Straddling the fence between hetero and homo hardcore ever since his 1972 gay porn classic FALCONHEAD, it took talented filmmaker Michael Zen some two decades to gain the recognition he deserves. Part of the "blame" must be attributed to the director himself, who eschewed the limelight in favor of steady if rarely accredited employment at then industry giant Caballero's off-shoot Swedish Erotica, pumping out several of the more accomplished "loops" for the 8mm movie market of the pre-video era. In this capacity, and following the moody and assumed more personal REFLECTIONS in 1978, he was an obvious choice to craft one of the label's first features not cobbled together from already existing footage. The result proved one of the funniest fornication farces ever, just below Radley Metzger's OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN but on a par with Chuck Vincent's MISBEHAVIN' and GAMES WOMEN PLAY, its entertainment value somewhat overwhelming its turn-on potential, a "defect" in common with several of Zen's '90s classics like BLUE MOVIE and SATYR.
Wealthy Trent and Tiffany Tremaine (played to the hilt by JACK 'N' JILL Jack Wrangler and Samantha Fox) have everything that money can buy, save for a satisfying sex life. Vacating their marvelous mansion for a sex seminar to solve their problem, they leave maid and butler Frieda and Jarvis Lear (Jesie St. James and Herschel Savage) in charge to assume their roles for the day. Much comedy of errors ensues with mistaken identities as the home is successively invaded by new Cuban cook Chili Caliente (who else but Vanessa Del Rio ?), pool boy Randy West substituting for his pimply kid brother, traveling sex toy saleslady for the Slave On company Magnolia Thunderpussy (the late Lisa DeLeeuw doing a terrific Texas drawl) and a pair of unsavory yet dimwitted bikers (George Payne and R.J. Reynolds) collecting a debt from the master of the house. Silly one-liners fly fast and furious, keeping the audience in stitches throughout. In the meantime, blissfully oblivious to the shenanigans back home, Tiffany's thawing out under the tutelage of Nazi guru (don't ask) "Danny Hazelwood" a/k/a low rent character actor Vic Dunlop whose most gainful employment was probably as a semi-regular on TV's HARPER VALLEY P.T.A. in addition to supporting bits in groan 'n' guffaw flicks "comedy" may not be quite the word for them as NIGHT PATROL, UP YOUR ALLEY or MARTIANS GO HOME. Watch for brief nude (if, basically, non-sex) cameos from Paul Thomas and Star Wood among the cheering crowd.
While the movie may move at too fast a clip for today's audiences to experience much in the way of titillation, there are still a number of stimulating sexual encounters dotted along the laugh-filled lane. The ever dependable Jesie St. James proves particularly hot in her steamy numbers with hunky Herschel and gorgeously gym-trained Randy, as well as a very erotic solo with a hand-held mirror. This is as good a time as any to comment on the general physical attractiveness of all male performers in an era when the straight side of the industry was not generally known for such. Presumably hand-picked by Zen himself, who had an "eye" for these matters befitting his sodomy sideline, an inordinate number of these men (Wrangler, Payne & Reynolds, to be exact) had actually "strayed" from queer to straight though you would never guess from their enthusiastic performances with the fairer sex.
As befitting a movie emanating from the genre's "Golden Age" in full swing, THE FILTHY RICH benefits from glowing production values, highlighted by sterling cinematography from shooting star Paul G. Vatelli. Soon to become an estimable filmmaker in his own right (the delightful STIFF COMPETITION settling in top spot on his furtive filmography), his notoriously "live it up" drug-fueled bisexual lifestyle all too soon took its toll, leading to his AIDS-related death in 1986. Personally, and this may be endemic to nominally gay men of my generation, I also have a fondness for the cheerful disco soundtrack, especially the bouncy "Money Can't Buy Me Everything (Even When You're Filthy Rich)" playing over the opening credits as the screen's filled with extreme close-ups of a diamond's reflecting surfaces, sort of a dirty movie variation on the celebrated credits sequence to Douglas Sirk's crowning camp classic IMITATION OF LIFE !
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