Career Girl: Smooth Operator (1995)

Dave heads down to the gym to watch Doug Jeffery seduce career-minded – and one-time Obama date – Megan Hughes.

Marc Laurence is one of those guys left lurking in the shadows of the softcore trend, rarely getting a mention despite having a bevy of high-end titillation draped over his resume. Beginning life as a supervising producer on the much-missed Cinemax show Hot Line, which rivalled HBO’s Red Shoe Diaries for your late night lust, his initial home video success came under the banner of CPV Productions, who put out a bit of quality smut during the mid-‘90s. Although Call Girl (1995) and Lap Dancer (1995),which flirted with Alan B. Bursteen’s New City Releasing, are wholly recommendable, it’s SMOOTH OPERATOR that stands out for both its class and originality.

Grace (Megan Hughes) is a driven career woman who’s fully embraced singledom for the satisfaction of a high-powered gig at a major corporation. Impressed with the healthy glow that’s emanating from her secretary (Candace Kita), she accepts the offer of hiring Brian (Doug Jeffery), the same personal trainer, in the hope that a little physical exertion before work might give her the edge on a forthcoming promotion. Inevitably, their lycra-clad endeavours lead to a passionate affair – but for single-minded Grace, it brings unexpected consequences.

Released during the year of his directorial debut, the excellent Shannon Tweed vehicle Indecent Behaviour III (1995), the mid-point of the ’90s saw Kelley Cauthen solidify his position in the erotic drama and thriller genres with a host of directing assignments like Centerfold (1996), while bagging a producer credit on a series of glossy Playboy movies that included Losing Control (1998) and Club Wild Side (1998) [1]. Cauthen is a very safe pair of hands, and with an editorial apprenticeship on the tasty Lawrence Lanoff twosome of Novel Desires (1991) and Intimate Obsession (1992), he ensures that there’s barely a wasted shot in Smooth Operator.

Megan Hughes’ claim to fame may well be a high school prom date with Barack Obama, but her mix of bookish charm and steely-eyed ambition is an ideal casting move. Helping her out is the dynamic Doug Jeffery. The former Chippendales host is a really underrated performer in this wave of erotica; but his appearances in films like this, Jag Mundhra’s Sexual Malice (1994) and Mike Kesey’s Killing For Love (1995) (alongside Jay Richardson, who pops up here too) underlines his ability to straddle eye candy and acting.

Coming across as a morality tale about the perils of eternal seclusion if you devote yourself to a career, on the face of it Smooth Operator is a strange beast in terms of tone. Granted, we’re in the usual terrain of a palatial mansion, an affluent lead, and fine-looking people, but the thoughtful script from Hel Styverson lingers long after the end credits, and its allegory about money not buying happiness offers a surprising pause for reflection.

USA ● 1995 ● Erotic, Drama ● 87mins

Megan Hughes, Doug Jeffery, Jay Richardson ● Dir. Kelley Cauthen ● Wri. Hel Styverson

[1] These days, Cauthen is the VP of Post-Production at Awesomeness, a subsidiary of Viacom CBS.

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