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DVD SAVANT

Chastity


Chastity
MGM Home Entertainment
1969 / Color/ 1:85 anamorphic 16:9 / 82 min. / Street Date 2004 /
Starring Chér, Barbara London, Stephen Whittaker, Tom Nolan
Cinematography Ben Coleman
Costume Design Sadie Hayes
Film Editor Hugo Grimaldi
Original Music Sonny Bono
Written by Sonny Bono
Produced by Sonny Bono, Hugo Grimaldi
Directed by Alessio de Paola

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

The only real question posed by Chastity is whether the pop singer demanded a showcase film, or if her husband/business manager Sonny Bono forced her into this vanity production. They'd already been put through the Hollywood wringer in Columbia's feeble Good Times (along with tyro feature director William Friedkin) and on this go-round it looks as if Sonny mounted a low-budget turkey of his own.

'Turkey' is a prejudicial word but it's a fair description for films that are for the most part painful to watch. Chastity is the aimless saga of a hitchiking teenager (Chér was 23 at the time) talking to herself as she drifts from man to man, sleeping with none of them. She commits petty thefts, responds strangely upon meeting a nice-guy student (Stephen Whittaker) and then steals a car in Phoenix and heads for Mexico. There she hooks up with a pimp, visits a house of prostitution and has an overnight fling with its lesbian madam Diana Midnight (Barbara London) before heading back to connect with the student again.

Chér's character is eventually revealed as a disturbed victim of child abuse, which is supposed to account for her aggressive refusal to be touched and her frequent irresponsible behavior. When she does find an honest and friendly boy, she freaks out and hits the road again, collapsing in tears over her inability to love.

If that sounds appealing, the movie is not. The only interest to be had here is wondering to what degree Chastity might represent Chér's personal background. Unfortunately, her successful teaming with promotional partner Sonny Bono also tied her to embarrassing filmmaker Sonny Bono. To escape the Good Times trap he instead co-produced with Hugo Grimaldi, an editor-film doctor noted for kicking foreign genre films into shape for American release: The Snow Queen, Gigantis, the Fire Monster, First Spaceship on Venus. Some credits seem to come from friends of the family (the terrible animated titles) and the director "Alessio de Paola" is almost certainly the many-hatted Sonny Bono.

Sonny has seen his share of foreign films but Chastity takes a page from Walk on the Wild Side when Chér's adventuress "seeker" penetrates the Mexican brothel just to "see for herself" and hooks up with Barbara London's unconvincing Barbara Stanwyck imitation. As the scriptwriter, Sonny gives Chér plenty of terrible talking-to-myself dialogue that lacks a convincing female persepective. Why is Chér attracted to the madam? Because her touch reminds her of Mother, which leads to psychotic memories of Father, and so forth. Interestingly, Chér's breakthrough acting role a decade later in Silkwood also gave her an ambiguous sexuality.

Chastity's deadly lack of purpose kills it almost from the start. Chér would quickly find her show-business bearings and solidify a commercial public image for herself, but here she's incapable of expressing much of anything. A few fleeting smiles hint at her future promise as a comedienne. Otherwise, Chér's acting is limited to one morose stare after another. Her makeup and hairstyle do most of the work.

Chér may have done her own makeup on this no-budget effort. When combined with the poor lighting and camerawork, her million-dollar (and pre-plastic surgery) face becomes a blotchy patchwork of light mascara topped by exaggerated eyelashes. There's a green-gray area around her mouth in many large closeups, making her look like a hound who needs a shave. Chastity surely taught Chér a permanent lesson about image maintenance.

The American International release is R-rated but the closest it comes to sex is in an unfunny comic bit when Chastity decides to play hooker and fleece a kid in the brothel (Tom Nolan). Viewers are likely to be more concerned when she pretends to be a gas station attendant ($6.95 for a fill-up!) and pours a quart of motor oil into some poor guy's radiator. There is some nudity among the depressingly realistic prostitutes in Barbara London's ugly establishment. A body double appears to have been used for a flash of faux Chér-skin in a shower scene.

Perhaps some Cher fan can enlighten me. At one point Chastity renames her nice-guy student "Andre Tayir." I just realized that's the name of a dancer from West Side Story, one of the male Sharks. What's the connection?


MGM's DVD of Chastity is a flipper with two separate transfers (16:9 & flat), both of which accurately reproduce the film's crude lighting and unusually dirty opticals. Sonny Bono's music is okay, except for the blah title song. Chastity is surely a curiosity must-see for the Chér faithful, even though by curtain time they're likely to feel as cheated as the rest of us.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Chastity rates:
Movie: Poor
Video: Very Good
Sound: Very Good
Supplements: Trailer
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: July 8, 2004





DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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