Directed by Robert Anderson
Starring Debbie Osborne, Nancy Ison, Alice Friedland
This forgotten little drive-in diversion first appeared in 1970, one of numerous titles churned out by the Crown International Pictures factory. It follows the usual skin & sin formula, with more emphasis on the peepshow than the plot than you’ll find in other titles like The Teacher or Pick-Up or Malibu High.
Is perhaps a tad more scandalous than the usual fare, too, with underaged protagonists, sorta-kinda incest, sorta-kinda lesbianism, and other more obviously exploitative elements, all of which helped get Cindy and Donna tagged with an early “X” by the MPAA.
Things begin with 15-year-old Cindy (Debbie Osborne) enjoying an idyllic end-of-summer walk on the beach with her boyfriend, Bob. Their stroll is accompanied by the film’s theme song, a syrupy dollop of pop in which the singer advises “Don’t be afraid to discover, Cindy / Don’t be afraid of a lover, Cindy” and the like.
In other words, the pressure on Cindy begins from the get-go. She and Bob make out a little, then Cindy goes home and is bored for a little while.
Soon her stepsister, the 17-year-old Donna (Nancy Ison) comes home. Cindy quizzes Donna about the boy with whom she’s been hanging out, Greg (Tom Koben), while Donna drinks some booze. Then their mother, Harriet, arrives.
She, too, immediately hits the bottle, a harmonica blasting away as if to mark her as “southern” or “white trash” or something. She speaks with a weird-sounding, highly affected accent, almost as though she’s trying to sound British. Or maybe trying to sound not British.
Harriet is kind of a spectacle, really. Interestingly, for the IMDB entry the obscure actress who played her (Suzy Allen) jumped on to comment on the film. “I agree that Cindy and Donna was a terrible movie,” she writes, “but the stagehands and crew said I was the best actor in the movie!”
One suspects the stagehands might have been being nice. Then again, it isn’t as though the best-actor-in-the-movie title should have been especially coveted by anyone here. Allen says a few more things about the making of the film, which sounds like it was quite fun for her. Her post is under the name “britwit” so perhaps she is British after all.
Meanwhile Dad, Ted Weeks (Max Manning) -- Cindy’s father, and Donna’s stepfather -- is driving home from work. He can’t help but eye the legs of female drivers from the cab of his truck...
...thereby rapidly alerting us to his “dirty old man” status.
He ends up stopping at a bar where he gets a drink and talks to some other dirty old men about this “unbelievable doll” they want to tell him all about.
Then comes a quick, unannounced cut to a strip club, where we are invited to ogle an oily Alice (Alice Friedland).
An unknown here (in fact, she’s uncredited), Friedland would later appear in some small roles in high profile flicks such as John Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) where she played one of the “De-Lovlies.”
Her dance lingeringly lasts for three solid minutes, the lengthiness of the scene obviously vital to the plot.
We cut back to Ted, who has left the bar and ends up calling Alice from a phone booth and arranging a meeting later that night. (One of the other dirty old men has given him her number.)
Back home Cindy is still bored. She undresses and puts on a nightie. That takes a couple more minutes.
Then Dad comes home and he, too, hits the booze without hesitation. When he hugs Cindy, she asks if he’s drunk. “You gotta be a little bit drunk to get through the day” he explains.
We watch him then linger over Donna in her bra a little longer than he should, after which he has a drunken shouting match with his wife. She knows all about his “little whooahs,” but that doesn’t deter him much as soon he’s out the door and heading to his rendezvous with Alice.
We hang out with Cindy some while she takes her top off and is bored some more. Then we look in on dirty Ted with Alice who after some small talk quickly get it on.
“You’re blowing my mind, you know that!” says Ted.
Meanwhile, Donna sneaks out the window to meet Greg for a midnight frolic. Cindy sneaks out, too… easy enough since Dad is away and Mom is passed out blotto. Donna and Greg get high and engage in some dimly-lit, semi-clad groping in his car while Cindy watches, then Cindy returns to her bedroom. She rolls around by herself in the bed a little gropingly, too, then frustratingly, teen-angstingly exhales.
Back to Ted and Alice, where Alice is showing Ted some magazines. She’s a model, too, she explains. “I'm kind of a star, you know. Do you know how many men buy these things just to look at me…? It makes me feel kind of creative.”
More small talk, during which we learn she’s 17. “Same age as your daughter,” she notes pointedly, referring to Donna.
We move on to the next day. Cindy chats with her friend Karen at school about what she saw the night before. "I felt like it was really ugly and offensive," she tells Karen, going on to explain how she and Bob haven't gone that far. Karen is only slightly more worldly-seeming than Cindy, her lecturing to Cindy about love-making revealing her to be a bit naive as well.
Cut to Harriet, getting drunk at a bar. Hey, it’s five o’clock somewhere and oh by the way what the hell are YOU lookin’ at? She comes on to a couple of old dudes who play along a little then unceremoniously dump her in her car.
That night Cindy writes a letter to Bob, seemingly away at school, in which she expresses various frustrations.
A drunken harpsichord then announces the drunken arrival of Ted, also frustrated because Alice wasn’t available for a second straight night of fun. He creeps into Donna’s room and kind of shockingly joins his stepdaughter in bed while a horrified Cindy looks on.
The next day Cindy commiserates some more with Karen about her screwed-up family. Then we see Donna meet up again with Greg. She wants weed, but only has five bucks, and he gets her to agree to a favor to make up the rest.
At this point Ted and Harriet take an unexpected business trip to a convention in Las Vegas which they only tell Cindy and Donna about moments before leaving.
They leave, again weirdly accompanied by those banjos and harmonicas. We’ll look in on them again a couple of times -- finding Ted looking and acting like he’s ready to blow his mind out in a car after being forced to endure Harriet -- although they’re essentially riding out of the picture.
What’s left? Well, Cindy takes a shower. Karen comes over and they go to the beach, where Karen shows Cindy how to put on suntan lotion in order to attract the fellas.
The trick works, and soon they find themselves with a couple of horny dudes in their groovy love shack by the shore. Karen is into it, but Cindy not so much.
Eventually Cindy has her way and they leave.
Meanwhile we learn that the favor Greg had asked of Donna involves her posing for some topless photos, and the session quickly devolves into a couple of other horny dudes taking turns engaging in some semi-nude couch wrestling with their model.
Back to Karen and Cindy, who get high and wrestle some themselves.
That goes on a while, complete with freaky-deaky echoes helping to indicate their baked status. They talk about what happened over breakfast the next morning, with Karen assuring Cindy she was “marvelous” but that “you’ve no idea what it's like until you’ve tried it with a guy. I mean it’s wild! It’s the greatest.”
Cindy remains skeptical, but when Greg comes around for Donna a little later, Cindy’s trying the suntan lotion thing again.
Could it be? Is Cindy is finally no longer afraid to discover? No longer afraid of a lover? And, well, is anybody gonna face any consequences for this uninterrupted sequence of hedonism, or are lessons never gonna be learned?
While Cindy and Donna isn’t exactly what I’d call a swinging good time, it is certainly engaging enough for those with a tolerance and/or penchant for low-budget ’70s sexploitation, with crazy Ted and Harriet adding a touch of added camp value and a few groovy jams along the way.
- Triple S