Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pornonomy Reviews: Insatiable

Insatiable (1980)

Directed by:
Godfrey Daniels

Jesie St. James [Anal Facial]
Joan Turner [NonSex]
Marilyn Chambers [Anal Facial Fisting]
David Morris
John Holmes (as John C. Holmes)
John Leslie
Mike Ranger
Richard Pacheco (as Richard Pachecho)
Robert Pennard [NonSex]

The main theme of Insatiable is right up there in the title: Sandra Chase (Marilyn Chambers) character is afflicted with a sex drive that knows neither bounds nor fulfillment. The fact that she’s a successful model/actress and multi-millionaire heiress that can’t be sexually satisfied lends a “money can’t buy love” undertone. Well, not “love” exactly…more like “money can’t buy a sufficient dicking” which probably won’t achieve the same sort of cultural acceptance as an adage.

While the film is doubtless an adult classic, beyond the high caliber of acting (including, but not limited to Chambers’ career defining performance), soundtrack (including Marilyn Chambers – what a Jill of all trades! – singing on a theme that, purposely or not, is reminiscent of Procol Harem’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”), and location shooting (in rural American and London), the thing that I was most impressed by was the form of the narrative. While the majority of the film takes place over the span of a few days, while Flo (Jessie St. James) is putting together a movie deal that would star Sandra, Renee Reynolds (Serena – who, by the way, looks great sporting a short Mia Farrow-in-Rosemary’s Baby-esque hairstyle), and Roger Adams (John Leslie), a little into the film it’s revealed that that timeline is actually a re-telling of events as Sandra is “presently” in London with her aunt. Adding a level to that is a point in which Sandra recounts to Flo the loss of her virginity: kind of a flashback within a flashback.

What the film does open with is Sandra masturbating in bed. Her session is cut with a series of flashes of the scenes to come (no pun intended), so it functions as a sort of prologue. A phone call regarding the film project Sandra will star in is followed by a brief (but unmissable) and inspired Ivory Snow gag.

An introduction to her co-star, Renee Reynolds leads to a hot tub tryst between Chambers and Serena. Later, Sandra sets out on a joyride and happens upon Artie Greenberg whose truck broke down on the way to a softball game (as an aside, if I had a Greenberg Produce softball shirt made up, I wonder how long I’d have to wear it before anybody realized the reference…). Offering him a ride, instead of taking him to his game, she drives him into the woods and gives him a blowjob accompanied by what may be one of the great original songs ever recorded for a porno (“Sandra suck it faster/Suck it fast as you can”).

Upon returning home, Flo informs Sandra that Renee had to leave. Sandra then tells Flo about losing her virginity on her father’s pool table to one of their gardeners (Nick – David Morris, who, gifted with a time machine, I’d cast as the Tony Banta character in a porn Taxi parody). The scene rides the ambiguous line of coercion/consent, sexual pleasure/sexual assault, “no means no”/”no means yes” as ably as any I’ve seen. (Of course, the ambiguity is done away with after the retelling when Sandra confirms she was sexually ready for the encounter and while Nick could have hurt her, he didn’t.) Handled by different performers – not only is Chambers’ ability to stay in character throughout the scene impressive, Morris is able to be commanding, but not too – the scene could have been much, much darker (CJ Laing and Jamie Gillis would play out pretty uncomfortable, though no less erotic, scene).

Finally, Sandra, Flo, and Roger Adams have a dinner to finalize the plans for the film. (As another aside, if ever I had the means to employ a butler, he would definitely look like Sandra’s butler Charles - Robert Pennard - you can’t beat having your Eggs Benedict served by a Bond villain!) Flo and Roger have a history, and that history becomes a present on a patio chair after Sandra retires to bed. “Believable” is a word that’s been thrown around a lot in the smattering of reviews I’ve seen for Insatiable, but it’s most appropriate for this scene. While Leslie and St. James don’t appear to have performed together much, it’s really too bad because they have great chemistry.

In a scene reprising the opening shot, Chambers masturbates to a fantasy that’s beautifully orchestrated: Chambers, lying prone on a table, is pleasured by a people that emerge from the shadows in a dark room – in succession, David Morris, Mike Ranger, and Jessie St. James. Yet again, Chambers is left unsatisfied as the three return to the shadows, Chambers pleading “don’t leave me.” Then, the personification of Sandra’s hope of satisfaction materializes as John Holmes. Inevitably, Sandra is still left unsatisfied despite Holmes’ best…er…effort. Really, couple the fact that Sandra’s life is overshadowed by the white whale of her sexual satisfaction and that she lost her parents in an accident shortly after her coming of age, Sandra Chase is a remarkably tragic character. Amazingly, the film isn’t a huge downer.

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+.

[This review's been done for weeks, but I've held off putting it up until I got screencaps done. Well, I figured I might as well post now and then put the caps up later.]

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

CSI: Pornography

Well, there really wasn't a "crime," so I guess there couldn't be a "crime scene," necessarily, but I cracked something that's been getting the better of me for a long ass time now.

As I've mentioned before, my interest in pornography was shaped early on by a stack of videos in my old man's closet. A few of the movies (Stiff Competition, The Filthy Rich, Talk Dirty to Me 3) resonated enough that it'll take some severe brain trauma for me to forget them. Others, even as an adolescent I realized kinda sucked. Then there were a few that existed in the middle ground: not mind-blowing enough for me to pore over, but then good enough for some specifics to stick with me over time.

