May 24, 2014
Long before becoming an auteur of ostensibly classy softcore flicks like Two Moon Junction (1988) and Wild Orchid (1989), Zalman King (who was born Zalman King Lefkowitz, but decided to change his name when he started acting so as to obscure his Hebraic background) starred in a true lost gem of a film entitled Some Call It Loving (1973) aka Sleeping Beauty aka Dream Castle directed by James B. Harris (The Bedford Incident, Fast-Walking) that would teach him everything he needed to know about creating aesthetically pleasing and orgasmically oneiric works of celluloid erotica. Directed by a little known sometimes filmmaker who is probably best known nowadays for being the producer of early black-and-white Stanley Kubrick films like The Killing (1956) and Paths of Glory (1957), Some Call It Loving was apparently dreamed up by Harris while he was working on Lolita (1962), although it would take over a decade before the film started production, so one can only assume it was a dream project of sorts for its director. Based on the short story Sleeping Beauty by John Collier—a British writer/screenwriter whose works were adapted for a number of popular horror-themed TV series, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, and Tales of the Unexpected—Some Call It loving is a decidedly dark and even disconcerting yet elegnant aesthetically exquisite romance of the dream-logic-oriented sort that falls somewhere between a Gothic Hitchcockian melodrama and the arthouse realm as a sort of anti-fairytale for adults and Last Year at Marienbad (1961) for people that cannot stomach French intellectual twaddle. Although virtually completely unknown today and totally unavailable in home media format, the film has been lauded by a number of highly respected film critics, including Jonathan Rosenbaum, who stated of the work in his classic text Midnight Movies (1983): “James B. Harris’s neglected and all but unknown SOME CALL IT LOVING, based on a John Collier story, “Sleeping Beauty”—a movie about the processes and consequences of erotic dreaming, with a swell score and a great early performance by Richard Pryor—would make a perfect midnight attraction. Like many other rare gems, it might even develop a cult, if given half an opportunity.” Of course, the film was never given a chance and remains just as obscure today as it was when it was first released over four decades ago. While Some Call It Loving was such a hit in Europa upon its release that director James B. Harris was invited to attend the quite honorable "Directors Fortnight" at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival and present the film, Some Call It Loving was naturally trashed by philistine critics in the United States and received next to no release in American theaters, hence the work’s undeserved obscurity. A work that apparently was an influence on Eyes Wide Shut (1999) and, in my less than humble opinion, is infinitely more interesting than Kubrick’s somewhat similarly themed work Lolita, Some Call It Loving is a (non)love story in quasi-fetishistic filmic fairytale form that was made for those individuals that have who have fallen in love, only to be demystified of such illusions when reality appeared in its typically ruthless fashion. Indeed, if you plan to watch the film so you can wank off to Tisa Farrow's tits, you might be in for a rude awakening and/or a ruined orgasm.
Robert Troy (Zalman King) is all by his lonesome at a carnival and finds himself enticed by an attraction advertising a ‘Sleeping Beauty’ of sorts. Indeed, a carny ‘Carnival Doctor’ (Logan Ramsey) claims that the sleeping beauty in question, Jennifer (Played by Mia Farrow’s much more attractive, if not less talented, sister Tisa Farrow) has been supposedly asleep for 8 years. For one single dollar, patrons can attempt to awaken the slumbering angelic beauty with a big juicy kiss, but as the good Carnival Doctor warns, “To wake the Sleeping Beauty, you run the risk of being awakened yourself.” The Sleeping Beauty certainly awakens something in Robert, as he offers the carny Doctor $20,000 on the spot for the living carnival attraction after spending some private time with her and realizing that he has more or less fell in love with her at first sight (when Robert initially asks the Carny to see the Sleeping Beauty in private, the Doc yells at him for making such a ‘moral proposition’, but when he offers him $50, that all changes, with the sleazy flesh-peddler saying he can do whatever he wants with her, “no questions asked”). Robert brings Jennifer aka ‘Sleeping Beauty’ home in a hearse and immediately tells his two girlfriends, Scarlett (British actress Carol White) and Angelica (Veronica Anderson), who are making love together in bed, that he has acquired a real live Sleeping Beauty and he plans to wake her up, as if that is an everyday occurrence. Indeed, Robert, who is a saxophone player in a degenerate jazz band, lives in a baroque mansion where he is in ménage à trios of sorts, but now the only thing he can think of is Jennifer, even though he knows nothing about her aside from the fact that thousands upon thousands of horny men have defiled her body over the past 8 years or so. Although he lives a life of luxury in a majestic mansion that seems like it was taken straight out of a classic storybook, Robert’s only friend is a belligerent negro wino named Jeff (portrayed by Richard Pryor in a rather humorous, if not superlatively self-degrading role), who enjoys drawing hearts over urinals and whose liver is about to explode. Despite the fact that Robert does everything he can for Jeff, the jigaboo dipsomaniac is an ingrate, even making the following complaint after his friend attempts to give him a ride home: “I’m a man now, you wanna get down? Because you help me with some bills and took me to the doctor, I owe you something?! Huh, nigga?!”
