Friday, April 29, 2011

Pornonomy Reviews: Tell Them Johnny Wadd Is Here

Tell Them Johnny Wadd Is Here (1976)

Directed by:
Bob Chinn

Annette Haven
Felecia Sanda
Joan Devlon
Veronica Taylor
John Holmes
Tyler Reynolds

The Wadd film following Tropic of Passion (although apparently released after Liquid Lips, which was shot after TTJWIH), Tell Them is light years better, technically. It opens with a shot of a man (later revealed to be Wadd's buddy, a cop named Sam Kelly - Damon Christian, non-sex) getting an oyster ceviche from a Mexican street vendor. The scene could have been edited down by half, but it was still an interesting open and was the spiritual kin of Harry Callahan getting his hot dog or Frank Bullitt grocery shopping. Kelly puts in a call to Wadd hoping to get his help down ol' Mexico way in finding and rescuing his (Kelly's) junkie ex-wife, Doreen.

Following a typical "baby, please don't go" seen between Wadd and his girl (Annette Haven), Wadd heads down to Mexico to help Kelly. Along the way, with the help of the local police captain (Carlos Tobalina), the track the drug operation up the ladder from a gangster named Ringo to American kingpin Travis Elliot (Reynolds), who has Doreen under his control.

The film has an authentically gritty feel and puts the location shooting to much better use than Tropic's Hawaii locales. The story is more involved that Tropic (though considerably less intricate/muddled than Blonde Fire). The part of the film that really lingers, though, is the unavoidably ironic final scene: a lonesome on-the-beach number with a voiceover bemoaning people's dependence on hard drugs narrated by user and abuser Holmes. Possibly just hindsight and projection, but it's hard to shake the feeling that the script was tailored as an indirect plea from Chinn to Holmes....

The final final shot, post credits, is a "But Johnny Wadd will return in..." that is a nice nod to the Bond series. You know, as a point of interest. B

Pornonomy Reviews: Tropic of Passion

Tropic of Passion (1973)

Directed by:
Bob Chinn

Chlorine Stillwater
Patti Snyder
Sandi Carey
Sandy Dempsey
John Holmes
Mike Haven

"I couldn't wait to get my hands on that slippery Oriental."

Uttered by Johnny Wadd (Holmes...duh), those words precede what could be the best scene in Tropic of Passion, the second of two gloriously amateurish fight scenes. Both see private detective Wadd, hired to retrieve the sex tape of heiress-to-be Ruth Miller (Snyder), facing the "Oriental" gangster Fuk Yu (Chinn), the presumed mastermind behind the blackmail. Both are shot from what seems like 200 yards away and both primarily involve Wadd getting his ass kicked. In the second, though, after a series of Karate 101 arm tosses, Wadd gets the upper hand only to find out that Yu doesn't actually have the film. It's actually in the hands of Ruth's attorney Alex Royal (Haven). What a twist!

Anyway, Tropic of Passion is a pretty early Chinn film - Wadd Series or otherwise - and it shows. The plot largely unfolds by way of expository voice overs between sex scenes that are formulaic and boring and much more of the loop ilk than the "feature" scenes that would prevail later in the decade. The cast is small and unremarkable. Haven's lack of charisma and sexual prowess actually makes his three credit bio seem at least two credits too long.

Taken as a whole, the film would be lucky to merit a D. However, the ability to fast forward through the sex scenes to get to the entertaining non-sex parts (in fact, a 12 minute Youtube edit would be the best way to watch this movie), the half impressive half unnecessary Hawaii location shooting, and the liberal use of Ennio Morricone's "Ecstasy of Gold" push it up to a C-.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pornonomy Reviews: Sex Star

Sex Star (1983)

Directed by:
Paul G. Vatelli

Amy Copeland
Danica Rhea
Lisa Lake
Kimberly Carson
Craig Roberts
Hershel Savage
David Sanders

Danica (Rhea) is a porn star who's lost her groove. Initially, she cites her inability to get into girl/girl, but it seems like she's struggling with sex generally.

At the insistence of her assistant (Lynnz), she takes a break and spends time with friends, Jannette and Richard (Carson and Savage) in order to clear her head. They attempt to set her up with their friend, Michael (Sanders), but she plays the cold fish. However, after spying on Jannette and Richard in bed, a spark seems to be ignited in her. Spurning Michael's advances yet again, she ends up being seduced by Richard. Luckily for Michael, Janette and Richard have an open relationship, so he and Janette have a roll while Danica and Rich are at it.

That time away seems to have righted anything that was wrong, because the closing scene, on the set of the film that went off the rails in the film's cold open, comes off without a hitch.

