1 Hr., 35 Mins.
The Stud July 16, 2020
here are a couple of reasons to see The Stud (1978), though neither one exactly speaks to the quality of the movie itself. (The quality in question: a singular very-shitty-but-pretty-fun). The first has to do with the fact that it was one of several features produced post-Saturday Night Fever (1977) to attempt to also seriously spotlight disco and its hold over the culture at the time. (The Stud was pitched to the producer
Brent Walker as the British answer to the 1977 movie at that year’s Cannes Film Festival.) The other is that the feature, along with quickly released 1979 sequel The Bitch, revived the career of Joan Collins. Both are adaptations of popular potboiler erotic novels written by Joan’s sister, Jackie. The revival led Collins to getting cast in what would come to be her most recognizable role: the revenge-thirsty, conniving Alexis Carrington on Aaron Spelling’s Dynasty (1981-‘89).
Of course, neither one of those reasons given might make The Stud seem suddenly unmissable to the unfamiliar-as-of-30-seconds-ago. And who’s to say that its camp appeal will be appealing to all? But, then again, what entertainment is? The Stud is nonsensical; this is all fundamentally a drug-store soap opera novel with a flesh-accented cover cinematized. In the movie, Collins, readily changing furs and silks and jewels and hair sizes as if she were a paper doll, plays Fontaine, the barracuda-like trophy wife of a rich Arab businessman who’s never home (Walter Gotell). Fontaine doesn’t do much of anything except keep throwing green at her new nightclub — which looks like a living room in an 18th-century manor sans furniture — and have sex with men who are not her husband. Fontaine is in fact adjacent to (rather than an embodiment of) the then-vogue skin flick’s standard nymphomaniac. Her latest toyboy in The Stud is Tony (Oliver Tobias), a young, fledgling businessman who, in another life and with a different set of facial-hair follicles, might have successfully auditioned for the Bee Gees.
Fontaine has made something of an arrangement with Tony before the film opens. He can work as the manager of her club, which will in no doubt give him the exposure he’s craving, as long as he also sleeps with her. Sounds OK to East Ender Tony when the proposition is first made. Little does he know, though, that when Fontaine made sex a part of their deal, that meant they were going to have to have it whenever she wanted it, which is, without hyperbole, morning and day and night. “I’m not a machine,” Tony unhappily sighs a little into the movie. I guess if he says no to Fontaine, he gets fired? The film dare not say this power dynamic is problematic because it really enjoys keeping alive an erotic-novel fantasticality around a stud/nympho dynamic.
We know this is all doomed, and not just because other entertainment media featuring this kind of arrangement don’t typically see that arrangement working out. There also exists in the movie security footage of Fontaine and Tony having sex in an elevator, which is seen by so many people in the course of The Stud that it’s impressive Fontaine’s husband eventually stumbles on it with no outside interference. There’s also a side plot wherein Tony and Fontaine’s stepdaughter, Alex (Emma Jacobs), form a romantic connection. Tony goes as far as saying “I love you” the day after he first meets her. But that doesn’t go anywhere.
Fitting, because The Stud is the sort of formulaic melodrama that feels like it doesn’t go anywhere even though factually it does. It seems so inert, I think, because the only person who seems to have a semblance of an idea of what to do with the material is Collins. She speaks only in the purr of a Bond villainess. In her cartoonishly glamorous costumes she seems enamored of herself. When the ridiculous, well-marketed sex scenes arrive, Collins subliminally lets us know that she thinks they’re ridiculous, too, which is precisely what makes them subversively indelible. (The most insane of the bunch is an orgy set inside a futurist middle-of-nowhere mansion that is interiorly 50 percent pool, 30 percent potted plants, and 20 percent swings.)
The other players are either taking this all too seriously or seem faintly embarrassed to be here. The earnestness of Jacobs, for instance, is unendurable. And Tobias seems to dislike being here so much from the jump that his arc — at first he’s meant to be enjoying himself a lot despite his reservations and then eventually everything is ruined — is more of a plateau. He’s miserable from the outset. (Later, he’d say that The Stud, which led to typecasting, ruined his career.) The gameness of performers is pivotal no matter the genre, but in sexed-up soap operas like this one, it’s especially imperative. For a movie as tawdry and silly and out of touch as this one is — so much here is more Jackie’s idea of the British nightclub milieu than an accurate depiction of it — the actors cannot be out of stride. Collins remedies most, but not all, of the movie’s deficiencies. Good thing Dynasty was waiting for her. C+