Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pornonomy Reviews: Blonde Fire

Blonde Fire (1979)

Directed by
Bob Chinn

Dorothy Lemay
Fatima Hamoud
Jesie St. James
Kitty Shayne
Phaery I. Burd
John Holmes
John Seeman
Jon Martin

I mean: I look at this character Holmes has come up with - and - look - I just -


Tell me.


I don't like to see women treated that way. This guy he plays, "Johnny Wadd," it's always about slapping some girl around or whatever. It's not right, it's not cool and it just...isn't sexy. It isn't sexy like it should be.

Like GGG's inability to separate John Holmes on-screen from John Holmes off-screen*, I found myself incapable of viewing Johnny Wadd outside of the context of Dirk Diggler's Wadd-esque character in Boogie Nights. In fact, I realized I was subconsciously reluctant to watch the Wadd films because of the quote above. (I didn't realize Blonde Fire was a Wadd film until it started.)

In fact, the first thing that struck me was how pitch-perfect P.T. Anderson nailed the tone of the Wadd films with the Landers films within Boogie Nights.

The next thing that struck me was that - at least in this film - the Wadd character isn't "always about slapping some girl around." True, one of the first sex scenes is a rape scene, and after Wadd is "finished" he knocks the victim (Burd) out by punching her through a pillow (yipes, that sounds awful written down...), but the thing is, it isn't played as violent and scary (even the punch is thrown in lieu of shooting the woman in the head), and when the scene is considered - the woman was a thief, having broken into Wadd's hotel room looking for a diamond, and the sex was a "natural" extension of the "who are you working for" questioning - it actually ends up no different from scores of similar non-hardcore scenes in books and movies; the same old "this guy's irresistable to women and even when they say they don't want it, they really do" cliche. Actually, at least Chinn has the balls to call a spade a spade, by actually identifying the encounter as a rape during dialogue between Dorothy Lemay and Burd.

Interestingly, for a film that seems like it should be relatively reliant on story, the plot - Wadd is in South Africa to buy a diamond - is hilariously underexplained. We're never told who Wadd is representing, why Jon Martin has the diamond in the first place, what sort of business he's in that requires a head of security (St. James), who the nefarious man with a presumed army (we only ever see two; Burd and Lemay) of women operatives is, or why he wants the diamond (although I guess that'd be relatively self-explanatory). Almost everything about the film - the "story," script, acting, and the Wadd character - seem so tongue-in-cheek that it's hard to believe it isn't an In Like Flint type parody PI/spy movies. Or, who knows, maybe it is. It could certainly lend itself to a debate similar to "is Norman Rockwell really a post-modernist satarizing the American ideal?" In fact, the climax of the film - in which four separate people get the drop on someone else in less than a minute - could be kept exactly the same and work perfectly in a Black Dynamite type parody/homage.

While it does feature from the sort of ludicrous, tacked on seeming sex scenes (similar to the way John Leslie enters a scene and fucks whoever's there in Dixie Ray), Blonde Fire's relatively well paced, so it doesn't really suffer from them.

It'd be a huge oversight, though, to not mention how hilariously out of place Seka's presence in the film is. She actually bookends the film - she's shown masturbating during the opening credits, in which she's billed as "introducing" although that doesn't seem right, and having sex with Holmes in the final scene - but her "character" is presumably Wadd's girlfriend or something (he says something like, "In all the action, I nearly forgot the doll that was waiting for me in San Francisco. I arrived a day late and a dollar short, but I still got there."). The fact that she never says anything - which could be considered a positive depending on how you feel about Seka - makes it possible, if not probable, that the scene was just a reused loop.

I'll admit, my first exposure to Johnny Wadd eased my apprehension of the sort and level of mysoginy typified by the character, so I'm likely to check out some of the other films. B+

* I promise this is the last time I'm going to reference GGG's comment while talking about Holmes. I surely don't want to imply that she's hung up on or disgusted by John Holmes.

Pornonomy Reviews: Too Naughty to Say No

Too Naughty to Say No (1984)

Directed by
Suze Randall (as Victor Nye)

Bunny Bleu
Cody Nicole
Ginger Lynn
Heather Thomas
Lisa De Leeuw
Lois Ayres
Stevie Taylor
Craig Roberts
Edward Longly
Eric Edwards
Harry Reems
Jamie Gillis
Klaus Mueller
Michael Morrison
Nick Niter
Paul Baressi
Rick Cassidy
Rufus Jefferson

Betty (Angel) and Catherine (Ginger Lynn) are school girls at a convent, studying the Bible for an exam in the garden. After Catherine is ushered off to confession by Sister Rose (Lisa de Leeuw), Betty nods off while pondering the meaning of "begat" and finds herself in a series of bizarre and compromising scenarios.

The film claims to be based on characters by the Marquis de Sade, but in essence Too Naughty to Say No is Alice in Wonderland, with Lynn's character acting as the White Rabbit. While not handled with the same craft as Neon Nights, TNtSN is just about as surreal (though Neon Nights still gets the "holy shit" nod because this film is obviously a dream). As such, I think the specifics of the scenes are better left undescribed. Well, except for the last scene, and only because it actually lends itself to an interesting discussion of the straight/gay (panic) divide of a lot of hetero pornography.

