14 September 2014 | avenuesf
Strange but entertaining little film
I was pretty sure I'd seen all the "controversial" films produced in the 60's and 70's that really tested the MPAA's rating system, but this one I'd never heard of until now. It's a curious, low-budget effort about wife-swapping that received an X-rating upon its release. It has some clever, snappy dialog that at times almost takes us into a poor-man's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," territory, and the acting is actually pretty decent (most notably by Norman Alden, who you'll probably recognize as a well-known character actor). The plot revolves around a naive couple who join a group of wife-swappers one evening. The wife is initially shocked upon learning of the club's proclivities, but after realizing this is an attempt by her husband to cozy up to the wealthier members of the group in order to elevate their financial status, the story begins to take other turns. This was released the same year as the similarly-themed "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice," but ATLC takes the action farther. I can imagine all the T&A as well as the idea of wife-swapping was probably pretty eye-opening in 1969, but today it's pretty much just a curiosity.
There are some bizarre aspects to the film, however, that made it stand out for me. Every 15 minutes the film takes us to a poorly-staged "commercial" in which each performer advertises a household or grooming product; then the film continues as though we were watching a television show. I was unable to figure out just what the director was actually trying to say by doing this, and the effect is a little jarring to the film's continuity. It also tries to take a very liberal standpoint re: its topic, but then while the couples are indulging in their sport each male suddenly has a (overly long) black-and-white fantasy ranging from chasing/being chased by lingerie-clad women, trying to pull their own headstone out of the ground, or a menacing doppelganger watching his performance from outside the bedroom window... and at this point the film seems to take on a more moral and puritanical stance. I was able to find one more review to ATLC online, and learned that the film was reportedly helmed by a "swinger" himself. It's unclear just what his moral stance on the lifestyle was as the film seems to swing back and forth.
I would recommend this to anyone as kind of a time capsule of the 60's-70's sexual revolution, and I can't say I ever got bored by it. For a low-budget film of that period I thought it actually displayed some good performances and a well-written script. I can't recommend the commercials or the black-and-white fantasy scenes, however.