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Veronica HartLisa De LeeuwJohn AldermanAnnette HavenGeorgina SpelvinRobert KermanMichael MorrisonDesiree CousteauEric EdwardsJessie St. JamesJacqueline Brooks
This low key charmer slipped through the cracks back when it was first released theatrically in 1982, not so hard to imagine considering the veritable embarrassment of riches at the adult aficionado's fingertips. I should know as I started going to adult cinemas in the Spring of that very same year, informing in at the tender age of 14 (trivia note : for a double bill consisting of Ron Sullivan's magnificent BUDDING OF BRIE and Wes Emerson's endearingly silly STARSHIP EROS), and it wasn't until quite a few years further down the line that I discovered CENTERSPREAD GIRLS on home video, VHS at the time. Yesterday, I revisited Belgium's last remaining "old school" porno palace, the Brussels ABC on the Boulevard Adolphe Max, still valiantly screening ever more deteriorating 35mm copies of classics and crap from the past (hey, just because it's old doesn't necessarily mean it's any good), and guess what was playing, sharing the bill with Bob Chinn's highly enjoyable TELEFANTASY, closing the circle as it were… The early '80s were good for the late Gary Graver a/k/a "Robert McCallum", teaming up with producer Harold Lime for a number of the most lavish movies the adult industry has ever spawned, along the lines of THE ECSTASY GIRLS and AMANDA BY NIGHT. Those flagship titles effectively eclipsed what were considered at the time to be lesser endeavors of their joint venture but upon which the passing of time and the recession that came with it have bestowed classic status anyway, such as COED FEVER, SOCIETY AFFAIRS and SUMMER CAMP GIRLS. Remarkably well-written by C.W. O'Hara, who penned several scripts for Graver including the massively underrated INDECENT EXPOSURE and SATISFACTIONS, the witty CENTERSPREAD GIRLS fits squarely into latter line-up, an utterly charming variation on the Us Vs. Them narrative structure that will occasionally pop up in porn by means of defense in the face of prosecution and public disdain. Editor of Panther skin magazine, Sue Forbes (legendary Georgina Spelvin) is deep in hot water as an organization of self-appointed moral guardians who have christened themselves Morality Over Madness (M.O.M. for short, brandishing the slogan : M.O.M. knows what's good for you !) have decided to set an example by closing her down for corruption of public decency. In a wish fulfillment departure from reality, most of Panther's past centerfolds have parlayed their au naturel photo shoots into lucrative professional careers and Sue calls on them for help in swaying the M.O.M. members' opinion. If you're snickering at that last bit, you have got the right idea. Rallying her sinful girls to battle is hot shot attorney Jane, played to perfection by the wonderful Veronica Hart, who will work her own brand of persuasion on long time smitten Judge Roy Hammer, brilliantly essayed by her best screen partner bar none Bob "Bolla" Kerman. If sensible argument doesn't do the trick, then blackmail serves as a perfectly acceptable alternative. Texas Governor Hamilton Osmond (a ripe Milton Ingley), first seen cooed and wooed by a proudly patriotic – she sports a pork pie hat and stars 'n' stripes leotards ! – Victoria Slick (a minor but busy starlet also in Gerard Damiano's NEVER SO DEEP and Sven Conrad's BODY MAGIC), falls prey to the conniving Carson girls, played by scrumptious Lily Rodgers a/k/a "Laura West" (unforgettable in INDECENT EXPOSURE) and Jacqueline Brooks, an obscure Suze Randall discovery whose only other note-worthy credit apart from a handful of shot on videos was for Paul G. Vatelli's minor AUNT PEG GOES Hollywood. Perversely, for such a superstar-laden vehicle, the latter wound up taking the video and subsequently DVD cover! Screen diva Beverly Martine (a delightfully hammy Annette Haven, perfectly cast) attempts to coax former blue movie stud Lyndon Loveless (Eric Edwards) out of retirement, only to discover that his change of camps was the result of physical failure. By the way, the clip he shows of himself with Arcadia Lake and Brooke West is from AMANDA BY NIGHT. Painter Vee (Lisa DeLeeuw, uncharacteristically subdued) has her work cut out with Southern Old Money Thurman Parrish (the incomparable John Alderman a/k/a "Frank Hollowell") but finds his lovelorn spouse Louella (radiant Jessie St. James) an altogether easier prey. The Sapphic free for all involving Lisa, Jessie and the often too casually dismissed Tara Aire (terrific in John Christopher's BABE) as tag-along photographer Anne provides the film's carnal highlight. Ditzy Desiree Cousteau, as close to Betty Boop as any live actress has ever come, proves pivotal as unlikely anchorwoman Ellie Parker literally charming the pants off pompous Reverend W.W. Williams, played to the hilt by Paul Thomas. Current porn critics always act surprised at how much like "real movies" the adult films of this period look and feel. Well, they were intended for showing at proper theaters and drew respectable audiences prior to the video boom which pretty much killed off that era stone cold dead, a rare fossil like the dearly decrepit ABC notwithstanding. Budgets were decent and the people in charge generally knew what they were doing. That's why the achievements of the '70s and early '80s are conveniently grouped and referred to as porn's "Golden Age". An experienced cinematographer with extensive mainstream credits to his name, Graver provided a bright and colorful look that beautifully befits his upbeat material. Also tangentially affiliated to the mainstream, as he scored the Tony Curtis vehicle BALBOA, composer "Ronnie Romanovitch" a/k/a Richard Hieronymus supplies the type of bouncy disco tracks people readily associate with Golden Age porn. Most of the acting is solid and the story, while predictable, proves satisfying with clever dialog. Having worked with Orson Welles, Graver manages to inform in another Shakespeare quote as Spelvin wonders how she will obtain her "pound of flesh". The sex appears a bit overwhelmed at first but still manages to rise to the occasion.
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