One of the movies in the last group has eluded me for years. All I could remember was that the plot involved a man and woman in a committed relationship that decide engage in some cuckolding behavior. First, the man watches the woman with another woman, but after his partner leaves the room, he shows himself, scaring off the friend. Then, he's with two women while she's hidden, which is not what they'd agreed upon, so she forces him to watch her with two men to get even.

Unfortunately, it'd be hard enough to figure out a Hollywood movie with just the plot (there's one I remember that featured a teenage science whiz that comes upon a talking frog that I'm strongly considering submitting to "Ask the A.V. Club" if they bring that feature back), so forget about a porn. Even after I remembered that Paul Thomas was the male lead, it was an uphill battle.

Then, with mere minutes left in Visions of Jeannie (which I may or may not review at some point; I have a huuuuge prejudice against video...), out of seemingly nowhere, I remembered that Tracey Adams was the female lead. Thanks to IAFD and a Google Image search, I was able to figure out that the movie that has subconsciously haunted me for years was Dangerous Desires.

Now the only question left is: After all that time, do I dare watch the movie again, or let it exist as I remember it?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pornonomy Reviews: Tigresses...and Other Man Eaters

Tigresses…and Other Man Eaters (1979 - Video-X-Pix)

Directed by:
Peter Verlon
Denise Sloan
Diane Sloan (as Diana Sloan)
Jill Munroe (as Jill Monroe)
Heather Young (as Lemon Yellow)
Patty Boyd (as Patty Kake)
Rikki O'Neal
Samantha Fox
Vanessa del Rio
Hershel Savage (as Billy Bell)
Bobby Astyr
John Black (as Dick Rimmer)
Eric Edwards
Faceless Guy
George Payne
Jack Monroe (as Jack Munroe)
Alan Adrian (as Joe Roberts)
Marc Valentine
Michael Gaunt
Ron Hudd
Ron Jeremy

Tigresses...and Other Man Eaters is a film that "exposes" the "fact" that all women are as (or more) sex-crazed than men. This we're told by Samantha Fox who acts as the perpetually dick sucking...not narrator,, I guess. (Pretty much the same set up as Inside Little Oral Annie. And probably a thousand other porns I've never seen.)

She "proves" her assertion by leading us into a series of scenes that involve, presumably, her friends (though they're a disparate group, to say the least).

First up, her athletic friend Holly (Rikki O'Neal) who regularly bests some guy (George Payne) in swimming and Larry (Herschel Savage) in handball. Due to her competitive nature, apparently one man isn't enough, so she invites both men to her apartment for drinks. The two decide that since they both want to get with her, but neither are willing to bow out for the evening, hey, why not do it together? Of course, obviously, this is Holly's intention anyway, but she let's them think they're seducing her.

Next is Jill (Jill Munroe) who apparently prowls the docks on Sunday morning using bagels, cream cheese, and smoked salmon to lure sailors back to her place. That salmon does end up acting as a relatively (though ultimately throw away) prop. Not for nothing, Munroe's fake boobs are absurd.

Scene three has Naomi (Denise Sloan?) going to the big city to find her runaway sister Nancy (Diane Sloan?), who's now living with her boyfriend (John Black). That Denise and Diane Sloan are actual twin sisters makes their scene together creepy and gross (hey, call me old-fashioned...) and that they're arguably the most robotic actresses (in sex and non-sex capacities) in the HISTORY of porn makes it boring as hell.

The final scene centers around Rosita (Vanessa del Rio) who's the "managing director of a firm who is the exclusive purchasing agent in the United States of a number of South American governments." (What?) Since she can't finish reviewing a report integral to a deal two businessmen (Michael Gaunt and Marc Valentine) are hoping to seal, she invites them to her house for drinks. One of the businessmen brings his date/secretary (Heather Young). Throw in Rosita's maid (Patty Boyd) and - shocking, I know - the stage is set for an orgy. On a side note, there were just enough weird mentions of "orange juice" that I wondered if it was some sort of inside joke....

The pacing of the film is pretty awful, Samantha Fox's interstitials are hammy and come of as ad libbed, there are obviously fake "sex sounds" overdubs (possibly my biggest porn peeve), and there aren't any stand out scenes. Further, harping on a message that "all women" are sexual predators is, if not dangerous (perpetuating a "no means yes" mentality), at least disingenous (as is, for that matter, the societally accepted maxim that all men are obsessed with sex constantly). Still, though, in terms of overall acting and production value, Tigresses... ranks as an average to above average film. C

Fun fact: Ron Jeremy's first role. And non-speaking, at that.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pornonomy Reviews: The Filthy Rich

The Filthy Rich (1981- Caballero)

Directed by:
Michael Zen

Jesie St. James
Lisa De Leeuw (as Lisa DeLeeuw)
Samantha Fox
Vanessa del Rio
George Payne (as George Paine)
Hershel Savage (as Hubert Savage)
Jack Wrangler
R.J. Reynolds

The Filthy Rich was the very first porn I ever saw. Like I mentioned in the review for Stiff Competition, this film dictated what I expect(ed) from all porn: a fun plot, well written, well acted, and well directed. Of course, the "fun" plot qualification has since been revised to "interesting" as I encountered films that weren't intended to be light or funny.

