Friday, June 18, 2021

Insatiable (1980)


It feels so good to have great sex.


Such is the life philosophy of incredibly successful model/actress Sandra Chase (Marilyn Chambers), but Godfrey Daniels's Insatiable ultimately asks, "And then what?" On the surface, Sandra seems to have the world in the palm of her hand. Much of the film takes place during the pre-production phase of Chase's forthcoming star-turn feature, masterminded by Flo (Jessie St. James), her...agent? Manager, maybe? Regardless, Flo is convinced that attaching actors Renee Reynolds (Serena) and Roger Adams (John Leslie) will make the movie a slam dunk success. Judging by the conversations between Sandra and her Aunt Victoria on Sandra's post-filming vacation, Flo was right.


It's demonstrated and reiterated that sex is very important to Sandra. Right off the bat, she has a super horny dream and the first thing she wants to do is tell Flo about it and is disappointed when she can't due to Renee's imminent arrival. She doesn't have much time to fret, though, since within minutes after meeting Renee, the two women are in the hot tub getting it on.


Insatiable though she may be, Sandra never seems to have much difficulty finding action. What's more, she seems to be as content giving as she is receiving. After wrapping up with Renee, Sandra takes a drive in the country and comes across Artie Goldberg (Richard Pacheco) whose car broke down on the way to his softball game. Chase offers to give him a ride, but gives him a blowjob instead. Artie was so gobsmacked that he was with the Sandra Chase, that it was pretty apparent he'd have done anything she asked, so blowing him must have been enough for her in the moment. I don't think Artie ever got to his game, but I feel like he probably didn't give a shit, either.



After Sandra's drive, her fucking cool as hell butler Charles told her that he'd sent Renee back to her hotel in a limo, so Sandra takes the opportunity to have some wine with Flo and tell the tale of how she lost her virginity to the family's gardener (David Morris) on the billiards table in her father's study. There's some ambiguity as to how old Sandra was during the experience. She tells Flo it happened "around six years ago," but that doesn't really track. Chambers was 28 at the time, and it seems reasonable to expect Sandra was supposed to be about the same age (I could see maybe 25 at the youngest), but the Chambers's portrayal of Chase in the flashback was much more naive than a 19-22 year old. Plus, after the story's over, Flo expresses her concern that she could have been hurt and says, "Imagine...and you were just a young girl...." To which Sandra replies, "I was young, but sexually, I was ready for him." I'd put the implied age at 14, plus or minus two years, purposely obscured for decency (if not legality).



The scene itself is a touch overlong and borders on assault despite Sandra's claim of being "ready for him" well after the fact. David Morris is a serviceable enough actor overall, but lacked the chops give the scene any nuance. If his macho menace had been undercut with a little seduction, the whole thing would have come off much better. I found myself thinking that John Leslie would have nailed it. And speaking of Leslie....


The next part of Flo's plan is bringing Roger to Sandra's estate to sell him on the film over dinner, drinks, and romance. I wonder if Leslie and St. James were ever an item in real life, because they sure had a lot of natural chemistry.


While they're getting it on, Sandra's in her room falling into fantasy. Sanda is laid out, nude on a table. The gardener from her past emerges from the darkness and goes to work on her. Then, another fantasy man (Mike Ranger) appears, followed by Flo. The three of them focusing on Sandra seem to be getting her close, but she's obviously distraught when the men finish on her belly (Morris) and face (Ranger) and her companions drift off, back to the darkness. (I'm assuming the set was a conscious nod to the stage in Behind the Green Door.)


In an effort to (literally) fill her void(s), she conjures John Holmes and his massive donger. Try as he might, though, even he's not able to sate Sandra's mouth, vagina, or ass (which, Jesus...), and when he also finishes, leaves Sandra hauntingly begging for more, directly to camera. To say it's a tonal shift for the film is an understatement. The film had been pretty breezy, soundtracked by folksy AM Gold rejects, but as the music fades out while Holmes is ejaculating, it's just 72 seconds of Sandra's panting, moaning, and pleas (reminiscent of the chilling opening of Devil in Miss Jones), fading to silence and darkness.


