Based on a novel that itself was based on Alfred Kinsey’s landmark, controversial survey of human sexuality, The Chapman Report — now on MOD DVD from Warner Archive — dramatizes the data-collection efforts of Dr. Chapman (Andrew Duggan, It’s Alive) and his assistant, Paul Radford (Efrem Zimbalist, TV’s The FBI) in one particularly prosperous California suburb.
Chapman calms the country clubbers that he’s there only to gather facts on a basis that is clean, dignified and anonymous; he’s not there to counsel or pass judgment. Cukor’s camera follows four rich, white female subjects before, during and after their behind-the-screen interview, including:
• Kathleen Barclay (Jane Fonda), a 24-year-old widower who’s iceberg-frigid;
• Sarah Garnell (Shelley Winters, Lolita), a middle-aged local stage actress who’s been cheating on her longtime husband with her director;
• Naomi Shields (Claire Bloom, The King’s Speech), a boozy divorcée /promiscuous nympho; and
• Teresa Harnish (Glynis Johns, Mary Poppins), a happily married and sexually satisfied artist who begins to wonder if she and her spouse are too “normal.”
In a quickly paced two hours and five minutes, The Chapman Report shuffles about their individual, but sometimes overlapping stories. And damned if they don’t boast the same soapy scent as the era’s Valley of the Dolls, which is to drugs as this drama is to doin’ it: marvelously outdated and high on the scale of histrionics.
Being an early role for Fonda, she overly emotes, coming off about as believable as she did as a virgin in Sunday in New York. Winters is an all-around joke, and Bloom OK with an underwritten role, but the whole show is stolen by the adorable Johns, who serves as the intentional comic relief — ironic, now that the whole of the film reeks of humor.
Chapman the man may not judge, but Chapman the movie does, as well as doles out punishment for its characters’ lit loins. Among its outrageous messages: Have sex after your husband dies and you’ll pay for it by being gang-raped. Geez, who wrote this hysterical propaganda, Rep. Todd Akin? —Rod Lott