Code Red Releasing double bills the little seen CLASS OF ’74 with GABRIELLA, GABRIELLA, the earlier film in which CLASS recycles a heavy amount of footage from.
Who is Gabriella Hildebrandt? Well, if you just watched the opening credits of GABRIELLA, GABRIELLA (1972) you might assume she’s THAT GIRL going by the flashy opening credits with a theme song that claims she’s “everything that you feel, everything that is real!” Gabriella (THE SUCKERS’ Barbara Mills, billed here as “Gabriella Caron” with an introductory credit) is actually the virginal teenage daughter of bickering sleaze Frank Hildebrandt (Al Ward, FANTASM COMES AGAIN) and his lush wife Annette (Kathy Gregg). She’s the picture of innocence for filmmaker Carol (Luanne Roberts, THE JOYS OF JEZEBEL) and cameraman Shelley (Hal Hidey) who are doing a documentary on young love with Gabriella and her boyfriend Stephen (Bob Kresting) reacting to various encounter groups and sexual freedom lectures, culminating in the filming of their own first sexual encounter.
The above description alone would make an exploitative plot, but director Mack Bing mucks it up very quickly. After showing Gabriella romping in the water and in the shower for the near eight-minute opening credits sequence, she disappears for the next thirty minutes or so (as do the filmmakers) in favor of a protracted sequence of dad Frank cruising the Sunset Strip for girls (who look like his daughter apparently). He winds up at Gazzarri’s nightclub – including a cameo by “Godfather of Rock ‘n Roll” Bill Gazzarri, as well as headlining band “Fatso” – where he plays Vegas agent to get young hopeless singer Harmony (Sandy Bowen) into bed. This twenty-odd minute sequence is followed up by a minute or so of wife Annette taking a tumble into the pool with an equally middle-aged, hairy-backed poolboy (Lee Michaels). When we finally get back to Gabriella, she and her boyfriend accompany the filmmakers to a lecture called “Eros: The Eternal Rights (sic) of Sexuality” in which Swedish lecturer Ingrid Hansen – whose accent is more “wild and crazy guys” Czech than Swedish (or even Hungarian Zsa Zsa) – drones on over a live performance sex act (the female part of the act is softcore/hardcore performer Mills’ THE LOVE GARDEN co-star Linda York); however, this is further undermined by comic relief interjections from a henpecked husband and his harridan wife (the thankfully pseudonymous “Yetta Yenta”). The young couple have even less to do with an interview Carol conducts with seemingly flaming gay caricature Xavier (Ronald Lawrence) who then launches into what seems like a thoughtfully written monologue about trying to grow up straight (intercut with flashbacks to him in high school being pawed by his creepy coach [producer Jack Mattis]).
The climactic encounter between Gabriella and her boyfriend takes place on what we’re supposed to believe is an Eden-like forest set in a warehouse, although their actual slow motion writhing takes place on shag carpeting (with out of focus foliage in the foreground). It’s all captured very tastefully, but Bing decides to add surreal countercultural cutaways to kids playing war with assault rifles, a psychotic shooter, a cop shooting an unarmed hippie, a black kid being hassled by white kids, a square old biddy deriding a hippie couples hair and clothes (and smell), and other quick vignettes. Somehow the purity of Gabriella’s and Stephen’s love then sets things right, however… and the whole thing ends in an orgy (well, a bunch of nude people rocking out poolside). Bing’s apparent hippie idealism – voiced mainly through Carol’s “far out” and “heavy” dialogue – is admirable, but it doesn’t really make for an entertaining sexploitation picture.
Barbara Mills reprises her role as Gabriella (this time billed as “Barbara Caron”) in CLASS OF ’74. She is now a college student naïve when it comes to the game of love. Pals Heather (Pat Woodell, THE BIG DOLL HOUSE) - in a horrible blonde wig - Carla (Marki Bey, SUGAR HILL), and Maggie (Sandra Currie, POLICEWOMEN) decide to “use” their men to teach her how to use her body to her advantage. Maggie introduces Gabriella to horny photography Tony, who Maggie is schtupping with an angle towards commitment and a modeling career. Wealthy Carla introduces Gabriella to her freshman “kept boy” Wally (Chris Beaumont) who seems to be getting as much out of the arrangement as Carla. Heather introduces Gabriella to her magazine publisher boyfriend John (Gary Clarke, TV’s THE VIRGINIAN and HONDO), who in turn introduces her to swingers Dave (Phillip Terry, THE LEECH WOMAN) and Marsha (THE WASP WOMAN’s Lynn Cartwright, wife of Leo Gordon) who offer her a lucrative arrangement.
GABRIELLA, GABRIELLA reportedly had limited theatrical distribution in 1972 before going out of circulation. In 1974, however, producer/director Arthur Marks (BONNIE’S KIDS) acquired the film in order to fashion a semi-sequel to his more obscure 1973 pic THE ROOMMATES (with Woodell and Bey reprising their roles here); however, CLASS OF ‘74 could be seen as a sequel to GABRIELLA, GABRIELLA as well. When discussing Maggie’s star ambitions, Gabriella reveals that she was almost in a movie once. At this point, footage from GABRIELLA, GABRIELLA appears detailing the “Eros” lecture (minus Yetta Yenta), the interview with Xavier, and the sex scene between Carol and Shelley with new narration by Mills. The innocence of Carla’s boyfriend Wally “reminds” Gabriella of Stephen (cue: Gabriella’s and Stephen’s romp through the streets and their love scene minus the surreal cutaways), and Gabriella’s discussion with Heather about the latter’s preference for father figures triggers Gabriella’s “memories” of her parents’ bickering and her father’s trolling the Sunset Strip (with a thankfully abbreviated version of his sex scene with Harmony). Footage from the GABRIELLA, GABRIELLA opening titles romp is also worked into the CLASS OF ’74 credits montage, and the songs from the former film – including the “Gabriella” theme song – are carried over in addition to a new theme song “Nothing’s Everlasting” by Annette Thomas. There’s actually very little nudity in the new footage with Mills seemingly the only performer in the new footage willing to undress for the camera (however, the film does sport a better, more engaging cast). That said, CLASS OF ’74 is the more entertaining feature and it makes the best use of as much footage as it can from the original film.
GABRIELLA, GABRIELLA is presented here in a progressive, anamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen transfer. The HD-mastered transfer is as crisp as the original photography allows, with only faint damage evident around the reel changes. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is problem free. The CLASS OF ’74 has two issues in the first fifteen minutes (as fully disclosed by Code Red). The first reel of the original negative for the film was missing so the first twelve minutes are sourced from a release print rife with the usual vertical scratches and pale colors. The rest of the film is an HD transfer from the negative and sports bolder colors, sharper resolution, and superior contrast; however, the first three minutes of this section suffer frame blending issues due to a lab error. After that point, the rest of transfer is fine with the CLASS OF ’74-specific footage looking much better than the GABRIELLA, GABRIELLA if only because it’s better photographed and lit. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio for this feature is fine as well. Extras include a trailer for CLASS OF ’74 (2:21) and a textless one for GABRIELLA, GABRIELLA (2:16), as well as trailers for JUST BEFORE DAWN, GOLD OF THE AMAZON WOMEN, THE GIRLS NEXT DOOR, MY OLD MAN'S PLACE, THE FOLKS AT RED WOLF INN, SPLITZ, and THE VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY (not to mention the usual start-up trailer for FAMILY HONOR). (Eric Cotenas)
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