches her husband in the act.... Italian sexual mayhem ensues
  5. Alpha City (1985) - A brooding, dark and depressing look at infidelity the way only West Germany could deliver it
  6. Max Mon Amour (1986) - Upper crust infidelity with a primate.  Enough said.
  7. La Fiancée du Pirate (1969) - A heavy handed French statement about sexual politics
  8. A Dama do Lotação (1978) - A Brazilian chick is repulsed by her perfectly good husband, so finds satisfaction on the buses
It's eight rounds of adultery, compromising positions, sexual relations gone bad, and herpes.  Enjoy!

Intimate Agony (1983)

Sorry for the crummy screenshot quality on this one, folks.  (Sadly, no HD transfer on this TV movie.)

A posh island community is rocked when Herpes comes to town.  Yes, the rich & famous are all contracting the STD, and Luke from General Hospital (Anthony Geary) is just the guy to save them from the epidemic.

But his clinic is nearly shut down by the evil real estate agent Robert Vaughn, who doesn't want the name of his pleasant little town besmirched.

You can tell the budget was low for this one; Cyndi Fisher's friend's sweater droops over her shoulder while they walk, and just sort of dangles below her boob in a distracting manner.. yet the director films on.  This is one of the reasons to watch old TV movies - not much ends up on the cutting room floor.

Mark Harmon, the local tennis instructor, sports a nifty porn 'stache.

The Doc (complete with trademark 'fro with receding hairline) gets acquainted with the locals at the discoteque.  It becomes pretty clear, the sexual revolution is still in full effect around here.

Indeed, this film was supposed to teach all 70s swingers the dangers of STDs; a lesson in maybe keeping your genitalia under wraps once and a while. But AIDS was right around the corner.  In fact, it had already struck many areas, totally overshadowing the herpes-scare message of this film.

I've got to say it: I find Anthony Geary a bit creepy and gross.  Yeah, I know the whole Luke & Laura hype; but he started on GH as a rapist.... just sayin'.

Nick has been cheating on his wife.  Now he's got the herpes.  Unfortunately, his wife is pregnant. This little side-story ends horribly;  I won't give it away, except to say someone dies, and it ain't Nick.

Robert Vaughn is even more of a douche bag in this film than in Superman III.  Give this man an Oscar.  He and the Doc are basically the only two in this town without herpes.

The moment when Angela from "Who's the Boss?" realizes she's also got the herpes.

Really, they should just quarantine this whole island.

It ends with a town hall meeting, where the creepy doctor informs everybody that they can still lead normal lives despite herpes.  The message I suppose is: the swingin' seventies were awesome - so we're not going to let a stupid little virus cramp our style.  (It would take AIDS to do that.)

À Gauche en Sortant de L'ascenseur (1988)

À Gauche en Sortant de L'ascenseur (1988) AKA Door on the Left as You Leave the Elevator - may be the ultimate example of a "It's Not What It Looks Like" trope which sets up a spiraling Comedy of Errors.

The French comedy (written and based on a play by Gérard Lauzier) stars Pierre Richard as Yann, an artist and bumbling loser.  He's successful, living in a lavish sky-rise apartment, but he's got terrible luck (think Dudley Moore in "10"), which plays directly into the central misunderstanding.

So, see if you can follow along as I take you through The Setup, The Compromising Position, and The Misunderstanding.  Cinema Studies students feel free to take notes.

So, here's the successful arteest, Yann.  He's having a conversation with a Florence (Fanny Cottençon), and he's hopelessly in love with her.

The trouble is, she's married to André (Pierre Vernier).  But this is France; this little trifle means nothing to Yann, who wants to get with her and quick.

Also at the gallery is Éva (Emmanuelle Béart) who's having a bad time, thanks to her insanely over-possessive boyfriend, Boris (Richard Bohringer).

Boris is over-the-top jealous, and beats the crap out of someone at the gallery just for standing too close to his lovely Éva.

