Young Lady Chatterley (1977)
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The funny thing is, the movie is pretty good. Unlike most of the cliched junk churned out for the made-for-video market, YLC had to survive as a theatrical release (being the dawn of the VCR age, it wasn't a given that a movie would be released on home video, but a rarity.) So, YLC- like Emmanuelle before it- has a quality rarely seen in the late-nite cable soft-core porn market. The cinematography is good, if a bit aged, and the actors and actresses actually *act*; it may not be as good as a normal Hollywood production, but it's definitely better than most in the "erotica" genre.
An interesting thing about YLC is the fact that the scenes from Lady Chatterley's Lover are brand new; they aren't from the Sylvia Kristel movie, but were shot specifically for YLC, with a new actor and actress. (I honestly would have preferred to see a LCL with these people; I find Sylvia Kristel and Nicholas Clay to make one unappealing couple.)
Unfortunately, for today's market, I'm afraid that YLC is "too lame"- it's very tame by modern standards and could probably be released with an "R". A shame, because this movie has more class and a better cast than most anything now.
I gave it eight stars instead of seven, because another reviewer took a star away for the bathtub scene between Cynthia and Jeanette. I happen to LIKE that scene, so I put a star back for it. I love the way Jeanette sees right through Cynthia's attempt to be a snob and resolves the problem through pleasure. That Jeanette just radiates sexual heat.
The innocence combined with decadence is just too much for some I think! Great acting considering the genre.
In the scene where she asked the gardener to sodomize her so she can experience it with him - a rather rugged chap - wow!
We witness the coming of age of a young woman in so many ways at the hand of her AUNT! I was thoroughly entertained. Sadly, there are very few films that rely on mental arousal in this day of hard-core porn.
Harlee McBride plays the eye opening Cynthia. Also in the cast are Peter Ratray and Ann Michelle. Very strong sexual content for 1977.
'Young Lady Chatterley' belongs on that list. Like 'Emmanuelle' it belongs to a very short list of 70s sex farces that walked the line between titillation and comedy and managed to succeed as a tastefully tasteless movie. Eliminating the element of playfulness and fun from a movie whose primary function is sex means that you eliminate the danger of your movie looking foolish. I prefer movies that don't play it safe. Happily there's a mixture here of sex for fun and sex that makes an attempt to be serious. You come away appreciating both equally.
The movie has become an underground classic among those who like sex in the movies but like to keep it soft core. Hard core pornography gets really old, really fast. It's also very limited. 'Young Lady Chatterley' has a very limited connection with D.H. Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' but I prefer this one because it's more farce than anything else. There are things here that would have made Lawrence proud, as a matter of fact. That doesn't extend to the entire enterprise, just a bit here and a bit there.
The movie stars Harlee McBride (later known as Mrs. Richard Belzer) as Cynthia Chatterley, Lady Chatterley's granddaughter who buys her grandmother's estate, finds her diary in a closet and begins to read up on ol' grams diddlings with a farmhand. This opens Cynthia's own sexual awareness and she begins the process of finding things to do around the house like the serving staff. In truth, Ms. McBride is lovely especially in various states of undress and we appreciate the moments when that loveliness is on display.
There are only a handful of actors in the movie that she doesn't have sex with. I'm not complaining simply because the sex scenes are not filmed that boring Hollywood tradition of having a lot of close-ups in slow-motion. The scenes are athletic, robust and far more titillating and leave a great deal to the imagination.
Those scenes are nicely photographed showing and as much skin as possible while suggesting more than they really show. The scenes range from hilarious to serious but never with a sense of exploitation and never with the laminated dullness of a Playboy video. 'Young Lady Chatterley' is like curling up with a really trashy novel and smiling to yourself even when you shouldn't.
*** (of four)
Mc Bride's earnestness works well when Cynthia discovers her aunt's old diary and she reads up on auntie's sexcapades back in the day. She's aroused and wonders starts wondering what it would be like for her.
What gives this a 7 instead of an 8 is the bathtub scene with Cynthia and Jeanette, as it seems a bit contrived. It seems odd that a film with sexually explicit themes would need a have set up a lesbian scenes like that. Sign of the times, I guess. Oh well, still better than anything on After Hours these days.
Classical England would ask, "Doth a scenery make strong erotica?" While it seems the general reviewer of this film would agree, I had trouble seeing the production value or lush scenery in "Young Lady Chatterley". There wasn't anything that stood out, minimal sweeping wide shots, over-lighting throughout, and that soft camera filter that made the 70s what they are today were staples within this film. If anything, they were overused to the point of obscuring the actor's work. Leaning further towards the notion of softcore cinema than actual plot-induced cinema, we can look at our actors, to see what their production value was within this 1977 classic. Harlee McBride, our lead and lady-in-waiting, begins bored, with both life and obviously this role, but as soon as she steps on our twice-removed-once-loved-Chatterley estate, the love and life begin to pour out of her - literally! With everyone imaginable, she shares herself and takes into form an unrecognizable character. Was she married to Phillip? Was she just engaged? How did it go from Phillip to every person at the estate? The transition, like her character, just didn't fit. She lacked that sexual manipulation that was needed to make this film into something more than just the overabundance of love. There was no change in her or her character, we were handed nothing to begin with - and just expected to believe everything that occurred. Poor direction by Alan Roberts lead to disinterested characters. Not only with Harlee McBride, but also with everyone else. The burly young gardener, the maids, the obviously oblique servants, everyone invited to the finale cake party - just seemed disjointed from the rest of the film.
With no strong characters, a plot that left nothing to the imagination or hope, there really was nothing left of "Young Lady Chatterley". In fact, I am rather surprised that the Lawrence estate allowed the name to be used for this film. What did stand out, as the only creativity within a mile, was the surrounding story of the first Lady Chatterley and her first run in with the gardener. The character depth, the excitement of young love, and the passion that could not be surprisingly were all there for these brief sub-scenes. The connection between the original lovers vs. that of the new "Young" version, was surprisingly different. The first had purpose and meaning, while the other was just softcore dribble. The conversations between the first Lady Chatterley and the gardener seemed responsive and open for discussion, giving at least one purpose to this film - while the rest, well, was utterly disappointing.
Overall, another milestone has been hit. The third bad film in a row provides me with an opportunity to watch my first adult classic, but let's me down entirely. The sub-stories was creative, but the rest of the film was meant for one sole purpose. "Young Lady Chatterley" may have been pioneering for the time, but over the decades, it has just been forgotten and replaced. There is a way to create a story like this and actually be artistic, but it was ignored in this film. This wasn't a cult classic, it was just cinematic garbage. The story didn't work, our characters were merely naked, and no development to anything was created. While others boast the lush scenery as being a positive mark on this film, it just wasted time. The soft-lens treatment of this film blurred away anything interesting from this film, and delivering another cinematic flop.
Grade: * 1/2 out of *****