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The All-American Woman (1976)

All Jean wants is romance but all she gets is casual sex. It turns out that her stepniece Debbie has the same problem.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Marilyn James ...
Jean Kerry
Steve Bennett ...
Frank Sullivan
Robbie Mayhew ...
Debbie Sullivan
Linda Weeks ...
Maggie Sullivan
Ward Egan ...
Andrew Raff
Robert Prestwood ...
Gary
Manny Samaniego ...
Jimmy Sullivan
Richard Moyer ...
Buyer
Roger Vaughn ...
Victorian Gentleman
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Storyline

A sexually confused, emotionally unstable woman, who is afraid that she'll never have "a real man", finds herself becoming increasingly attracted to her frigid sister's virile, hunky husband Frank, and begins to fantasize about what it would be like to "be" with him. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

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Taglines:

You don't have to be French.

Genres:

Drama | Romance

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Release Date:

May 1976 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Dreams of Laura  »

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Connections

Referenced in Blue Nude (1978) See more »

Soundtracks

Gymnopedies I & II
by Erik Satie
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User Reviews

 
Overly ambitious porn project, ultimately a failure
16 February 2011 | by (New York, New York) – See all my reviews

I'm a fan of writer/director Mark Haggard, but his THE ALL-American WOMAN has to go down as an over-reaching failure. But you have to give him credit for at least trying.

The trailer for the movie hints at the underlying problem: its tag line is "The motion picture that proves you don't have to be French", an attempt to achieve the level of sophistication, so important in the "porno chic" and "couples" era of porn, that audiences associated with European imports.

Haggard hit a home run with THE ALL-American GIRL, among the most erotic softcore sex movies of its day, dedicated to Joe Sarno. This followup resembles rather Gerard Damiano's purple-prose melodramas DEVIL IN MISS JONES, MEMORIES WITHIN MISS AGGIE and even THE STORY OF JOANNA, with a morbid, hopeless sense of self-loathing hanging over the action.

But to pull it off Haggard needed a strong, arousing leading lady in the title role. Jean is written as a beautiful but repressed model, living with her sister and brother-in-law, and emotionally crippled in every way. She can't find a man to which she can commit for a lasting relationship and has nearly given up looking, losing herself in her work. It's strictly soap opera time, in X rated format.

Now the only actress I could visualize in this part would have to be Annette Haven, whose career was just taking off around the time WOMAN was made. She can project the kind of icy, unattainable surface beauty the role calls for, yet as her fans know well, she will release the passion in the bedroom that sold plenty of tickets during porn's Golden Age.

Instead Haggard banked on Marilyn James, an anonymous actress who pretty much sinks the picture. She's of the anorexic with relatively (for her frame) large boobs school, but it is her acting, not her looks, that let our auteur down. She delivers her lines, and this is a very wordy screenplay indeed, without any conviction -looking bored and becoming quite boring. The film never recovers from this central deficiency.

Structurally it has a lot in common with THE ALL-American GIRL. Sex scenes, each styled to be just slightly kinky or outré in some fashion, are episodically presented almost as if excerpting them for some future use was in the filmmaker's mind. There is a breast suckling in tight closeup episode that makes the best use of James' assets, shot in exactly the same fashion as Haggard immortalized Peggy Church's far more stimulating classic mammaries and nipples in GIRL.

Piece de resistance is a bizarre sequence where Jean confesses to her teenage niece Debbie (not coincidentally the name of the heroine played by Church in the earlier film) that her shrink has advised her to shave her pussy in order to get in touch with her arrested-development adolescent self, as part of liberating herself sexually. Jean shaves herself in tight closeups, followed by Debbie applying powder to the resulting split-beaver area as preparation to their incestuous lesbian scene. It's as dead serious and morbid as any of Damiano's notorious innovations, and perhaps the film's only true drawing card.

For the rest of the movie we suffer through very lame soap operatics, plus boring squabbling of the family Jean's living with. Her abortive romance with an on-the-make fashion buyer (a dull performance by Ward Egan) goes nowhere, and soft-focus daydreams of making love to a Victorian Gentleman while Eric Satie music plays on the soundtrack are pretty embarrassing. Several excellent XXX Victorian era porn films were being made at this time (see: AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A FLEA, FLOSSIE: A VENUS OF 15, DIARY OF MY SECRET LIFE and THE NAUGHTY VICTORIANS), but this ain't one of them.

In fact Haggard and his cinematographer/producer Manuel Conde's decision to go strictly softcore with ALL-American WOMAN proves to be a very bad move. Just in the three years since ALL-American GIRL had been such a noteworthy softcore success the XXX product had come on very strong and pretty much relegated soft porn to marginal bookings and the ongoing drive-in trade.

Conde had had much success in soft X films, but apparently refused to cross the line, with his career ending the year WOMAN was released. Haggard had a very strange history in films, working often with Bruce Kimmel (who composed WOMAN's incidental musical score, though it is prominently backed by Satie and Bach) and scored one more classic in porn, writing Paul Thomas's breakthrough 1990 movie THE MASSEUSE. He even scripted Jack Arnold's Fred Williamson vehicle BLACK EYE, a film I found shocking back in 1974 when midway through the completely routine B movie Fred is seen playing sports in his shorts, with his package jiggling noticeably and very prominently in the frame -a riposte to all the feminine jiggle (higher up on the torso) shots in mainstream movies and TV at the time. Pointless but another innovation nonetheless.

The poor acting in WOMAN has to be laid at Haggard's feet, since it's not all James' fault. Robbie Mayhew as Debbie is stacked but her readings are flat as a pancake, and she looks older than auntie Jean, not wise casting at all. Steve Bennett as Jean's brother-in-law gets to have a rather boring sex scene with his relative, but the best one can say of his thesping is he's "earnest". Linda Weeks as his wife and Jean's sister is merely above the fray -she is just functional as a stereotypical frigid housefrau, and I'm not surprised her screen credits are so skimpy -perhaps she made a living in local theater.

Brittle and boring sums up this failed stab after the brass ring. There was no audience for THE ALL-American WOMAN back in 1976 and few takers for its current Something Weird Video resurrection. Not helping is a "trapped" open ending eliciting in me (at each viewing) a Peggy Lee style "is that all there is?" reaction, equally pretentious and disappointing.


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