Meanwhile, Florence is wondering if it was a good idea to agree to go to Yann's to check out his artwork.  Her girlfriend assures her that he's as harmless as a mouse.

Yann steps out onto his balcony.  Next door, Éva is leaving Boris for good, packing her bags.  Boris, of course, is being an absolute hostile douchebag about it.

Yann gives Éva a light, and as you can imagine, Boris freaks out.

But this is just your average stormy, dysfunctional romance. The next morning, Éva and Boris are are shown passionately back in each other's arms.

But Boris has to go to work - the loving can wait.  Unfortunately, he's forgotten his briefcase.  Éva runs to the elevator (wearing only her lingerie), but it's too late.

To make matters worse, the door to her apartment slams shut.  She's locked out.

Yann is awaiting the arrival of his crush, Florence (he's obviously misinterpreting her visit to view his artwork as a date).  The doorbell rings.  He's expecting Florence.  Instead it's Éva.

Yann doesn't want to help her.  (1) He's expecting Florence, and this wouldn't look good.  (2) He knows that her boyfriend is a violent prick.

But Yann relents.  He lets Éva in, and agrees to scale the gate that separates their balconies.  It's plenty dangerous, being at least three stories up and hanging onto a metal grate.

But then his fly gets stuck on the grate....

Éva tries to lend him a hand, but Yann's maid sees the spectacle out her window and screams.  This causes Éva to almost fall off the balcony.

Both get down safely - Yann to Éva's apartment to unlock the door, and Éva back into Yann's.

At that moment, Florence arrives and gives Yann a call.  But instead, she gets Éva on the phone.
Also showing up is Boris, who finds Yann in his apartment.  This isn't looking good for Yann.

Boris tries to kill Yann, but he escapes back into his own apartment with Éva, where he learns that Florence has called.

Boris calms down and tells Éva she's got to go.  Boris won't abide by this kind of behavior.
The problem is, Éva now has no place to go.

So, she returns to Yann's place, but he wants her the hell out; she's caused enough trouble, and Florence will be there any second.

And so, Florence, reaches Yann's apartment only to find him telling this poor girl to get the hell out.  She's not properly dressed, and can't even afford a cab.

The big punchline to this whole scene.  Yann finds Florence right outside his door.

But being the Comedy of Errors that it is, the misunderstandings lead to more misunderstandings.

For instance, Florence's husband, André, comes to Yanni's, only to find his wife and Éva on his couch.

Suffice it to say, the  misunderstandings continue to escalate until the necessary resolution.  Like any good farce, all is finally explained, and everyone leaves happy.

It's not a great movie.  You might say it's not even remotely good.  But it's a damn fine example of the Comedy of Errors; textbook, if you will.

How to Murder Your Wife (1965)

Picture the plight of the American married man post WWII; the economy was booming at a rate never seen since the dawn of civilization - and he was at the apex.  The workplace was his domain, and everywhere he went there were desirable ladies itching for a ring on their finger.  Is it any wonder that so many films during this period told the tale of the plight of the married man: the comfortable life in a Pleasant Valley suburb... Or the swingin' bachelor lifestyle.  Quite a quandary.

We recently covered A Guide for the Married Man starring Walter Matthew; this film isn't that much different.  The main character is a well to do gentleman who pines for the single life - in spite of the fact that he's got a smoking hot wife who waits upon his every need.

And just as in A Guide for the Married Man, the conflicted male finally learns (in the last few minutes of the film) that the married life is indeed the right way, and the single life is best left in the rear view mirror.... Despite the fact that basically the entire film serves as an argument to the contrary.

At the start of the film we meet Jack Lemmon, Mr. Stanley Ford, a bachelor who literally has it all.  A posh apartment downtown with a gentleman manservant (think Mr. French in Family Affair).  He lives the single man's dream, shagging every night and doing as he pleases.

