Saturday, February 24, 2024

Pets (1973)

          Not too many T&A-driven grindhouse flicks stem from legit theater, but Pets has exactly that pedigree. However, it’s useful to note that the stage experience upon which Pets is based premiered in 1969—if not the white-hot center of the Sexual Revolution, then close enough—and that “legit” had an expansive meaning at the time. After playwright Richard Reich debuted an evening of three one-act plays called Pets at the Provincetown Playhouse, filmmaker Raphael Nussbaum directed (and co-wrote with Reich) a film adaptation converting the stage show’s thematically linked stories into a contiguous narrative. All of this is somewhat novel, but the movie of Pets suggests the source material was titillating at best, trashy at worst. The film’s first vignette concerns sexy hitchhikers robbing a dude with a little dog; the second vignette depicts a lesbian artist who becomes jealous when her female model gets hot for a man who breaks into the artist’s house; and the third vignette centers an art collector who lures women into his basement and keeps them as, you guessed it, “pets.” The connection between the first two sections is tenuous. Worse, because the third section is the most unusual, the movie should have gotten to the spicy stuff faster—and gotten more out of it than one extended scene.

          Pets is neither admirable nor awful. The scenarios mostly hinge on lengthy scenes of leading lady Candice Rialson displaying her breasts, so it’s difficult to perceive higher aspirations beyond the leering. Concurrently, the dialogue (credited to three writers!) is so arch and obvious and stilted that that the film’s sociocultural elements receive clumsy treatment. The movie primarily expresses a theme of people trying to possess other people, and only the first vignette—with the hitchhikers and the little dog—has anything resembling surprises and subtext. Adding to the general blandness of Pets is lethargic pacing, which makes the movie feel much, much longer than its 103-minute running time. Still, those who can’t resist should be advised what awaits them. Rialson, though charming in other B-movies (such as 1977’s outrageous Chatterbox!) is largely decorative here, while swaggering costar Teri Guzman flits in and out of the picture too quickly. Occupying the showiest role is prolific film/TV actor Ed Bishop, who plays the perverse collector—his performance approaches camp but always seems a bit too reticent, even when he’s abusing Rialson’s character with a whip.

Pets: FUNKY 

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