Color, 1974, 110m.
Directed by Charles Martin
Starring Angus Duncan, Angel Tompkins, Alexandra Hay, Heidi Bruhl,
Code Red (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
A film whose gender politics are so skewed it feels like it's being beamed from another planet, How to Seduce a Woman hails from the tail end of Tinseltown's panicked reaction to the sexual revolution. In spirit it's linked to the previous decade's weirdly cruel male fantasy comedies like A Guide for the Married Man and Under the Yum Yum Tree, but with the growing permissiveness for what could be shown on movie screens, by 1974 it had mutated into something almost impossible to decode. , is
As the title implies, what we have here is the story of a man whose sole mission in life is to bed as many women as possible. With a seemingly unlimited supply of money at his disposal (despite the fact that seduction is described as his only employment), he puts the moves on any woman in his path while investing a ridiculous amount of time and money. Furthermore, it's all framed in a string of vignettes told at a very old Hollywood restaurant/bar by members of his staff, a collection of men and women whose sole purpose is to con women into his bed. In any case, our "hero" is Luther Lucas (TV regular Angus Duncan), who's described by his admiring underlings as a man who outdid famous lovers like Casanova and Don Juan. Never mind that he wouldn't even cut it as a date on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in terms of charm or appearance; according to this film's universe, any woman can be duped into bed if a man can just find her weak spot. Whether talking a receptionist into coming to a party for two at his place (claiming her favorite actress, Greta Garbo, will be making an appearance), posing as a flamboyant gay stereotype, or shelling out cash to buy tickets for every single entry in a horse race, he'll stop at nothing to get his prey.
In the most convoluted segment, he sets up an elaborate art fraud to ensnare a blonde minx named Nell, played by the charming Alexandra Hay from Otto Preminger's Skidoo and Jacques Demy's Model Shop. Her significant film roles were few are far between before her death, and she acquits herself well (while also proving an undraped modeling scene for her fans). Also swirling around in the cast are familiar faces like pretty Angel Tompkins (Prime Cut), Heidi Bruhl (The Eiger Sanction), The Psycho Lover's Jo Anne Meredith, and even a small, weird appearance by Hope Holliday, who had a memorable single scene in The Apartment and made headlines in 2013 involving a public Martin Scorsese altercation over The Wolf of Wall Street. Exactly what this film is trying to say about all of these women is really anyone's guess, but it doesn't seem very positive and makes one wonder why critics have regularly hurled charges of misogyny against horror films without paying much attention to comedies like this.
Fortunately if you're a fan of '70s pop culture, there's enough going on here to justify a viewing. The parade of sitcom-style sets, gaudy clothes, corny gags, and TV-ready actors are juggled with a minimum of fuss by director Charles Martin, who similarly sat back and everything unfold with minimal strain in If He Hollers, Let Him Go. Like that film, this was released theatrically by Cinerama and issued on VHS in the '80s before dropping off the map entirely for decades, only to resurface as a direct distribution title from Code Red. The source elements are generally in fine shape, though colors have drifted to the pinkish side; it's still significantly more crisp and watchable (not to mention better framed) than the tape and should make fans happy in the upgrade department. The mono audio is fine given the limited nature of the source, which consists of dialogue and some outrageously kitschy music by Stu Phillips in between his more famous gigs on Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Battlestar Galactica. No extras, though you do get a highly un-p.c. theater promo at the beginning along with a vintage swamp meet ad. Whip up some fondue and enjoy.
Reviewed on February 1, 2014.