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'Dirty O'Neil' a/k/a 'The Love Life of a Cop' (1974)

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'Dirty O'Neil'

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In the 1950s, American International Pictures ruled the drive-in circuit with a series of low-budget exploitation films that catered to the the primary clientele of the "passion pit," teenagers. In the '60s, the studio branched out with a series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations and the Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello Beach Party movies, while continuing to produce classic exploitation fare like "The Wild Angels," "Riot on Sunset Strip," and "The Trip." By the 1970s, AIP was adapting to a changing marketplace, churning out Blaxploitation and biker movies by the dozen, while also venturing into sexploitation, taking advantage of the looser production code to feature as much T&A as an R rating would allow. Which brings to today's main course, 1974's "Dirty O'Neil" a/k/a "The Love Life of a Cop."

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From the establishing shots of beautiful downtown Newhall, California, the viewer is transported into a magical and totally '70s world, where it's always sunny, all the men have sideburns, all the women are beautiful and never wear a bra. A time in our great country's history when the sexual revolution was in full swing and the term "politically correct" had yet to be coined.

The title character, Jimmy O'Neil, played by Morgan Paull, is a small town police officer who spends the majority of his time engaging in sexual congress with a variety of local lovelies: Vera, a barmaid (Katie Saylor); Ruby, a diner waitress (Jean Manson); two high school girls (Tara Strohmeier and Ella Edwards); and a bored Norwegian trophy wife (Liv Lindeland, a 1971 Playboy Playmate). The rest of the time, he cruises down the dusty streets with his out of shape, dimwitted partner Lassiter, played by Art Metrano, best known as Captain Mauser from the "Police Academy" series.

The movie was the first feature of director Lewis Teague ("The Jewel of the Nile"), but he was replaced over "creative differences," which in this case probably meant that there wasn't enough gratuitous nudity. In any case, the film was completed by the author of the leering, salacious screenplay, Leon Capetanos, whose only previous directorial credit was 1971's "Secret Life of a Schoolgirl Wife." He would go on to write such hits as "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" and "Moscow on the Hudson," films that are a far cry from this one.

[Warning: Spoilers ahead.]

One can surmise that Capetanos is the true auteur behind "Dirty O'Neil," which means that he takes the blame for the jarring tonal shifts in the film. For the majority of the movie's 89-minute running time, the tone is lighthearted, nudge-nudge wink-wink, as O'Neil cheerfully works his way through the female cast, and while there are many all-natural breasts on display, not to mention a veritable forest of un-manicured pubic hair, there is little in the way of actual sex in these scenes. With the film's B-story, involving a trio criminal lowlife types, things take a turn for the nasty. We are introduced to them committing armed robbery at a gas station, shooting the attendant in the face. Later, they gang-rape Vera, and unlike O'Neil's various encounters, the scene plays itself out, the camera lingering on the victim. It's creepy.

The action finale between O'Neil and the three dirtbags continues the nastiness, with one crook getting his hand stuck in a fryolator and another getting crushed by a bulldozer. The film ends with O'Neil in the hospital recovering from a gunshot wound, as the only female character that we haven't seen naked finally gets naked.

Currently streaming on Netflix, "Dirty O'Neil" is not a very good film, but as a '70s time capsule, it's hard to beat.

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J.M. Dobies, Austin Classic Movies Examiner Facebook Page

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