Love You! (1979)

In the 1960s, Derek began directing very small budget idiosyncratic films that he wrote directed and photographed. In the early 1980s, he filmed Fantasies in Greece and fell for his newest discovery, Mary Cathleen Collins who soon changed her name to Bo and married John a few years after the film wrapped. Fantasies went nowhere, desperate for cash, John was offered a million bucks to do a tv show but sold his house instead. Him and Bo traveled around and lived in a van. Between Tarzan, the Ape Man [1981] and Bolero (1984) John Derek, made this rare curio called “Love You”. Bo Derek said this film was an experiment, she and her husband John took $100,000 of their own money and tried to shoot an adult film that would appeal to women. She was, unfortunately, behind the camera when the film was shot. Part porn-part art film, Derek used his talent for photography and locations to create a beautiful looking film which is quite trippy & surreal. The inclusion of several fantasy sequences dreamed up by Haven add to the overall hallucinatory feeling of the film. There is a shorter version which has 5 minutes of hardcore removed [presumably for more mainstream distribution].

When is a porn film not a porn film ? In this case when it’s directed by late “real world” celebrity John Derek, a man better known for his marriages to some of the world’s most glamorous women (Ursula Andress, Linda Evans and Bo Derek) than for his efforts both in front (ADVENTURES OF HAJJI BABA) and behind (BOLERO) the cameras. LOVE YOU is one of those rare films that straddles the no man’s land between pornography and traditional cinema and considerably more erotic than other attempts to do so like Curt McDowell’s strangely perverse THUNDERCRACK or Candida Royalle’s downbeat science fiction sex saga REVELATIONS. Two couples decide to spend a weekend together on an island off the California coast with spouse swapping the ultimate goal. Sensitive Charlie (Annette Haven) seems somewhat apprehensive about the whole deal but is gently nudged to participate by husband Steve (Wade Nichols, star of Armand Weston’s TAKE OFF). Helicopter pilot Mark (veteran performer Eric Edwards) and especially his fun-loving wife Lynn (Lesllie Bovee ) are the quintessential mirror image free spirits who’ll loosen them up, with some unexpected results.

The opening scene of naked man chasing a naked woman across a parched desert and then forcing her to service him is arguably the most erotic and beautifully photographed rape scene ever filmed: It is really disconnected from the rest of the film. This scene will offend anyone who shuns the mixture of sex with force. For some, the most offensive portion may be the eventual submission and eager participation of the victim, once she realizes that there is no escape. Certainly repugnant to feminists, because they will accurately surmise that this acquiescence is a typical component of male chauvinist fantasy. Rumor has it that as Derek rose to prominence for directing mainstream films and also became the boy toy of Bo Derek, he tried to buy all copies of this film and suppress the fact that it ever existed. That seems plausible, because so few references to it exist in any database anywhere. The few that you can find in archived listings have been stripped in subsequent updates. It’s hard to believe that it was once in general VHS release. Just try to find the film anywhere today.

One of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed porno, and I’m sure quite a few others do as well, is the chance of witnessing a moment of truth, when a performer’s professional detachment crumbles and the audience is allowed a brief glimpse at the real person underneath. These moments can happen by accident, as is often the case in adult cinema where budgets and production schedules don’t always allow re-shooting these “mistakes”, or they can be the result of a carefully orchestrated, semi-documentary approach such as here with the line between what is real and what is artistic artifice becoming hard to distinguish.
Derek may display a directorial verve he never managed or bothered to equal in later film-making endeavors. He also had the good fortune to work with a small (five people) yet extremely talented cast bringing emotional resonance and compassion to their beautifully written parts. As for the film’s detractors, perhaps they should just learn to “think outside the box” a bit more. Once the plot is set up, the characters have this constant intimacy that doesn’t just start and stop with the sex scenes like too much porn has accustomed us to. There’s kissing, caressing, laughter as well as tears. These people are genuinely making love to one another, in character, and when both women achieve very real-looking, non-porno type orgasms as a result of the tenderest group action you’ve ever witnessed it blurs the borders between performance and reality. Whichever of the two it turns out to be, it’s certainly one hell of a turn-on.
Cinematography by Derek himself supplies some of the most breathtakingly beautiful imagery ever captured in erotica, especially the close-ups of Haven’s flustered face as she reaches climax. Even the quiet natural beauty of the island can’t compete with that! Both female and male bodies are glorified in rich, glowing colors. A judicious use of close-ups draws attention to a gaze, a touch, an emotional snapshot that hints at something deeper. Little things like Wade Nichols’ soulful glances or Lesllie Bovee’s lopsided smiles, so seemingly unforced, actually manage to move an old cynic like myself. Single drawback perhaps, in a stylistic sense, is the inclusion of several fantasy sequences dreamed up by Haven and involving the likes of Paul Thomas and Blair Harris, scenes that are perfectly fine for what they are but interrupt the natural flow of the narrative. Otherwise,rare gems such as LOVE YOU make up for all the mediocrity I’ve endured over the years.

Date: March 30, 2020