Monday, October 8, 2012

Turn Off That Racquet: "Racquet" (1979)



You'd think a sex comedy centering around a tennis club would have a few laughs, and you thought wrong.

Perennial late game show host Bert Convy is actually really good as Tommy, a former Wimbledon champion who now gives lessons to fat old ladies like Mrs. Kaufman (Dorothy Konrad). He also gives Leslie (Edie Adams) her tennis lessons in the sack, taking part in some very embarassing sexual fantasies. After being shown a house in Beverly Hills with a tennis court, by horny realtor Miss Baxter (Susan Tyrrell), Tommy decides to open his own tennis school so he can be his own boss. His current boss, Charlie (Bobby Riggs), is nice enough, but Riggs could not act his way out of a moist sweatband.

Lots of different "screwball" incidents occur. Tommy is still in bed when Arthur (Phil Silvers), Leslie's husband comes home. Tommy is robbed, runs from the cops, and has a run-in with a couple of drag queens, rescued by Leslie's houseguest Melissa (Kitty Hunt). She treats Tommy like meat, and insults Tommy's platonic roommate Bambi (a very young Tanya Roberts). Old flame Monica (Lynda Day George) returns to town, and Tommy tries to woo her while sleeping with the older women for promised seed money for the school. Will he choose love over meaningless sex? Three guesses.

For all the females in this film, there is almost no nudity. About an hour in, Tommy is running from the cops and steals a newlywed couple's car with the bride and groom humping in the backseat. The actress, named (oddly) Darwin Hastings, is gorgeous and voluptuous. We get fleeting glimpses of her bare breasts, but that is it. Convy takes his shirt off more than anyone else.

The screenwriters take Tommy from one goofy situation to another, but none of the laughs score. This is dumb stuff. Director Winters makes the best of his helicopter rental, as there are more flying shots here than in the invasion scene of "Apocalypse Now." Winters also likes musical montages, since he drags three of them out to pad the running time.

Real life tennis pros Elie Nastase, Bjorn Borg, and Bobby Riggs appear. Nastase is lucky, he is in some tournament stock footage, but Riggs and Borg get lines. They should have stuck to the court.

Despite Convy's screen charisma, and the fact that this may be the only time you hear him swear onscreen, "Racquet" is one loser comedy. Game, set, and match. (*) out of five stars.