Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sweater Girls (1978)

Directed by Donald M. Jones
Starring Charlene Tilton, Julie Parsons, Meegan King, Carol Anne Seflinger
Rated R
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"You're what they call continental...Russian hands and Roman fingers."

Sweater Girls is truly a product of its time. Between Vietnam and the gas crisis, the 70's had so freaked Americans out that they sought solace in the mythical Shangri-la of the 1950's, a decade warmly remembered for its conservative family values and financial stability. Of course, 50's fetishists always seem to leave out all the racial segregation and blacklisting, but cars! Rock n' roll! Girls in tight sweaters!

The 70's brought us Happy Days, American Graffiti, American Hot Wax, and Sha Na Na, all gauzy, white-washed visions of a 'simpler' time, and Sweater Girls follows that lucrative formula beat-for-beat. It's a bare-bones story about a group of girls attempting to keep their purity intact by banding together and wearing matching pink sweaters. That is the plot, in it's entirety. But hey, what do you expect? It was a simpler time, right?

Sweater Girls' creator, Donald M. Jones, has recently enjoyed a renewed interest in his work amongst cult/badfilm fans. He's been lauded as a sort of anti-auteur, a chronicler of non-events who paces his films like a melting glacier. His tastes run from exploitation to gutbucket slashers, and his resume reads like a rogue's gallery: Schoolgirls in Chains (1973), The Love Butcher (1975), The Forest (1982), Murderlust (1985). In comparison, Sweater Girls is probably his most restrained work, which, given his stubborn refusal to actually use the cinematic form in any novel or entertaining way, is saying a mouthful.

Ah, but perhaps I'm being too harsh. There is, after all, a scene where a girl drives topless.

To get there, however, you must endure an hour's worth of retro-tedium, from a drive-in make-out session to a drunken drag-race. It all culminates in a wild-night of home invasion, as the quintet of sweater-sisters hole up in grandma's house (she's gone all weekend!) and feign protest as the drunken hot-rodders climb through attic windows and creep in from jimmied backdoors, which leads to dialogue like this:

Bonnie: "I saw somebody at the window!"
Lynne: "It's probably just a rapist."

Lynne, by the way, is essayed by one Tamara Barkley, one of the few actresses in this supposed sex-comedy to offer up any significant skin. Her initiation into the sweater club involved tricking her boyfriend Jim (Skip Lowell) into stripping down to just a towel and waiting for her under a tree so they can, you know, "do it." Instead, she steals his car, leading to the topless driving scene. But what of poor Jim? Making a bad night worse, he is forced to hitch a ride home, and wouldn't you know it? The only guy that would stop is a leering homosexual who rubs Jim's bare thigh and makes lewd suggestions.

Are you laughing yet? No? Well, there's more. There's a fat, bumbling, Jonathan Winters-esque cop on hand (Jack O'Leary, who was, given his name, born to play this role) to chase the boys around, and an unlikely romance to blossom. Henry the nerd (William Kux), meet Joella (Julie Parsons), the misunderstood bad girl.

Joella, incidentally, gets dunked in a soapy bathtub by one of the drunken morons, leading to our second nude scene, when she has to change out of her soaking clothes. Not exactly a steamy sex scene, but I'll take anything at this point.

Oh yeah, there's an old lady swearing and giving the finger, too.
"You fuckin' asshole kids!"

The night drags ever on until finally, daybreak. We are now at the 1:20 minute mark of a 1:25 minute movie, and we have yet to see Charlene Tilton. If this film is remembered at all, it's because it features the acting debut of the diminutive blonde beauty and future Dallas star. Well, she does show up - in white hotpants, no less - mere moments before the credits roll. She's Candy, the new girl in town, and she takes off with the main douchebag. The end.

If you're a diehard fan of Seventies' 50's retro (as opposed to Eighties 50's retro...Stray Cats!) than you may enjoy the vintage cars and possibly even the pink sweaters and neckerchiefs.

But if you are looking for a teen sex comedy, than you have taken a wrong turn in Albuquerque. For sleazier Fonzie-era thrills, check out Slumber Party '57 (1976), which will at least give you a glimpse of Debra Winger's tits, and for a more satisfying Charlene Tilton experience, we here at Boobs suggest Diary of a Teenage Hitchiker (1979), one of the greatest TV movies we have ever seen.

By the way, although the actual movie will fade from your memory rather quickly, it's faux doo-wop title theme - sung in a whiny soprano by David Somerville and performed by the Head Tones - will likely never escape your brain. Caveat emptor.

Availability: Sweater Girls is available on VHS.
Buy Sweater Girls on Amazon.
-Ken McIntyre

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