The film revolves around a wealthy couple, Trent and Tiffany Trumaine (Jack Wrangler and Samantha Fox), having trouble in the bedroom: the lady of the house is frigid (that my first exposure to Fox was as a woman that was sexually frustrated and naive is pretty hilarious given that, by much of what I've read, she's very aggressive in real life). In order to improve their sex life and save their marriage, they decide to enroll in a sexual encounter group at Loadstone in Carmel (look for it in a segment on "69 Minutes..."). In their absence, they leave their maid and butler, Freida and Jarvis Leer (Jessie St. James and Herschel Savage) in their proxy.

As the faux-Trumaines, Freida and Jarvis tend to the estate: greeting the new Cuban cook, Chili Caliente (Vanessa del Rio); seeing that the pool gets cleaned - Dirk (Randy West), filling in for his kid brother and sporting a bad-ass perm and hilarious cut-off denim shorts, predictably lays into Freida, who's under the influence of del Rio's "special" refried beans; and do some market research for the sexual aide equivalent of the Avon lady, Magnolia Thunderpussy (Lisa de Leeuw).

Ultimately, Loadstone unleashes the sexual animal hidden within Tiffany Trumaine, which is put on full display at a bizarre, animalistic dinner party. In addition to the scenes between the Trumaines, the Leers, Freida and the pool "boy", and Jarvis and the cook, Jarvis and Magnolia Thunderpussy, there's one between del Rio and the two bikers that dropped her off at the Trumaine residence. This scene is problematic in that it plays out the "classic" trope of threatened sexual assault with the victim changing to willing participant part way through. Given del Rio's performance in BDSM pictures, it's not a stretch, I guess, for her to be in a scene like this, but it still makes me uneasy.

Much like violence in music, mainstream films, and videogames (sexual or otherwise), violence in porn is going to be seized upon by detractors to highlight the social evils of the medium. Any violence in porn is worse, still, because at the end of the day, the goal of pornography is to excite sexually, and drawing sexual excitement from rape situations is dicey, to say the least. Of course, plenty of normal, well-adjusted people indulge in rape fantasy, and the fact that, after having seen this film as an adolescent, I'm neither a sexual predator nor a mysoginist could suggest that scenes like this aren't harmful, it's impossible to lay out a blanket statement for everyone. It's possible, though not probable, that playing Grand Theft Auto or listening to NWA or watching The Filthy Rich at an impressionable age could warp one's development. All this is beyond what I intended for this blog or this I'm going to leave the topic with this quick note: while I don't empirically disagree with the biker scene, it'd make it a helluva lot easier defending pornography if scenes such as this (tame, really, by comparison to other films) weren't filmed....

The Filthy Rich closes in a very American Graffiti/Animal House fashion, with a narrator telling what becomes of all the characters. Included is that Chili Caliente operates a chain of taco trucks in Tijuana, saying: "If God had not wanted man to eat pussy, he wouldn't have made it look like a taco. Cha cha cha." Words to live by. B+

Pornonomy Reviews: 3 AM

3 AM (1975 - Metro)

Directed by:
Robert McCallum
Clair Dia
Georgina Spelvin
Judith Hamilton
Rhonda Gallard
Sharon Thorpe
Robert Rose (as Bob Rose)
Charles Hooper
Frank Mauro

Since I seem to reference it constantly, I might as well review it....

3 AM is the story of a lonely woman, Kate (Georgina Spelvin), who lives with her sister Elaine (Rhonda Gallard) and her family. In addition to living in their house, she's, whoops, having an affair with her brother in law, Mark (Frank Mauro), and, whoops again, kills him by braining him with a champagne bottle on a boat and dumping him overboard.

The film opens with Mark and Elaine having sex while narration by Kate introduces the viewer to the characters and the fact that Kate and Mark have been having an affair for 15 years. Further, Kate says that the affair is justified by her loneliness; a loneliness that also justifies having had sex with women, including (whoops a third time) her niece, Stacy (Claire Dia). Whether they do or not, you're led to believe that Stacy and her brother Ronnie (Charles Hooper) can hear their parents having sex (Kate's narration confirms she can hear them), lending an uncomfortable incestuous undertone that resurfaces later, during scenes between Stacy and Kate and then between Stacy and Ronnie. (Though, in those cases, the "undertones" are very much "overtones"....)

Georgina Spelvin's performances often tend to skew to the melodramatic, but she is an exceptional actress (by porn standards, at least) and in 3 AM, her performance is a little more subdued and perfect for the tone. In fact, whether by chance or directorial choice, most of the characters seem to speak with the same "voice" that lends 3 AM a stylistic cohesion not expected in porn.

The film is a solid example of American cinema in the '70s (not just porn, but film generally). It's slowly paced, challengingly themed (in addition to incest and murder, there's fantasy, guilt, voyeurism, innocence and loss thereof...), and masterfully shot - I think you'd be hard pressed to find a porn better directed, technically, than 3 AM. Add a too true to be coincidental allusion to "The Awakening" to everything 3 AM's already got working for it and you've got a "serious" porn as well-realized and stylish as The Devil in Miss Jones (original, of course). A

Pornonomy Reviews: Stiff Competition

Stiff Competition (1984 - Caballero)

Directed by:
Paul G. Vatelli

Bridgette Monet
Bunny Bleu
Cyndee Summers
Cynthia Brooks
Gina Carrera
Heather Thomas
Kitten Natividad
Kristara Barrington
Kristie Duval
Kristy Regan
Patty Plenty (as Patti Wright)
Susan Hart
Craig Roberts
David Cannon
Greg Rome
Hershel Savage
John Leslie
Kevin James
Paul Thomas
Peter North
Ron Jeremy
Steve Drake
Tom Byron

Stiff Competition is the second adult film I ever saw. Coupled with The Filthy Rich, it set a standard for adult films that may be unreasonably high. Nostalgia not withstanding, Stiff Competition may well be the best all around porn I've ever seen.