After Betty is discovered by a Helpful Motorist (Cody Nicole) asleep on a pile of trash bags (yes, you read that correctly), she's reluctantly seduced by the Helpful Motorist in the Helpful Motorists car. To Betty's shock, men appear at each window of the car to watch the women. The Motorist explains that the men are her friends, and that Betty shouldn't mind them. Predictably, the anonymous men all begin masturbating. While the scene primarily focuses on the women, there are frequent shots of the men, culminating in each man ejaculating on a window, and then slowly ducking out of sight - exactly opposite the way they appeared - leaving only their "releases" as evidence of their former presence.

The fixation on male orgasm in pornography is frequently (and conveniently) explained away by saying that it's a way for the male viewer to position himself in the "action," but it's also possible that such focus can be attributed to the "flexibility" of human sexual identity (as posited by the Kinsey curve or by - of all unlikely sources - Blue Collar Comedy comedian Ron White's "We're all gay, buddy. It's just to what degree are you gay," bit).

Anyway, the extent to which you'll enjoy the film is largely dependent upon your tolerance of wailing guitar music, plentiful '80s hair dos, and ridiculous costuming. Overall, I felt the only real knocks was Angel's slight lack of charisma. Still, on the whole, a pretty interesting and enjoyable experience. B

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.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pornonomy Reviews: Neon Nights

Neon Nights (1981)
Directed by:
Cecil Howard

Arcadia Lake
Jody Maxwell
Kandi Barbour
Linda Vale
Lysa Thatcher
Veronica Hart
Ashley Moore
Eric Edwards
Jack Teague (as Jake Teague)
Jamie Gillis
Roy Stuart

Oh, hell yes! You know, lately it seemed like every movie I was putting on seemed to be a big disappointment. I hadn't read anything about Neon Nights before watching it, so when it started up my expectations were nil. The first thing I was struck by was the quality of the transfer. Really, if it weren't for the fact that within the first few minutes Jamie Gillis is fisting Linda Vale, the quality of the picture, camera work, and music could easily convince you that you were watching a mainstream movie from the early '80s. The way the scene was cut between what was going on in the master bedroom and teenage daughter Sandy's (Lysa Thatcher) room got me more interested, and by the time the title card hit the screen, I was sold.

Giving a plot synopsis would actually be a disservice considering the way Neon Nights plays out, so I'm going to keep that part as vague as possible. Sandy is seduced (or seduces, perhaps) her mother's boyfriend Robert (Jamie Gillis). Predictably, her mother catches them in a compromising situation, so Sandy decides to escape her mothers house and run off to New York to try to find her identical twin sister who'd run away earlier. Along the way, she's given a ride by a magician (played with twisted glee by Jack Teague) who takes her to the motel room he shares with Sweet Marie (Jody Maxwell), presumably his magician's assistant. She finally gets to New York, and to the home of her sister's employer (Veronica Hart), but not before being offered a bunch of balloons in a park by Lilah (Arcadia Lake).... I was going to say that it makes more sense when you see it, but, really, it doesn't. Finally, there's a twist at the end throwing much of what happened before into question that was intriguing enough to ensure that, eventually, I'll watch Neon Nights again.

Neon Nights was absolutely bonkers in the best possible way. Like I mentioned before, the camera work was excellent, the shots were typically interesting and well-considered (there was maybe a slight over-reliance on the "reflection in a mirror" angle, but then they are very thematically appropriate), the music was spot on and contributed to the overall ominous and surreal tone of the film, and the performances were all top notch. A

Monday, August 16, 2010

Quickie Review: Urban Cowgirls

Urban Cowgirls (1980)

The problem with Urban Cowgirls is that, as a film, it can't really decide what it's about. There are four and a half storylines throughout the film, given about equal weight and all at least somewhat tied to a country western bar. (1) Amanda (Veronica Hart) beds a younger man (Eric Edwards), a valet at the bar; (2) Amanda's sister Kathy (Georgina Spelvin) is trying to reignite a spark in her marriage to Paul (Aaron Stuart); (3) Jocelyn (Lee Carroll) is having an affair with her boss (Joey Silvera); (4) a cocktail waitress, Marianne (Hillary Summers) pines for the affection of Billy (John Leslie), the bar's owner; (and a half) Jocelyn and Amanda have a friends-with-benefits relationship.

The strange thing is, with all those things going on, nothing really happens. There's no drama. At all. I didn't find myself really caring what happened to any of the characters. Kathy seemed all right, but if she and Paul didn't get out of their rut, so what? And it would be okay if Marianne and Billy got together, but again, if not, say lah vee....

I hate to do this again, because I really like the cast (well, Lee Carroll is a little terrifying...), but Urban Cowgirls was a strictly average movie. C-

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pornonomy Reviews: Triple Xposure

Triple Xposure (1986)

Directed by:
Johnathan Burroughs

Carol Titian
Honey Wilder
Mai Lin
Nikki Charm
Sharon Mitchell
Summer Rose
Billy Dee
Buck Adams
Joey Silvera
Kevin James
Paul Thomas
Scott Irish

One thing I can say for Triple Xposure: it starts with a bang. The opening credits are pretty great - the credits are projected onto oiled up, gyrating women - and then the opening shot of the film is a slow pan from Honey Wilder's feet, up her body, revealing that she's going down on Sharon Mitchell.

