A heavily made up Marlene Willoughby (sporting the world’s worst faux-posh accent) visits what appears to be her lawyer (Jake Teague) for help with a family problem.
See, her sorta doughy, very effeminate and perpetually lost non-actor of a son (Rick Iverson, whose performance and line delivery must be seen to be believed) is pissing away the family fortune on wine, women and song…and she needs a surrogate female to rein him in.
That Teague must be some kinda shyster, because he has no problem providing the titular Sunny (Candida Royalle, quite likely in her prime here) for this long term escort service…poor girl!
After getting boffed by Royalle on his boat (at least we get treated to a rather pleasant rear view!), he gets her to visit a yellow toothed smoker of an old Eastern European woman (who promptly wanders off script and needs to be fed her lines) for no apparent reason other than to have her sit next to them and feed some ridiculous dirty talk while they do their thing.
Willoughby gets a round in with the chauffeur (Gilbert Palmitier) in a pointless flashback, Iverson drags Royalle to meet a lady photographer for what appears to be Blue Boy (seriously, these guys – one of whom’s 80’s regular Randy West! – come straight off a Village People album cover) and gets suckered into “performing” for a photo shoot, and finally Royalle out-maneuvers Wiloughby at a costume party…only to find Iverson outsmarted them both in the end.
The pluses here? It’s a really well shot film – particularly after Vinegar Sydrome’s usual stellar restoration, the cinematography is gorgeous and so is Royalle, and her scenes are lensed for primo prurient value.
There’s a lot of exterior work, multiple sets and even a scene filmed in the Central Park carousel…so you really can’t give Costello, cinematographer Bill Saks or Ms. Royalle anything but props for their work here.
It’s not their fault they got saddled with Marlene Willoughby pretending she’s Ethel Barrymore and the most obvious closet case on Earth (not to mention the most wooden, lost actor in the annals of cinema…and that includes Ed Wood films!)
It’s co-feature doesn’t fare quite so well, though.
The director himself takes an onscreen role as the husband/narrator of the events that unfold, as he discusses his wife’s situation with psychiatrist Jamie Gillis (can’t wait to see what he prescribes!) and gets in on the performing side with said wife Colleen Anderson. The problem that so concerns him? She’s become aggressive and adventurous in the sack.
Of course, under the influence of sodium pentathol, the real story comes out – she’s a schizo who’s (more or less) taken on the personality of her madwoman sister…about whom there’s a further reveal that we won’t spoil.
From here, we wind up part of a loooooong flashback of repressed memories at a rather open and lax security building serving as a Quebec nuthouse, staffed by Robert Kernan and Marlene Willoughby. And this place is straight out of Ken Kesey…
Gillis hires private dick Eric Edwards to look into Anderson’s past, and after a lot of footage off the Staten Island Ferry and an ostensible trip to Quebec, Edwards digs up the facts in all of 5 minutes. The facts are relayed to Costello and Anderson (which suddenly makes everything alright! Wow, it’s magic!), Edwards gets a little more romance film schmaltz with his girlfriend (oh, didn’t we mention the 10 or 15 minute detour about his home life as soon as Gillis first calls him? Yeah.)…roll credits.
Well. If you’re still arguing which was the better actual actor in the industry between Gillis and Edwards, this either proves it or needs to be tossed out for skewing the average…because Gillis is terrible here. Clearly phoning it in, he stumbles his way through what were either a lot of forgotten lines or a really bad attempt at improv…it’s quite uncharacteristic for him, actually.
Edwards pulls his weight as admirably as ever, Kernan is barely onscreen and Willoughby isn’t affecting that ridiculous posh accent, and even Costello comes off reasonably well…but the film never gels, and plot threads, such as they are, kind of go all over the place and never feel adequately resolved. Not terrible for the genre by any means…but not a red letter day for any of its cast and participants either.
The print here suffers from noticeable damage at points (around 21m in there’s a real doozy) and is comparatively rather washed out and grainy – after the gorgeous color and lensing of Sunny, this small scale, all indoors cheapie can’t help but come off as a major letdown.
Get it for Sunny – the film’s gorgeous, well filmed and features Candida Royalle at her most attractive.