In a world where blow job competitions don't only exist, the world championship, the Superbowl of Suck Offs, is popular enough to fill an arena and be ordered on pay-per-view in bars and little old ladies' living rooms.

Essentially a Rocky story, Jeff (Kevin James) is a trainer who loses his tempermental "athlete" ("The Mouth" - Susan Hart) early on and then discovers Tammy (Gina Carrera), who's branded "The Tongue" during a brainstorming session that segues into a blow job training montage. Really, who doesn't love a montage?

Carrera's Rocky is countered by Cyndee Summers' Apollo Creed (or Clubber Lang, or Ivan Drago, I guess), Cynthia "Silk Throat", managed by John Leslie. Leslie is as good as playing a dastardly creep (see also: Suzie Superstar) as James is at playing a naive doofus (see also: Sweet Alice).

In addition to Team Tongue and Team Silk Throat, the rest of the competitors and characters are played masterfully: David Cannon and Bridgette Monet as a trainer and competitor, Linda Lonestar, from Beaver Creek, Texas (Cannon may deliver the line of the movie when he says "You know what, darlin'? I'm gonna stick my cock right inta yer butt."); Ron Jeremy as Don Head, a sleazy promoter; Herschel Savage and Patty Plenty as Wayne and Patty Cakes; and Paul Thomas as the ringside announcer. You know the cast is deep when an actor like Thomas is in a non-sex role (although he is also one of the guys in the training circle...), and the Championship stunt cocks include Tom Byron and Peter North....

With a fantastic, ridiculous plot, great script, story arc, performances, and bloopers during the credits (ala Cannonball Run), Stiff Competition is in rare air: A+

Pornonomy Reviews: Taboo

Taboo (1980 - VCX)

Directed by:
Kirdy Stevens

Brooke West
Dorothy Lemay (as Dorothy Le May)
Holly McCall
Juliet Anderson
Kay Parker
Lisa K. Loring
Miko Yani (as Miko Yama)
Sarah Harris
Starr Wood (as Star Woods)
T.J. Carson
Tawny Pearl
Valerie Paulson
Don Fernando
Gary Eberhart
Ken Scudder (as Grant Lombard)
Jeff Scott
Jeremiah Jones
Jesse Adams (as Jessie Adams)
Lee LeMay (as Lee Le May)
Michael Morrison
Mike Ranger
Turk Lyon

As time goes by, I find myself more and more interested in seeing all the Classic classics. At the same time, I find myself more and more confused as which films, exactly, count as capital C Classics. One that would probably be on most porn historians' top 10 lists would be Taboo, if for no other reason than it was responsible for launching a series that's both one of the most (in)famous in porn and one that would have to rank (at, what, 27 movies?) as one of the largest non-gonzo (nonzo?) or loop-compilation series ever.

It's not worth a spoiler alert since (1) this is a pretty well known film/series, (2) if the title's not enough of a tip-off, then (3) it's pretty apparent within the first few minutes the direction the film's headed, but SPOILER ALERT this movie's about incest. The thing that struck me about it, though, was the relative nonchalance the subject was treated with. Granted, Barbara (Kay Parker) seemed to have some kind of moral dilemma with the whole situation - thought that just amounted to a brief "what we did was wrong" conversation with her son and a "I know I shouldn't but I really want to" confession to her friend (Juliet Anderson's Super Freak, Gina, who took the news not with shock but with the compulsion to rub herself off immediately). And Paul (Mike Ranger) had seemingly no internal conflict whatsoever: from his "I've got the hottest mom in the world" admission at breakfast, to his "peck on the cheek, mom? Pshaw, how about a kiss with tongue" maneuver later, to his response to Parker's apology after the deed was done ("I don't think we did anything wrong...let's do it again!"). Perhaps it's too much to expect a porn to have the tension and ambiguity of a film like, say, David O. Russell's Spanking the Monkey*, but it struck me that there was at least a little more thematic depth to be plumbed.

That said, I was surprised and impressed that while the film obviously hinged on the shocking relationship, the majority of the scenes (sex and dialog) dealt with Barbara and Paul individually and not together. Barbara's attempt at playing the field is initially stymied after xxxx sets her up with a swinger; Paul has a series of go-rounds with his girlfriend (Dorothy LeMay), although there's an obvious Oedipal fantasy subtext.

Two things I'd be remiss to omit concerning the sound of the film: While it's hardly the only porn guilty of it, the practice of overdubbing oral sex sound effects (*mmm, slurp, mmm*) is ludicrous. This is a porn from 1980, not a radio drama from 1935.... Secondly, there's a stereotypically Asian song scored under a scene between Juliet Anderson and her lovers (Don Fernando and Miko Yani); the only feasible reason it's there is because the woman's Asian, which is a bizarre, quasi-racist touch.

