It's 1969, and hidden within the wood-paneled Darla Arms Furnished Apartments, Marsha, recently-widowed and always dressed in a sensible suit, comforts her pigtailed roommate Terry, who's just returned from a disastrous date where smooth-talking Jim manhandled her in the front seat of his convertible. "I'll never let another man hurt you like that," she tells Terry, and after a stiff game of checkers, they retire, Terry to bed and Marsha, apparently, to the living room floor. Awakening from a vaguely sexy dream, Terry crawls out to Marsha and kisses her on the lips—and thus begins the romantic entanglement that will eventually lead to a tragic end for the bouffanted beauties.
That Tender Touch is decidedly of another era, from the delights of the hairdos and fantastic Southern California decor to the wide array of midmorning cocktails, and from the markedly chaste displays of affection (limited exclusively to kissing on the mouth and the ol' hug-and-roll, whether between Terry and Marsha or Terry and her husband, Ken) to the politics. In keeping with the tagline on the 1969 poster, "A woman's picture every man must SEE!", the film's narrative follows the general pattern of the era's pulp fiction in its dire punishment of Marsha for her "unnatural" love, and the firm establishment thereby of Terry and Ken's healthy, heterosexual union, now temptation-free for our perky heroine. A heady atmosphere of prurient paranoia surrounds poor Marsha who, on visiting Terry in her happily married home, encounters the lust swirling beneath the shag-carpeted surface of suburbia as first a lonely neighbor, then the French-maid-uniformed housekeeper, then the other neighbor's teenage daughter all attempt to seduce her, the latter saying, as she puts down her dog-eared copy of That Tender Touch, "I'm young, tender, and willing." Here at the Roxbury Estates, the only thing bigger than the hairdos is Marsha's heartache, and any woman left alone for mere minutes is prone to behaving badly.
Director Russel Vincent’s first of just two films—the second, 1971’s How’s Your Love Life?, stars the mysterious Russ Vincent—That Tender Touch is a must-see camp classic, as much for its tragic theme song and even more tragic cocktail party (the entertainment was an accordion player and an amateur belly dance from a neighbor) as for its time-capsule status. This month's must-see installment of the Quad’s always fantastic Coming Out Again series co-presented by NewFest, That Tender Touch was preserved by Outfest's Legacy Project at UCLA Film & Television Archive after being unearthed by film historian Jenni Olson, who will present the film in person.