It's revealed that Honey Wilder's having trouble making ends meet, so Mitchell suggests throwing a party at which Wilder can sell a bunch of vintage dresses...which I guess she has for some reason. Mitchell and her husband (Paul Thomas) will arrange the party and invite a bunch of their rich friends.

Before the party, Mitchell lays out a plan with so many twists it would make a soap opera writer blush. The ultimate goal of the plan was to switch out a piece of forged artwork for an erotic drawing that Wilder had, unaware of its actually value. Why, exactly, Mitchell needed to go through all the trouble of throwing the party when she probably could have just switched it out at any time isn't really explained. Of course, it's really just an excuse for all the sex scenes. In fact, it's kind of funny because after everybody starts pairing off to get to it, there isn't actually anybody left mingling. None of the scenes are particularly noteworthy, but the film's edited to switch from one to another, so they don't get too tedious, either.

Still, after all's said and done, it was pretty pointless to introduce the scheming plot in the first place, because the film, from about 24 minutes in until about the last 10 minutes (so, almost an hour), is just people fucking, with seemingly nothing to do with advancing the plot. Then, there's a bit at the very end that has Joey Silvera examining Mai Lin's forgery, which falls short of ideal, so then Sharon Mitchell and Silvera need to "punish" Lin by blindfolding and double teaming her.

And then the movie's over.

It's too bad, really, because the cast was solid, the film looked really good, and the plot, at the beginning seemed promising, but it just never delivered on that promise. Overall, it was a pretty average movie, so I guess by definition, it deserves a C.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Quickie Reviews: Three Comedies and a Drama

Girl from S.E.X. (1982)
In the vein of Our Man Flynt, The Girl from S.E.X. is a secret agent parody. S.E.X. Agent 38DD (Lisa DeLeeuw) must infiltrate A.S.S. (I forget what the acronyms stand for) to stop a nefarious plan. There were some pretty clever/dumb jokes that actually made me laugh out loud, which will always get bonus points. (The character named "Xavier Hollandaise" was a particularly nice touch, if not a little dated.) If there was one shortcoming, it was the way the sex scenes were edited. There'd be all the expected set up dialog, but when it came to it, scenes would generally cut directly to the actors naked and at it, which was a little jarring and didn't help the flow of the film. Still, one of the better comedic porns I've seen in awhile: B+

Blonde's Have More Fun (1979)
A con man sets up a health food store in San Francisco, selling an elixir concocted by an associate ("Brains", a man fried by drugs and/or feral), pitched as a cure-all that turns out to be the World's Greatest Aphrodisiac. Needless to say, the elixir sets the city's loins aflame and leads to all manners of sexual shenanigans including an orgy in the store and, in my opinion the film's highlight, a backroom tryst between Hershel Savage and Diana Holt. Stylistically at odds with the rest of the film, the scene was really, really well directed and edited. The huckster (Max Devo, perhaps? I'd have to revisit the end credits to be sure....) does a very good job as the snake oil salesman-type, although as many actors in porn or B-movie comedic roles requiring rapid speaking, he has a tendency to get a bit tedious in his monologue (as much a fault of the director and writer as the actor). All told, a pretty fun picture: B+

Nurses of the 407
While I should have learned my lesson of raised expectations after Tigresses, I definitely have after Nurses of the 407. The promising trailer, which I'd seen on a few other dvds, the solid cast, and the concept (M*A*S*H) seemed like it'd make a solid picture. Unfortunately, there wasn't a story, the characters were uninteresting, the jokes all fell flat, and the normally comedy-dependable cast (Hershel Savage, Jessie St. James, Paul Thomas, and Joey Silvera, particularly) underperformed. I'm tempted to grade it lower, but the production values were actually pretty good, so while I'm unlikely to recommend, and certainly won't watch it again, I'll give it: C-

Raw Talent (1984)
Following struggling actor Eddie Czeropski (Jerry Butler) from stage auditions, to a to-make-the-rent porn career, to mainstream success, lost after his X past was discovered, Raw Talent is held by many (or at the very least, Jerry Butler, who used the title for his industry exposing autobiography) as one of the great adult films of all time. True, the acting, writing, directing, and look of the film are all quite good, but a huge issue, in my opinion, is the relative lack of drama. Eddie always seems to roll with the punches: you don't really get the sense that he's got an acting fire in his belly, you don't feel an ecstatic high after he gets work on a soap opera, or a crushing low after he's betrayed and his porn career ruins his burgeoning "straight" career. From a technical standpoint, I'm going to go ahead and assume the release was abridged, because three abrupt jumps - all violent in nature (a mugging, a scene between Lisa DeLeeuw and Butler in a bathroom, and a fight near the end) - have to be cuts from the original. I enjoyed Raw Talent for what it was, but can't help thinking how a few changes could have made it a ton better. B

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Pornonomy Reviews: Lips

Lips (1981)

Directed by:
Paul G. Vatelli

Brook West
Pipi Anderson
Kathy Harcourt
Lily Rodgers
Lisa DeLeeuw
Vanessa del Rio
Billy Dee
Herschel Savage
Paul Thomas
Reggie Gunn
Ron Jeremy

I suppose it's not a bad idea for couples with unsatisfying sex lives, like John and Kathy (Ron Jeremy and Kathy Harcourt) and Neil and Linda (Herschel Savage and Brook West), to seek counseling. I am surprised, though, at the efficacy of Dr. Jim Matlock's (Paul Thomas) sex therapy resort/clinic, considering it seems all that's required to fix a sex life is for the partners to have a brief, unfaithful tryst.