Overall, Taboo was well paced and acted and while I personally think it could have benefited from a slightly darker tone (something akin to 3 AM), as it's own entity it's befitting of the place it holds in porn history. B+

* Which, on a tangent, what the hell IFC? From time to time I'll go through the weekly guide for the Sundance Channel and IFC. If there's something I'm interested in, I'll record it and watch it when I've nothing else to (which happens less and less, since I've got an ever-expanding list of porn, but I digress). About a year ago, Spanking the Monkey was on the programming and I decided to record it because I'd enjoyed Russell's later work (Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees, specifically), I saw Carla Gallo ("Undeclared") and Zak Orth (Wet, Hot, American Summer) were in it, and it had the sort of innocuous description you might expect from an early to mid-90s indie flick...something like "disaffected young man has his summer plans ruined when he finds himself caring for his infirm mother." The description seemed fitting enough until about halfway through when I was like, "Is this...are they..." and then about three quarters of the way through when that changed to "Oh, god lord, they are?!?" Now, I've nothing against the challenging theme, but IFC could have at least hinted at it. Based on the description provided, I might have turned it on if I was at my parents' house for the holidays or something. Yeesh.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

On Grading

Four reviews, three A minuses and a B plus. You might think I'm a real pushover, but the fact of the matter is so far I've only reviewed films that I've liked. I suppose I could have curved down so I didn't have a glut of films grading out in the same range, but it doesn't really matter. At the end of the first review, I mentioned the inherent ridiculousness of grading these films. Or at least grading them at the time of the review and without the benefit of hindsight - each new film I see will influence the way I see the rest of my catalog, doubtless. In order to come up with a scale, I'd need to have some standards, but the fact of the matter is, if there's a flawless porn, I've yet to see it. (While I'll eventually review a solid A film, I'm reserving the A plus for that mythical flawless film....)

As long as comparing, say, Ultra Flesh and 3 AM is akin to comparing apples and oranges, my grades will probably stay just as arbitrary. That's not to say, though, that the grades will start to spread out a little. In fact, I've got one unholy turd of a movie that I'm going to review eventually just to show a little range.

Pornonomy Reviews: Fascination

Fascination (1980 - Video-X-Pix)

Directed by:
Larry Revene

Arcadia Lake
Candida Royalle
Christie Ford (as Christi Ford)
Patty Boyd (as Josie Jones)
Marlene Willoughby
Merle Michaels
Veronica Hart (as Randee Styles)
Samantha Fox
Sharon Mitchell
Tracy Adams
Adam DeHaven
Eric Edwards
Mike Feline (as Mike Filene)
Ron Hudd
Ron Jeremy
Roy Stuart

In his autobiography, Ron Jeremy said that the wide-eyed, kid in the candy store look his character had amongst the neon of pre-Giuliani Times Square at the beginning of Fascination was easy to achieve – it was exactly the excitement and fervor with which he dove into the New York sex scene of the ‘70s.

In pretty short order, we’re shown that Ernie (Jeremy) is unlucky in love. (Well, sex, anyway.) His “moves” on Sharon Mitchell are interrupted by his parents and sister Victoria (Candida Royalle) coming home, he’s kicked out of an adult theater for trying to force a woman to go down on him (which sounds a lot worse in print than it plays out on screen, honest), and is knocked out and robbed by a tranny hooker. Lucky for him, there’s an add for "The Successful Seducer" in the back of High Society. After the book arrives, Ernie learns that “every man must have a bachelor apartment – or “pad” – in order to score." He’s able to find one from that comes with a nosy landlady with a penchant for peeping and a wisecracking parrot.

You might expect that Ernie’s “conquests” don’t go quite as planned. His first attempt is with a coworker (Arcadia Lake) that is ruined by her husband. His other attempts (including a woman that won’t stop talking – Merle Michaels – and a couple of vicious, sex-crazed lesbians – Samantha Fox and Marlene Willoughby) don’t fare much better. At one point, Ernie’s pad is used by his father to score with his secretary (Mike Feline and Veronica Hart) and his sister and her boyfriend (Ron Hudd) one after the other resulting in a series of “hide in the closet/pantry, someone’s coming” that would make "Three’s Company" proud.

How both the father and sister got into the apartment will be a debate that rages for generations (probably): 1. Ernie’s spare key is hung on his parents’ refrigerator; 2. Under the cover of seeing “what’s for dinner” Victoria sneaks the key replacing it with an impostor; 3. Seconds later, Ernie’s father does the same thing; 4. Ernie’s father and the secretary get to Ernie’s pad before Victoria and her boyfriend. How did Ernie’s father unlock the door with the phony key, I ask you?!? Oh well, I suppose continuity is not a hallmark of pornographic films. (After all, within a minute at one point Veronica calls Ernie her little brother and then Ernie calls Veronica his kid sister….)

It may be strange to call a porno “charming” but that’s the word that comes to mind: Ron Jeremy has a natural charisma, the script was good, the movie well acted and directed. Fascination joins Frat House (and Stiff Competition, which I’ll review eventually) as films I’d screen for people interested in, but inexperienced with, porn from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. A-

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pornonomy Reviews: Natural Lamporn's Frat House

Natural Lamporn's Frat House (1979 - VCX)

Directed by:
Sven Conrad

Hillary Summers (as Aimee Leigh)
Connie Peterson (as Catrina)
Lisa De Leeuw
Maria Tortuga (as Mana La Fantuna)
Tawny Pearl
Lou Denny
Michael Parker
Randy Allen
Turk Lyon

If “Characteristics of Pornos” was a Family Feud category (“Show me: Mustaches!”), surely some of the people surveyed would mention “dirty versions of ‘real’ movies” (think Lord of the Cockrings). So typical is the trope, that you could argue that new Not the Bradys parodies are parodies of the convention itself. (Who knew porn was so post-modern?)

