THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD (1975) Entertaining mystery movie involving lots of flashbacks and some convoluted reincarnation plot.

reincarnationpeter_betaboxTheme Song: Lots and lots of variations on the riff from Superstar by The Carpenters and lots and lots of really, really bad synth stabs.

Interesting Dated References: Calling the telephone operator in order to ask her for the listing of a television channel. Microfilm being a useful technology. Airports with green and brown interiors.

Best Line: “You’re a delicious man and I love you.” “A very unprofessional shiver just ran up my spine.”

Social Context: In 1975 this didn’t have a social context so much as it had a social relevance. People were just getting into reincarnation and other such new age belief systems. You can still find people into this shit if you live in California or some other state where people go to run away from reality.

Summary: This movie opens with a guy swimming naked and apologizing to Margot Kidder for saying stupid things when he was drunk. Then Margot Kidder beats the naked man with a paddle and he has enough time to react to the blow and cover his genitals for the underwater camera shot. Imagine if you were swimming naked and someone attacked you with a large wooden paddle. Would the first reaction be to cover your genitals? I’m really self-conscious, but I still wouldn’t have the wherewithal to cover my genitals. As we watch the nude man sink to his death, it is suddenly revealed this is in fact a dream some guy named “Peter” (Michael Sarrazin) is having.

Peter is a teacher and his girlfriend is naked a lot. Peter keeps having flashbacks about some guy scoring with a lot of chicks, one of whom is Margot Kidder. He feels a pain in the same spot as the guy who was hit with the paddle, yet his doctor sees nothing wrong with him. And another thing, the entire motif of the soundtrack is some type of spaced-out chord progression rip off of “Superstar” by The Carpenters. It’s like “Superstar” via one of those bad Tangerine Dream soundtracks.

Peter’s psychologist recommends some “dream specialist” on the campus who may be able to help him, and Peter decides to meet with the specialist and be analyzed in this “dream machine” thing. Peter tells his frequently nude girlfriend all of this while in bed. Oh and get this, there are totally different bed sheets on the bed than there were in the beginning. This is very nice to see. Usually movies don’t address the problem with people not changing their bed sheets. It seems this movie was eager to encourage people to change their sheets.

The Doctor explains to Peter he’s not dreaming at all because nothing was registering on the “dream machine.” So they conclude they must be hallucinations. After that Peter goes to an occult bookshop where Dolemite is leading some type of seminar on Satanism. Apparently Peter has already decided he’s been reincarnated because at dinner with his now-not-as-frequently-nude girlfriend he explains all of this to her.

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The doctor then suggests hypnosis to try to get to the bottom of the dreams and after Peter inexplicably feigns skepticism about hypnosis, he goes under.

After that, Peter decides to drive his hot girlfriend all over Massachusetts so he can attempt to figure out which town his past life is from. After she leaves he finally finds the town, where he then sets up shop in a hotel and goes about investigating his previous death. There are tons of nice exterior and interior shots of Massachusetts in the 70s if you’re into that type of thing. Annoying synth stabs, lots of driving around looking and stuff, and finally Peter finds his old home. The neighbor girl tells him the old lady who lives there has been away for years, but that she knows a secret way in.

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It gets a little confusing because the neighbor girl (Suzy) has awesome giant 70s thighs, but is wearing short-ass daisy dukes. Once in the house, Peter just wanders around as Suzy tries to get laid by lying seductively on furniture with her gigantic legs.

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These synthesizer noises are getting annoying. I can’t think of anything more annoying in a soundtrack than flutes and synthesizers grouped together. Eventually he tracks down a girl at some country club who is the daughter of the dead guy he once was. I know, convoluted and confusing, all the more so that he appears to be flirting with her. They agree to a date and Peter comes face-to-face with the mother of the woman he is taking on the date (Margot Kidder) who is also the lady his former self used to make love to. Margot Kidder is wearing some bad make-up and a gray wig to make her look older. After Peter leaves with the chick he’s trying to sleep with that is also his former self’s daughter we see Margot Kidder slamming Smirnoff vodka.

The courtship continues and Margot Kidder gets increasingly vindictive and puts on worse and worse old person make-up. Eventually Peter meets his mother in the old folks home while he is on a date with his daughter who is actually a girl he is trying to sleep with. I should mention the girl Peter is dating who is also his daughter from a past life is played by Jennifer O’Neill of Summer of ’42 fame. They go to Make-Out Point and he proceeds to make love with her. No more annoying stabbing synthesizers, either, it’s all swooning violins now. After they make it, they go back home for some coffee.

Sure enough, though, the dream doctor guy shows back up and tries to get Peter to come forward to the media with all his discoveries. Peter claims he doesn’t want to for “personal reasons.” I guess personal reasons mean getting to have sex with Jennifer O’Neill.

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He even turns down swimming with her so he can take a nap and let Margot Kidder witness him having one of his dreams.

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Then we get to see Margot Kidder nude. Full on pubic hair and everything. Not only that, but we’re supposed to believe she’s like 60 years old in this movie. They interspersed this bathtub nudity with a flashback of her getting raped by her husband who is now reincarnated as Peter Proud. Now it just got a little more uncomfortable as she appears to be masturbating while thinking about getting sex forced upon her by her husband. After she climaxes, she starts crying. During that bizarre sequence we learn she killed her husband because he was cheating on her while she was pregnant.

In the final act, Peter decides to not come forward with his past life. All he needs to do to totally erase it from his mind is to visit the place where he died. I guess I forgot to mention the plot point that as he visited each place, more and more memories went away. He also has decided to marry O’Neill since he will have forgotten all about that time when he was her dad. Like an idiot he goes swimming right out to the place his former self died. Kidder shows up, but this time instead of a row boat and an oar, she has a motorboat and a gun. She kills him and the movie ends.

Poster and Box Art: Pictured at the beginning of this review is the 1980’s videocassette cover for this movie. For some shitty whimsical airbrush job, those are actually pretty good likeness’ to the stars in the movie. Although they automatically are disqualified for using the international symbol for mystery: a guy standing in a foggy doorway. Back in the 70s though, the movie was released to theaters with this poster:

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For some reason this image was used in all the 70s advertising for this movie. I think the guy that played the guy that was murdered was like a famous Playgirl model or something so I guess it was such a big deal that they had someone paint the image, add more muscles, and then tried to convince heterosexual males to come see the movie. Also of note on the poster, they really seem to be playing up the book, so it must have been pretty popular. Interestingly enough, in the beginning of the movie there’s a really cool title card:

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That I can’t find used in any advertising material for the movie! It’s totally awesome.

Availability: For some reason, more than likely Margot Kidder and her giant bush and masturbation scene, dealers are charging a lot for this on VHS. No dvd, but that’s sure to change since David Fincher is allegedly working on a remake of this movie.

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