Claudia, Cults and Collective Couplings – Rediscovering ‘Group Marriage’ (US 1973 – 90 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - June 04, 2014
Claudia, Cults and Collective Couplings – Rediscovering ‘Group Marriage’ (US 1973 – 90 mins)

The fun little sex comedy ‘Group Marriage’ is one of the more obscure titles to emerge from the busy period of Drive-in fare. It has a more tongue-in-cheek feel to it than other similar exploitation movies, and breezes along at a nice pace. It also stars a trio of beautiful female leads; Claudia Jennings, Victoria Vetri and Aimée Eccles.

Currently having relationship problems with her boyfriend Sandor, Chris (Aimée Eccles) has an affair with a parole officer who subsequently invites the troubled couple to dinner with his ex-girlfriend Jan (Victoria Vetri). Later, while at the beach, Jan meets a handsome lifeguard who later sleeps with Chris and moves in with the other five. When Elaine (Claudia Jennings), a lawyer enters the scene, this newly formed “group marriage” soon invites attention from the media.

Cult queen Claudia Jennings had the smaller role here, but would later become the bigger name of the three ladies. A second lead up until this point, Claudia would soon have starring roles in cult flicks ‘Gator Bait’ and the excellent ‘Truck Stop Women’ (both ’74). The career of Playboy playmate Victoria Vetri declined rapidly after this movie, and later run-ins with the law and various domestic problems, halted her career entirely. Remembered mainly for her work in ‘When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth’ (’70) and ‘Invasion of the Bee Girls’ (’73), Vetri remains a favourite with genre fans worldwide.

Stunningly attractive Aimée Eccles had her biggest and best role here. Appearing in a handful of cult movies in her career, she is mostly remembered for her performance as the ill-fated Sunshine in ‘Little Big Man’ (’70). Hong Kong born Eccles also popped up in the excellent Rock Hudson black comedy ‘Pretty Maids All in a Row’, and unfortunately she was almost cut entirely from the superb gritty western ‘Ulzana’s Raid’ (’72), as Burt Lancaster’s Indian woman. After a few more B-movies, Eccles would later appear as Spider in the trashy ‘Women-In-Prison’ flick; ‘The Concrete Jungle’ (’82), with Jill St. John, before retiring altogether three years later.

‘Group Marriage’ was capably directed by independent film-maker Stephanie Rothman, who also made the early Tom Selleck actioner ‘Terminal Island’ (’73), and the cult drama ‘Working Girls’ (’74), starring a young Cassandra ‘Elvira’ Peterson. The male cast members included Solomon Sturges, the eldest son of maverick director Preston, as Eccles boyfriend Sandor, and actor and anti-drug campaigner Jeff Pomerantz, as Dennis the parole officer. Former Miss USA semi-finalist Jayne Kennedy also has a prominent role as Eccles work colleague.

As with most grindhouse pictures, the acting here is of varying quality. Victoria Vetri is surprisingly good and both Eccles and Jennings are given strong female roles to play. There is the inclusion of a gay couple, but this is portrayed pretty clumsily. The script is only so-so and, although it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it does have things to say, with monogamy and pregnancy issues being sensitively handled.

An exploitation quickie which holds up rather well, ‘Group Marriage’ is a humorous attempt at a subject which was far more prevalent at the time. Featuring likable leads and plenty of bedroom-hopping scenes (including a 4-way nod to ‘Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice’), it remains one of the better titles from an over-populated field.

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