Yet another in a long line of ’70s sex comedies that are neither sexy nor funny, this three-part anthology picture feels like an attempt to capture the raunchy spirit of Playboy magazine’s humor, but inept execution makes Foreplay feel more sleazy than satirical. In the first installment, “Norman and the Polish Doll,” deadpan comedian Pat Paulsen plays a horny everyman who buys a lifelike female doll (Deborah Loomis) for sexual high jinks, only to realize she’s been programmed to nag instead of fondle. Paulsen’s droll line readings get drowned out by insipid slapstick (for instance, he steps in a toilet on the way to the bath) and he’s frequently upstaged by Loomis’ nudity (it’s difficult to focus on jokes when her lissome figure is on display).The second installment, “Vortex,” is moderately better, but still not particularly good. Based on a story by respected scribe Bruce Jay Friedman, the piece stars a young Jerry Orbach as a swinger visited by a muse (George S. Irving) who manifests as a doughy Italian man wearing only red bikini briefs. The muse takes Orbach’s character back to the scenes of several near-miss sexual encounters, each of which turns out to be just as frustrating the second time around. Orbach tries valiantly to form a characterization, and “Vortex” almost works. Almost.
The final episode, “Inaugural Ball,” directed by future Rocky helmer John G. Avildsen, stars Zero Mostel as a U.S. president whose daughter is kidnapped. The criminals demand that in exchange for the release of his child, the commander-in-chief must mount his first lady (Estelle Parsons) on national TV. The closest “Inaugural Ball” gets to wit is the moment when Mostel solemnly announces his decision to comply with the demand: “Call the surgeon general. Tell him to prepare a massive dose of testosterone.” Mostel’s performance is smotheringly loud, which accentuates the crude nature of the comedy throughout “Inaugural Ball,” and the piece drags on forever. (Linking the three stories together are crass interstitial bits in which a clownish professor, played by Irwin Corey, presents a vulgar lecture about sexual topics.) All in all, Foreplay has the exact opposite effect of the activity described in its title: It’s a complete turnoff.