The main problem with Lips (other than the fact that the name seems to have been picked out of a hat*; there's hardly the oral fixation such a title would suggest. In fact, Neckerchief Bonanza would have been far more appropriate since literally every actress wears one....) is that there's no narrative cohesion. While the scenes aren't completely disconnected (you at least know how the characters got in the situations...well, for the most part, anyway) the idea of a film taking place in a couples' sex therapy lends itself to far better execution than what was put on film.

I don't mean to say the film was bad necessarily, just kind of underwhelming. Oddly, the most interesting sex scene was one that wasn't: after assistant carpenter Arlene (Tigr) gets busy with John and Kathy, she decides to let her boss Skip (Reggie Gunn) finally score after repeated advances. Only when finally presented with Arlene's body, Skip's unable to perform. Either Tigr is the best ad lib actress in the history of porn, or that was a scripted soft scene, which seems like a really bizarre thing to write in.

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

* And the box cover has even less to do with the film than the title does.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pornonomy Reviews: Roommates

Roommates (1981)

Directed by:

Chuck Vincent

Kelly Nichols
Samantha Fox
Veronica Hart
Bobby Astyr
Don Peterson
Jack Wrangler
Jamie Gillis
Jerry Butler
Ron Hudd
Ron Jeremy
(and a bunch of others)

While perhaps not as hard to get my brain around as Taboo American Style, I've had a hard time coming to grips with exactly what I was going to write about Roommates. First, the objective facts: Roommates is a film about three women sharing an apartment in New York City, embarking on new or different career trajectories, and is directed by Chuck Vincent, one of the few openly gay directors of straight hardcore films (the only I can think of off the top of my head, truth be told). The scope of the effect of Vincent's sexual preference on the end product can be debated, but that there is some effect, is likely a given.

Billie (Samantha Fox) is a high class call girl looking to leave the profession: turning her back on lying on her back, you could say. (Good one, Rog!) In order to keep her apartment on a lowly production assistant's salary, she places an ad for roommates which is answered by Joan (Veronica Hart), a drama student moving to New York to follow her dreams of acting on Broadway, and Sherry (Kelly Nichols) an LA model - with an epic substance abuse problem - looking to check out the New York scene for awhile.

From the top to the bottom the cast is excellent, the writing quite good, the direction and cinematography top-notch - including a non-sex scene as tense and scary and a sex scene as gripping and squirm inducing (both on the strength of Jamie Gillis acting as only Jamie Gillis could) as you'll find in any film, porn or mainstream. And yet the reason I kept waffling on how to review and grade the film is that the sex scenes, by and large, aren't particularly "sexy," though primarily by design. Only two (Fox/Wrangler* and Hart/Butler) are completely consensual and playful or sweet. The others are either preying on the delusions of a mistress (Hart) fueled by the threat of blackmail (Fox) or show the perils of drug abuse (Nichols).

On a tangent, one thing that stood out to me was the scarcity of pop shots. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not like I clamor for them, but even in a less facial-oriented era, they were the norm and a film that had two (I think), one of which was strictly, uh, manual (Gillis) stands out. It's tempting to attribute the quirk to Vincent's sexual orientation, but I don't recall the few other Vincent pictures I've seen holding to this "low pop" formula.

So, after much musing and chin stroking, I'm giving Roommates a B+.

* Samantha Fox and Jack Wrangler have such great chemistry that it's a travesty they only acted together three times: The Filthy Rich and Jack and Jill (another Vincent picture) besides Roommates. I'm really interested in checking out Jack and Jill, now, to complete the set.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pornonomy Reviews: Taboo American Style Parts 1-4

Taboo American Style (1985)
Directed by:
Henri Pachard

Carol Cross
Gloria Leonard
Kelly Nichols
Sarah Bernard
Taija Rae
Frank Serrone
Joey Silvera
Paul Thomas
R. Bolla
Steve Lockwood
Tom Byron

Holy cow. This mini-series was a lot to digest.

It seems strange to say that a film (for simplicity's sake, and since I watched this series as a whole instead of by the parts, I'm going to refer to Parts 1 to 4 as "the film") that features acts of incest and has the word "taboo"* in the title isn't about incest, but Taboo American Style really isn't about incest: it's about a teenage girl shrewdly and mercilessly manipulating everyone around her in order to achieve her goals of power and, later, film stardom.

The scope of the film is far to great to provide a scene by scene account, and although some might scoff at the idea of worrying about "spoilers" in a porn, there are enough startling moments that it'd be a disservice to lay them out here.

