Amy Jones and Love Letters
Birchard, Robert S, American Cinematographer
The package is intriguing. Producer: Roger Corman. Star: Jamie Lee Curtis. Script: something called Love Letters written by Amy Jones. Director: that same Amy Jones, the director who brought Slumber Party Massacre to the screen. Mix the ingredients together and you've got a perfect low-budget exploitation picture. Or so it would seem.
But life -and the movies - can be full of surprises. Love Letters is indeed a low-budget picture by Hollywood standards - it came in for around a million dollars; but it is not an exploitation film. It is, in fact, a serious love story told from the perspective of the "other woman." Something of a departure for producer Corman, it is also a personal triumph for Amy Jones.
Slumber Party Massacre was a great financial success, but it did little for Amy's reputation as a serious filmmaker. Many critics went so far as to suggest she had betrayed her sex by turning her talents to the "girls in peril" genre.
"One of the reasons I wanted to do Love Letters," says Jones, "was that I felt Slumber Party was not going to do anything for me as a director; because unless you get reviews and make a .picture with more quality you don't get much attention. Though 1 like that film, I think the critics were wrong. I think it had a lot to offer for a $255,000 "slasher" movie. It's much funnier than they realized, and anytime you play it in front of an audience - by God, it plays, and it's really funny. It had the best preview in New World Pictures' history, by the way, and made a lot of money."
Even before it was released, Roger Corman was pleased with Slumber Party Massacre, and he and Amy talked about the possibility of making another film together.
"He's always interested in a sure amount of money coming back on a film, and I was trying to sell him on the idea that if the budget is low enough, there may be a sure amount of return in a film that is not an exploitation picture. I think that cable outlets and network television and cassettes make it more possible than it used to be."
Corman was willing to be convinced, although he was not about to turn his back on exploitation altogether. "I had done / Never Promised You A Rose Garden a few years ago," remembers Corman," and it was a solid commercial and critical success. I wanted to see if Rose Garden's success could be duplicated."
During the final sound mix on Slumber Party Massacre Roger suggested that Amy Jones come up with an idea for a picture that would be more at home in an art house than a grind house. It was an opportunity - and a challenge.
"I spent several months mulling that over and fooling with different ideas, and then I saw Francois Truffaut's film, The Woman Next Door, which was a love story about an illicit romance and an obsessive love. I liked the film, and as I watched it I realized that a love story is one of the things you can do for very little money - with limited locations, a lot of interiors, and few actors - so I started to think along those lines. Then I saw Shoot The Moon, which I also enjoyed, but I somewhat resented the treatment of the other woman in the film, and I felt that was an aspect of the typical triangle love story that had never been told - the point of view of the person who is outside the marriage. I started working on that idea, and I came up with the idea of the love letters as a kind of gimmick. I was worried about the audience sympathy for that character. I think normally all of us side immediately with the married couple and hope that they stay together, so I felt the love letters - letters her mother had received during an affair that she had had early in her marriage - would perhaps explain why Anna ever got into this situation to begin with. So, I got a general outline for the plot and pitched it to Roger, and he said 'go ahead.' "
If you ask her, Amy Jones will tell you that she became a director so that she could spend more time with her children - "I knew there would be those terrible weeks when you're shooting, but that in pre-production and post-production at least I'd be the boss, and I could leave at certain hours. …