How does he afford such a lifestyle?  He writes a comic strip, oddly enough.  Even odder, he enacts the swashbuckling adventures of his comic strip hero himself.  His manservant takes pictures and he renders them for the Sunday funnies.  Yeah, it makes no sense.

Things take a bad turn for Mr. Ford when he gets smashed at a bachelor party and ends up marrying the gal who jumps out of the cake.

The cake girl is played by Virna Lisi, and I will say she looks absolutely dynamite.  My only complaint is that the director isn't near perverted enough to sell the sizzle.  She barely provides any sort of eye candy - keeping things solidly in the Rated G zone.  Miss Lisi's assets were woefully underused; but what little we get, is well appreciated.

Mr. Ford immediately tries to get a divorce; however, his lawyer explains that he's consummated the marriage, can't prove infidelity, etc.  So, he's stuck with one of the hottest women on the planet (who happens to be the runner to the Miss Galaxy pageant).  The one downside (if you can even call it that) is that she is Italian, and doesn't speak a word of English.

Predictably, Mrs. Ford starts to cramp his style.  His manservant leaves, she brings her Italian mother to live with them, she watches TV all night, he starts to gain weight, etc.  Mr. Ford has had enough of this marriage business, and decides to take matters into his own hands.

Does he try and kill Mrs. Ford as the title proclaims?  Not really; his ploy is to make it look like she's died and then getting rid of her (I didn't quite get it, but I was too tired to care).  The plan involves slipping her a Mickey, which causes her to act the fool at a party.

This is by far the sexiest scene of the film.  Again, I'm not completely sure why it was necessary to have her get publicly intoxicated, but I'm not complaining.

And so, when she wakes up, she takes a look at his comics and discovers his ridiculous plan to get rid of her.  She leaves for Italy, while it looks as though (via an asinine plot involving a mannequin) he's actually killed her.

There's an overlong court scene where Mr. Ford is tried for her murder.  The all male jury acquits him - evidently because they are all henpecked and want to do the same to their own wives.  It's really quite macabre and mysogenistic.

Speaking of macabre misogyny,  when Mr. Ford and his manservant return to his apartment after the trial, they find that Mrs. Ford has returned.  The manservant literally hands him a gun and tells him to blow her brains out because he can't be tried twice for the same crime!

As you might have guessed, Mr. Ford is more than happy to spend the rest of his life with his Italian minx.... But there's really no explanation, or believable progression to this point.  So, it kind of falls flat.

I mean, she looks great, so I can fully understand why he wants to jump back in the sack with her - but how did he go from wanting her gone to happily betrothed?  Oh well, at least it's over.

As much as I enjoyed seeing the cool sets and shenanigans of the 1960s swingin' bachelor, the film is painfully devoid of laughs and energy.  Also, Jack Lemmon wouldn't have been my first choice

Sesso in Testa (1974) AKA Italian Sex

This Italian film has a very similar motif as La Fiancée du Pirate (1969) which we'll talk about shortly - where the sexual woman has authority over the desperate, slobbering men who comprise "proper society".  However, this one is not so ham fisted, and is done with a sort-of infantile flair.

It stars the insanely beautiful Pilar Velázquez, a Spanish actress known for Spaghetti Westerns and giallo, not comedies.  She plays a sociology student who becomes a prostitute for her research.

The vehicle for the various comedy sketches is Velázquez defending her thesis before the academic board, recounting her various stories.

The Good:  Velázquez is either naked or almost-naked in every single skit.
The Bad: None of the skits are particularly funny.
The Ugly:.....

It seems like Jimmy il Fenomeno pops up in every Italian comedy from the 1960s to the 80s , and he is absolutely insufferable.  He has no shame, and I cringe every time I see him.

Here's an example of one of the skits/comedic segments:  Velázquez is having sex with one of her Johns when the ballbusting wife unexpectedly comes to the hotel early.  The adulterous husband thinks quickly and has a flamboyantly gay bellboy get in bed with Velázquez, and pretends he doesn't know the girl.