The film primarily involves the well-to-do Sutherland family: father Harding (Paul Thomas), mother Emily (Gloria Leonard), soon to leave for college son Tom (Tom Byron), and daughter Nina (Raven, who, throughout the film, sports a cavalcade of absurd hair styles). Tom is interested in Lisa Chinaski (Taija Rae), the daughter of the family's handy man Jack (R. Bolla). In order to keep up appearances, Emily forbids Tom from seeing the girl, a decision that ultimately backfires when Nina orchestrates a liason between Tom and Lisa later that night. Not only are we introduced to Nina's penchant for sneakiness, but to the fact that the Sutherland household needs to enact a "close your bedroom door!" policy.

After subsequently undermining her mother by sleeping with Lisa's brother, Clete...yes, Clete (Frank Serrone), Nina strikes her mother a definitive blow by leading Harding to the location of an elicit tryst between Jack Chinaski and Emily. Nina is then able to capitalize on her father's vulnerability by coaxing him into a sexual relationship. Now that I think about it, that's the definitive blow.

From this point forward, she is able to orchestrate about every inappropriate pairing you can imagine - shy of any male/male contact, of course - without seeming to derive any physical pleasure from these encounters; merely the psychological satisfaction of controlling others. Ironic considering the first time Nina is shown in a sexual situation it's while she's guiding Lisa through the theory and practice of achieving orgasm.

In a recent post, The Gore-Gore Girl wrote that she frequently finds herself watching a non-pornographic films with "structure, style, or some other intangible element that makes you continually think you're watching porn." Conversely, I find myself often watching a porn and thinking how it's story could be adapted for a "normal" rating. I kept thinking that in TAS, if Nina was an au pair, or friend-of-the-family's daughter visiting over summer vacation (basically anything that wouldn't make her fucking the father figure unmarketable) it easily could have been grouped with Poison Ivy or The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. There were multiple times during the span of the film that I actually expected someone to get murdered! A lot of the ambient score, um, underscored that feeling since it wouldn't have been out of place in a psycho-sexual thriller. (To beat this idea into the ground, the tension that builds during the scenes between Emily and her therapist, Dr. Berman - played by director Henri Pachard** - is very Basic Instinct-y.) Additionally, there's a point at the height of the "Nina runs the house" phase of the film, that almost has paranormal undertones, like the kid that can control people in that Twilight Zone episode (and part of The Movie, of course).

Ultimately, Nina's able to use her powers of manipulation to realize her dreams of movie stardom. I'll leave it to you to guess if she ever gets a sort of comeuppance to pay for her actions, which you may get right, however perhaps not in the way you think you'd get it right.... Ooh, cryptic!

Overall, the film is very well realized and acted. I found myself noting on multiple occasions the quality of the camera work and scene staging (although it was a little disappointing that, in Part IV, after a bunch of great production, the boom mic had to make an appearance; ah, well, I guess it is porn, after all). If there was one knock against the film, technically, it would have been in some of the editing. There were a few occasions when there was pretty great tension building - as in the aforementioned therapist scenes - but the scenes suffered from a bit too much repetition, cuts between a character and a door you expected to open, for instance. Still, that's a pretty small demerit in the scope of the overall film.

Lastly, I've said before that I consider whether or not I'd recommend a film to one of my less porn-versed friends. Taboo American Style suffers a sort of double-whammy (it's not a comedy - the easiest films to recommend to a newbie - and it deals with a bunch of incest), but in terms of it's pretty great direction and cast and it's unique structure (a true four part mini-series, as opposed to a few films that are sequels), I'd willingly recommend to anyone I thought could handle it. B+

* Taboo American Style appears in the Wikipedia entry for the Taboo film series, but while I may be wrong, I don't think that's accurate. Granted, I'm not familiar enough with the Taboo series to know how related #3-23 are - I've seen 1 and 2, and 2 was tangentially related to the first - but it seems to me TAS is its own entity. I'd wager that it was titled "taboo" because the word, in the wake of the first few films, became synonymous with incest. And it probably didn't hurt that the first few films were pretty successful. To that end, it's kind of funny that "American Style" was included, too, given the supposed "snowclone (xxx), (nationality) Style" as a "minor cultural meme...". As a weak analogy, it'd be like naming a movie about the revenge of a super hero "Super Man Strikes Back."

** While it's probably more common than I realize, I though Pachard making a cameo in his film was great. Like, I really enjoy the work of Paul Vatelli, but I wouldn't know him if we sat next to one another on an airplane. Unless, I guess, Stiff Competition was the in-flight movie and the topic came up....

Monday, April 19, 2010

Updates and California Gigolo: A Quickie Review

I know that one of the great cliches of blogging is the post either apologizing for not blogging or a promise to post content "soon," both of which I've been guilty. That said, I promise a review of Taboo, American Style (all four parts!) will go up "soon." Since it's a mini-series, I figured better to review the full arc than to write about it bit by bit. Accordingly, I had the foolish/ambitious idea to watch them all consecutively, but, alas, nearly five hours of pornography is a lot to endure. (I've got the final 20 minutes of Part 3 and all of Part 4 to finish.)

In the meantime, I'll steal a page from The Gore-Gore Girl and whip up a quickie. (Eesh, does that sound kinda dirty....)

