Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pornonomy Reviews: Hot Rackets

Hot Rackets (1979)

Directed by
Robert McCallum

Candida Royalle
Cris Cassidy
Connie Peterson
Desiree Cousteau
Laurien Dominique
Yvonne Green
Rhonda Jo Petty
Don Fernando
Rock Steadie
John Raymond
Jon Martin
Mike Ranger
Ray Wells
Turk Lyon

A review for Hot Rackets may be the most apt time to bring up an article about library music I read months ago in Wax Poetics. In a nutshell, library music was music recorded for use in television and movies when the directors and editors didn't have the budget to record original music. It was always instrumental, and frequently thematic (whether there were different musical themes that repeated in various styles and tempos or multiple songs that featured a similar instrument - Hammond organ, say). The article mentions the use of library music in porn - Barbara Broadcast and SexWorld are cited. Reading the article made me think of Golden Era soundtracks in a different light (an interesting correlation because library music, while in use since the 1920s arguably had it's heyday in the late '60s and through the '70s and was virtually extinct in the mid-'80s). Not only did the music help define the films from the era that I'm most focused on, but the extensive music composed and performed by talented musicians lend these films a feeling of depth and professionalism that, in my opinion, is frequently absent in movies after video killed film in X. A twenty five minute sex scene can be boring enough, but when its scored with a looping single techno bar, it can be downright punishing.

I mention all this because the most striking part of Hot Rackets is the music. The plot is pretty thin - even by adult film standards: Herb (Jon Martin), frustrated with his wife Liz's (Candida Royalle) disinterest in sex, finds solace - and satisfaction - at his tennis club. After finding out from her friend Mona (Rhonda Jo Petty) what really goes on at the tennis club, Liz goes to the club to check up on Herb only to have her libido unleashed by Larry, the wise bartender (Ray Wells) and the club masseuse, Kelly (Lauren Dominique). Of course, Liz and Herbs paths eventually cross and they end up embracing the swinging lifestyle that, apparently, tennis clubs secretly encourage.

There are also a few other characters (Turk Lyon and Cris Cassidy as a butler and maid; Desiree Cousteau as a tennis club bimbette named "Googie") shoe-horned in in order to have a few other sex scenes.

Two other things that occurred to me:

1. If I ever have access to a time machine, after taking care of important things (like going to the future to pick up a sports almanac to get rich through betting and going back in time to kill Hitler), I'm going to seek out the first sound editor to overdub sex sounds and dialog in porn and stop him by any means necessary. Every time I hear some, I'm convinced its the worst example I've heard yet...but this film has the worst example I've heard yet.

2. There's an interesting juxtaposition of female grooming. Rhonda Jo Petty is completely bare - a rarity for the era, no doubt - but also Cris Cassidy is completely unshaved - bush, armpits, and legs. Although she's naturally quite blond - so her hair is relatively subdued on camera - it's virtually impossible to imagine a scenario (outside of a fetish film) that you'd find an actress like that today.

2-and-a-half. Petty's bare-ness is revealed in the second scene of the film. Her nether regions are covered in shaving cream, so I think we're supposed to think that Mike Ranger is shaving her, but as he's wielding an instrument ostensibly designed to strip paint or ice a cake, I think it's a pretty safe assumption that she's already shaved. The inclusion of that action by itself seems odd enough, but when coupled with the fact that the preceding scene - the first "action" of the film - was Cris Cassidy giving Jon Martin a blow job in the shower with his face and hands covered in shaving cream, Hot Rackets starts off with every indication that it's a shaving cream fetish film. Very strange indeed.

So, what's the verdict? Hot Rackets reminded me more than a little of Lips, and since I said of the latter: "I wouldn't actively steer anyone away from Lips, but it wouldn't be the first (or fifth) Vatelli film I'd recommend. C+", I think it's only fitting that I say of the former:

I wouldn't actively steer anyone away from Rackets, but it wouldn't be the first (or fifth) McCallum film I'd recommend. C+

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hey, something new finally!

You shouldn't take the stasis of this blog as an indication that I haven't been watching adult films. I have been, but for some reason, I haven't had the drive to write about them when they're over. Well, here are a few I've seen over the past few months, most recent first:

Little Orphan Sammy (1976)
One thing I can say for the movie is everybody in it gives 100%. It's very much a movie of it's time. As a parody, it feels a lot like Blazing Saddles or Murder By Death. (A more direct comparison would be The Girl from S.E.X., I guess.)