The wife doesn't buy it.  She pulls a gun and forces the poor gay bellboy to have sex with Velázquez, then jumps in bed with the bellboy herself.

I know.  It's not particularly funny, and rather un-PC at that.  It's kind of a mess, but not much different than the hundreds of other Italian sex comedies of the era - and Velázquez makes it well worth your while.

As an added bonus, there's a "music video" at the end that you won't soon forget....

.. but the less said about that, the better.

Alpha City (1985)

This is a West German production filmed entirely at night....so, according to the film's reviews, I'm supposed to think that's über-cool.  The 80s art-culture vibe would definitely be well-appreciated by Dieter from "Sprockets".  So, what's to like about Alpha City beyond the dour expressions, black clothing, and synth soundtrack?  Read on to find out.  [Dieter: "I am filled with anticipation, and it is most delicious."]

The film is dubbed, but what's interesting is that the German actors mouthed the English dialog, so the dubbing isn't as pronounced.  Of course, American actor Al Corely (Steve Carrington on "Dynasty") provided his own lines.  Lines such as this gem...

"He is suffocating you.... behind invisible bars."

What does that even mean?

The story is basically a dysfunctional love triangle between Raphael (Isabelle Willer), the douche bag American (Al Corely) and the douche bag German, Frank (Claude-Oliver Rudolph)...

Amid the torrid affairs are lots of fake looking fist fights and a near-lethal dose of stylings on a Casio keyboard (no doubt performed by an expressionless German in turtleneck).

The one highlight of the film is that Isabelle Willer is almost always fully naked.  Take a moment to register this: she is the central character, and she is without a stitch for easily 3/4ths of her screen time.  I haven't seen this level of gratuitous quantity since Mathilda May in Lifeforce.

Of course, Isabelle never changes her expression the entire film.  The only way you can tell if she's sad is if there's a tear; otherwise, there's no telling. But all is forgiven for the constant, non-essential, yet much appreciated, nudity.

"Now is ze time on Sprockets vhen ve dance!"

Max Mon Amour (1986)

I'm not exaggerating when I say this is one of the strangest films I've ever seen.  Let's not beat around the bush - here's the plot: Charlotte Rampling is in love with an ape.

Okay, so there's some human-primate romance... but what makes it even more off-putting is that it is filmed like a family movie.  It's hard to explain, it feels like a dumb kiddie movie along the lines of Harry and the Hendersons... but there's this disturbing ape-romance thing going on.  (shudder)

As you might imagine, this is more than a little problematic for Rampling's husband, Peter (played by Anthony Higgins).

His whole world has been turned upside down by this sick love triangle.  He incomprehensibly agrees to allow the ape to live with them, which naturally leads to some embarrassing moments for his dinner guests.  Plus, his maid is allergic to ape fur.  What's a guy to do?

Well, what he does is hire a prostitute (Sabine Haudepin) to have sex with Max while he watches.  Yes, you read that right.

Any chance for a PG rating has just gone bye-bye.

I guess the purpose is to see what Max can do to a woman that he can't.  Thankfully, Max only has eyes for Charlotte Rampling, and rejects the hooker.

The film's one redeeming quality is the special effects work of Rick Baker.  That chimp looks frickin' amazing.

But the realism of the ape only makes this whole affair that much more disturbing.

I suppose there's some profound meaning to all this that I'm missing.  Possibly something about the bourgeoisie... who knows.  At the end of the day, this is a film about a love affair between Charlotte Rampling and a mechanical Rick Baker ape, and that's reason enough to watch it.

La Fiancée du Pirate (1969) AKA Very Curious Girl 

This French film clearly serves to make a statement. Meek and impoverished Marie (Bernadette Lafont) is stricken when her mother is killed and the townsfolk don't even care enough to give the poor woman a decent burial.  So, she decides to sell her body, and the next thing you know, she holds the entire town by the balls.

