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Kitten With a Whip (DVD Review)

1 Mar, 2010 By: Mike Clark

Available Now via Amazon.com CreateSpace
$19.98 DVD
Not rated.
Stars Ann-Margret, John Forsythe, Peter Brown, Richard Anderson.

We begin with the young Ann-Margret, clad in a prison nightie, threatened by angry dogs in a freight yard against a bongo-heavy musical score. Some movies were just born from the get-go to attain followings – though, of course, this time, the title helps.

For the actress’s first outing after co-starring with Elvis in the dually prototypical Viva Las Vegas, the babe who looked at least 22 when she played a teen in Bye Bye Birdie got uncharacteristically cast in a sociopathic role. Suggesting a j.d. who’s just rushed over from taping a Bob Hope special, this mixed-up/shook-up girl (to purloin the title of a pop hit that year) breaks into the San Diego home of a statewide political hopeful (John Forsythe) whose wife is out of town.

Now don’t misinterpret: Forsythe is basically on the up-and-up, though every once in a while (one of the few subtle things about the movie), he gets a glean in his eye that suggests he suspects there’s more to life than being one of those burgeoning California Reagan Republicans. At least that’s how he and his martini-swilling political cohort (Richard Anderson) come off. You don’t get the sense that this crew was supporting Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley the same year.

What follows suggests an episode of "Bachelor Father" (Forsythe’s first hit TV series) gone terribly wrong. Ann-Margret’s character (“Jody”) gradually takes over the joint in alternately kitten-ish and whipping-ish fashion, trying on the dresses of Forsythe’s missing wife and helping herself to the shampoo. Then, three of her cohorts show up for more in-house mayhem (straight-razor brandishing included), with one even garbed in a beret-jacket-tie combo (an odd touch).

Given its visual resemblance to one of Universal’s TV movies of the era, cinematographer Joseph Biroc occasionally paints a little “mood” with his black-and-white, though even downtown Tijuana (where the story ends up) looks like a studio set. Ann-Margret’s performance is so extreme that it ventures into camp-ville, yet the twisted star power she brings to it is the one reason the movie has a trash lover’s cult.

And whether it’s true or just someone’s dream, there’s a claim on IMDb.com that Lindsay Lohan is interested in doing a remake. Were this to become reality, you can almost hear one half of the movie-going country going to the other half: “Well, that had to happen.”

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