Anyway, you’d expect that a film called Natural Lamporn’s Frat House would be a pretty cut-and-paste porno version of Animal House. If you weren’t privy to the “Natural Lamporn’s” part, though, you’d have no idea that some sort of connection was intended. The similarities basically end at “college,” “sex,” and “frat.” (Although the “frat” in Frat House seems to consist solely of four mid- to late-20s college seniors….)

While you’d expect a college sex comedy to follow a certain protagonist versus antagonist convention (students versus dean, nerds versus jocks), the antagonist in Frat House is not…having…sex? In that regard, I guess Frat House is sort of a 1979 version of American Pie.

The film opens with a “college life” montage with arguably the jauntiest score of any porn ever. Seriously, it’d fit perfectly in a film strip about how mail is delivered. The montage cuts to a jogger approached by a coed in a convertible. Offered a drink (he doesn’t drink), some weed (he doesn’t smoke), and finally a blowjob (well, who doesn’t get blowjobs?) you think “Well, at least he’s not a plumber.” After the deed’s done, though, you’re let in on the premise of the movie: the guys at the house have decided to live out all their fantasies before finals. Because, apparently, you can’t have sexual fantasies after college? And how quaint and old-fashioned does “sex in a car with a stranger” seem as a fantasy? By today’s porn standards it’d have to be something like “ass to mouth, slapping your dick around the girls face in the broom closet of a church” or something.

The idea of fantasy fulfillment is elaborated upon when the guys all meet up. There’s Roger (Mike Parker),the jogger who’s kind of a poor man’s late ‘70s porn edition of Eric Bana without the acting ability), Larry (Lou Denny), the sort of character you’d expect to be a math or engineering major who turns out to be an aspiring writer, “Snake Cock” Sutton (Turk Lyon), a guy who might reconsider his nickname, and Star (Randy Allen), a photography major who has the look and acting chops of a boom mike operator cast in the film at the last minute. Roger informs the guys that the plan relies on two levels of execution “individual activity and group activity.” As an aside, if as a college senior, I’d somehow decided to act out all my sexual fantasies, I doubt that I’d have thought to include my roommates in “group activities.”

Along the way, the guys work their way through fantasies that involve ‘70s porn and college movie staples including sex in a van (well, an RV, but who’s splitting hairs), a panty raid that turns into a pie fight, some of the baddest-ass lights ever to be hung around a bed, a take off on the infamous Mickey Rourke Diner popcorn box maneuver, and an orgy in a hot tub. And more, the guys realize they’re not ready to face the real world. Hey, you got life lessons in my porn!

It would be a disservice to Frat House to not mention Star's commercial parodies shown about three quarters of the way through (for example, the Brim Condoms, lubricated with Vaseline and Novocaine, narrated in a voice that owes more than a little to Aykroyd and Martin’s Wild and Crazy Guys). In fact, they have a craft and humor to them that typifies the rest of the film.

I’ve not been shy with my interest in porn from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s amongst my group of friends. A factor I find myself considering lately is, if I were asked to put on a porn during a party, would I put on the one I’m watching. I can say with certainty that, because of Frat House’s story, production values, acting (hey, it’s all relative), sweet soundtrack, and quality sex scenes, most definitely. A-

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Review Bonanza!

But not today. Or now, anyway. Possibly later.

I was a bit under the weather yesterday, so after having my fill of reading, I settled down onto the couch with a cup of peppermint tea and a stack of porn. As a result, I'm rough drafting reviews of Fascination, Same Time Every Year, and Coming Together.

And, dare I say it...Frat House at long last?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pornonomy Reviews: Babylon Pink

(I realize I said the next review would be Frat House, but, I don't know, that might become my white whale. I've had the text nearly done for ages, but I can't seem time to do the screencaps....)

Babylon Pink
(1979 - Command Video)

Directed by:
Henri Pachard

Arcadia Lake (as Arcadia Blue)
Debbie Revenge
Georgette Saunders
Georgina Spelvin
Merle Michaels
Samantha Fox
Vanessa del Rio
Bobby Astyr
David Morris
David Ruby
Eric Edwards
R. Bolla (as Richard Bolla)

The first thing I noticed about this flick was that the dvd transfer was amazing. It was hands down the best looking "old" porn I've ever seen. I'm guessing it's because it was a two disc special edition, but I hope whoever oversaw the transfer does a lot more. They even included a 5.1 audio track! While there were some nutso sound effects bumping to and from the flashback scenes (more on that in a bit), I wish I had a surround sound system to see how they ended up tracking the audio....

With the exception of the first sex scene (between Vanessa del Rio and Bobby Astyr, who play a married couple) and a masturbation scene (Georgette Saunders, as their daughter), all of the sex scenes are fantasies of the "six degrees of" cast of characters. As mentioned, Vanessa del Rio and Bobby Astyr play a married couple whose daughter is to help her aunt and uncle (Georgina Spelvin and R. Bolla) host a dinner party for the aunt's tennis instructor and his girlfriend (David Morris and Debbie Revenge, who, not for nothing, would make a terrific '09 hipster, teleported straight from Babylon Pink's 1984 set*). Astyr works as a number cruncher for a powerful business woman (Samantha Fox), who's spinster secretary (Merle Michaels) is supposed to try to find a date since her roommate (Arcadia Lake) is bringing her married lawyer boyfriend (Eric Edwards) to the apartment. The odd man out from the cast list is David Ruby who plays a street vendor that spies Vanessa del Rio cleaning the apartment after her husband leaves for work and becomes the subject of her fantasy. While it's typical, I suppose, for the characters in a film to be interrelated, the fact that none of the characters are "main characters" (though Revenge and Ruby could be accurately called peripheral characters...), it feels like Robert Altman Made a Porno. (Except it's not, like, four hours long....)

