Grindhouse Classics : “The Agony Of Love”

Posted: January 23, 2016 in movies
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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What the hell, I’m in the mood to crank out one more review of a Harry Novak-produced softcore sexploitationer, so let’s close this little week-long series out with probably my favorite of the bunch — 1966’s black-and-white smutfest The Agony Of Love. What sets this one apart from the rest of its well-populated — and sadly extinct — genre? Two words : Pat Barrington.

For those who may not be familiar with the name, Ms. Barrington, who passed away in 2014, was a true standout of sultry sensuality at a time when, let’s face it, just about any woman who was willing to take off all her clothes in front of the camera could find work on these sorts of productions. This was her first crack at a “leading” role, and while she certainly displays no real acting range to speak of, that actually suits the material perfectly, given that her character, Barbara Thomas, is a bored and unsatisfied (both emotionally and sexually) well-to-do housewife who takes to renting out an apartment and prostituting herself behind the back of her cold and distant husband, Barton (played by Sam Taylor) in a fun, but ultimately fruitless,  quest for fulfillment.  Her unnamed shrink (James Brand, working under the name of R.A. Silverberg to disguise the fact that he throws on a hairpiece and portrays one of her clients later in the film) knows all about her supposedly lurid fantasies, of course, but apart from that her secret desires — most of which are pretty tame by today’s standards apart from a truly bizarre food-themed scene — are only shared with those willing to pay for her services, who are more than happy to indulge her at every turn. As they damn well should be. You’ve honestly gotta wonder who’s getting more out of the exchange — her or them?

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Given that this is a pretty early entry into the sexploitation canon, plenty of “rules” of the genre are broken, given that they hadn’t even been established yet. For one thing, rather than a guy getting it on with a lot of different ladies, this one’s about a lady getting it on with a lot of different guys. For another, no one seems to have informed director William Rotsler that all he needs to do is point the camera and shoot, and so we actually are treated to a fair number of interesting and highly effective shots.  And lastly and perhaps most importantly, The Agony Of Love is one of the far-too-few skin flicks that understands that a plot is more than some throwaway device cobbled together to have some sort of plausible explanation for why everyone is fucking all the time and can instead be utilized to make all those sex scenes matter to viewers for reasons other than just getting their rocks off. In fact, one could even argue that Ms. Barrington is given an honest-to-goodness “character arc” here and that said sex scenes further it along.

As mentioned already, emoting isn’t really one of our leading lady’s skills, but she sure can do the “blank stare” look just fine, and given her character’s mental and emotional state throughout, it’s pretty easy to read those listless expressions as purposeful “far away, empty gazes” even if they’re simply signs of either supreme uninvolvement or, more likely, just good old-fashioned inability. It’s not too terribly often that a genuine lack of skill plays to someone’s strengths, limited as they may be, but that’s definitely the case here.

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And yeah — it sure doesn’t hurt that our gal Pat is shapely in the extreme, either. She’d later go on to appear in a number of roles more, shall we say, tailored towards her specific physical endowments, such as when she popped up (and popped her shirt off) in Russ Meyer’s Mondo Topless, but it’s to Rotsler’s credit that he treats her as more than just admittedly quite delicious eye candy here and trusts her enough to actually carry a picture while providing her with a script, which he also wrote, that puts her in a position to do precisely that.

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So, now that I’ve hopefully convinced you that The Agony Of Love is actually worth seeing, where can you find it? Why, on DVD from Something Weird Video, of course, who saw fit to pair it on a double-bill with the far-more-lackluster The Girl With The Hungry Eyes. Both films are presented, as you’d expect, full frame and with mono sound, and both actually look quite good. Extras are, primarily, the usual smorgasbord of Novak-related stills, promo art, and trailers, and there are a couple of thematically-and chronologically-relevant, but by and large dull, short loops included, as well. Probably only worth buying for the sake of the main feature, but hey — that alone definitely justifies the price of admission.

 

 

 

Comments
  1. Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

    Reblogged this on Through the Shattered Lens.

  2. Jingsee says:

    Sorry to hear of her passing. Yes, wow, what a figure she had. I’ve seen “The Agony of Love”… very strange.
    I tracked down “All The Way Down”, because of scenes w her. Good sleaze. IMDB lists other acting names for her as well.
    Despite her voluptuous appearance, there was a certain odd detachment about her in her roles(which you describe). I think she deserves a compilation Thanks for the post

  3. Victor De Leon says:

    Funny you reviewed this. Once at a screening of Friday the 13th and FT13th Part 2, they showed nothing but sleaze and sexploitation trailers and while I laughed and was in the glorious moment watching them, my kid was like: WTF???

    Never heard of this one though and never knew about Barrington. Cool post! Learned a few things here. Thanks!

    • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

      If I can educate just one person about the awesomeness of Pat Barrington, then my work is done! I can only imagine your kid’s reaction to a bunch of old-school sexploitation trailers, though!

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