Yet another in the seemingly endless trove of lost sex films given new life by Exploitation.TV's streaming service, HER WAY TO STAR is the kind of half- interesting storefront junker that gestures toward the pleasures of the genre without coming off as particularly distinguished.
The nominal plot centers around one woman's attempts to make a splash in the X-rated film industry. Walking down 42nd street and gazing longingly at the theater marquees, she responds to an ad (presented as a front-page headline in a newspaper!) for sex work. When she arrives back home, she's delighted to receive a callback, breathlessly enthusing, "I'll do anything! On top, on bottom, girls, boys, animals, anything!" Rushing out the door, she leaves her lonely roommate some time to get intimate with her boyfriend (a very young, pre-mustache Harry Reems).
Arriving on set, our starlet-to-be finds a mixture of zoo and playground, with the production seeming to comprise the type of threadbare historical epic usually put on by the likes of the Kuchar brothers. While the actors lounge about in bed sheet robes on a divan, the director peeks out from behind a couple of potted ferns, shouting instructions.
Alas, the road to the top isn't as easy as anticipated, and while our fledgling screen idol does end up getting a part in the film, it's only as a non-sex extra forced to stand by while the leading lady makes it with Jamie Gillis. Fed up, our protagonist storms home to her roommate, who offers her that unique brand of hard-X comfort before Reems returns to tend to them both. Still not satisfied, our heroine again storms out to give stardom one last try.
Part zany parody and part desultory sex flick, HER WAY TO STAR offers a good example of the sort of madcap clowning that was often a product of fly-by- night early X-rated productions. Actors without a clearly defined character archetype (zany director, sleazy producer, etc.) often seem to be playing themselves, and frequently either struggle not to break character or begin wryly commenting on the action in a scene they're participating in. The film also shares many early adult movies' bemusement with the fly-by-night circumstances of their industry, centering all its on-set sequences, for example, around the ridiculously ramshackle qualities of the production or the alternating delusion and/or disinterest of its participants. In that respect, the film is charmingly self-deprecating, and these interludes provide a fun and zany perspective on the world of sex films circa 1971/72. Also laudable is the movie's cockeyed commitment to its protagonist's quest - never does anyone moralize or attempt to discourage her from being a porn actress, and in the end our heroine does even manage to succeed on her own terms, regardless of how Pyrrhic her "victory" may be. While landing a leading role in a shoddy, threadbare porn click hardly constitutes most people's idea of success, it's refreshing that the film lets its protagonist define it as such for herself, without feeling the need to make a punchline or life lesson out of her ambitions.
That said, while engaging fairly playfully with the one- or two-day-wonder production model, HER WAY TO STAR inevitably falls victim to it as well. The sex scenes, while decently performed by a game and generally attractive cast, are nevertheless not much to write home about either, and frequently slow the film down between its more engaging plot-based scenes. While the film makes an admirable attempt at combining the two from time to time, as well as at providing a winking nod toward the slap-dash milieu from which it sprang, it's ultimately not quite enough to fully rescue the proceedings, making this worth a watch but hardly a candidate for repeat viewing.
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