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  Grasshopper, The Kisses From Bisset
Year: 1970
Director: Jerry Paris
Stars: Jacqueline Bisset, Jim Brown, Joseph Cotten, Corbett Monica, Christopher Stone, Ramon Bieri, Ed Flanders, William Callaway, Roger Garrett, Therese Baldwin, William Bassett, Kathalynn Turner, Stefanianna Christopherson, Marc Hannibal, David Ketchum
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Christine Adams (Jacqueline Bisset) was brought up in British Columbia, but by the time she turns nineteen she is sick of the place, so far away from what she thinks is a more exciting lifestyle elsewhere. Therefore, without informing her parents where she is going, she packs and sneaks out of the house one morning, driving south to Los Angeles in the hope she will find a better existence among the sunshine and beautiful people, where her boyfriend has moved with a banking job recently. If he can do it, so can she, is her belief, but she reckons without her car breaking down and stranding her on the desert highway. Now she has to hitchhike - all the way to Las Vegas?

There's a far more famous, not to say infamous, film that begins with the heroine hitchhiking to Vegas, and The Grasshopper might have been an inspiration for Joe Eszterhas when he penned the screenplay for Showgirls in the nineteen-nineties as it followed a similar, though not identical, plotline. It was the basic road to ruin yarn in a 1970s style, so while there were such degradations as rape, drugs and violence, the loosening censorship of the era meant filmmakers were not quite sure how to depict them for a mainstream audience. For every Midnight Cowboy that got a handle on the issues, there were plenty of clunky, would-be daring projects just like this one.

Bisset, stepping into a role vacated by the increasingly (and ironically) troubled Carol White, was the lead but while she had proven herself a very decent actress elsewhere, this was one of her more decorative parts, that in spite of the film setting out to be very serious indeed. You know what that means: sheer camp, yet with an edge of nastiness to make it clear this was intended for adult audiences, plus a smattering of nudity. Curiously, however, Miss Bisset obviously had a "no nudity" clause in her contract, which meant while Christine got into plenty of salacious situations, the actress remained very coy, betraying the film was nowhere near as near the knuckle as it intended.

Nevertheless, the bad things that happened to Christine were pretty awful, which strongly hinted at something else: the inspiration for this was not so much the novel by Mark McShane ominously titled The Passing of Evil, but more the works of Jacqueline Susann and Sidney Sheldon, those airport potboilers you could pick up for reading a long flight; highly popular, but nobody's idea of great literature. Not that a book has to be to make a great film, but The Grasshopper was nobody's idea of a great film, resembling what the sequel to the big screen version of Susann's Valley of the Dolls would have looked like had someone other than Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert got their grubby hands on the rights. In this instance, the name to watch in the credits was Garry Marshall, soon to be a powerful producer.

He illustrated his interest in this kind of material not with his comedy work, but with something like Pretty Woman, very much The Grasshopper for the nineties, except, you know, wildly successful and profitable. Here Bissett smiled through the tears as her life took a downturn, yes, there were occasional moments for optimism, but in the main you could tell it was prostitution that was in her future and not a glittering career. Technically, she had had a glittering career, but only because of what she was wearing as the only Vegas showgirl who doesn't get topless, but that was about as close to showbiz as she got. You can laugh at the absurd moves this had to shock the audience, but a couple were surprisingly progressive: white Christine marries black football player Jim Brown, and Roger Garrett played a gay best friend of hers who was supportive and reasonable, and crucially did not end up dead. Mind you, neither does Christine, her final statement on celluloid a memorable message for the world in sky-writing. Music (and ludicrously sentimental songs) by Billy Goldenberg.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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