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SANDRA, THE MAKING OF A WOMAN (1970).

Around the same time that Gary Graver was first getting tight with Orson Welles -- shooting unfinished projects such as THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND and LONDON -- he also cranked out this surprisingly-energetic, coming-of-age sexploitation. Although loaded with the requisite sexcapades, you get the feeling that director/editor/photographer Graver was also striving for a modicum of cut-rate reality, while his high-octane cinematic savvy graces the most generic horseshit with radical energy and imagination. Best of all, this sexplosion has Monica Gayle baring it all in the title role, several years before popping up as "Patch" in Jack Hill's seminal SWITCHBLADE SISTERS. For this early gig, she's got dirty blonde hair and plays a 19-year-old rural babe who gets fed-up with her emotional wreck of a Dad; who slaps her around and guzzles cheap hooch by the glassful. Tossing her virginity away to some local pinhead (who instantly wants to marry her), she then hitches her way to San Francisco, with the aid of a fetishistic lingerie salesman. On her own for the first time, a biker feels her up in a movie theatre, she's hit on by her lesbian landlord, and she gets a job as a horny psychiatrist's receptionist. Of course, since Sandra craves sex as badly as they do, it all works out fine... It's usually a waste of time to mention acting when it comes to early sex-pics, but in this instance, Gayle is actually good as the down-trodden country gal, who dumps her repressed home town in order to 'find herself' in the Big City. Don't confuse this with some type of feminist tract though, because most of the time Sandra is flat on her back, with some nameless dick inside of her. In addition, what makes Gayle so enticing is that she looks and acts like a real person -- not like today's surgically-enhanced lab experiments, passing themselves off as sex-starlets. The script also gets points for not viewing Sandra as a slutty nympho. Instead, she's just an average girl learning to enjoy life and love (while all the local guys queue up around her bed). But its Graver's style-to-burn which makes this film a treat. Whether it's his witty editing (Sandra masturbating in bed, intercut with her liquor-blinded dad driving off a cliff), or his overwrought camerawork, which does anything to embellish the tepid sex sequences. This is a prime example of a talented filmmaker doing his damnedest to turn a sow's ear into a slightly more artistic sow's ear. Happily, he succeeded.

© 1996 by Steven Puchalski.