Marie quickly learns that sex gives her power over every male in the village.  Their wives are dowdy and sexless, while she is beautiful and promiscuous.... she holds all the cards, and exposes their hypocrisy.

It sounds like a great concept, and it is... but the execution is a little, well... a little flaccid.

The same scenes are repeated over and over, and most of it takes place at one location.  This works for a play, but, here, it will have you checking your watch and tapping your fingers.

With no real nudity to speak of, a lifeless pace, and precious little in the way of laughs, there's not much to love about A Very Curious Girl.  You'll appreciate the fine acting and the statement about society - but you'll appreciate the end credits even more.  No thanks.

A Dama do Lotação (1978) AKA Lady on the Bus

Okay, it stars Sônia Braga in her prime, and she's more often naked than not..... so, is there really a need for further discussion?

Let's press on anyway.  There is a plot here; albeit a threadbare one.

Solange (Braga) is a newlywed who, for some unknown reason, is totally repulsed by the touch of her husband.  He's a good looking dude; so, there's no explaining her involuntary revulsion.

To prove to herself that she's not frigid, Solange has sex with strangers... and she actually enjoys it.  Unfortunately, she starts to enjoy it a bit too much, and turns into a rabid nymphomaniac.  Yet, still, she can't endure the slightest touch from her husband.

But before you begin to feel sympathetic toward the spouse, know that he eventually gets frustrated and rapes her.  So, he's not exactly someone to root for.

Unfortunately, the film falls into a sort of "Groundhogs Day Syndrome" where the same basic scene is repeated over and over, with no consequence or progression of the plot. (1) Solange meets a stranger, (2) Solange gets naked, (3) Solange has sex, (4) Solange returns home to reject the advances of her pathetic husband.  REPEAT X 10

But unlike Groundhogs Day, it never breaks out of the cycle.  Indeed, the very last scene has her returning to the buses in search of another anonymous sexual partner.  No happy ending, no resolution.  Just be thankful you got to see Braga naked and move on.


  1. Thanks... this was a lot of fun to read

  2. Does Charlotte Rampling show the goods in that?

    1. That would be a big disappointing "no". Just the prostitute hired to make whoopie with the chimp.

  3. This may help on "How to Murder Your Wife", which I remember from eons ago:
    -- Jack Lemmon's cartoonist has a wildly successful adventure comic strip (those were the days); as noted he feels the need to "live" the strip by serving as his own photo reference.
    -- Once he's married, he turns the strip into a Blondie-type gag strip (he draws his super spy being dragged to the alter by an stereotypical conniving woman). Now it's dumb slapstick drawn from his new real life.
    -- To restore his comic strip's old success, he decides to have his super spy murder the wife and go back to spying. So of course he stages the whole thing for photo reference with unwitting Virna and friends, substituting a mannequin for his wife for the actual murder scene. The key is, he never intends to get rid of Virna in any fashion -- just the comic strip wife. (Still, I didn't understand why his comic strip called attention to the mannequin used to fake the murder -- in the context of the strip, it was real. Really bad communication with the artist creating the strip art? Director or screenwriter not understanding comics?)
    -- Virna finds him asleep over the drawing board, and discovers the murder strips. She reasonably assumes that at the very least, he's expressing a wish to not be married. So she leaves him.
    -- Comic strip readers around town remember seeing some of the scenes that Lemmon staged for Terry-Thomas's camera. They call the cops. Unable to produce Virna, he comes up with that defense.
    -- Terry-Thomas, eager to restore the old status quo, does want Lemmon to commit the murder he's been acquitted of. But he seems to change his tune when Virna's MILF appears.

    Typical 60s farce, except with imagined murder instead of imagined sex.

    PS -- In a bit of art mocking art, the married cartoonist of "Pearls Before Swine" often inserts himself in the action, with running jokes about trying to get back with his "estranged" wife.