Code Red // 1973 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // February 28th, 2011
The possibilities go on...and on...and on...and on.
Chris (Aimee Eccles, Pretty Maids All in a Row) lives with Sanders (Solomon Sturges, The Working Girls). One day, she meets Dennis (Jeff Pomerantz, Savage Weekend) and decides she likes him, so they sleep together. Since Chris and Sanders are a hip couple, this bothers him only moderately. To make things right, Jeff invites his girlfriend, Jen (Victoria Vetri, Rosemary's Baby) to sleep with Sanders. The four move into the ridiculously huge home where Chris and Sanders live.
At the beach, Chris meets hunky lifeguard Phil (Zack Taylor, The Young Nurses) and invites him to join the quartet. Since this makes for a lopsided group, Phil decides to find a woman to even things out and meets the beautiful Elaine (Claudia Jennings, The Great Texas Dynamite Chase), a lawyer. Soon, they are all living together as one big, happy family. Can this Group Marriage last, or is a gang divorce just around the corner?
Stephanie Rothman was a pioneer of mainstream exploitation, one of the first women to be associated with the genre (unlike, say, Doris Wishman or Roberta Findlay, whose films were more underground). She directed The Student Nurses for Roger Corman, the first of the "Nurses/Teachers" drive-in mainstays of the '70s. Rothman's films featured comparatively well-developed, empowered female characters who spent a fair amount of time naked.
Rothman liked to inject social commentary into her films, and it's certainly evident here. "Stick it to the man" is an overriding theme, and our free lovers find themselves under attack from hoodlums who object to their lifestyle. In addition to our sextet, we're also given a pair of gay neighbors whose portrayal comes uncomfortably close to stereotype, but who have a happier ending than many contemporary gay couples. The women are overall portrayed as positive and stronger than the men (one is a mechanical whiz, another is a lawyer), and the idea of two-person marriage and sexual monogamy as antiquated conventions is presented with a heavy-handed but comparatively well-reasoned argument.
But Group Marriage isn't a social tract, it's an exploitation film, and it's only marginally successful. The script is daring in a self-conscious way, and most of the jokes seem to come out of a racy '70s sitcom. It's bright and bouncy, with John Sebastian's "Darling Companion" used as its main theme, and it's certainly a product of its time. Nudity is pretty much limited to Vetri, and the great Jennings doesn't get nearly enough screen time. The film is intermittently charming and occasionally funny, but mainly it's a relic.
Code Red is releasing this film and Rothman's The Working Girls within days of each other, and I was hoping that the company would do for Rothman what they did for Fred Williamson in 2010 when they released Death Journey and Mean Johnny Barrows: present these as special editions with director's commentary, interviews, and the like. Unfortunately, that's not the case. While The Working Girls is reported to include an interview with one of the actresses, Group Marriage is bare bones, save for the film's trailer and the usual Code Red trailer vault. Since the CR Web site says that Rothman supervised the transfer, it's a shame they didn't (couldn't?) get her to contribute some supplemental material. The transfer itself is in only reasonable shape, with plenty of scratches and nicks, and the audio is, at best, serviceable.
Neither a great movie nor a great disc, Group Marriage is an amusing curio.
I now pronounce you not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Code Red
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Rated R