Wealthy jazz musician Robert Troy (Zalman King) likes his games, such as pretending his live in guardian Scarlett (Carol White) is a widow who he wants to seduce, but what if there was one woman he could actually enjoy a normal, loving relationship with, not getting Scarlett and her girlfriend Angelica (Veronica Anderson) to dress up as high kicking nuns, for example? He may have stumbled across the very person when he takes a visit to the carnival and finds an exhibit named Sleeping Beauty, where as the barker explains, a young woman lies unable to be woken by anyone, although if you have a dollar you can buy a kiss on the lips to try. Robert is so intrigued that he knows immediately he must have her at all costs…
At the cost of twenty-thousand dollars anyway, and so begins one of the strangest, most uncomfortably dreamlike dramas of the nineteen-seventies. But not nightmarish, for this was not a horror movie, it was more of a fantasy that spun off into its own concerns about gameplaying and how your ideal woman may be right for you, but you may not be right for your ideal woman. Throughout it all was a preoccupation with performance, with putting on a show that will mask your true feelings or even personality, something to get through life that director James B. Harris, who by this stage had a lot of experience making films, would be all too aware of since he worked with actors and those around them often. However, this did create a gulf between audience and artist.
One that you may not care to bridge given how creepily off-kilter the Robert character came across, unable to relate to other people unless they’re performing for him somehow, so when he buys the Sleeping Beauty from the carnival huckster it’s not enough to wake her with a kiss. Indeed, to wake her he must stop feeding her the “medicine” that prolongs her coma, and soon Jennifer (Tisa Farrow) is back in the land of the living. Well, some call it living, and some call it loving, but is it really? Harris drew inspiration from a short story by John Collier, one of most distinctively eccentric horror and fantasy authors of his time, and in that source it was the Beauty who was the problem, but the director this time around found his sympathies fully with the poor, exploited Jennifer.
She’s not simply exploited by Robert, she is manipulated by Scarlett too, bringing her into the fold with some weird poses and conceits she and the shaven-headed Angelica are as much part of as their housemate (and what a mansion it was, with a sea view and clement weather). The whole cast was a peculiar aggregation of talent, from future softcore impresario King to Mia Farrow’s sister (and video nasty fixture to be), Marilyn Munster herself Pat Priest as the sideshow nurse, and most memorably Richard Pryor as the strung out, barely coherent best friend of Robert who sees him at the jazz club and rambles in a manner you hope was purely acting, though with Pryor at this stage it was sadly difficult to tell. His scenes look parachuted in from another story entirely, though he does raise a laugh or two when he accuses Jennifer of being black passing for white.
Okay, there was one other cast member who would be perhaps even more memorable to certain audience members, and she was Brandy Herred in her sole movie role, playing a waitress at the club who, like just about everyone else here, puts on a show. Not playing sax as Robert does, but a topless cheerleading demonstration, complete with pom-poms, that quickly becomes an entirely nude cheerleading demonstration, yet another sequence from out of nowhere that brings up the possibility of performing as a way of gaining satisfaction for both the performer and the viewer of the entertainment. Nevertheless, even with that identifiable theme there was much about Some Call It Loving that was inscrutable, with King doleful but difficult to read, the tragic White just baffling, and such a mystery about its entire look that you were tempted to read acres of psycho-sexual meaning into the events as they drifted in and out of frame. A flop in the States but a cult item in Europe, this was for a specialised audience, worth taking a chance on for appreciators of the offbeat. Music by Richard Hazard.