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.