Anthony Spinelli – Expectations (1977)
Wealthy socialite Margo yearns for a change in her life in the wake of a divorce. Bored and unhappy, Margo decides to swap lives with free-spirited swinger Montana. However, things ultimately don’t go as planned after Montana becomes involved with Margo’s creepy brother Vincent.
Trust adult’s most accomplished “auteur”, the late great “Anthony Spinelli” a/k/a Sam Weston (né Samuel Weinstein and brother of beloved comedian Jack), to point out the pitfalls in a hypothetical only-in-the-movies situation mainstream traditionally mines for laughs : two people from very different walks of life switching places willingly or otherwise. Call this a carnal cautionary tale if you will, pausing to reflect on the potential downside to an arrangement few if any among us are unlikely to encounter in real life. Historically, EXPECTATIONS slots nicely into the slew of modestly mounted chamber piece sex dramas, focused on a mere handful of expertly explored characters, Sam shot throughout the ’70s. These saw him resorting to pseudonyms like “Leonard Burke” on THE FIRST TIME and CONFESSIONS OF A WOMAN or “Wes Brown” on the one two knockout sucker punch of PORTRAIT OF SEDUCTION and THE SEDUCTION OF LYN CARTER. Here, he’s “Arvid Beller” and taking an apparently retrograde step although he had already hit the proverbial big time with the comparatively more lavish likes of EASY and SEX WORLD. The latter provided the genesis for this laudable little sleeper by the way, as the director had been so impressed with alluring amazon Cris Cassidy (“Suzette Holland” at the time) – briefly appearing as Annette Haven’s leaving lover – that he rushed to come up with a star vehicle for the actress.
Splitting leading lady duties, Cassidy’s free lovin’ hippie chick Montana to demure Delania Raffino’s slumming socialite Margo, disillusioned since divorce put an end to her sexually frustrating marriage as she confides in a letter to unseen best friend Lyn, Carter perhaps, instigating an intriguing link between Weston’s miniature scale psychological potboilers. An ad in the classifieds throws the women together but who will come out the worse for wear ? Margo as Montana has to contend with her alter ego’s steady stream of casual sex partners who are never more than a phone call away, her favorite bit o’rough Joey Donovan (Joey Silvera) turning up unannounced as menace melts into liquid lust. On the other hand, Montana as Margo seems to have drawn the short straw when faced with Margo’s psycho bro’ Vincent, another stellar turn from the ever dependable Jack Wright. At the risk of short-circuiting the whole set-up, Montana throws him for a loop by coming on to him completely in character as his sister, prefiguring the sort of sublimated incest fantasy Sam would further explore in HOTLINE and VISTA VALLEY PTA. Montana’s innate skill at adapting herself to unforeseen circumstances mark her out as the puppeteer in the women’s symbiotic relationship, cruelly calling on Margo to inform her that she has just bedded her brother ! Understandably distraught, Margo turns up on her doorstep to call of the game, only to have the door slammed in her face. Realizing she has lost a battle unknowingly entered into, Margo submits to Montana’s every whim, receiving a Sapphic introduction at the experienced hands of gal pal Jenny, portrayed with customary casual elegance by gorgeous black actress Desiree West, to pave the way for Montana’s vampirically draining her of the last vestiges of resistance and free will at film’s haunting climax. Interpreted either literally or metaphorically, the major downer outcome remains the same.
Anticipating the couples film phenomenon at a time when porn was still primarily occupied with the hydraulics of male sexual performance, the customary cum shot testifying as “evidence” of documented “reality”, EXPECTATIONS exhaustively pays heed to its far more elusive counterpart in female erotic pleasure, all but invisible to the naked eye. Movie opens on one of the most sensuous scenes ever recorded in adult as Margo’s made love to by an unnamed man (stalwart Blair Harris) who’s perhaps emblematic of all men – presumably not her ex-husband with whom she never attained connubial bliss as she informs Lyn in voice-over – as discreetly employed optical tricks alert audiences to the assumed imaginary nature of the encounter. Even Silvera’s (initial) aggressive nastiness only serves as a Trojan horse to enforce Margo to accept those pleasurable physical sensations she has thus far for whatever reason denied herself. Shot by the same technical team Sam had on most of his few day wonders, their low key creativity shows a marked improvement over earlier collaborations, attesting to what had clearly become well-oiled production machinery by this stage of their mutual acquaintance.
As befits the industry’s consummate actor’s director, the uniformly excellent six person cast proves the movie’s trump card. Cassidy compensates for the occasional shaky line reading with a voracious sexuality that would serve her well throughout an on again, off again career that would grow to span two decades. As a trivia note, still looking for an alias that would stick, she was billed under her character name here of “Montana” on her subsequent big breakthrough in Bob Chinn’s CANDY STRIPERS. Credited as “Barbara Bills” on at least half of a dozen or so performances, smoldering dark-haired beauty Delania Raffino remains something of a mystery whose disinterest in the pursuit of carnal cinematic greatness can be the sole explanation of her status as industry footnote instead of icon. A personable presence in both Alex de Renzy’s minor SUMMER HEAT and Charles De Santos’s baffling EXTREME CLOSE-UP, she rarely attained the heights of audience empathy she did under Spinelli’s patient tutelage. Character actor Jack Wright did most of his limited yet distinguished adult work for Sam, with the occasional sidestep for Alan B. Colberg on ONE WAY AT A TIME and NAKED AFTERNOON, and was rumored to abstain from any “active” involvement. Though he definitely did perform with Jesie St. James in EASY, fragmented editing suggests that he probably was “stunt cocked” on this occasion.