Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills Review

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A baroque mansion turns into a hive of bedding and betting when an ex porn-star, an ex- soap queen, a ghost and some of the sleaziest hired help in the state converge.


After the Cop and the Down And Out, here’s the Class Struggle. With its ostentatious wealth, neurotic inhabitants and garish architecture, Beverly Hills, it would seem, is fast becoming a piece of comic real estate. Paul Bartel puts in his bid with what is intended as a baroque satire on the sexual mores of the residents and their retinue.

Jacqueline Bisset is Clare Lipkin, an ex-soap queen who, during the weekend of her deceased husband’s wake, is besieged by neighbour Lisabeth Hepburn-Saravian (Mary Woronov), her asinine playwright brother and his ex-porn star wife while Lisabeth’s house is fumigated to rid all traces of her ex-husband (a philandering gynaecologist who, needless to say, turns up at the Lipkin household). Also in attendance, for reasons best known to themselves, are Paul Mazursky, director of Down And Out In Beverly Hills in the guise of the ghost of Clare Lipkin’s husband, and Bartel himself as a residing “thinoligist”. As Clare and Lisabeth get the weekend under way with ruminations on sex with the staff, their respective person-servants, romantic Juan (Robert Beltrano) and artful Frank (Ray Sharkey), bet on who can “score” first with the other’s boss. If Juan wins, he gets to pay off a gambling debt and if Frank wins, he gets to sleep with Juan. Simple.

Bartel's strength with Eating Raoul was his ability to shock, but there are few surprises here. The characters are hackneyed caricatures suffering under the weight of too many gags that promise more than they can deliver and the best moments, such as the revelatory morning-after breakfast table scene, come when the ensemble playing is allowed to develop. Mostly, though, there’s an awful lot of wasted effort expended trying to be risque.

For all its aspirations, Scenes From The Class Struggle In Beverly Hills is seldom more than an ill-conceived bedroom farce.