Sugar Cookies (1973)

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Back in the world of pre-Troma Troma, we have this intriguing little picture which has the distinction of being the only X rated film that lost money.  Upon release, the film was re-rated with an R because the sex is no more explicit than a typical soft-core porn.  Sugar Cookies, although an American production from the independent Armor films, which Lloyd Kaufman worked for before starting Troma, resembles a stylish Euro-trash picture of the era.  Even though there is a lot of sex, it’s still held together with a solid thriller plot and it’s also a blatant homage to Vertigo.

What I really liked about Theodore Gershuny’s film is its insight into the world of that era of pornographic films, which, at the time, were also referred to as “art films.”  In this way, the movie functions as something of a time capsule; especially with the really tacky art-deco set designs.  After all, while early pornographic films might have been shot well with some actual art in mind, this certainly is not the case anymore.

The plot takes off after a bizarre game in the home of “art film” director Max Pavell (George Shannon) leaves Alta Leigh (Lynn Lowery) dead.  Inevitably, the police try to piece together what happened.  But this only serves as a framework to a series of vignettes which further illustrate the “alternative” world in which these characters live in.  Among them is Camilla Stone (Mary Woronov), a sexually dominant casting agent who brings the somewhat naive Julie Kent (also Lynn Lowery) into her world.

The Vertigo-riffing is obvious since Stone blatantly tries to turn Kent into Alta Leigh through personality and style makeovers.  Along with these, we get to lesbian scenes which are well played and full of tension.  There are also some interesting montage sequences which are not forced either.  Lowery, although only briefly playing the first role, does a fantastic job as the second.  Her adorable yet unique face – huge eyes and big teethy smile – further add to her innocent-turn-corrupt appeal.

Elsewhere, there is a subplot involving an overweight kid trying to lose his virginity.  His tie in the film is that he’s Max Pavell’s brother in law and he visits a prostitute in a comic subplot that is okay but not particularly necessary.  Also, look out for Lloyd Kaufman somewhere in this movie.

I’ve been a fan of Mary Woronov since I first saw her in Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and enjoyed her dominant sex appeal.  I’ve also enjoyed Lowery who was in I Drink Your Blood, The Crazies and Shivers (a.k.a. They Come from Within) among others.  One interesting scene involves Woronov’s character who watches the dailies of the first Lowery character in a voyeuristic manner and later tries to recreate the scene with the second Lowery character.  Another neat scene is the sequence in which several different actresses audition for the role in the next Pavell film; some are pretty frank about what they are doing while others treat it as “art.”

OH, ya know what I just realized as I write this?  Remember the frankness with which Sharon Stone talks to the cops in Basic Instinct?  Do you think this movie invented that shockingly frank female character?  In this film, Woronov answers the officer as such: “you mean, did we fuck?  Why yes, we did.”  Haha!

So yes, I would say it’s a soft core film about the world of hard core films but, really it’s just a sexy, Eurotrash thriller, ya know?  Ah, how the world of sex films has changed!

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