Despite awful songs, lame jokes, vapid performances, and witless writing, The First Nudie Musical is noteworthy as an artifact of the anything-goes ’70s, because the movie is exactly what the title suggests: a cheerful song-and-dance trifle filled with sexualized content. Production numbers include “Lesbian, Butch, Dyke,” a Germanic anthem sung by a cross-dressing woman; “Let ’Em Eat Cake,” a toe-tapper about cunnilingus; and the self-explanatory “Orgasm.” Most of the songs feature chorus lines of naked female dancers, and every frame is preoccupied with the horizontal mambo. Yet The First Nudie Musical is so cheerfully shameless that, after a while, the picture starts to feel weirdly wholesome.
When the story begins, movie producer Harry Schecther (Stephen Nathan) has fallen on hard times, so he’s cranking out cheap porno flicks in order to keep his once-successful studio solvent. After creditors threaten Harry with foreclosure, he dreams up a desperate final gambit: making an all-singing, all-dancing X-rated movie. The First Nudie Musical depicts his bumbling attempts to get the job done despite a miniscule budget, tight schedule, and uncooperative leading lady. To make matters worse, Harry is forced to hire John Smithee (Bruce Kimmel), the dim-bulb son of a studio creditor, as his director. The First Nudie Musical follows the standard let’s-put-on-a-show drill, so the scenes without nudity are so perfunctory they glide by without making any impression.
However, the naughty bits are so crass they command attention in a traffic-accident sort of way. And, to give songwriter-screenwriter-costar-codirector Kimmel his due, every so often a good comedy idea shines through the mediocrity. One such bit occurs during the “Dancing Dildos” number: When chorus girls flick the “on” switches decorating the costumes of male dancers who are dressed as vibrators, the resulting noise gets synced to the music as a kazoo solo.
While the sheer oddness of this movie is the primary reason for its cult-fave status, the presence of Cindy Williams in the leading female role raises eyebrows as well. Though Williams remains fully clothed throughout the picture, it’s startling to see the wholesome Laverne & Shirley star singing and dancing alongside chorines in bottomless costumes, to say nothing of spewing lines so blue they would melt a TV censor’s headphones. In addition to being the most entertaining performer in the movie—her dry delivery makes weak lines seem funnier than they are—Williams is presumably the reason that Ron Howard, her costar from American Graffiti and Happy Days, plays an amusing cameo.
FYI, Kimmel’s career after The First Nudie Musical has mostly been inconsequential, but leading man Nathan went on to considerable success after moving behind the camera. Today, he’s an Emmy-nominated TV writer-producer with a long list of credits on shows ranging from Bones to Everybody Loves Raymond. That’s quite a leap from singing about how much he wants to bury his face in a woman’s “honey pie.”
The First Nudie Musical: FREAKY