Psychoanalysis figured prominently in many terrible porn films of the '70s, but Shaun Costello's typically tongue-in-cheek approach avoids the heavy handed pitfalls in his Andrea True vehicle THE LADY ON THE COUCH.
Sort of a warm-up for his later and greater MORE THAN SISTERS, this COUCH has True meeting with shrink Kevin Andre (very effective in a non-sex role) after an accident that has both the authorities and hubby Eric Edwards worried. She thinks she's Laura, not Edwards' wife Maggie, and the headshrinker gives her sodium pentathol to sort things out.
This cues various flashbacks, all entertaining and all excuses to provide quality XXX footage. Shaun films nearly the entire picture in tight closeups with hardly any master shots, and the effect works well on this subject matter.
Subplots are introduced and as part of the director's self-mocking strategy just as quickly abandoned or postponed. Chief among these is excellent comic relief provided by an improvising Marc Stevens (when asked for his name he gives "Mr. 10 and a half" his porn descriptor). He's hired by the shrink from a pay phone (don't ask why) to track down information about Maggie/Laura, but the expected riffs on Otto Preminger's noir LAURA never surface. His portrayal of a doofus is simple and funny and stupid.
Maggie turns out to have a sordid history, revealed when Edwards introduces a flashback of a year ago when he and poker buddies (including director Shaun) watch a stag film Shaun has bought on 42nd Street that turns out to star Maggie!
In sort of regression under the influence of truth serum, Maggie relates (and we watch XXX- style) her teenage boyfriend Bobby date raping her, and more significantly her involvement as a procurer and whore for Chicago mulatto gangster Big John played by Mel White. There is a domination scene by John and his gang with lovely Leslie Murray (later to star in MORE THAN SISTERS) the sub that is strong stuff followed by an orgy involving True, Darby Lloyd Rains and a true forerunner of the 21st Century huge-tattoos fetish for porn stars Don Allen. Costello pops up in this orgy in what amounts to a dual role, contradicting the earlier poker scene but par for the course.
My favorite silliness in a film that insists on not taking serious things seriously is when Andre as the psychiatrist starts doing an impression of Big John in order to influence Maggie/Laura to bring out her latent dual personality - he's terrible but so earnest in his comedy that it works.
Shaun ties up the psych mumbo-jumbo in a neat package and then undermines it with a funny Marc Stevens sight gag - typically thumbing his nose at the audience. Costello is to porn production what James Toback is to the art of picking up girls - he keeps trying dozens of approaches and every once in a while he scores. (I was once walking down Times Square with JT in the '80s and he tried to pick up about five women just in the distance between the TKTS booth and the Variety office where I worked, less than a five minute walk.)
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