She's a female liberator,
Uhmmm......nah. Dark Sky Films has released Games Girls Play (a.k.a.: The Bunny Caper or Sex Play), a 1974 nudity-only sex comedy that made the rounds of drive-ins and second run houses looking to fill the bottom of a naughty double bill. Probably only of note because of its director (Hollywood pro Jack Arnold), Games Girls Play tries for a playful, lighthearted tone in its strictly "R"-rated sitcom framework, but the gags fall flat (something that can't be said for our lovely leading ladies) long before the final fade-out, leaving viewers with a tame peep-fest as their only consolation.
Christina Hart plays Bunny O'Hara, the 17-year-old nymphomaniac daughter of a wealthy American business man, Randolph O'Hara (Gordon Sterne). Not content to play with just boys at her school, Bunny has graduated to sleeping with men - specifically, those in increasingly powerful positions within the government and military. Having slept her way to the top with a powerful general, that same general becomes nervous that Bunny might become a security risk, and hatches a plan to fob off Bunny's father (who has given quite a bit of money to the President's election campaign) with an ambassadorship to England - with Bunny in tow.
Landing in England, Randolph reaches the end of his rope with Bunny when she seduces Lord Teakwood (David Beale) in the taxi ride from the airport to their flat in London proper ("Won't the statue of Nelson be coming up?). Banishing her to a prim, restrictive all-girl boarding school in the country, Randolph hopes to avoid scandal by keeping Bunny under wraps. Once at school, though, Bunny proves to be a corrupting influence. With her three new roommates - Christine, the red head (Jill Damas); Sal the brunette (Drina Pavlovic); and Jackie the blonde (Jane Anthony) - Bunny sets out to break all the rules (like swimming nude in the school pool). When not ducking the advances of lesbian school administrator Harriet (Sarah Brackett), Bunny is thinking up new schemes to satisfy her sexual appetites and her need to embarrass authority.
And her latest one is a real wowser. Apparently, there's a conference going in London for nuclear disarmament, with dignitaries visiting from China and Russia, among others countries (including Bunny's father, who's a participant, as well). Finding out that her roommates are backwards in the ways of sex (they're all virgins), Bunny hatches a plan to infiltrate the conference, with the girls each getting their own dignitary as a sex partner. Ducky (Erin Geraghty), the school's wallflower and resident photographer, will document the liaisons as proof. But of course, all sorts of wacky things go wrong with the plan (Jackie, for instance, is reluctantly gang-raped by the visiting Chinese ping-pong team), before Bunny's plan almost causes an international incident.
You can't really hate Games Girls Play because it's so innocuous and ineptly put together that you feel more sorry for it than offended by it. Playing like a Playboy cartoon with all the smut erased, Games Girls Play has so little going for it that eventually, you just zone out, and stare at the naked girls while 88 minutes creep by at a snail's pace (it seems at least twice as long). And if you're looking for harder thrills here, forget it. Nudity is the film's only draw - no vulgarity and no simulations. And while there's nothing wrong with that, it gets old fast, particularly when the film is so fundamentally unfunny. While I don't demand that the premise make any sense (because it doesn't - why doesn't Bunny just sleep with any man? Why always someone in power? The film won't say), couldn't it have at least made me laugh? After all, it's supposed to be a sex comedy. So...if there's no real sex, where, then, are the yocks? I suppose you could chuckle at Games Girls Play if you think "Wang Lo" is a funny name for someone Chinese, or if the line, from Bunny's father, "I just want to keep government out of you!" makes you titter, but that's about the high water mark of comedy here.
Which is kind of surprising, considering the talent involved behind the camera. Co-screenwriter Jameson Brewer (working under the names "James Brewer"), was a fairly accomplished TV and feature film writer (The Incredible Mr. Limpet, The Addams Family, Branded) who had numerous credits to his name, and who penned a funny (or at least I remember it as so) little macabre piece called Arnold the year before Games Girls Play was released. But here, the tired double entendres fall flat among the so-called "topical" political humor (someone makes a call to, presumably, President Nixon, commenting on the televised football play the President submitted to the coach), making Games Girls Play come off like a really poor episode of Love, American Style - only with Karen Valentine and John Davidson naked.
Even worse is the direction by veteran cult director, Jack Arnold. Someone more versed in Jack Arnold auteurism needs to watch this film, because I couldn't "see" him anywhere in this slack, slipshod film. The man that brought audiences bona fide classics such as It Came From Outer Space, Creature from the Black Lagoon, This Island Earth, Tarantula, The Incredible Shrinking Man, as well as pulpy fun like High School Confidential! and silly comedies like The Mouse That Roared, had by this point in his career moved squarely into anonymous episodic TV fare (It Takes a Thief, Nanny and the Professor, The Brady Bunch). But even those frequent outings into TV were competently handled. Couldn't Arnold have managed to wrangle something, anything of worth out of Games Girls Play? Billy Wilder once famously argued that critics should know the whole story about a film's production and crew before rendering judgment on the film's particular worth (or more to the point, its drawbacks); he stated his bad back, more than anything else, compromised a couple of his films. Wilder being Wilder, he was more than likely being facetious, but maybe there's more truth to that anecdote than many critics would care to believe. Perhaps by this point, Arnold just didn't really care anymore. That's certainly the feeling one gets when watching his haphazard framing, slack pacing, and desultory direction of the actors. Games Girls Play just lays there, flaccid. And who wants that in a sex comedy?
So we're left with a peep show, essentially, and that's good for about five minutes. Christina Hart, unabashedly nude (full frontal) throughout the film, is to be applauded, I suppose, for her uninhibited approach to the role, but she's all wrong for the part of Bunny. With her admirably sexy body, her bright, shiny, hard eyes, and that thin, cruel mouth, Hart's looks and demeanor were far more suited to playing villains on the screen, rather than "soft" characters like the constantly turned-on, ever-available, fun-loving nympho Bunny (Hart will forever be remembered by me as the scary Patricia Krenwinkel in the original Helter Skelter TV movie - she was perfect). And she's no comedian, either. Lines that might have had a chance with an actress who had some lightness and air, are leaden and flat when delivered by Hart (to be fair, the other girls are even more hopeless, although seriously good-looking "Page 3 Girl" Drina Pavlovic is diverting at times). All that's left, then, for Games Girls Play, are some brief shots of 1974 London, a nicely funky theme song that promises a lot more fun than what's actually delivered (think Maude filtered through Curtis Mayfield), and persistent, tame, and ultimately boring nudity.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.