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A very New Yawk-inflected sub-Bobby Darin lounge singer (Jack Stern) croons over the credits as the always lovely Leslie Bovee saunters across a busy city street, 70’s style.  Think anything from the omnipresent Jennifer O’Neill print and television ads of the era to That Girl, Rhoda and that neverending Virginia Slims campaign – you’ll get the idea.

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Before you can say “you’ve come a long way, baby!”, we’re pulled into the boardroom of a cosmetics agency led by such luminaries of period hardcore as Bonnie Holiday and Bovee herself, the latter as star of the show and new VP of merchandising “Champagne”.  Seriously.  That’s her name, and it even says it in giant marquee lettering on the wall behind her chair (presumably before she got promoted to VP, even).

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Meanwhile, John Leslie is looking for work as a bouncer (you read that right…lil’ John Leslie.  Bouncer.  In the same sentence.) at a local dive bar run by (of all people) cute early 80’s starlet Kandi Barbour (in full 1930’s movie star glamour regalia, looking like she just came off the set of My Man Godfrey or Dinner at Eight).

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Naturally, the boss has a swinging bachelorette pad in back, which she uses to try him out for the part, old man polka dot boxer shorts and all.  Barbour, looking every bit the auburn tressed Debbie Harry, gets in a reasonably energetic session before stripper Dorothy LeMay (who’s just spent the last 15 minutes dancing to an empty room) decides to join in on the fun…and he objects(!)

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So down he heads to the headhunter agency where recruiter Kay Parker offers to finish up the job, and Leslie proceeds to take a pratfall off the desk post-coitus(!) before Parker sends him down to Bovee’s cosmetics agency where he nearly blows the interview by pretending to be gay (seriously.  Don’t ask.)

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Anyway, he scores the job, playing chauffeur, bodyguard and masseur to Bovee as she has liaisons with Blair Harris, Candida Royalle and overweight construction worker Michael Morrison (who wrecks his poster of Raquel Welch in Kansas City Bombers in the process, getting a light beatdown from Leslie as a reward).

Not learning her lesson after that one, she even heads down to a “male whorehouse”, where she takes on a trio of well dressed (but apparently bi if not straight!?!) rent boys, inclusive of our old pal Jon Martin in an ascot.  And hey, it’s one of the only times onscreen where he doesn’t get abusive to his costar, so this one’s just full of surprises here…

Leslie gets in a quickie with Heidi-pigtailed car wash attendant Sharon Kane during the wash (“better hurry, it’s only a 3 minute car wash!”), leaving her coworker to vacuum the scene of the crime (“I’m not cleaning that!“).  That evening, Bovee comes out with flowing dress and candelabra gothic heroine style to give him a surprise treat, but as she still thinks he bats for the opposing team, it’s a rendezvous with one of the rent boys (who he proceeds to punch out as soon as she leaves the room).

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There’s some nonsense about Leslie funding Paul Thomas’s company and not getting anything in return, but this is resolved as quickly as it arises through a predictably comic bit of business, and the whole conceit of mistaken iden…er, sexual orientation between them is resolved in time for a suitably happy ending.  Roll credits, cue applause.

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So far removed from Purely Physical or Cathouse Fever as to feel like the work of an entirely different person, Chris Warfield shoots for the moon by hiring A-list stars of the day, filming in some rather aesthetic locations and even working from a fairly comedically inclined proper script, with actual porno chic-style acting going on.

Coming from the guy we blasted mercilessly for the aforementioned bottom feeding double feature released by Vinegar Syndrome 6 months ago, this is something of a shocker – how could the guy responsible for a film this well made and fairly representative of the era’s “populist”, “couples film” aesthetic be the same man behind Cathouse Fever?  It’s like saying Carlos Tobalina and Radley Metzger were one and the same person – it just defies any form of logic.

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Despite coming off as somewhat dense by today’s mores, Leslie doesn’t overplay the faux-gay thing to the extent one might expect, and shows himself to be a decent and fairly likeable comic actor in the process.  Bovee actually does him one better, playing it adorably innocent if sexually curious throughout, with scenes and line deliveries actually approaching the tone of classic screwball comedy, despite all the prurient silliness going on around them.  While never going over the top into kewpie doll territory, she shows a real gift for this sort of thing, with it being quite unlikely she ever came off so cute and loveable as she does here.

Hell, if your ladyfriend is emancipated enough that she won’t balk at the raunchy bits, this is definitely a film I’d recommend for a private evening of couples viewing rather than the usual solo or guy’s night comedy spectator sport.  It’s surprisingly good (in my opinion, it’s actually a much better choice than SexWorld, also reviewed today), and given we’re talking hardcore, it’s easy to see why Vinegar Syndrome offers this as its Valentines Day release for the year.  Thumbs up.

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