California Gigolo (1979)

Directed by:
Bob Chinn

Kitty Shayne
Liza Dwyer
Vanessa Tibbs (as Vannessa Tibbs)
Veri Knotty
Don Fernando
John Holmes

In the film, John Holmes is a gigolo. In California. We know he's in California because, under the opening theme song (which is likely to at least partially stick in your brain: "Gigo-gigo-gigo-gigo-gigolo") and between scenes are montages of "Southern California Scenes" like beaches, boardwalks, Rodeo Drive, and on and on and on. Possibly filmed for the movie, they're just as likely to be stock footage compiled for a tourism film. Regardless, shots like these always make me wonder if any of the bystanders in these scenes ever found out they made an unwitting cameo in a porno....

The scenes "between" montages play out as a day in the life of Our Gigolo, aided by his assistant(?), Gomez (Don Fernando). Two scenes that are noteworthy are the pairings of Holmes and Veri Knotty and Holmes and Vanessa Tibbs. The former because Veri Knotty (per usual) demonstrates the ability from which she took her name: tying her labia in a knot. It always cracks me up because unlike a talent like, say, Ron Jeremy's auto-fellatio, Knotty's quirk isn't even attempted to be worked into a narrative (RJ always seems to be told off by a woman and take solace in his "ability"), she just, at some point, stretches out her labia and ties them into a knot. The other scene (Tibbs) is worth mentioning because the set-up is almost a classic cliche (Tibbs picks up Holmes, finds out he's a "sex educator," bets him he can't show her anything she hasn't already seen, "loses" the bet when he whips out his massive dong), and while she doesn't seem uncomfortable during the scene, you have to wonder if something set her on edge since it appears to have been her only performance. (Although it appears a little more mileage was gotten from the scene due to its inclusion on The Best of Gail Palmer, although I'm not sure what - if anything - Palmer had to do with Gigolo....)

Finally, while Holmes's disastrous off-screen life is well-known and chronicled, I never viewed his films through the prism of what would have been going on after the films wrapped. After Gore-Gore Girl's comment in an earlier post, though, while I didn't necessarily have a hard time watching Holmes, I found my view slightly altered.

Anyway, Gigolo wasn't a classic, but it wasn't a dog. And it gets bonus points for Don Fernando's nutty charisma. C+

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pornonomy Reviews: She's So Fine

She's So Fine (1985)

Directed by:
Henri Pachard

Gloria Leonard
Melanie Scott
Rachel Ashley
Sharon Kane
Sharon Mitchell
Taija Rae
Jerry Butler
Joey Silvera
Johnny Nineteen
Paul Thomas

I spent a lot of She's So Fine thinking that if the hardcore sex was replaced with slapstick gags, wedding day hijinks (the cake gets dropped, flowers for a funeral instead of a wedding are delivered, or what have you), and linen closet hook-ups, someone could probably get the movie greenlit by a studio tomorrow. Sure, it'd be derivative, but if there's one thing most people can agree on, it's that Hollywood likes to make the same movies as many times as possible.

The film focuses on bride-to-be Angela (Taija Rae) waiting for her fiance Whitney on her wedding day. The first person to arrive, unannounced and presumably uninvited, is Angela's ex-boyfriend Don (Joey Silvera, who plays Don with more than a little Jim Ignatowski). Don's followed by neighbors Roger (Jerry Butler) and Suzanne (Sharon Kane). Following them, Whitney's best man, glam rocker Alice George (Paul Thomas) shows up with his back up singers Lilac (Melanie Scott) and Tweaky (Sharon Mitchell). Lastly, Jim (Johnny Nineteen), a used car salesman who spent $25 to get ordained through the mail in order to "perform marriage on" Angela, and Pam (Rachel Ashley). There's an extremely light culture clash between the rockers and the "normal" folks (one that would definitely need to be played up for the Hollywood pitch), and repeated references to the US auto industry and the University of Michigan. The former in that Jim's a car salesman, Don works for Ford, Pam was a loan officer dealing with car financing, and Roger is chided for driving a Toyota. In fact, at one point Don mentions that "If they catch you smoking dope [at Ford], they'll replace you with a robot," a statement awfully poignant for a generally light porn flick. For the latter, Don wears a Michigan t-shirt, Angela's got a Michigan pennant above her bed, Pam mentions Jim's days as a student activist, and it comes to light that Suzanne and Tweaky had a poli sci class together during which they rub their legs against one another (a conversation that, perhaps obviously leads to a girl-girl scene). A group of friends with University of Michigan friends getting together and reminiscing reminded me a whole hell of a lot of The Big Chill. Just sayin'.

An opening scenic montage and theme song setting the location as Detroit is followed by Roger setting up a video camera the size of a large shoebox three feet from the bed in which his wife, Suzanne, is sleeping. The camera is hooked up to a 26" television set up two feet from the other side of the bed. That Suzanne notices neither from the time she's woken up by Roger masturbating beside her until she's halfway through a blowjob with her face pointed at the television cements her as the least observant woman in the history of observing. Since reading Raw Talent, I can't help but see Jerry Butler as an opportunist that severely overestimates his acting ability. Tough luck for him, but I can't un-read it.

