The late Paul Bartel was a seminal figure in the development of
independent cinema in America. There were many people testing the waters of
independent filmmaking in the 60s and 70s, but most of them were making serious
films, and I'm talkin' deadly earnest, conversation-stopping seriousness. Bartel and Robert Downey Sr. were just
about the only ones making indie comedies. Between 1972 and 1985 Bartel wrote and/or
directed such offbeat, raunchy comedies as Death Race 2000, Eating Raoul, Lust
in the Dust, and Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills.
Baring it All is kind of a predecessor to that canon of work.
Bartel essentially scripted a softcore drive-in film, probably in a very few
days, just to provide a loose framework to get people naked on camera. That was
pretty standard operating procedure back then. The nudity had to have some
context, not only for legal reasons (as reflected by the alternate title, which
was taken from legal terminology), but also to provide some entertainment and to
differentiate one sex film from another. Because Bartel was an odd duck with a
good sense of humor, this film is a bit better than par for the course. Not only
was Bartel one of the few in his generation to write independent comedies, but
this writing credit establishes him as just about the only guy ever to write comedy
He chose as his framing device a group therapy session for people
with sexual aberrations. Bartel himself plays a psychologist who asks each
member of the group to tell the reason why he or she is there. Their stories are
then pictured as flashbacks.
There's good news and bad news about watching this film:
The good news is that you are seeing material that neither you
nor anyone else has ever seen, for the most part. The film's IMDb page has no
reviews, no comments, and no votes. This film has never been on DVD. To my
knowledge, it's never even been on VHS! The
footage has some real curiosity value, and some real period flavor. Some of the
situations which they found sexy in 1969 are still sorta sexy. There are even a few spread shots here and there, and
that was a rarity in 1969, especially in color films.
The bad news is that there's a very good reason why this film
has fallen into oblivion. It's filled with non-actors, many of whom are as
unattractive as they are untalented. Most of the women in the clips have no
other IMDb credits, and some of the situations are so unsexy as to be downright repulsive.
Besides Bartel, the only people in the film who had any kind of career are
Liz Torres and a veteran character actor named Don Calfa, who made a career out
of playing small roles as spooky-looking low level thugs, and whose distinctive
face you would immediately recognize. This was the first film Torres ever made,
and the second for Calfa, and they are both still going strong today, 38 years
after their appearances in this film. In both cases, Baring it All probably
represents the low point on their resumes. Torres played a prostitute, but kept
her clothes on in a strange outdoor scene with Bartel himself.