Interestingly, this fantasy occurs before the scenes earlier in the film when she's in London, telling her aunt (and herself, when she's thinking about Flo and Roger's marriage) that her independence "gets lonely at times, and hey, I do my share of complaining about it, but compared to the alternative, I think I'll leave it the way it is for now." So even if the viewer is left with a pretty somber assessment of Sandra's satisfaction, with the benefit of the doubt that she's not simply deluding herself, there's narrative proof that overall, she's actually pretty content. So that's something!

Insatiable is another film that I reviewed in the initial incarnation of Pornonomy. I saw that I gave it a B+, but didn't read what I wrote yet. I'll see what Roger Rimmer had to say about it and then circle around:

There is no plot to this film, but there is much wealthy ambience.... While I have given it a CC rating my feeling is that most women won't identify with Marilyn. All she wants to do is have sex. If most women feel the same way, they won't admit it to anyone.

Well, that's a little presumptive! Rimmer also bungled details including John Leslie's character's name (he calls him "Roger Renee," conflating Roger Adams and Renee Reynolds), and the timeline, but what else is new?

Insatiable is also one of AVN's 500 Greatest Adult Films of All Time, but the blurb isn't particularly enlightening.

It's also one of the All Time Top Ten from Jim Holliday's book, The Top 100 X-Rated Films of All Time.

 

Looking back, my review in December 2009 isn't markedly different than how I felt watching now. I ended that one with:

Beyond the “classic” tag, I knew nothing of Insatiable, and while it was different than my expectations, it didn’t come up short. On the other hand, while I’d encourage interested porn viewers to check out Insatiable – especially for Chambers’ performance – there are others I’d recommend before it. So, I’ll give Insatiable a relatively arbitrary B+.

Arbitrary, indeed. New project, new grading scale. This time, Insatiable gets a whopping CC5.

RANDOM THOUGHTS
° While Marilyn Chambers sings the song used for the film's opening, a duet version of "Morning, Noon, and Nighttime" is reprised throughout.

° Godfrey Daniels (real name Stu Segal) had a pretty solid career as a producer and has a fucking killer website.


° The ADR on the film was outstanding. Which I realize is sort of a weird thing to notice.

° The photography was also frequently excellent:








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On deck:



Monday, June 14, 2021

Christy (1975)


The fourth longest review drought since reviving Pornonomy and I had to watch this turkey. Sheesh.

Valerie Marron is the titular Christy in Leon Gucci's film. She's at times a jailbait stripper, a sexual naif, and a hopeless romantic.

I think the idea is that she's so magnetic, no one around her can resist her: not her stripper best friend (Cindy West), not her artist suitor (Eric Edwards), not even her parents (Marc Stevens and Andrea True). It's not particularly well-communicated, though, and the tone of the movie is all over the place, from light and slapstick-adjacent (door-to-door lingerie salesman Harry Reems hawking his wares to True) to gritty and dark (Stevens getting knifed in Times Square while he and his wife are trying to find the bar Christy's dancing at).


The Reems/True scene was really the standout hardcore scene which is sort of an indictment of the film as a whole, because it's not like it was a real scorcher or anything. The only moderately remarkable thing about the picture was the soundtrack by '70s pop curio Sleepy Hollow. I wonder if they had any idea they contributed music to the film.


I'm very curious to see how Rimmer justified this as a Collector's Choice. Let's see, shall we?

The CC rating is not only for all the old-timers in one film but also for the unglamorous, but believable, second-floor Greenwich Village apartment environment. ...Most of these early films reflect a more naive and experimental quality than you'll find in current films. A few that I have given CC ratings do deal with aspects of real life.