Needless to say, when Sleeping Beauty finally wakes up and says “hello,” Robert is in pure heaven and he immediately treats his new dream lover to an extravagant tap dance routine that is performed with pure Sapphic passion by Scarlett and Angelica. More than anything, Robert is deeply enamored with Jennifer’s childlike innocence and purity, as if she is indeed a real living and breathing undefiled dame from a fairytale. To humor her curious childlike ways, Robert plays hide-and-go-seek with Jennifer around the mansion, though she has a somewhat hard time playing due to the fact that she is confined to a wheelchair as her legs are quite weak from being immobile for 8 years. Meanwhile, Scarlett and Angelica play erotically-charged role-playing games around the house, including pretending to be nuns in a monastery and a master-and-slave scenario (not only is Scarlett the master of the game, but she is also the real master of the house). Since Scarlett is in charge, everyone does what she says, including Robert, who is a sort of unofficial cuckold, though he is getting tired of the lifestyle. When Robert introduces Jennifer to Jeff, the black bum, who is like a virtual walking-and-talking minstrel show, makes a joke that the little lady is ‘passing’ for white and that she is a Siamese twin who “used to be connected to a black chick because you’re black and tan.” Over time, Robert begins calling Jennifer his little “jellybean” and even tells her that he loves her. Jennifer then reveals that she feels like “It’s like a dream…like I’m not completely awake yet” and reveals to Robert how she was kissed and molested by countless old dirty men when she was asleep. Coming to the conclusion that Jennifer thinks he is someone that he is not and that he wants to do everything he can to preserve her purity and their relationship, Robert decides that he and his beloved will move out of the mansion, but when he tells queen bitch Scarlett about his plans, she makes the following typically female passive aggressive threat: “I don’t want to lose you Robert, so whatever it is I have to do to keep you here…I’m going to do it.” Of course, Robert ends up staying and Scarlett begins incorporating Jennifer in her perverted role-playing games, including a scenario where they trick the Jazz musician into thinking their engaging in lurid lesbo sex. Bummed out, Robert talks to Jeff, even telling the black bum he envies him because nothing surprises him, remarking: “you’re not surprised if you piss your pants or don’t piss at all. You wake up in the gutter instead of your bed…that doesn’t surprise you either. In fact, you wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t even wake up at all one morning, would you? You want to know why you wouldn’t be surprised?...Because you don’t have any choice and that’s why I envy you.” Needless to say, Jeff drops dead one day and Robert and his girlfriends are the only ones who attend his funeral. In a pathetic attempt to get over his fanatical obsession with Jennifer, Robert pays a barmaid a wad of cash to pretend to be a cheerleader and do some naughty naked cheers for him, but she does not exactly cheer him up and he walks out of the bar mid-performance. Ultimately, Robert gives up on love and decides to make Jennifer a sleeping beauty again by slipping something into her wine (the carny who sold her to him revealed he kept her asleep with some sort of liquid medication). Ironically, in the end, Robert becomes just like the sleazy ‘Carnival Doctor’ who sold Jennifer to him, offering strangers the chance to wake her up with a kiss, but warning them: “To wake the Sleeping Beauty, you run the risk of being awakened yourself.”
Undoubtedly, I could relate to Some Call It Loving protagonist Robert to some degree, especially in regard to his concern that the untainted Sleeping Beauty has no idea what kind of person he really is, as his love and infatuation has caused him to act in a manner that he never thought he was capable of, hence the warning from the Carny: “To wake the Sleeping Beauty, you run the risk of being awakened yourself.” I have certainly fallen in love with a girl before that was so blinded by her love for me that she chose to see what she wanted to see and ignored the rest, only to eventually have the spell broken and come to her senses in the end. Indeed, with the film’s inclusion of the Nat King Cole song “The Very Thought of You,” Some Call It Loving lets the viewer known in a somewhat esoteric way how love, or even an obsession with the idea of love, can make a person do innately irrational things that they would never fathom doing had they not been intoxicated with amore. Like a more romantic and less autistic David Lynch flick meets a post-counter-culture take on The Twilight Zone, Some Call It Loving is certainly a singular piece of celluloid that is begging to be unearthed. A sophisticated and rarely silly adult fairytale that will appeal to casualties of love that is never sentimental or heavy-handed, Some Call It Loving is like a nostalgic film for the anti-nostalgic, as a work that reminds one what it feels like to be in love, but then smacks the viewer across the face with the bitter and soul-draining conclusion that comes with lost love. Needless to say, I have no desire to wake up a Sleeping Beauty and if I need a reminder why, I can just re-watch Some Calling It Loving and be also reminded why Kubrick’s relatively unknown producer should have probably been the one who directed Lolita.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 12:48 AM
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