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.