I'm impressed that he explicitly stated his reasons for rating it a CC and while I can't argue in theory with his assessment, in practice Christy wasn't naive or experimental enough to rate as anything higher than a CC250.

RANDOM THOUGHTS
° Cindy West's stripper get up would fit right into a 2021 hipster's wardrobe:


° Tragic ends are a dime a dozen when you're talking about people in and around the porn world over the decades, but for some reason, reading about Levi Richard's death really surprised me.

° When I see Harry Reems, I'm often reminded of the truly horrendous job the ill-fated television show Swingtown did casting an actor to portray him:



° The trend for "reviews after substantial breaks" seems to be that the films are getting worse. Each time I've gone more than a month between reviews, the first review back as dropped from CC25 (47 days, That's Outrageous) to CC100 (45 days, Lady Dynamite) to CC200 (35 days, Carnal Haven) and now (34 days) CC250. I guess I have to keep a tighter schedule lest I end up really in the pits.

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Next (and hopefully better than Christy) is:


Oh, damn! "Better than Christy" is an understatement to say the least.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Carnal Haven (1976)


Carnal Haven
isn't completely inept film making, but it isn't particularly "ept", either.

The film opens with a bizarre mission statement from writer, producer, director, "fotographer", and editor Carlos Tobalina (as Troy Benny):


From there, Carnal Haven is more or less broken into three parts:

28% An introduction to four couples with relationship issues that all find their way to a sex clinic, interspersed with some of their action at the clinic.

Lesllie Bovee & John Leslie

Turk Lyon & Candida Royalle

Desiree West & Dashile Miguele

Joey Silvera & Bonnie Holiday

32%
Time at the clinic where the four couples (plus a few other people and minus Joey Silvera, for some reason) get some basic instruction on human physiology and learn a few techniques to please their partners (the "Inca Nut" thrusting technique for men and the "Gypsy Grip" squeezing technique for women) courtesy of the doctors (Ken Scudder and Sharon Thorpe).


The new techniques (and some things that just come naturally) are tested out during a prolonged (and moderately uninteresting) orgy.


40% Cutting between the couples, post-clinic, relishing their rekindled passions, with an 8-minute aside in which Lesllie Bovee explores her sapphic desires, back at the clinic with Sharon Thorpe and Annette Haven.

The only parts of this final act that stood out were Turk Lyon and Candida Royalle getting into a position that put the structural integrity of Lyon's dick in serious jeopardy:


...and Silvera's character's resolution (giving up his life of crime) getting it's own extra silent film-style thought bubble card:

"Shity" all right.

There's some inconsistent narration that lends a bit of an educational film feel (a bit on that later).

The film editing wasn't great, but the music editing was a train wreck, particularly during the orgy and post-clinic "reclaiming" sex. It was like somebody only had access to a few songs (including a 1970s cop show jazz funk cast-off and echo heavy proto-jam band song) that they were trying to mix live, cutting between them seemingly at random and in no way influenced by what was going on on-screen, and sometimes letting them overlap. Just truly bizarre stuff.

Then, at the very end, Tobalina gives us two more text cards:



I get that pornographers were under serious threat of prosecution for indecency, but even by 1976 it seemed like dressing up blue movies as documentaries or marital instruction was kind of a bygone thing. If he'd leaned into it more, I could have believed it was satire of the convention, but it doesn't play that way at all.

Let's see if Rimmer has an explanation for recommending it:

A sex education porno film? Sure enough - and unlike the Love Tapes, which are more clinical, this one has many top stars.....

Uh, sure.

At the outset, the narrator says, "If you think this is one more orgy, you're in for a big surprise," but I'd argue you really aren't. I kind of got the feeling Tobalina did just want to shoot an orgy picture and when he finally got around to it (in 1983's Marathon) it was a lot more fun. CC200

RANDOM THOUGHTS
° I feel badly for Dashile Miguele and Desiree West. Whereas all the other couples were just examples of "couples", Miguele and West were representative of Black America. And then their problem was that he coveted a new Cadillac and she wanted him to get a job. And then the resolution was that he did get a job that let him get the car, but his new illustrious career was as a pimp. Yikes.

