Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Endangered List (Case File #15)

"My fellow Americans, I come before you tonight..."


The alternate version of FOREPLAY (1974)

"'Four Play' May Be Affected By Supreme Court Ruling"

NEW YORK – One of the first films to be directly affected by the Supreme Court ruling on obscenity is “Four Play,” which recently began filming in New York by 10/10 Productions. The film utilizes four separate screenplays, with four different directors, casts and crews, although some of the technicians are overlapping from one episode to another when schedules permit. The segments are being filmed in consecutive order.

Producer Carl Gurevich, former athlete and president of his own insurance company, wanted to produce a low-budget picture depicting a series of funny and erotic sexual fantasies. The original concept was that of a hardcore epic, but it was decided to tone it down following the Supreme Court decision. The individual scenarists, Dan Greenburg, Terry Southern, Bruce Jay Friedman, Jack Richardson and David O’Dell, as well as the directors, were in favor of an all-out sex fantasy. Gurevich admits, however, that the actors involved would not have participated in the original version.

The budget rose from $50,000 to major proportions as the concept changed and the stars were signed. As the production of the second episode neared completion, Gurevich learned to his dismay that Barbara Harris, signed for the next segment, was suddenly unavailable. Academy Award winner Estelle Parsons was immediately contacted and agreed to replace her. Gurevich maintains a no-nonsense attitude, insisting on paying everyone by check as soon as filming is completed.

The episodes for “Four Play” are:

“Norman and the Doll,” by Greenburg, directed by Robert McCarty, with Pat Paulsen, Susie Bond, Deborah Loomis, Shelley Plimpton, Paul Dooley in a story of a lifesize doll with a mind of its own;

“Vortex,” adapted by Richardson from a story by Friedman, directed by Bruce Malmuth, with Jerry Orbach, Cia Lozell, Carmen Alvarez, George S. Irving, about a man who goes back in time to attempt the seduction of his former girl friends;

“Inaugural Ball,” by O’Dell, directed by John Avildsen, in which Zero Mostel and Estelle Parsons as the President and the First Lady are told by a kidnapper that their daughter will be released if they engage in an obscene act on national television;

“Twice on Top,” by Southern, directed by William Caxton, starring Rip Torn in a comic allegory dealing with society’s evils and female innocence.

(Boxoffice, 8/20/1973, p.E-1)

According to interviews with Avildsen, Malmuth, and Odell that are included on the Troma DVD of FOREPLAY, Terry Southern's twelve-page script for "Twice on Top" was so avant-garde and "out there" that producer Carl Gurevich scrapped the plans for a fourth story. Instead, footage of Professor Irwin Corey would be sprinkled throughout as a framing device that would also pad the running time. FOUR PLAY, therefore, was no longer a "Four Play" but a "Three Play," and when it was released in 1975 as FOREPLAY it got very little theatrical play. [Note: "Norman and the Doll" became "Norman and the Polish Doll" in the final cut of FOREPLAY]

Because Avildsen's "Inaugural Ball" was the longest of the three stories -- and also the one with the most exploitation value -- it was decided that FOREPLAY would be more commercial if Avildsen expanded his segment to feature length by shooting new footage of Mostel, Orbach and Paulsen that would tie the three segments together. The title for this cut would be THE PRESIDENT'S WOMEN, to capitalize on the Woodward-Bernstein book All the President's Men and the Alan Pakula film adaptation, which was released in April of 1976; THE PRESIDENT'S WOMEN hit theatres two months later. Ironically, another Avildsen film - ROCKY - ended up beating ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN for Best Picture that year, with Avildsen taking home the Best Director award.

THE PRESIDENT'S WOMEN begins in the future with the BBC reporters interviewing the now elderly, wheelchair-bound ex-President Mostel for a TV show called Going Down in History (ex-First Lady Parsons succumbed years earlier to T.O. -- "Terminal Orgasm"). The events in "Inaugural Ball" are shown in flashback. In the added footage, Orbach and Paulsen are apparently Secret Service agents assigned to the ex-President; "Vortex" and "Norman and the Polish Doll," their respective stories, are shown as flashbacks as well.

On the DVD Avildsen claims that FOREPLAY had a regular run in New York City in the '70s, but THE PRESIDENT'S WOMEN didn't roll through the Big Apple until January of 1981, when it played one weekend at the Thalia as a "premiere," on a double bill with ACTING OUT, another Carl Gurevich production that ended up being acquired by Troma. Janet Maslin trashed both Gurevich movies in the New York Times and Bill Landis called THE PRESIDENT'S WOMEN "a horrid, unfunny, misogynist intended comedy" in Sleazoid Express.

No comments: