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The Life and Times of the Happy Hooker More at IMDbPro »The Life and Times of Xaviera Hollander (original title)

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Unhappy Hooker

Author: tarmcgator from United States
31 May 2010

First of all, Xaviera Hollander is NOT in this film. She was a hot commodity in popular culture in the early 1970s, having recently published THE HAPPY HOOKER, and her image and pronouncements about sexual freedom were feeding the media's newly liberated interest in libidinous matters. The producers of this film apparently thought they could safely use Ms. Hollander's name without fear of libel or other legal action, and so far as I know they got away with it. A character named "Xaviera Hollander" is played by Samantha McLaren ("McClearn" in the on-screen credits).

I recently got to watch the hardcore version of THE LIFE AND TIMES OF XAVIERA HOLLANDER about thirty-five years after seeing it in a theater in north Florida. In 1975, the legal authorities there considered hardcore porn as out of step with "community standards" and didn't allow it to be exhibited, so the version that I (and several hundred other community degenerates -- the downtown theater was packed!) got to see then was optically censored -- i.e., in the long shots, close-ups of Samantha were inserted over the offending portion of the larger image, and I assume that certain hardcore closeups were eliminated altogether. So there were no images of penises or contact involving the male organ. (The hardcore DVD version I saw, from Video-X-Pix, has a couple of these "censored" shots in the early limousine sequence.) That's also why the narration by Xaviera laps over into the sex scenes -- while you're watching the sexual performers doin' the nasty, she's pontificating offscreen about why married men cheat on their wives and the joys of oral sex. In the censored version, she was saying these things on camera as her image obscured the really graphic moments.

By the standards of contemporary adult films, the sex scenes in THE LIFE AND TIMES OF XAVIERA HOLLANDER, while frequent, are rather tame and poorly directed. The film's single "girl-girl" scene seems to have been lit entirely by a fireplace, and the lighting in some other scenes is about as murky and "artistic." I don't doubt that porn can be artful, but as the late critic Jim Holliday used to say, porn films are first and foremost about people having sex. There is also a paucity of close-ups; most of the scenes are filmed in long shots. The filmmakers (who seem to have adopted the film's X-rating on their own, without consulting the MPAA) apparently wanted to make a hardcore film that wasn't too graphic and could easily be re-edited to qualify for an R-rating and wider theatrical release. That wasn't unusual during the 1970s -- the first decade of legal hardcore porn in the United States -- but it certainly lessens the erotic impact.

The film's "Xaviera Hollander" character makes no references to the real Happy Hooker's life. (For one thing, she's an all-American gal, not Dutch.) She simply goes through a series of sex scenes and, supposedly, a transition from schoolgirl to successful madam. McLaren was a reasonably attractive woman by the standards of '70s porn, and she seems to perform exuberantly. Most of the other women in the film appear only a single scene, and while pleasant looking, they don't appear especially interested. The leading men are mostly stalwarts of early '70s California porn, including Rick Cassidy, Ric Lutze, and a young John Holmes, who is almost unrecognizable save for his extraordinary male appendage. (I firmly believe that special lenses and tiny women made it look larger than life!) So whatever happened to Ms. McLaren? She made only one other film that I know of, and then seems to have disappeared from both adult movies and the mainstream.

Interestingly, the producer/director of this film, Larry G. Spangler, apparently had never made a sex film before and never would again. He came out of the ranks of low-budget exploitation movies -- notably, THE LEGEND OF NEGRO CHARLEY(1972) (the IMDb site won't accept this review if I write down the accurate title that IMDb itself has listed) and two more Fred Williamson westerns -- and would go on to produce some more mainstream stuff, like CHANEL SOLITAIRE (1981). One wonders if the legal hassles over this kind of movie led him to avoid future porn film enterprises.

So -- don't go looking for THE LIFE AND TIMES OF XAVIERA HOLLANDER thinking you're going to get to see the Happy Hooker doin' it on-screen. And unless you are just really into retroporn, you're not going to find this film either very arousing or entertaining. It's a relic of its time, when Hollywood was still wondering if porn films were going to go mainstream. Thanks to the conservative legal atmosphere of the Nixon era (the Sexual Counter-Revolution spawned by the Republican Party and the Religious Right was well underway), that didn't happen. And, thanks to the technological revolution in the entertainment industry brought about by the VCR, porn films wound up finding their own comfortable niche in American pop culture. But there are better ones this this, even vintage c.1974.

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