Harry Flowers (Jeff Bridges) married the boss's daughter, and began his climb up the corporate ladder that way, but there's a problem: the boss, Mr Elliott (Ned Beatty) thinks he's a loser, and his wife, Sarah (Belinda Bauer) is utterly self-obsessed to the point where she'd rather spend time with her own reflection than look at him. What can Harry do to improve his situation? He feels they have a point, after all, and his coworkers have no respect for him in the financial corporation he works for, but he's not quite the idiot they think he is, because he is a man with a plan...
And that plan is to solve his issues by pretending to be someone else, in a film which had about as much luck as director William Richert's Winter Kills, which he was supposed to be completing when he got together with Larry Cohen to make this Munich-based production while they sorted out the deals with the then-unfinished first effort. As if that wasn't bad enough, The American Success Company went through a chequered career thereafter, barely seen and when it was presented under alternate titles and even alternate versions, leaving quite what the definitive edit was intended to be very much a matter of which you could actually track down.
Of course, this left whatever one you saw something of a cult movie seeing as how it starred a few big names and its offbeat qualities were what aficionados of such works responded to, helping that one of those stars was a leading man who pretty much spent most of his career devoted to cult movies, even when he didn't mean to. Jeff Bridges was that man, once more displaying his keen ability for choosing projects which did his profile no harm with the public, but only a smaller percentage of them would likely seek out, especially at this stage in his career where his filmography was a catalogue of titles with minor but devoted followings. As for Richert, this star was ideal for his work.
Though Richert ended up making far less impact on the movie world than Bridges ever did, he did leave a handful of efforts which never quite lived up to the promise of his first two; Winter Kills was a weirdo satire of the American way of assassination and went on to be his best known, but this one had a satirical intention as well. The idea that to get on in life you had to be a macho man, as ruthless in the boardroom as you were in the bedroom, was sent up here, though so deadpan that it was easy to miss the joke because rather than Harry seeing this way of life as a sham, it actually plays out very well for him. There were hints this was a fairy tale in modern day dress, and it certainly proceeded as not being quite real without lapsing into outright fantasy.
Harry's new identity is Mac, who would not suffer fools like his alter ego gladly, but would concoct a scam of his father-in-law's business and then be independently wealthy enough to woo his wife all over again, but this time she will actually notice him rather than treat him as one of her accessories. He is inspired by a wolfish executive and man about town he often sees when out with Sarah, seeking to emulate his style though first he must establish Harry and Mac are two different people. Once colleague John Glover spots him at a night club and is convinced (Mac threatens to beat him up which Harry would never do), the stage is set for physical and mental improvement, as he exercises and gets lessons in sexual technique from a prostitute (played by Bianca Jagger of all people, in see-through underwear), then sets up the financial side of it at work using alligator shoes. If this is sounding seriously random, imagine what it's like to watch, with Mac's obnoxiousness hard to take even when Harry's decency shines through. Odd, insubstantial, but interesting. Music by Maurice Jarre.
American director, screenwriter and actor who began in documentaries such as Derby and A Dancer's Life, before moving on to fiction features, co-writing Law and Disorder and The Happy Hooker and making his directorial debut with the cult favourite Winter Kills. That film suffered such a troubled production that Richert and some of the cast and crew had to make another film, the equally strange American Success Company, to finance the funding of Winter Kills and get it finished. Richert also directed A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon and The Man in the Iron Mask, and co-starred in My Own Private Idaho.