Other scenes include Angela and Don reheating their old flame, Roger and Tweaky, Alice George and Angela's mother (Gloria Leonard), Tweaky and Suzanne, Lilac and Don, Jim and Pam, and finally Roger and Angela. Generally, it's worth noting that, unlike a lot of newer porn, Pachard was willing to leave one sex scene for another (sex scene or otherwise), and return to it later, an approach I always appreciate and I think lends a film more of the feel of a "normal" movie. Specifically, the scene between Roger and Tweaky is interesting as a perfect example of Sharon Mitchell's dominant/scary/sexy nature and the fact that, because of her new wave/punk make up, so looked a lot like Gozer the Gozerian when she came; the scene between Alice and Angela's mother is interesting because it's definitely the first time I've seen a woman seducing a man by taking his makeup off with cold cream (which also gives us the gem "I love Pond's," the sort of line that's delivery makes me love watching Paul Thomas act); and the scene between Angela and Roger is interesting because it's set in motion because Roger is upset that Suzanne and Tweaky got, right after he finished having sex with Tweaky. The whole sanctity of marriage thing works both ways, bud.

So okay, She's So Fine is successful in that it gives the feel of a hectic ensemble movie with having a relatively small cast; it comes up a little short in that the timing of lines and actions makes the flow of the non-sex scenes a little to herky jerky to build on that hectic feeling (I say "a little short" because, let's face it, there weren't multiple table reads and rehearsals...); but the main problem is that the whole premise of the movie relies on at least a little sympathy for Angela. Unfortunately, Angela kind of comes off as a spoiled sour puss who fucks her ex-boyfriend well before there's a hint she may be stood up on her wedding day, and then her married next door neighbor later on. At the end of the day, though, it's a fine cast, Pachard is a great director, and it's well paced. It may not be a must-see, but it's no dog, either. B-

Cupid's Arrow Review Follow Up, or, a Porn Reviewer's Conundrum

You could rightly ask why bother writing a review of a movie I obviously hated. The answer is partially because I hated it so much I had to write about it, but it's also partially because I felt the need to get some content on the blog. (Beyond the stereotypical "I'll write something soon" post, which I swore off and assure you that this post isn't. Completely, anyway.)

I've actually found myself wanting to write here lately but coming up against a familiar problem: Do I rewatch and review a film that I've seen and know is good (Amanda By Night, for instance), rewatch and review a film I think I've seen but don't really remember (Deep Rub), watch and review a film I haven't seen but sounds interesting because of the cast (Outlaw Ladies), or just watch and review whichever comes up next in the queue? And then secondarily, if I choose to rewatch and review a film, is it pointless to write about a film (Behind the Green Door, say) that's been written about a million times already?

I find that beyond that list of questions, I almost always fall into a Grass Is Greener trap: perhaps I'll start watching A Place Beyond Shame (which I've seen) to finally get the review done and then, five minutes into it, start thinking "Maybe I'm in the mood for California Gigolo (which I haven't seen) instead...."

Finally, three notes, in descending order of relatedness to this post:

1. How do you pick which movies you watch? (Primarily directed to Gore-Gore Girl and X-Ray Specs)

2. Though I know it's never, ever, ever going to happen, I still find myself wishing the online rental service I use allowed subscribers to dvd rental to stream VOD films as a part of their subscription charge (the way Netflix does).

3. I saw a picture of John Holmes (clothed) ages before I saw any of his films. I assumed he had an Andre the Giant-like deep voice, for some reason, and was shocked when I first heard him speak. To say nothing of how surprised I was that he was such a goofball.

Pornonomy Reviews: Cupid's Arrow

Cupid's Arrow (1984)

Directed by:
...Presumably porn's "Alan Smithee"

Karen Summer
Lisa De Leeuw
Dino Alexander
Jerry Davis
Robert Bullock

Consider, for one second, the box cover up there. With the exception of looking like she might be slightly congested, Lisa De Leeuw (on my short list of Best Adult Actresses of All Time) looks pretty damn good. Seeing that cover might make someone pretty excited to see the movie. Now, take that possible excitement to Cupid's Arrow and the idea that Lisa De Leeuw looks anything like that picture in Cupid's Arrow and blow them out of your head. Like, with a shotgun.

Some time ago, I wrote that I had "one unholy turd of a movie that I'm going to review eventually just to show a little range" in my grading. Well, brace yourselves, because this is that unholy turd. Fact is, though, this "review" is going to be pretty brief because my brain has done its damnedest to erase everything I saw those many months ago. If my hazy recollection is correct, the movie opens with a narrator telling Cupid's origin story over a guy dressed in red (Cupid, apparently) creeping into a house and lacing a bowl of fruit and/or some glasses or a carafe of some sort with Love Powder.

After Cupid sneaks out, Husband (Robert Bullock), Wife (Rosemarie), and Friend (Dino Alexander) are in the living room. Husband and Friend are talking about going to a hockey game, I think, and Wife is giving Husband the business. Then, Wife and Friend end up consuming something with the Love Powder and leave the room to have sex, unbeknownst to Husband. While they're absent, Husband's Ex-Wife (Lisa De Leeuw) shows up (looking kind of like she hasn't slept or eaten anything with nutritional value in a couple of weeks; if I didn't know better, I'd have guessed this was one of the last movies she was in, not shot the same year as Miss Passion or two years before her Traci-Lords-Was-Never-In-This-Movie scenes for Talk Dirty to Me 3) for some reason. Husband and/or Ex-Wife end up consuming something with the Love Powder and they go at it.

