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3 A.M. (1975): The Passion of the Spliced

photo credit: Oregon State University

3 A.M. (Gary Graver, 1975)

[note: review originally published 19Sep2010]


photo credit:

What is it about that half-open zipper shot that’s universally sexy?

I have heard it said that 3 A.M. is the finest adult film ever made. And aside from one thing—one thing that might seem little to everyone else—I might be willing to at least understand the basis for the prosecution in that argument. But that one thing is one of those things that drives me up the freaking wall, and it ruined my enjoyment of the ensuing movie, since it happened in the first sequence. There were some other problems with that opening as well, but we’ll get to those in due time.


photo credit: yours truly

The costume designer for this flick should have been nominated for an Oscar. Best jeans ever!

The story concerns an extended family. There is the husband and wife at the core of things, Mark (Frank Mauro in his only screen appearance) and Elaine (Rhonda Gellard, ditto). They have two teenage kids, Ronnie (Charles Hooper, who would appear in his second and final film, Tangerine, four years later) and Stacey (Clair Dia, from The Cheerleaders). And then there is Kate (Georgina Spelvin from The Devil in Miss Jones), Elaine’s sister, who’s been having an affair with Mark, she tells us in the opening voiceover, for fifteen years. While living under the same roof, no less. (My, isn’t Elaine a trusting soul.) She also tells us in that same voiceover that she’s had some less-than-pure relations with Stacey over the years, but that’s neither here nor there. In any case, after the opening narration is done and Mark and Elaine are finished going at it, two things happen: first, he informs Elaine he taped them having sex. Second, he tells her he’s leaving her. Brilliant! In any case, Kate rushes down to the boat, hoping they can go away together. When Mark refuses and wants to go alone, she hits him in the head with a champagne bottle, sending him overboard. When he doesn’t surface, Kate decides to cover up the murder. The only problem is, the sexy new next-door neighbor, Vickie (Baby Rosemary‘s Sharon Thorpe), saw someone else on the boat with Mark that night—though it was too dark to see who it was…

Okay, let me take you through this opening sequence, though if you’ve read my reviews you’ll have guessed what part one of my problem with the scene is already. So the tape recorder is going, yes? And they finish doing their bunny impersonation, and Mark tells Elaine he taped them having sex. He then reaches over and turns off the tape player. There is an audible click as the tape player is turned off. That’s when he springs it on her that he’s leaving. I’m already having problems with the idea that you’re going to hump and dump someone you’ve been married to for fifteen years (especially when they both were having such a good time doing it that they probably woke up the kids); usually the fucking occurs after the announcement, for some reason I’ve never been able to quite understand. And so I’m already cheesed off about this. And then, a couple of minutes later, after Mark has taken the dirt nap, there’s Elaine, sitting in the kitchen, obsessively playing the tape over and over again… and what she’s listening to is Mark’s reasons for leaving her, which he gave after the tape was turned off. (And adding an undercurrent to my dissatisfaction with this scene is that either Elaine was the greatest actress ever or Mark’s reasons were simply bogus on their face.) That’s the sort of continuity problem that drives me up a wall when watching a movie, because any half-blind ten-year-old should have caught it in the editing room, and no one did.

photo credit: memememe

Sharon Thorpe, disco ball.


Put all that aside, though, and what you have is a lot of very, very attractive people (and this is in the seventies, before silicone and shaving became all the rage) having a great deal of fun with one another in various configurations. Sharon Thorpe has been a favorite of mine ever since I first saw Baby Rosemary, and Clair Dia, who’s got a huge mass of light-copper hair that refuses to be tamed and enough freckles to paint a good-sized bridge, joined her pretty much instantly. It’s not enough to carry a movie, by any means (neither of them is the next Liz Taylor, and both of them were out of the moviemaking biz by the early eighties), but it certainly helps. And the movie actually honest-to-pete does have a story, and it’s a story with long-lasting peach (tuna?) flavor. One more rewrite on the opening scene and this could have been fantastic. **

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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