Daddy Sawbucks (Neil Flanagan in a non-sex role) has developed a formula for turning garbage into oil, and Hata Mari (Jennifer Welles) wants it. In order to get an "in" with Sawbucks, she adopts Sammy (Rocky Millstone) from an orphanage. Sammy and Daddy Sawbucks have some sort of connection, but why, if they're so close, Sammy is living in an orphanage is never explained. Millstone plays Sammy like a super patriotic Beaver Cleaver (sincere, without a doubt, but he comes across with more than a slight touch of "serial killer") that says "leapin' lizards" a LOT. Each of the five sex scenes Sammy is involved in spring from his All-American desire to "help." I never realized that eating ladies out was a civic duty, but that's a lesson I took from the movie.

The movie is light and fairly well paced, and the aforementioned commitment of the cast make up for some of its short comings. B-

Lust on the Orient Express (1986)
This had been on my radar since X-Ray's review and I finally got around to watching it. It turned out to be a sterling example of why I need to relax my semi-arbitrary 1985 cut-off.

The story - a potboiler mystery writer (John Leslie), in need of inspiration, sets of on a pan-European trip with his wife (Gina Carrera) aboard the Orient Express and stumbles upon a murder and jewel heist plot - was solid, the cast, acting, and production value were terrific. So much so that were it not for the sex scenes (most of which felt pretty organic, and not tacked on, which is a problem with a lot of adult films that have quasi-mainstream qualities), it easily could have been a movie I watched on USA on a Saturday afternoon in the late '80s. A-

Garage Girls (1980)
I really wanted to like this film - if for no other reason than the leading ladies looked effing amazing in their overalls-and-nothing-else get ups - but after reading GGG's review, figured it was best to temper my expectations*.

While not a terrible film, Garage Girls is a prime example of a "If Only" porn, a movie that could and should have been much better than it was. The premise, four women (Brooke West, Cris Cassidy, Dorothy Lemay, and Lisa DeLeeuw) start an auto shop and are antagonized by chauvinist male mechanics, is simple and solid enough to make a good porno. The problem is that frequently that plot line takes a back seat to scenes, characters, and plot developments whose sole presence seems to be to make the film "zany." Look, zany is fine as long as its fun and not frustrating. Unfortunately, more often than not, Garage Girls was the latter. C (I could have graded it a little lower, but it gets bonus points because, seriously, the actresses are all super hot.)

Dixie Ray, Hollywood Star
Dixie Ray has a lot going for it: a pretty interesting story (blackmail, crossing and double-crossing involving a fading starlet in 1940s Los Angeles), relative attention to detail (the noir feel was captured quite well through costuming, sets, camera work and editing, but bizarrely, towards the end of the film there's a LONG scene in which an actor can be seen stretching and, seemingly doing calisthenics, in the reflection of a mirror; "breaking the fourth wall" is an understatement), and fantastic cast. What it didn't have going for it, was natural-feeling sex scenes. It's not an exaggeration to say most scenes were: John Leslie walks into a room, questions a suspect in the blackmail investigation, fucks them. I can't remember the last time the "action" in an otherwise solid film bored me so much. C+

People (1978)
Like Odyssey (a film I really need to revisit), People is a series of unrelated vignettes. Unlike Odyssey, the scenes in People have a common (although simple) theme: interpersonal relationships. This being the last review in the post makes People the film I watched longest ago (that's a clumsy way to word it, I know, but you get the drift), so the details are a little fuzzy in my brain. Trust me, the film deserves a much better review than this....

In his review of the film, Jimmy mentions it's a shame that if most people know anything about Gerard Damiano, it's that he directed Deep Throat (an assertion I only partially agree with; while not as solid as Odyssey or People or DMJ, I quite enjoy Throat...), watching this film, it's plain to see Damiano has some serious chops. A

* I just revisited GGG's review to see why I remembered it making me temper my expectations (I didn't re-read it immediately before writing my thoughts because I wanted to make sure my review wasn't influenced). Turns out, her review was overwhelmingly positive, save one brief homophobic slur by De Leeuw. For whatever reason, that must have been what stuck with me. All told, I think her review is an interesting counterpoint to mine.