Entertaining softcore porn that pushes the envelope
When Maxim magazine debuted in America, I couldn't understand how such a soft-soft format, namely a men's magazine without nudity, could compete. But its tremendous success proved me wrong, and so too does MASSAGE PARLOR WIFE, a well-made softcore porn film competing well after hardcore porn had taken over the marketplace.
The answer is obviously quality; just as Maxim delivered an entertaining package for the younger demographic of the male audience, who weren't impressed with the explicitness of a Penthouse or a Hustler offering, MPW is stimulating adult entertainment without the explicitness (and boredom) of XXX content. I enjoyed this film at the drive-in during the '70s and it holds up extremely well on DVD-R from Something Weird.
Serena, in probably her first starring role, is the title character Melanie Rogers, who defies her husband and decides to go to work, getting a job in a massage parlor. Film makes hay with the comic antics of her interactions with the customers there, while remaining highly erotic -achieving a good balance.
Key subplot is her husband's worker at his gas station, the lovely Brandy Saunders, having the hots for her boss. She challenges him to have sex with her if in fact she can prove that wife Melanie is cheating on him, leading to a hilarious and still-novel scene of him catching Melanie in flagrante delecto.
What makes this film so unusual is that it skirts the line separating softcore from hardcore cinema, at a time (1975) when the two were quite distinct forms, from an exhibition and distribution point-of-view. At the massage parlor we are shown hand jobs, there is a suggestion of actual sex scenes (fellatio) but always out of camera range, but the coup de grace occurs in the fateful "ah-hah!" scene.
Steve Rogers bursts into the room from his hiding place to confront Serena and not only does he dramatically display an erect penis, but it is bobbing and dripping (semen?) in the frame. This most unusual shot is quite a shocker, especially in a softcore film, and puts MSW in a category all its own.
Filmmaker Barry Spinello directs his cast with great skill and the film's production values, particularly in an elaborate dream sequence are quite good, considering the Harry Novak budget level. I wonder if he had a legit film career based on the talent demonstrated here -in IMDb his only other credit is a very serious Oscar-nominated short documentary.
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