Lamenting the stupidity and trashiness of any movie derived from a book by Jacqueline Susann is redundant, since she and Harold Robbins were the titans of literary schlock during the ’60s and ’70s. Nonetheless, The Love Machine is hard to beat for sheer tackiness. Excepting such technical aspects as cinematography and editing, everything about the movie is embarrassingly bad. The acting is wooden, the dialogue is ridiculous, the plot twists are absurd, and the themes are sensationalistic. Even worse, because the storyline concerns a fast-rising TV executive whose proclivity for broadcasting junk is supposed to symbolize the triumph of the lowest common denominator, The Love Machine feels like an idiotic precursor to Network (1976). Clearly, the time was right for someone to make a sweeping statement about television, and Susann was not that person. John Phillip Law, the handsome but robotic actor who caught attention in Barbarella (1968), stars as Robin Stone, a beat reporter at the New York affiliate station of a fictional network. Judith Austin (Dyan Cannon), the trophy wife of the network’s aging owner, Gregory Austin (Robert Ryan), sees Robin on TV one night and falls in lust, so she convinces her husband to hire Robin. Inexplicably, Gregory grants Robin control over the whole news division. And when Gregory suffers a near-fatal heart attack, Judith uses her proxy powers to put Robin in charge of the entire network while Gregory recuperates. Meanwhile, Judith begins an affair with Robin, even though Robin’s also sleeping with a model named Amanda (Jodi Wexler), as well countless other women who succumb to his charms. This is pure jet-set fantasy, with the entire story predicated on Robin’s superhuman gifts for career advancement and sexual conquest. The movie is also a relic from an ugly time, because the subplot about fashion photographer Nelson (David Hemmings) is filled with clutch-the-pearls horror at the notion Nelson’s homosexual scheming might lure Robin into a gay tryst. Not one frame of The Love Machine feels authentic, and the entertainment value is painfully low. Only those craving a few so-bad-it’s-good snickers need investigate further.
The Love Machine: LAME