Judge Tom Becker believes all housewives should have a hobby, even if that hobby is other housewives.
The tragedy of today's lonely housewife!
Denise (Elizabeth Plumb, The Psycho Lover) and Adria (Alisa Courtney) are bored middle-class housewives, neglected by their on-the-road, government-worker husbands. After a chance encounter with a pair of dewy-eyed lesbians at an outdoor café, our girls start looking at each other in a different light. After a sleepover turns Sapphic, our ladies are lonely no more, and they begin doing things that all lesbians do, like riding merry-go-rounds and playing miniature golf. Unfortunately, Adria's lust becomes wanderlust when she meets a hunky (in that '70's way) actor. But the dour Denise still has a thirst that needs to be quenched.
By 1975, lesbians were a provocative, but no longer really hot-button, topic for movies. Audiences had already been offered serious fare such as The Killing of Sister George and The Fox, and lesbians as punch lines in films such as X, Y, and Zee, Cleopatra Jones, and Once Is Not Enough. Ironically (or maybe, understandably), the soft-core antics by filmmakers like Radley Metzger and Joe Sarno, while more sensational, were far less judgmental than their more "respectable" counterparts.
"Respectable" is also not the word that leaps to mind when talking about Harry H. Novak, prolific producer of sleaze cinema. Although it's a Novak-produced film, Just the Two of Us is neither sleazy nor sick (unless you're offended by women in polyester muumuus sitting around garishly decorated homes—or if that whole infidelity thing bothers you). Compared to the typical Box Office International production, this one is positively chaste. There is a notable lack of nudity, and what is there is in service of the story. The acting is pretty good, and both the characters and the themes are treated sensitively. In an early scene, Denise, Adria, and two other lonely housewives meet for a bridge game. Adria wears a revealing dress that shocks her friends, but Denise finds it "wild." A discussion of lesbianism comes up when our heroines tell their friends about seeing the girls at the café. It's a good little scene, where characters weigh in with views that are not enlightened but sound right coming from suburban housewives in 1975. When one character refers to homosexuality as a mental illness, Denise explains that her college psychology professor didn't see it that way and there are a lot of behaviors that might not be considered "normal," all the while furtively glancing at Adria's heaving bosom. Later, when they "consummate" their relationship, the scene is played tender and romantic, bathed in shadows.
Clearly, this one was not made for the raincoat crowd, and a four-page glossy "press book" included with the disc shows us how far from the grindhouse Novak was aiming. The film was submitted to the MPAA for rating and received an R, meaning it was not limited as to where it was advertised and shown. There were two suggested ad campaigns, one playing up the steamy-erotic angle (featuring two actresses who aren't in the movie), the other more text-heavy and tasteful. It also lists a running time of 92 minutes (the DVD is 75 minutes) and hawks a trailer and radio and TV spots. The press book is a really neat addition.
Unfortunately, it's the only extra to be found. There is nothing on this disc other than the movie. I mean, nothing: no scene selections (though the film is broken into nine chapters), no stills, no trailer, no set-up options, zip, other than the film. I can understand that an obscure, low-budget movie made over 30 years ago might not yield a wealth of material, but is there no one who might want to say a few words? I believe Novak is still with us, and John Aprea (who plays Adria's boy toy) is still working, according to IMDb; plus the film was screened at Outfest a couple of years ago. Maybe they could have snagged a few words from the curator? And if the trailer for the film was gone, surely there are other Novak trailers. It's just somehow demoralizing to plunk down $19.99 for a DVD and be greeted by a menu screen that doesn't offer a menu. Why not just go straight to the movie and skip the menu screen altogether?
As far as the print, well, both the box and text at the beginning of the DVD warn us that it's pretty bad shape, and they're not kidding. Nicks and scratches abound, though in fairness, I've seen worse. Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, but with the overmodulating and scenes where the music makes the dialogue hard to hear, it doesn't seem that there was any restoration on this part either.
Speaking of the box, it makes no mention of Harry Novak, but does cite David Novak as the writer and David Nova as the producer; unfortunately, both those jobs were filled by David Novik. Jaques Deerson, the co-director and cinematographer, is listed as Jaque Beerson (a name he did use, but not here). Some cast members' names are also misspelled, and how this soapy tale of the suburbs can be called "A Pulp Fiction Novel Come to Life!" is beyond me.
(For better words than I can provide on Mr. Novak, check out some of the reviews by esteemed Judge Bill Gibron on Novak films from Something Weird Video, including The Dirty Mind of Young Sally, The Secret Sex Lives of Romeo and Juliet, and Kiss Me Quick. When it comes to alternative cinema, Judge Gibron's knowledge puts me to shame.)
With its fleshed-out characters and story instead of fleshed-up sex and nudity, Just the Two of Us is not only not guilty, it's downright innocent. Wolfe Video, on the other hand, is guilty of giving us a sloppily packaged product with no extras on the disc, and is sentenced to six months of watching special editions from Something Weird, so they can learn how to put together a package worthy of the film.
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• Mini Vintage Press Booklet (insert)
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