Filmmaker David N. Gottlieb famously envisioned Game Show Models (1976) as a vastly different kind of film. Gottlieb’s original film was titled The Seventh Dwarf (who is identified as Happy in the film) and follows Stuart Guber’s (John Vickery) search for happiness from hippie culture to a suit and tie PR firm. The Seventh Dwarf is light on satire and heavy on sentimental philosophizing. Some of this still comes through in the version that distributor Sam Sherman made, despite the addition of several sex scenes.
John Vickery (known for playing the zealous pastor in Stephen Gyllenhaal’s film Promised A Miracle) imbues the wandering Stuart Guber with enough heart to make the two-dimensional character likable. However Vickery seems as out of place in the Sherman sequences as Gottlieb’s sentimentality. Neither Game Show Models no The Seventh Dwarf are particularly stylized so any disruption in the emotional tone of either film is highly disruptive and undermines the work of the actors.
The sequences that Sherman added to make Gottlieb’s film more “commercial” are notable for being the only scenes with Dick Miller. Game Show Models is bookended by scenes of a ridiculous game show hosted by Miller. During the reprisal of the earlier sequence the show devolves into an orgy. The models of the title only appear at the beginning and end of the film for no real reason at all other than to add more sex to the film. As women disrobe and people begin to have sex there are comically awkward cut away shots of Guber looking on in total confusion.
It’s not that The Seventh Dwarf is a better film than Game Show Models. Gottlieb’s film is just more earnest than Sherman’s version. The Robert Altman inspired closing shot of the film suggests Gottlieb’s ambitions for his modest little independent feature. Unfortunately to get his film released he had to make the changes Sherman requested. And while Sherman only adds sleaze to the proceedings, his sexploitation impulses do work to under-cut the pretensions and self-seriousness of Gottlieb’s version.