Roman Polanski’s 1962 debut feature Knife In The Water is a thriller of explosive simplicity, confining a fractious couple and a mysterious hitchhiker to a boat and allowing the setting to serve as a pressure cooker for sexual and psychological tension. Two men, one alluring woman, and a knife: What more does a movie need? With his 1975 knockoff Waves Of Lust, Italian exploitation maestro Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust) provided an answer to that rhetorical question: A second woman and a lot more casual nudity and sex. All the suppressed erotic tensions of Polanski’s film become, in Deodato’s unofficial version, a bonanza of softcore coupling of nearly every variety, only occasionally broken up by halfhearted stabs at politics and suspense. Deodato would get better at adding more nuance to the exploitation game—his immediate follow-up, Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man, potently reworked the crime picture by offering a sadistic Starsky & Hutch duo as its antiheroes—but Waves Of Lust certainly gets the basic job done.
The political overtones are bluntly established: Al Cliver and Silvia Dionisio are a pretty, free-spirited couple of drifters who accept an invitation from John Steiner, a sneering industrialist, to come aboard his yacht for a weekend voyage. Elizabeth Turner plays Steiner’s girlfriend, who submits to his sadistic urges out of fear of violent reprisal. It’s a source of some relief, in fact, that Steiner openly lusts after Dionisio, who strings him along while her boyfriend fumes. When Cliver and Turner threaten to pair up—other than the two men, no coupling goes unexplored—Steiner’s possessiveness turns to murderous jealousy, despite his obvious hypocrisy in seeking out extracurricular activities for himself.
As the ill feelings boil to a head, Deodato stages a couple of hilariously inept underwater suspense sequences, but his interest is really in what happens afterward, when the women are peeled out of their skin-tight bodysuits. Deodato would marry Dionisio in real life, and Waves Of Lust is notable mainly for the attention it lavishes on her as an omnisexual goddess of significant magnitude. Beyond that, there’s not much sophistication or craft on display, just an argument for free love without possession and an invitation to ogle without shame.
Key features: A liner-notes essay makes a somewhat confusing argument for the film, and a few deleted scenes echo footage that’s actually in the movie, but there’s a substantive 17-minute documentary called “Erotic Tsunami” that gets interviews with Deodato and screenwriter Lamberto Bava.