Jul 28, 2016

Dr. Yes: The Hyannis Affair (1983)

Why watch a Canadian drama shot on videotape that looks and feels like a lame afternoon soap opera?  I mean, look at that opening title - it's like we're ready to watch Edge of Night or Hope for Tomorrow with grandma!  The reason: it stars Britt Ekland and there's a whole lot more here than meets the eye.  This is one film destined for the rubbish heap of cinema history, but I think it's worth rescuing from oblivion.  See for yourself...

Director: Jack Nixon-Browne; Writer: Manya Starr

Dowdy and boring Louisa (Stephanie Grant) is home visiting with her vivacious and much more attractive mother, Susannah (Britt Ekland).

I'm sure you know Britt from The Man with the Golden Gun, or The Wicker Man, or as Peter Sellers' main squeeze.  Stephanie Grant, in marked contrast, did no acting before or after this film, but faded into obscurity.

Things get immediately awkward when Susannah introduces Louisa to her new stepdad - an Italian stud in a Mr. Rogers sweater named Paolo (Jack Messinger).  Paolo doesn't waste any time turning on the charm to his new stepdaughter in the most creepy manner imaginable.

VZ1 CONNECTION: This being a Canadian flick, it shouldn't be surprising to find a Cronenberg connection. Messinger appeared in several Cronenberg flicks including Scanners, Rabid and The Dead Zone.

Back in her room, Louisa reflects back on her college days.  She was apparently just as annoying and unpleasant to be around back then... but she had a spunky cheerleader roommate named Rita (Suzanne Barker).

Rita sets her up with her big brother, Tim (Kent Deuters) - soon to become Louisa's first love... and soon to become dead.

Okay, this is pretty damn shocking.

First of all, this is directed by a guy named Jack Nixon-Browne who only made family friendly TV projects like The Littlest Hobo.  Second, nothing about this soap opera-esque movie would give you any forewarning that nudity was on the horizon - I'm imagining audiences got an unexpected eyeful... and it wouldn't be the last...

Put aside your wonderment that we're seeing Stephanie Grant's bush and long extended looks at Ekland's boobs... think about the scene itself.  This is a mother and daughter.  And I'm not completely sure if we're supposed to even be moderately alarmed by this.

And now we have an official love triangle on our hands.  Paolo and Louisa develop a relationship, and a jealous Susannah is on to them.

We also learn that Susannah may have "accidentally" killed Louisa's old flame, Tim.  And she's taking an illegal medication (via Paolo, who's studying to be a doctor) in order to preserve her beauty.

This is like an entire season of All My Children condensed into one film. (If All My Children had boobs, I might've been tempted to watch.)

Louisa invites her friend Rita over (who quickly disrobes).  As you'll recall, Tim (R.I.P.) was her brother... but she has no reason to blame Susannah for her brother's death.

Suzanne Barker plays Rita.  Barker doesn't have a whole lot to her IMDb credit.  She plays one of the many chicks who flocked around Cadet Martin in the first Police Academy - and that's probably her biggest claim to fame.

Rita and Louise go for a swim
Okay, now this is getting ridiculous.  The girls in this flick simply cannot keep their tops on.  Gratuitous nudity at its finest.

Shit starts to hit the fan as Rita and Paolo's (i.e. her stepfather!) relationship heats up and Susannah's jealousy manifests itself as cruelty towards Paolo.

Susannah demeans and humiliates Paolo, rubbing her wealth in his face, and laughing at his goal of becoming a doctor.  In response, Paolo gets a little rough in the sack (i.e. he straight-up rapes her).

I hate to keep comparing it to soaps, but this ain't your grandma's Young and the Restless... though the crummy video film and melodramatic music say otherwise.

Susannah gets some bad news from her doctor. We don't know what it is, but I'm sure we'll find out before the film is through.

...and Susannah is in a coma.  This, or course, starts all kinds of finger pointing.  The maid thinks Paolo did it with his injections - and so does the detective....

The cop also knows about their twisted liaison by their hotel visits. Wouldn't it be convenient for their little sick stepfather-stepdaughter affair if Susannah bit the dust?

Fortunately, Rita is there to help Louisa sort out the clues and support her during this tough time... naked.  What is it with friends and relatives bathing together in this film?  Is this a Canadian thing?

Things go from bad to worse when Susannah dies, Paolo goes to jail, and Susannah's last will and testament leaves jack and shit to Louisa - the maid inherits everything.

If she at least had some money to dry those tears.

Louisa and Rita consult on what to do next.  They need to get to the bottom of things - they just can't believe good ole Paolo would kill Susannah, nor do they think she'd kill herself.  So, what the f**k happened?

Sweet Lord!  I'm innocently trying to digest their conversation (something about visiting Susannah's ex-husband, Louisa's father, yada yada) then, BAM, Rita just opens her legs!

If my surprise seems over-the-top, you just need to watch it yourself.  A movie which acts like a soap or a cheesy movie-of-the-week simply shouldn't have nudity - let alone full frontal every five minutes.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, just a little gobsmacked.

After yet another round of sitting naked together, Rita finally uncovers the truth - Susannah killed herself when she found out from the doctor she was dying.

I'll spare you her convoluted route of reasoning it took to get there.  If you've seen the brainstorm scene in Black Dynamite, you have an idea of how it went...

So, in the end, everyone lives happily ever after... except for Susannah, who's dead.  Paolo is freed and reunites with Louisa, and, somehow, the inheritance ends up back with Louisa (sorry, maid, I guess it wasn't meant to be).

The plot is lame, the acting is mediocre, the direction is uninspired, and the story is tired.  Dr. Yes has one thing going for it, and that's plentiful nudity.

As its sex appeal is unimpeachable, I'd focus on other aspects.  First, I'd find some way to film this on actual celluloid - the videotape just makes it look like a cheap soap.  Second, I'd do something with the soundtrack - the lame melancholy strings are right out of a 1974 episode of Ryan's Hope. A groovy, thrilling score would have gone a long way.

But why was this called Dr. Yes? I get that Paolo was trying to become a doctor, but that hardly deserves to be the title.  Did I miss something?