ANYONE BUT MY HUSBAND (1975)

C.J. Laing is in a lather. Continually demeaned and berated by her philandering husband without any kind of conjugal respite, she is rooked into embarking on a tour of infidelity which proves to be as challenging and unrewarding than her home life. After a tryst with a well-meaning but far too serious paramour, Laing breaks the fourth wall to ask the immortal question “Aren’t there any sane men left in this world who just want a good lay?”

In Anyone But My Husband, Roberta Findlay’s charming comedy from 1975, the answer is mostly a resounding “no” but the old college try by which Laing endeavors to find out makes for a highly entertaining and well-crafted gambol which, per the cinema of Robert Findlay, ends up undermining her usual claim that she was no feminist. For if Anyone But My Husband proves anything it’s that most men exist on the outer poles of either being uncaring and abusive louts or much too earnest Care Bears who want to possess women both body and spirit. Or, in the case of Tony “The Hook” Perez (El Goncho), handling their physicality leaves one with a reconstituted gait and/or a sore throat.

In the film, Sam (Robert Kerman, billed as Robert Kerr; not to be confused with the late former senator from the great state of Oklahoma) won’t touch his wife, Nora (Laing), because, at 22, she’s too old for him. A high school history teacher, he sleeps with his students, actively making them pretend that they’re even younger than they actually are. Frustrated, Nora turns to her shrink who advises her to have an affair. She then embarks on a sexual odyssey with her in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-pound friend, Sylvia (Jennifer Jordan), which takes some entertaining and surprising turns.

It should probably be mentioned that this plot is not TOO terribly dissimilar from Mascara, which Findlay would make eight years later (with Ron Sullivan pinch hitting for the hardcore scenes). In that film, Lisa DeLeeuw becomes infatuated with a prostitute (Lee Carrol) who has been servicing her boss (Kerman, again) and, with Carrol playing the role of friend and mentor, DeLeeue goes down a rabbit hole of sexual perversion. In Anyone But My Husband, though, it’s played mostly for laughs and the chuckles that come are genuine.

Unlike De Leeuw, C.J. Laing is more presence than actress, an opinion about which she made few bones. But exotic, adventurous, and game for seemingly anything, she carved out a very unique place in porn where her name in the credits signaled a film that could range from grandiose to gritty. Robert Kerman plays a fantastic prick of a wayward husband, the first in a series of roles that were like a cottage industry to him. As was her general game plan, Jennifer Jordan commands every scene in which she appears. With a cigarette holder which she does not relinquish until the very last possible second before her sex scene with Perez, she predates the perpetually horny, upmarket character Juliet Anderson took over in the late 70’s and early 80’s by harnessing a flip, on-screen attitude with a clenched-jaw cantankerousness. And, to his credit, Perez showed up to party. Whatever hillside shack Findlay and company yanked him out of, he earned his paycheck and then some despite the dumb hillbilly cackling attributed to him on the soundtrack. And, true enough, his geometrically unique penis is worthy of its place in the third act, which is generally where you really put your big ticket items.

And, to this point, there’s also a “but wait, there’s more” structure to the third act of Anyone But My Husband as the Perez/Jordan scene is intercut with Laing and a fortune teller (Deeana Darby) which begins to introduce some friendly fisting just as the straight scene peters out. And even then, the action doesn’t stop and C.J. Laing ultimately proves that deep-throating Tony Perez is a much more cinematically interesting thing to witness than the same action by Linda Lovelace, who is actually referenced in the postscript of the scene. It’s really a marvelous construction of perversity and erotic filmmaking for Findlay who tacked between coy and disgusted when asked about the merits of such things.

Though she took her usual Robert Norman credit for the screenplay, production, and direction, the cinematography on the film is credited to Roberta Findlay. And, as she would in the majority of her films, Findlay proves herself a fantastic stylist. It’s not Radley Metzger but it wouldn’t be because, with Roberta Findlay, it’s a street thing. Showing an enormously gifted handle on movement and color, she allows quite a bit of detail pop off the screen. The sex scenes, almost always retroactively dismissed by Findlay regardless of the film in which they’re featured, are really good. Findlay’s use of the extreme close-up is a glimpse into her own intellectualizing of sex which is to blast it down to its most intimate details and rob it of its appeal but, really, who’s focusing on the fleshy weirdness that is sexual intercourse other than Roberta Findlay and David Cronenberg? Most of the time, Findlay simply parks the camera and lets the performers go and by employing this technique Findlay is able to find a whole lot of erotic value throughout the film, but most especially in C.J. Laing’s desperate yet fulfilling masturbatory moment on the bathroom sink as it performs the same kind of double duty Tara Chung’s post-homicide session of self-pleasure did in A Woman’s Torment.

Ultimately, Anyone But My Husband is a dizzy and hilarious soap opera crossed with a pretty hot geek show. The result is unique and completely within Roberta Findlay’s own cinematic universe where deep-throating Tony Perez, getting fisted by Deeana Darby, and sticking a live champagne bottle up a vagina (“the expensive stuff; you can tell by the plastic cork,” my wife observed) is all done in the pursuit of self discovery.

What can I say? Some folks take a wilder path than others.

(C) Copyright 2022, Patrick Crain

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