° You can't help but notice that for all the talk of clits in the clinic, there was no real focus on female pleasure (let alone orgasm) during the film's climax (so to speak).

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Next up:




Tuesday, April 6, 2021

I Want to Be Bad (1984)




Neglected housewife Jan Jenkins (Kay Parker) is fed up with her husband (Jon Martin) Charlie's philandering ways and decides to have her own affairs in order to live her best (sex) life. Realizing (sorta...) the mistake he made taking Jan for granted, Charlie recommits to his wife and promises to give all the good loving she needs. Roll credits.

On paper, Robert McCallum's I Want to Be Bad is a pretty simple, trope-rich adult film. In practice, it's a little more complicated. First, Jon Martin's Charlie is a completely unsympathetic character. Which, fine, Jan's the protagonist, but the third act turn really relies on the character's revelation of the error of his ways and earnestly trying to earn his wife's affections back. Instead, after a "hey, yeah you're right: my wife's okay," conversation with his friend Fred Appleby (Paul Thomas), Charlie proceeds to have an argument with Jan, smash open the locked door to their bedroom to which Jan'd retreated, and...well...sexually assault her. Yikes.

Right out of the gates, he proves himself an asshole. When his secretary Karen (Laurie Smith), with whom he's having an affair, tells him there's not enough time before his flight to Seattle for them to fool around, he's like, "Plenty of time, baby," and then after he gets his rocks off and she's like, "Don't leave me hanging, I'm so close," he goes, "Sorry, gotta jet!"


Later on, during while interviewing Flo Whitaker (Jacqueline Lorians) for a position at his company he not-so-subtly implies that her odds of employment would greatly improve if she went the extra mile. After she does, she laughs and says, "It's a helluva way to try to get a job." And he says, "Well, you had the job all along sweetheart." When she's understandably pissed, he just says, "It's a fringe benefit for the boss!"


With all that it's incredible that there was zero effort to give Charlie a Heel Face Turn.


Additionally, I would have expected the Sexual Awakening of Jan to be more fully explored. Her eyes are opened when the aforementioned Fred stops by and asks to use her VCR to watch a hot new porno since his machine's on the fritz. (A totally normal thing to do, obviously.) Initially, she's unsure since Charlie's away to Seattle (in part for a business meeting with her father; a bit on that in a second).


Ultimately, she decides to let him in, but declines watching it with him. Naturally, her curiosity gets the better of her, and after watching a bit of the flick (presumably Golden Girls Films 169: Relaxation with Lynn Ray and Marc Wallice, even though the box he's carrying is for Hot Rackets, naturally a McCallum picture), she succumbs to Fred's advances.


With her newfound libido, she decides to seduce her water delivery boy, who happens to also be the star of the "fuck film" she'd just seen. What a coincidence! So far as we see, though, that's the extent of her escapades. Of course, she may not have had much more time to fool around. It's difficult to get a real sense of time. It could take place in as few as three days, but mentions of relationship between Karen and Fred and Flo and the water boy imply weeks (or even months). I suppose it's no massive shock that an adult film doesn't have a meticulously charted timeline.



I realize devoting this many words to flaws makes it seem like I didn't enjoy the movie, but that's not actually the case. I really should try to pick fewer nits. With how goddam fast times is flying, maybe I'll make that a 2022 resolution. Anyway, to the positives.

The performances were either good (most of the actors), fun (Wallice's stiff - no pun intended - line reads delivered through a perma-grin)...


...or both (PT's charming goofiness).


The film was pleasantly paced both in the sex (no lingering, gratuitous close ups) and non-sex scenes and clocked in just shy of 82 minutes. And the sex scenes were mostly good to very good. The lone lemon was when water delivery boy joined Flo in her shower. It was a clunky, awkward waste of two attractive performers and a perfect example of how shower sex - not the oft-dunked on 69 position - is the true over-rated sex act.


