Despite being hampered by amateurish direction and a low budget, All the Young Wives is an acceptable romantic melodrama thanks to committed performances, which lend a small measure of emotional authenticity. Moreover, because the filmmakers focus on feelings instead of sex, the picture avoids the trap it could easily have fallen into, which is becoming the cinematic equivalent of a Harlequin romance. To be clear, there’s nothing surprising in the storyline, and the pacing is deadly precisely because the narrative is so formulaic and predictable. Nonetheless, the most important scenes are performed sincerely, and the filmmakers do an adequate job of making the villain so loathsome that it’s pleasurable waiting for and witnessing his inevitable comeuppance. The movie also provides an odd cinematic footnote, because director William Diehl Jr., who only made one other film, later became a novelist specializing in crime stories—books he wrote were adapted into the Burt Reynolds thriller Sharky’s Machine (1981) and the Richard Gere-Edward Norton hit Primal Fear (1996). Go figure.
The storyline of All the Young Wives couldn’t be simpler. Big Jim (Gerald Richards) is a middle-aged rich guy who covets the sexy wives of his younger employees, often pressuring the women into trysts by threatening their husbands’ livelihoods. Meanwhile, Big Jim ignores his own sexy young wife, Melody (Linda Cook), whom he treats like a possession rather than a spouse. This naturally leads her to seek affection elsewhere, hence her dalliance with horse trainer Sam (Edmund Genest), who works for one of Big Jim’s businesses. As noted earlier, nothing unusual arises from these fraught dynamics, so those looking for a fresh take on the way men and women relate to each other will find All the Young Wives interminable. In fact, this flick is really only palatable for ’70s addicts eager to explore the decade’s most obscure cinematic offerings, since it’s mildly interesting to encounter respectable performances from completely unfamiliar actors. Better still, the movie improves as it goes along, so once the storyline resolves into a battle between Big Jim and Sam, with the tormented Melody caught between them, a few scenes manifest proper intensity.
All the Young Wives: FUNKY