It makes sense that George Cukor, the helmer behind "The Women," would adapt Irving Wallace's best-seller "The Chapman Report" (1961, Warner Archive, unrated, $25), the fictionalized account of a pair of Kinsey-esque sex researchers (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Andrew Duggan) dispatched to suburbia to probe a handful of women about their most intimate feelings.
The scripter of this odd picture was Don Mankiewicz, son of the Wilkes-Barre-reared Herman J. Mankiewicz (co-writer of "Citizen Kane) and Mank's widow, Sara (who was a member of Cukor's inner circle). Don would go on to a successful career in TV, writing the pilot of "Ironside" as well as the "Star Trek" episode "Court Martial" and a mini-series based on President John F. Kennedy's "Profiles In Courage." But he clearly was out of his comfort zone with "The Chapman Report," which bombed upon its release back in the early '60s.
Mankiewicz went out of his way to bad-mouth the film to Cukor biographer Patrick McGilligan, insisting it sprung from a "dreadful concept" and that the movie was "nothing of value to anybody."
That's not quite the case. The subject matter was incredibly daring for the early '60s, and, from the beginning, Cukor had problems with both the censors and producer Richard Zanuck, who reportedly cut 20 minutes from the film even after it enjoyed a successful preview screening in San Francisco. What remains of "The Chapman Report" is uneven but fascinating, particularly the segments about an adulterer (Shelley Winters), a frigid widow (Jane Fonda) and a sex addict (marvelous Claire Bloom).
"The Chapman Report" might be flawed, but it is never less than fascinating.
Amy Longsdorf writes about DVD and Blu-Ray releases with local angles.