Let’s get right down to business: Ann-Margret is a knockout in the delectably awful THE SWINGER which reunites Margret and her BYE BYE BIRDY director George Sidney. In it she plays an inspiring writer who will do anything—and I mean anything (except that)—to get published, that is when she’s not dancing her tush away in a commune which also inhabits a vice squad officer/wannabe artist or sitting on a swing while belting out the catchy title song à la, well, BYE BYE BIRDY. Lured you into seeing this gem yet? Good. ‘Cause everything in THE SWINGER is très wacko, from the lurid voice-over narration that describes the sexual goings-on of a Playboy-like magazine owner, to the many sultry scenes of supposed decadence that Margret’s puritan character tries her hardest to emulate.
In fact, THE SWINGER is at its best when it goes all the way into smut zone. Of course the film would never had been made today on account of all the real sexual misconduct scandals happening lately. But for the benefit of the era in which the film was made, let’s just say that the male libido is as highlighted and glossed over as a hooker in a limousine. And looking at this fetching fiasco it sure ain’t a bad thing, believe you me.
As I said, THE SWINGER is really good when the focus is on sex and sin, and that’s about half of the story. The rest of the film is quite silly as Margret—pretending to be bad so Anthony Franciosa (from THE PLEASURE SEEKERS fame which also stars Margret) subsequently publish her tawdry story based faultily on herself—ends up becoming clay to Franciosa’s Pygmalion ways. There’s no question the two leads eventually become an item. So we just go by the cinematic flow of seeing them doing their thing while wondering if the film could have been better had the sexual performances of the female star been the sole focus (which in a way it still is since Margret is sex on a stick). As the song and dance go, Margret once again shines in her vocals and moves, especially the go-go line dancing early on in the story.
I first saw this film in the late ‘80s, having caught it one rainy afternoon on TV. I was already a big trashy film buff and had heard that this one was as wacked as it could possibly be. So true it was, and still is considering the topic for a ‘60s film. Sure, it’s no VALLEY OF THE DOLLS but the fun is still palpable enough to grant THE SWINGER two thumbs-up. It may not be as perfect as I thought it’d be but it still deserves its spot as a must-see for camp classic devotees. It has yet to conquer the DVD/Blu-ray market but when it does I sure am going to purchase myself a copy. Until then, I will keep hold of my used VHS copy transferred to a disc.
Until next post—Martin