Saturday, November 10, 2007

No. 35 - The Wild Party

The Wild Party is the surreal shotgun marriage between arty Merchant/Ivory Productions and Samuel Z. Arkoff's American International Pictures. AIP, as it was fondly known, specialized in drive-in exploitation fare, with heavy portions of violence and nudity thrown in.

Director James Ivory has subsequently directed more genteel period pieces, such as Remains of the Day. In The Wild Party, Ivory re-creates the decadent Hollywood of the late 20's. A Fatty Arbuckle-esque performer, Jolly Grimm (James Coco), throws a lavish party at his estate in order to screen his latest silent comedy feature. Unfortunately, sound pictures have arrived, and made Grimm an instant anachronism.

Grimm's wife Queenie (played by the ultimate 70's sex symbol, Raquel Welch) hosts the party, which goes awry with the arrival of a Valentino-esque matinee idol, Dale Sword (Perry King, who also starred in the 70's camp classic Mandingo). When Dale seduces Queenie, murder is in store.

There is camp value aplenty in this unheralded classic from 1975. Raquel Welch shows off her singing and dancing chops in the elaborately staged musical numbers, with a score of original songs. Ivory supplies the requisite AIP nudity and violence, along with his attentive eye for period details in the decor and costuming. There is also the air of pure 70's decadence hovering over the entire enterprise, a sense of doom at the end of the orgy.

In the 90's, two Broadway musicals were staged using the same source material, a long narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March. Both productions flopped.

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