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American Swing


3.1 out of 5 stars (68) IMDb 6.2/10

The Seventies were sexy and sleazy. At the epicenter of it all was Plato's Retreat, the controversial, first-ever swingers club. American Swing brings this enigmatic epic of excess to the screen for the first time.

Bryce Britton, Irwin Corey
4 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Documentary
Director Jon Hart, Mathew Kaufman
Starring Bryce Britton, Irwin Corey
Supporting actors William Davidson, Dan Dorfman, Donna Ferrato, Joe Franklin, Jamie Gillis, Al Goldstein, Dian Hanson, Buck Henry, Ron Jeremy, Ed Koch, Steve Kraus, Larry Levenson, Fred J. Lincoln, Robert L. McGinley, Howard Smith, Annie Sprinkle, Melvin Van Peebles, Alan Whicker
Studio Magnolia
MPAA rating NR (Not Rated)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Roland E. Zwick on May 24, 2009
Format: DVD
Anyone who ventures into "American Swing" expecting to see a documentary on Benny Goodman is in for one hell of a rude awakening - and that's putting it mildly. For the "swing," in this case, actually refers to the "wife-swapping" phenomenon that swept through middle-class suburbia in the 1970s. And no figure did more to popularize that trend than Larry Levenson - the "King of Swing" as he came to be called - whose "live sex club," Plato's Retreat, located in Manhattan`s Upper West Side, served as the epicenter for so much of the action.

Let it be stated right up front that this eye-opening documentary is not for the prudish or the easily offended, for its footage is graphic and its language raw, often akin in its look to crude 1970`s porn. It takes us straight into the heart of a scene that became famous for its flagrant nudity, its unbridled group sex, and - if the eyewitness accounts are to be believed - its really bad food (apparently, the smorgasbord that kept bringing the people in was of quite a different kind!). Directed by Matthew Kaufman and Jon Hart, the film features interviews with many of the now-aging club regulars who happily regale us with tales of their personal escapades there. A number of celebrities who frequented the club, as well as certain reporters and broadcasters who covered the beat at the time are also interviewed.

"American Swing" is most interesting as a social document, showing how the "free love" ethos espoused by the hippies in the 1960's expanded into the mainstream a decade later. Suddenly, ordinary businessmen and housewives, truck drivers and longshoremen could partake in the life of the sexually liberated.
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Format: DVD
No history of the sexual revolution would be complete without the story of Plato's Retreat, the very first couples-only, heterosexual sex club in the country. Located in the heart of Manhattan, this private sex club made waves as soon as it opened in 1977 and enjoyed several years of notorious success before ultimately being closed in 1985. Under the benevolent rule of Larry "King of Swing" Levenson, Plato's Retreat welcomed anyone and everyone with an interest in the swinger lifestyle, creating a clientele that ranged from the blue-collar worker and housewife to the rich and famous - and many a celebrity, judge, senator, and the like spent time there (including the likes of Robin Leach, Sammy Davis, Jr., Richard Dreyfuss, Saturday Night Live cast members, and Dan Pastorini). At its heart, this truly was the poor man's Playboy Mansion. Quickly developing a culture all its own, virtually anyone - no matter how unattractive - could satisfy their sexual appetites there free of the judgment and morality of the outside world - and women could challenge the entrenched gender role for their sex by becoming the sexual initiators and aggressors society forbade them to be. Levenson became one of the most prominent spokesmen for the swingers' movement, and few can deny his pivotal role in taking what had previously been an underground movement and placing it noticeably in the mainstream. Predictably, the good times lasted only a few years. Levenson did time for tax evasion and could not save his club from decline in the early 1980s; more than anything, though, it was the AIDS scare and New York City's resultant clampdown on sex clubs of all kinds that heralded the end of Plato's Retreat on New Year's Eve of 1985.Read more ›
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Format: DVD
"American Swing"
(Magnolia Pictures, 2008)
(NOTE: some spoilers included below)
This is an utterly compelling documentary about an amazingly seedy topic, the life and death of a popular New York sex club called Plato's Retreat, which catered to heterosexual "swingers" during the height of the disco era. It was, apparently, the equivalent to the swinger scene what Studio 54 was to the gay-socialite set, a place of immense personal liberation and shocking group debauchery. I used to think of the heyday of "wife-swapping" as being in the early and mid-1960s, but this saga took place in the musty ashes of the '60s Sexual Revolution, as the hippie era gave way to a more generalized hedonism and self-centeredness in American society. The film largely shies away from an examination of the larger changes in society at the time, sticking closely to the immediate drama of the Plato club, and indeed, it's a pretty compelling story. It's also an unsettling topic: I had no idea that straight (hetero) society had such an out-there free-sex culture, and while this is fascinating in theory, seeing it made plain (there is quite a bit of archival footage) is a little nauseating, if the truth be told.

As the story unfolded, I assumed that the advent of AIDS and HIV disease would be what would do the club in, and while it did factor in, it was actually the club's ties to organized crime that rocked its foundations: the club's owner, Larry Levinson, went to jail for nearly three years for tax evasion in the early 1980s.
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