Or attempt to, anyway. This was the first time I saw Robert Bullock, and given his difficulty getting and inability maintaining an erection, I assumed it was the only movie he'd ever been in. Nope. In fairness, I've seen a few of his other movies since and found that he's capable of competent performances. Given the era and medium, I'll assume he was chock full of cocaine and alcohol. In fact, I'm going to assume everyone associated with this train wreck was loaded.

After Friend, Wife ends up having sex with an Electrician (Jerry Davis) that's at their house, I'm assuming, to fix something. Husband is in the bathtub when he's surprised by Woman (Karen Summer), or, if IMDb is to be believed, Traveling Saleswoman, setting off Round 2 of Robert Bullock's Semi-Erect Penis Extravaganza! After that, Saleswoman has sex with Friend and then Husband has Sex with Wife. Given the fact that I can only barely remember the last scene, I'm pretty sure I either tuned it out or fast forwarded through it. If there's any rhyme or reason to the convention of a porn like this, there was narration over the end of the last scene and/or closing credits. Of course, expecting any sense from this movie is probably granting waaaay too much.

Thinking back on this movie has me typing with a grimace. While I've seen other movies that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend avoiding (B.Y.O.B. comes to mind...although Eastern-European-Burt-Reynolds Sasha Gabor is always a little amusing), none of the recommendations would come with the speed or vehemence of the one for Cupid's Arrow. (I think I'm still bitter about the cover art bait and switch, common in porn, sure, but this one may be the worst offender I've ever seen.)

Initially I was going to grade this movie F-, but instead I've decided to create a grade for it: CA. A grade I hope I'll never give out again.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pornonomy Reviews: Inside Seka

I realize I said A Place Beyond Shame was going to be the next review, but a series of uninteresting events have bumped Inside Seka to the number one spot.

Inside Seka (1980)

Directed by:
Ken Yontz*

Bobbie Burns
Christie Ford
Merle Michaels
Suzanne Raven (as Portia)
Tara Mann
Ashley Moore (as C. More Ashley)
David Ruby
George Payne
Ken Yontz
Marc Valentine
Mike Feline
R. Bolla
Ron Hudd
Ron Jeremy
Roy Stuart

With a name and format (the tried and true sex scenes as recollections) giving every indication of a compilation, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Inside Seka wasn't. In this case, the scenes are shown as Seka recounts the acts to her husband while they have sex. Prior to the film, I was unfamiliar with Ken Yontz, so I didn't realize that her "husband" was actually "her husband." In addition to telling that Seka and Ken were actually married, the freeze frame at the end of the film said "[a]ll the events in the motion picture you have just seen have been true or actual reenacted events of my special fantasies," a sentence begging for an editor. I mean, if the events reenacted were of her special fantasies, wouldn't that just make them "enacted"?

Anyway, back to the film.... The first scene, Ken and Seka in the throes of missionary, is returned to after each of the dirty talked recollections are finished. Those scenes feature a pretty complete set of m and f combinations (f, mf, ff which becomes ffm, mfmm with a tangential m, and mf and mf swap; pretty much everything short of a relatively rare fff and a never-to-be-seen-in-straight-porn mm). Some highlights include an erotic but unbelievable Seka solo (I can't imagine a woman alive voluntarily contorting herself the way Seka does while masturbating), Plato's Retreat (which seems to be about the most quaint swingers' club in the world; one man, one woman, missionary for all!), one of, if not the best - for lack of a better term - titty-fucking scene I've ever seen, and perhaps most notably, a(n) (in)famous shot of Ron Jeremy sucking his own penis.

As a brief aside in regards to RJ's autofellatio, I remember reading him say that he has and will never finish himself off orally, which strikes me as probably untrue and ridiculously (though harmlessly) homophobic. It sort of reminded me of a part in Chemistry (one of the few post-1985 movies I've seen in the past five years) when Kurt Lockwood, while being anally penetrated by Mika Tan with a strap on, is quick to point out that he's only turned on by it because she's a woman. We get it, we get it; you're straight....

Since Jeremy's "talent" shows up on film very few times, it was a pretty big coup for Inside Seka to show it in it's most logically comical way. Seka, orally servicing three guys in a warehouse rebuffs her boss's advances telling him to go suck his own he does.

Throw away gimmick aside, the film has generally solid production values (the Plato's scene is very poorly lit, though), as-usual excellent performances by R. Bolla and Merle Michaels, and, of course Seka. The only problem I had with the film was that the climactic (pun partially intended) scene in Plato's was the longest, least interesting scene killing the otherwise great pacing. B-

As a post script, the review wouldn't be complete without mentioning the ridiculous theme song which, if the internet is to be believed (and really, when isn't it?) was to be possibly released on record. Yipes.

* "[w]ith unmentioned but very hands on support from Joe Sarno."

Friday, January 15, 2010

It's been a month of Sundays since a review.

...But I figured I'd put something up.

I'm re-reading The Other Hollywood (I read it once when I was first exploring the Golden Era and figured it'd be worth looking at again since I've got a better handle on who's who and what's what), which has prompted me to make A Place Beyond Shame - Seka's first adult film - my next review.

In the book, while talking about Seka, Veronica Hart drops one of the greatest lines of all time:

"As long as I have a face, Seka will always have a place to sit."