Though none of the sex scenes are bad, necessarily, they do vary from "meh" (del Rio/Ruby, although there are a few semi-acrobatic cunnilingus positions - legs up, shoulders down on the bed, and what's basically a standing 69 - that had me impressed with the strenghth of del Rio's arms and shoulders and Ruby's lower back**) to pretty hot (Astyr/Fox and Michaels/Edwards/Lake, the latter mostly because Arcadia Lake was involved...yowza). What's more interesting about the scenes is that the tone of a few of them would have been drastically changed had the fantasizer been the fantasizee; Samantha Fox is ordered to strip and spread 'em by Bobby Astyr (her fantasy), Merle Michaels is "used" by Arcadia Lake and Eric Edwards while sleeping (well, pretending to sleep since it's her fantasy). One, though, was kinda skeezy (R. Bolla/Georgette Saunders) since he's the fantasizer and she's his teenage niece.

All told, the movie was well written, well directed, well acted, and well sexed, so in keeping with the tradition (if you can have a tradition on a blog with three posts) of issuing semi-arbitrary grades to old pornos, I'll give Babylon Pink an A-.

* See what I mean?

** Interestingly, this was the second upside down cunnilingus scene I've seen in the past week and a half or so. The other, if memory serves, was in The Ecstasy Girls, though that one was a lot more ambitious.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pornonomy Reviews: Between the Sheets

Between the Sheets (1981 - Caballero Home Video)

Directed by:
Anthony Spinelli

Annette Haven
Arcadia Lake
Tigr (as Chelsea McClane)
Vanessa del Rio
Veronica Hart
Eric Edwards
Joey Silvera (as Joey Sivera)
John Leslie
R.J. Reynolds
Randy West
Richard Pacheco

The premise of this flick is that a talking bed receives a new talking mattress. While the bed is trying to seduce the mattress, he relates a series of sexual Trysts Throughout History that have taken place on him.

Straight away, it's a pretty ludicrous construct (which, generally speaking, gets bonus points from me right off the bat). When you encounter a film that has a series of unrelated sex scenes tied together with bits of narration, you have to wonder if it's an actual movie or convenient vehicle to recycle clips or Swedish Erotica-type loops. In this case, though, it's apparent from watching the sex scenes that they were all filmed for this movie.

The first scene takes place in colonial America. R.J. Reynolds plays a British lord that barters tea for sex with Annette Haven's colonial lady. Right off the bat this scene establishes the trait that marks all of them as scenes filmed for the movie and not culled from other films: the tendency for the pre-"action" back-and-forth dialogue to amble (as though there was no post-production editing whatsoever).

Next up is a "contemporary" scene between Richard Pacheco and Veronica Hart. This one's interesting in that it doesn't spell out exactly what's going on between the two of them and relies instead upon the actors' ability to convey a back story through the dialogue and the viewers' ability to put the pieces together. Pacheco's character was up for some sort of advertising contract with a business that Hart's character is involved with. The job ended up going to another firm, which Hart reluctantly tells Pacheco. In the immediate aftermath, Pacheco's pissed. In the shortly-thereafter-aftermath, he's pissed/horny enough to fuck her while pointing out the irony that she's just told him he didn't get the job and still expects him to fuck her. Overall, I was impressed with this scene because it didn't turn into an exploitative "hate fuck" like it easily could have. (On the other hand, my wife pointed out that Veronica Hart laughs a lot through this scene; something I'd probably attribute to her wanting to keep the tone playful.) Additionally, as the second scene, Spinelli's formula for sex is put into place: dialogue, cunnilingus, intercourse. While "talking/oral/fucking" isn't the cure for cancer, Spinelli's focus on male-on-female oral over female-on-male oral is interesting. Oh yeah, and at one point, Veronica Hart says, "I want you to fuck me like a dog," and then, while she gets on all fours, she barks. So there's that.

Overall, the preceding scene and this one are neck and neck for Best of Show. Here, Joey Silvera and Tigr play San Francisco hippies. Basically, Tigr fucks Silvera out of a bad trip on the premise that doing so makes great karma. Honestly, when you're dealing with rapid-fire dialogue that goes: "My dick is melting.... It's huge.... It's two inches," you know you've struck gold! Factor in a rocking soundtrack and, forget gold, that shit's platinum!

The next scene comes in without a bed/mattress narration buffer which bucks the trend of the film. On the one hand, it's a bit disruptive. On the other, it's not so bad because it features Eric Edwards (one of the era's best actors) and Arcadia Lake who's awfully hot and holy cow is she tiny (she acts big, I guess). At any rate, this scene's noteworthy for three reasons: first, it's the only one with a semi-unwilling (initial) participant (the Southern Belle) - the "even if she says otherwise, she really wants it" thing is a theme in both porn and mainstream films as well (see: Harrison Ford and Sean Young in Blade Runner, for instance) and skeezes me the hell out - second, it features the only "crotchless bloomer" scene I've ever seen in my life, and third, it exposes a fundamental misconception of the Civil War on either Edwards', Spinelli's, or Edwards and Spinellis' part: Edwards' Union soldier character ends his tryst with Lake's Confederate lady character with a sound "Long live the Revolution" statement. Just stop and consider that for a second....