The final scene between Charlie and Jan was close to making the Dishonorable Mention list for how it started, but after the legitimate "trigger warning" start to the scene it was pretty damn sexy.

Of note, too, was the scene between Charlie and Jan's father's new wife, Trish (Tara Aire). Trish was keeping Charlie company before a meeting with Jan's father, Thomas Harlan (Blake Palmer in what must be the shortest role of his career). They shared a drink and then she showed him to a room she had set up for him to rest, even though he wasn't staying the night. Charlie didn't realize Trish had slipped him a Mickey until it was too late (marked by possibly the line of the film, while examining his crotch: "What the hell is this? I feel a slight stiffness coming on!"). After a dazed Charlie passes out, Trish creeps into the room and wakes him up, iiifff you know what I mean. The wildest part is after they're finishing up, who should emerge from the shadows, but Harlan, wearing only a robe and pleasuring himself to the show!


A perplexed Charlie asks, "Harlan?!?" aaand scene. There are about a zillion places that thread could have gone from there, but instead it was out of sight, out of mind. McCallum could have done worse than to have a sequel that focused on Trish and Harlan's cuckold adventures.


Anyway, let's see what Rimmer says:

The CC rating is for Kay Parker and a happily silly story of Kay as Jan Jenkins, married to Charlie (Jon Martin), who has played around ever since they were married.

It's rare that Rimmer actually states why he gave a film a Collectors Choice, so that's something, even if it's isn't particularly informative. As for errors, he writes that "Charlie's secretary has quit and gone to work for Fred," although she and Fred are just dating, which is why she's no longer available to Charlie sexually. He also says Trish is "the new wife of a millionaire client," whereas more significantly, she's the new wife of Jan's father, Harlan. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that he's not technically wrong, because while it's never stated that Harlan is a client, Charlie does mention that Harlan never lets him forget he's responsible for putting Charlie in business. (I took that to mean he lent him start up money, but he could be a client, as well.)

All told, there was a whole lot to like about I Want to Be Bad. As has become an oft-repeated refrain, the film was a few tweaks from being a really, really good picture, but as it is I'll rate it a CC50.

RANDOM THOUGTHS
° Marc Wallice has some solid relaxation advice for a stressed out Flo: "Take a hot shower, a nice shot of Scotch, and a long, long nap. And when you wake up, believe me, you *will* feel 200% more positive energy."

° Speaking of Wallice, every time I see him in something, I'm reminded of Christy Canyon's book, when she talked about the incredible amount of weed he smoked.

° Also speaking of Wallice, when Jan tells him she's sure he'll be getting a lot of work as a porn actor, he says, "Right, I might even get as big as John Leslie or Harry Reems." I always enjoy characters in adult films referencing other real life actors (though other examples elude me at the moment; I'll have to keep track...). Despite overlapping careers, Wallice (1982-2002) never appeared in a film with either Leslie ('75-'98) nor Reems ('70-'88). McCallum direct all three actors (Wallice x16, Leslie x12, Reems x5) including two films (Erotic City and Tower of Power) with both Leslie and Reems. John Leslie directed Marc Wallice a dozen times. Unsurprisingly, Leslie never directed Harry Reems.

° According to IAFD, Blake Palmer appeared in a Non-sex role. He is shown explicitly stroking his erect penis, though, so in my opinion, it should have been classified as MastOnly, as in Every Woman Has a Fantasy. Sure, he doesn't ejaculate in I Want to Be Bad, but orgasm isn't the standard for "sex" roles, so it shouldn't be for "masturbation only" roles either. Harumph.

° Tigr (as Tig'r) is credited as "Maid" (and also Assistant Director, which is cool), but this is the extent of her appearance:


° Jacqueline Lorians is called Flo Whitaker multiple times, but is credited as Flo Moroni, for some reason.



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Next up: