The Specialist (1975)

Director: Howard Avedis
Tagline: “Every BODY has a price!”
Plot: In 1972, Seattle attorney and political advocate Ralph B. Potts published the book Come Now The Lawyers, an anecdotal history of law and progress in Washington state. In 1975, Crown International Pictures and schlock auteur Howard Avedis (director of The Stepmother and The Teacher) adapted one of the stories from Come Now The Lawyers into The Specialist, a plot-light, nudity-heavy legal drama featuring actors from Batman and Green Acres. The distinguished Mr. Potts must’ve been so proud. 

Adam West stars in The Specialist as Jerry Bounds, an upright crusader standing up against the water company’s efforts to exploit a local lake. John Anderson plays his opponent, Pike Smith, who at the start of the film smashes the glass out of a door at Bounds’ law firm, to prove that “Nobody crosses Pike Smith and profits by it!” 

To extend that point, Smith hires Alec Sharkey (Avedis), a former lawyer who now makes a living working out of his boat as a sleazy P.I. In turn, Sharkey hires Londa Wyeth (Ahna Capri), whom Sharkey pitches to Smith by saying “She doesn’t do any movies… She does her acting in real life.” The plan? Have Smith’s dopey artist son Harden (played by Harvey Jason, in a stupid hat) move Wyeth into a house in their town for a few weeks, while Smith arranges to get her on the jury of the water-company trial. Then they spring the sting. First Bounds complains about Pike’s behavior in court, and gets a slap across the face.

Then Wyeth rushes from the jury box to console Bounds, and after he’s calmed down, she asks him if he’d mind driving her up to the disputed property so she can take a look at it firsthand. He tells her that such a trip would violate every known rule about contact between attorneys and jury members… but what the hell, hop in the car.

Once they arrive, Wyeth strips to her underwear, splashes in the water for a bit, then rolls around on the shore with Bounds, while Smith, Sharkey, the judge, and the court’s bailiff (played by Green Acres Alvy Moore) all watch from the hillside.

Subsequently, the case gets tossed out and Bounds faces disbarment, but he smells a rat and decides to investigate, with his wife by his side. (When asked whether she’d consider divorcing her husband for his indiscretion, she chuckles, “Murder, yes. Divorce, no.”) So during The Specialist’s loooooong wind-down, Bounds grabs his gun and starts asking questions, while Smith responds to a blackmail threat from Sharkey by squeezing his head in a sliding door and shooting him in the gut.

Key scenes: When Pike Smith shows up at his son Harden’s house to explain the plan, the two of them get into a debate about art, which Harden loses, because even though he’s the recipient of an Andy award from The Grand Galleria of Seattle, he’s still wearing a stupid hat.

Later, when Sharkey is taking his incriminating pictures of Bounds and Wyeth together, the bailiff shows up, giving Alvy Moore an opportunity to throw some character actin’ around.

But at least Moore acquits himself better than Adam West, who starts the movie in somnambulant mode—barely able to stir himself when his wife suggests they have sex—then ends the movie shouting about the divine authority that informs the law, and that apparently allows him to smooch as many foxy jurors as he wants.

Can easily be distinguished by: The roughly three scenes that advance the plot, sprinkled between long takes of people driving or walking. (Remove those three scenes, and you probably could get this movie into competition at Cannes.)

Sign that it was made in 1975: The funky blaxploitation-style theme song, sung by Lou Rawls. (Choice rhyme with the word “specialist:” “It’s inconceivable such sex could exist.”)

Also super ’70s-ish: The wood-paneled, shag-carpeted courtrooms.

Timeless message: Whatever you do under the influence of a sexy dame is legally justifiable.

Memorable quotes: Harden Smith invites Wyeth to see his paintings, but she responds that she’d rather see his etchings, to which Harden replies, “I didn’t know you were an etching freak!” Then, back at Harden’s place, Wyeth seduces him, which isn’t too tough, in part because Harden’s a stupid-hatted doofus and in part because, according to Alec Sharkey, Londa “can turn on anybody in the world… ’cept maybe a faggot.”

Available on DVD from BCI.

Filed Under: DVD

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