If the first scene (Haven/Reynolds) established the film's prime characteristic - the seeming attempt to edit in-camera instead of, you know, in an editing station - this scene writes that prime characteristic in permanent ink. John Leslie stars as "Ricco" a Capone-era Chicago gangster facing the G-Men with his platinum haired dame played by Seka. For a pairing of male and female superstars like Leslie and Seka you'd be right to hope for something more than what's put down. Don't get me wrong, the action they produce is fine, it just takes an e-fucking-ternity to get there. It's almost like Spinelli gave his two superstars waaaaay too much time out of respect for their contributions to the craft. So, it's like the porn equivalent of Righteous Kill. (ZING!) This marked the first time I'd ever seen Seka with bleached pubic hair. Trust me, it's weird.

Another bizarre bed/mattress bumper intros the last scene. While the Leslie/Seka scene dragged on for awhile, the fact that there were at least a few peripheral characters cycling into and out of the scene took a bit of the edge off. This one, with Randy West and Vanessa del Rio as '50s Philadelphia greasers really pushes it. You start to get the sense that every line was read at least six times. And if you created a drinking game that had you take a shot every time del Rio said, "Shelden, I sweah to Gawd...," you would black out well before the action started. Eventually, they get down to it, though.

Finally, there's one last shot of the bed and mattress. In which I guess that works somehow. Anyway, now's as good of a time as any to mention that whoever voices the bed sounds similar to the narrator in A Christmas Story, which adds an additional bizarre level to this flick.

It seems kind of pointless to try to give starts or a grade or, I don't know, hard-ons to an adult film. That being said, I'll give Between the Sheets a B+.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


To begin, a word on why I started this blog:

The other day, my wife came home just after I'd started watching Between the Sheets. We finished watching it together (well, she half-watched it while reading the last Twilight book), and then we headed out to dinner. On the way, I mentioned that the plot device (the sex scenes were "romps throughout time" tied together by the fact that they all happened on the same bed) was a fairly common one. It had popped up in - off the top of my head - On White Satin and Pandora's Mirror, the latter of which featured Veronica Hart who was also in Between the Sheets.... And on. And on. After that, I realized that over time I had accumulated a bunch completely useless knowledge about a specific era of pornography.

And what better way to show off useless knowledge than by starting a blog?

Thus began Pornonomy.

What it's actually going to be all about remains to be seen. One thing I do know, though, is that a lot of the films and performers discussed will be from the late '70s and early '80s. My fondness for that era isn't a mystery: those films were the one in my old man's closet when I was in my early teens. My porn timeline is roughly as follows (also see figure 1.1):

1988-1991: Discovered Playboy's in the garage; too young to find them more than fascinating curiosities.
1991-1994: Moved into adolescence so those garage mags were a lot more fascinating; that was short lived, though, because I discovered a much more useful stack of VHS tapes in my dad's closet.
1995-1997: Friends' older brothers were now old enough to buy pornography, so we were able to build our own collections, although those collections were limited to magazines because older brothers' extortion prices were too high to consider movies.
1997-1999: Old enough to buy own porn (Club, Club International, and Club Confidential were, for some reason, mags of choice); went to college so hiding the stash was suddenly a non-issue; subscribed to Playboy only to realize that it was better in the late '70s and early '80s; technically had access to an adult bookstore, but too chicken to go - downtown, no thanks, off the interstate's more my speed - luckily some dorm floormates were not too chicken; regular access to the internet (pro); no computer in dorm room (con).
1999-2002: Living off-campus with internet access and semi-private computer; a period of shying away from "moving image" porn began in 1997 and, by now, was in full swing - dial-up internet made surfing pictures enough of a pain....
2003-2004: On my own, a workin' man, discovered Fleshbot, rediscovering my love of porn flicks and cultivating a new interest in the immerging alt-porn scene; Fleshbot's coverage of the production of Art School Sluts inspired me to get an online porn rental subscription; while Art School Sluts was in the first round of rentals (along with other early cracks at movies like The Masseuse, Stuntgirl, Marie and Jack: A Love Story, and Kill Girl Kill), it was rewatching the films of my adolescence - Filthy Rich and Stiff Competition - and discovering others from the same era - Barbara Broadcast and Sex World - that picqued my interest.
2004-Present: Along with the alt-porn scene, subscriptions to Suicide Girls and Burning Angel came and went; my "Porno Netflix" queue - while still, periodically, including current titles (the Chemistry series or Debbie Loves Dallas - which, of all the new movies I've seen, has elements of what I like about the Golden Era) becomes populated with films from '76 to '85.

And there you have it. At this stage of my Pornography Odyssey, I'm consuming a fair amount of Golden Era porn. Watching the films has led me to read some books on the subject that run the gamut from fairly interesting but poorly written (Luke Ford's A History of X) to really interesting and very well written (Legs McNeil, Jennifer Osborne, and Peter Pavia's The Other Hollywood) to those in between (Robert Stoller and Ira Levine's Coming Attractions and Jerry Butler's autobiography, Raw Talent).

Now that the introduction's taken care of, I think my next post will be a review of Between the Sheets. After all, were it not for that picture, I might not have started this blog anyway.

figure 1.1
Lisa Sohm, April 1977 Playmate of the Month; Lisa DeLeeuw in "The Filthy Rich"; Jenna Jameson; Vanessa Gleason, September 1998 Playmate of the Month; Kylee Kross; Seka in "Love Goddesses"; note: 2000-2002 didn't have enough of a "porn focus seismic shift" large enough to chronicle....