Terri (Sue Bernard, who you'll no doubt remember from Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) and Marsha (Bee Tompkins) are two young, single women living together in a small apartment. We barely make it through the opening credit sequence (over which is played the hilariously melodramatic title song) before we see the first hints of Marsha's nascent attraction to Terri. While the latter remains oblivious to her friend's feelings, she's having some bad luck in her own love life; the men she dates are boors and mashers who won't keep their hands to themselves. One night, Terri dreams of Marsha, and wakes up overcome by arousal. She slips into her surprised roommate's bed and they consummate (mostly off-screen) their attraction.
Flash forward to some years later: Terri is hosting a party with her new husband, Rob in their suburban home. Marsha, who seems to have been out of the picture for some time, arrives uninvited, hoping perhaps to renew their relationship. Despite an initially chilly reception, she convinces Terri and Rob to let her stay with them for a few days, during which she attempts to re-ignite their old passion. As you might expect from this sort of thing, tragedy results.
It would be pretty easy to pan That Tender Touch, but I found it to be a rather charming, if severely outdated, relic of its period. Most viewers will get some easy chuckles from the proto-70s clothes, hair and sets - I know I did. But there are other points of historical interest in this film as well. We too often forget that exploitation films were not exclusively of the horror, action or sci-fi genres, but also sometimes attempts at more mainstream Hollywood fare; in this case, bombastic domestic melodramas.
That Tender Touch tries to ape this style as well as it can and, if the result isn't entirely successful, its not a crashing failure either. Director Vincent seems to have understood the ways in which the visuals can accentuate the themes of the story - for example, during Marsha's final, tearful confession of love for Terri, the camera zooms out to reveal some flower arrangements in the foreground. Earlier, in moments of anguish, Terri appears to be visually overwhelmed by the appliances, design and other accoutrements of her tacky house; various domestic gadgets hem her into one corner of the frame or, sometimes, block her out entirely. There are other such tricks scattered throughout the film, such as a mirror motif, no doubt designed to comment on the duel natures of the characters, the split between their public and private selves.
None of this is done with overwhelming skill or subtlety, mind you (and, what's worse, all of this mannered artiness clashes with the more 'realistic' cinematography tricks that litter the film - lens flares, sudden shifts of focus, zooms and so forth), but effort counts for something, and its nice to be reminded that there was a time when even cheap little exploitation directors understood a thing or two about their craft.