The film was capably directed and had a story with a lot of promise, but it just never really came together. It may have been that, at only 76 minutes, there wasn't enough time to adequately portray the troubles Danica was having with her career, or maybe it was that Danica Ray's range didn't lend itself to expressing the actual dilemma her character was having, but I found myself pretty bored with the film overall. In fact, the most entertaining part was the bit of the film-within-the-film showed at the beginning and end. And then, it was mostly due to the fantastically bombastic overdub that Craig Roberts's character was supposedly saying to the ladies under his command (Rhea, Lake, Copeland). It was like hearing Mumra, or the narrator at the beginning of The Dark Crystal, telling three chicks to blow him....

I've been on a bit of a Vatelli run lately, and while none have been particularly bad, this is the first I've seen that I don't feel like I'd have missed anything by skipping. C+

Friday, April 1, 2011

Pornonomy Reviews: Trashi

Trashi (1981)

Directed by:
Louis Lewis

Copper Penny
Dorothy Lemay
Lisa DeLeeuw
Loni Sanders
Lysa Thatcher
Nicole Black
Sharon Mitchell
David Morris
Joey Silvera
Jon Martin
Kevin James
Michael Morrison
Paul Thomas

Sci-fi, detective noir, comedy? Yes, please!

With the help of his "Igor", Boris (James), Dr. Schtup (Morrison), is in the business of creating love drones to staff his brothel (at least that's an educated guess; it's never addressed directly as far as I recall), and he has just produced his masterpiece, Trashi (DeLeeuw*). His odd laboratory has aroused the interest of the police, specifically Inspector Crotch (Silvera). A cursory questioning doesn't yield information, so Crotch enlists the aid of PI Bic Boner (Thomas) - who also acts as the narrator.

Bic gains entrance to the house by disguising himself as an exterminator. While snooping around in the basement, he's beset by the fembots, CP3X(Thatcher), Vibrata (Tigr), and finally R69D69 (Lemay), before being discovered by Boris. Tied to a bed, things look bleak for Boner before being literally saved by an orgy.

In the end, Schtup's nefarious plans are thwarted and Bic gets the...girl?...girl robot, anyway.

At a brisk 74-minutes, there's a lot to love about this film. The scenes are shot terrifically, the sound design touch of placing reverb on the robots' voices is great, the tongue-in-cheek tone of the film is perfect for Silvera and Thomas (who is always great in roles that require "charmingly aloof, with a wink"), DeLeeuw looks amazing (although it'd be nice if she'd have been able to act a little more, which she always did capably), and it includes one of the best examples of an integrated sex scene I can recall:

Bic Boner's introduction comes while he's in the throws with his secretary (Sanders). Both are in character the entire time, but there's also an admirably funny exchange in dialogue.

Secretary: Bic, you're dick's so fuckin' slick. Do your trick, Bic.

Boner: Would you like me to flick my Bic?

Secretary: Yeah, flick my Bic!

Boner: I love it when you talk to me!

Secretary: Yeah, there's so many words that rhyme with "Bic" it's great!

The delivery of the punchline is so good, it threatened to make me reassess my opinion of Sanders's acting abilities. (The few times I've seen her, she's come off as pretty wooden.)

Trashi also features a few hilariously awful accents. In his autobiography, Ron Jeremy mentioned he always strove for comedy over authenticity in accents, citing specifically his "Southern" accent in Sizzle. If you've seen the film, "comedy" would be the only explanation for his bizarre "New York Jew meets rural South Carolinian" twang. Here, Morrison and James attempt some sort of German/Austrian deal, but Morrison's sounds like some sort of German/Swedish/Indian mess, and James's waffles between the intended and an awful British accent. As the maid, Mitchell attempts a French accent initially, but by the end, it's sort of a generic "Aristocrat" accent with hints of Dracula. Of course, it's ludicrous to nitpick adult actors' abilities (or lack thereof) attempting accents - as long as they're not detrimentally distracting - so the grade won't suffer as a result.

If there is a knock against the film, it's that neither Schtup's grand scheme nor Inspector Crotch's suspicions in that scheme are ever adequately addressed. Honestly, a little more care given to the story here, in my opinion, would have made Trashi an All-Timer. As it stands, it was a lot of fun, and really well put together. A-

* Before the film starts, there's a First Amendment PSA narrated by Lisa DeLeeuw. Now, I'd assume her name is pronounced "Da-Loo", but she actually says "De-LAY-oh". After nearly twenty years of saying it one way, though, it's unlikely I'll change....