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December 9, 2016

Movie Review: Both Ways (1975)

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Directed By Jerry Douglas

Can you really have it …? Apparently not, as this sexually confused semi-hardcore film unearthed by Vinegar Syndrome illustrates.

Donald Wyman (the very unappealing Gerald Grant, from Radley Metzger’s Score) and his wife Janet (disco songstress Andrea True, soon to rocket to one-hit wonder stardom with the dance ditty “More, More, More”) live a nice sheltered suburban existence in Connecticut with their spastic young son (Neil Scott). It’s not all on the up and up; their next door neighbors (Bill Morgan and Darby Lloyd Rains) throw swingers’ parties and Grant has a muscular Yale college student Gary (Dean Tait) as his deeply closeted gay love interest. Donald and Janet play the field while their dried-up old prune of a maid Pauline (Katherine Miles) looks on with disapproval.

What to make of this? A lumbering 90-minute XXX feature with 10 minutes of hardcore sex, static scenes of Grant and True and later Tait giving theatrical dialogues standing nude in front of a mirror, lot and lots of filler with painfully dated background music … we all know that Donald will eventually get his for being unfaithful to his wife and kid, but when? After their housekeeper enlists the aid of a creepy antiques dealer, there is a murder involving a coffee mug (must have been an especially tough brand of ceramics!), intimations of blackmail – and then the whole thing just ends …

Its’ hard to ascertain who Both Ways was trying to reach. There’s nowhere near enough sex to appeal to the raincoat crowd – both straight and gay, and the actors try to give it their all in community theater fashion … but there is something lacking here. Plot points are introduced and then abandoned, and when it seems like the storyline is about to go somewhere, it just sputters to an unexpected close. It appears that director Jerry Douglas himself wanted it “both ways,” mixing low-grade soap opera situations with graphic sex to draw in the punters, but the project was ill-advised by the get-go. Straight porn audiences wouldn’t abide hardcore gay sex scenes, gay audiences would be put-off by all the straight fucking, and the acting and scripting wouldn’t appeal to mainstream audiences. Top this off with the fact that the movie itself is just BLAH as all get out and you have an ill-advised adventure into obscurity. (Straight couples in the late Eighties would experiment with bi-sexual porno features with the occasional male sex scene, but that trend petered out rather quickly.)

As if it comes as any surprise, the answer to the above referenced question is a resounding NO!

The Vinegar Syndrome release features an audio commentary by director Douglas, who, like a lot of people in this line of work comes off as thinking that he is more talented than he actually is. The inspiration for the film, Douglas says, came from a fling he had with a man who was likewise shuttling between his gay lover and wife and child finally found out after he – quite stupidly – put his lover’s car insurance under his own name!

The only other extra is the film’s theatrical trailer. Both Ways is definitely a curiosity piece, good for a few yucks from the audience.

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