Friday, September 11, 2020

Cry for Cindy (1976)

Jesus, this was a wild ride.

Anthony Spinelli’s Cry for Cindy is like an episode of The Deuce crossed with Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and directed by a somewhat-restrained David Lynch. That sounds like an incredible film, actually, but my time with Cry for Cindy was...complicated. 

In a nutshell, the plot is that Anna (Amber Hunt), a hairdresser, is concerned her medical student boyfriend, Dennis (Spender Travis), will drop out of school. Clients Yvonne and Nora (Maryanne Fisher and Mitzi Fraser, one-time wonders), both sex workers*, convince Anna to become “Cindy” and start turning tricks for big money. Cindy’s an instant success but is deeply conflicted when she finds herself drawn into her new life as Cindy - though also trapped by her pimp Ben (Jack Wright) -  and away from her old life as Anna and with Dennis.

The fairly rote story is made more interesting by the way it’s told. At the beginning, Cindy’s already disillusioned with her life and ends Act I by leaping from her apartment window to her death. Then, how she got to that point is revealed through memories of the few people attending her funeral.

I spent the first two thirds of the movie waffling between being ambivalent about it and sort of disliking it, in no small part because the hardcore scenes were almost aggressively un-erotic. I could be generous and suppose that they were filmed and edited as dispassionate and clinical to underscore the fact that they were simply business transactions, with no pleasure or emotion. But that directly contradicts Cindy’s tearful admission to Yvonne that she “loves every minute of what [she’s] doing.”

My opinion of the movie improved dramatically in the final third, highlighted by a non-sex scene with Cindy and a regular client, Sir Godfrey (Peter Whigham). After she’s given a glass of sherry and paid her fee, she proceeds to explain that on the way to meet him, she was attacked by “six motorcycle freaks” with Godfrey asking for details and Cindy “yes and-ing” through the entire tale. (Well, technically, she did say “no” when asked if the “freak” that forced her to blow him came in her mouth, but it still counts as a yes-and since “No, all over my face and my neck,” certainly heightened the game.)

The film finished strongly enough that I went from thinking of it as, like, a CC1000 to lamenting the fact that it was a few tweaks away from being a CC5. The first thing is that all of the hardcore scenes would need to be better. Way, way better. Rare is the adult feature that would be improved by cutting all of the sex, but Cry for Cindy is one of ‘em. Even if half the scenes were at least moderately hot, the film would be exponentially better. The second thing would be having a stronger acting lead. Amber Hunt isn’t terrible as Anna/Cindy (and she actually does pretty well in the aforementioned “tearful admission” scene), but the role requires some heavy lifting and she’s just not up to it.

Outside of the sex scenes, there was some really terrific camera work and photography:

(Inside of the sex scenes, there were so many - so, soooo many extended, extreme close ups**. Greasy, hairy close ups. Ugh.)

How about ol' Robert Rimmer's impressions:

"Many women may identify with this sexvid. Amber Hunt does one of the better acting jobs."

I can't say I particularly agree (or disagree, I guess) with either statement. Women may identify, I guess (particularly with Anna being the voice of reason when Dennis floats the idea of taking a few years off from school), and "better acting" is relative. Maybe sometime I'll sit down and look at actors that were active in '75-76 to see who I wish had been cast. (Probably not, though, let's be real....) I wonder if Amber Hunt's chops improved over time. Looking at her filmography, I've actually seen a decent chunk of it but don't have any specific recollections of her, which doesn't bode particularly well.

Overall, I definitely have a deeper appreciation of the film thinking back on it than I did while watching it. And I can see myself returning to it in time (skipping the sex scenes, for sure). I wouldn't be surprised if Cry for Cindy really improves with multiple viewings (but not the sex scenes, I'm positive of that). So, I'll give a solid CC50.

° It's a travesty that whoever did the hair and make up to age John Leslie wasn't listed in the opening or closing credits, because they did a Marlon Brando as Don Corleone-caliber job:

From Autobiography of a Flea, also 1976

* I initially wrote “prostitutes” since that - or worse - would be the term used contemporarily, but opted instead for today’s preferred nomenclature since I wouldn’t refer to Linda Wong or Mai Lin as “Orientals”, even though I've heard Mai Lin refer to herself as such in old flicks.

** I believe that Vinegar Syndrome is passionate about restoration and presentation. And I know Joe Rubin can get real bent out of shape when people tell him that the aspect ratios on their VHS copies of old pornos are “better” than what VS released. But there are some shots - primarily hardcore, but some non-hardcore scenes, too - that are so claustrophobic they border on abstract.


Okey doke, so what's up next?

Well, hello, Colleen Brennan!

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

In the Pink (1983)

I’m not generally one to get all ** wiggles fingers, makes Theremin sounds ** but there was something going on with the supposedly random picks for the blog. First, the movie that actually came up after That’s Outrageous was WPINK TV, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch a film with Ron Jeremy right now, so I re-rolled. When In the Pink came up, my wife pointed out that I was destined to watch something with “pink” in the title (although from the films that were in the running, turns out that was a 1 in 89 chance, so it’s not as bizarre as it initially seemed). Far stranger was the fact that it turned out to be another film from 1983 that heavily featured international locales and lightly featured Dave Ambrose (one scene in each). Ambrose only appeared in 10 films total (including a non-sex appearance in Wanda Whips Wall Street). Six of those ten ended up as Rimmer’s Collector’s Choice picks and two of the other four weren’t reviewed, so who knows if they may have warranted a CC. Even still that’s a tremendous hit rate. So this doesn’t turn into a Dave Ambrose biography, I’ll move on to the review after adding one last interesting (to me) tidbit: thanks to (yet again) The Rialto Report library, I found out (in the May ‘83 issue of Porn Stars) that he and Tish Ambrose were married.

The elevator pitch for In the Pink is that millionaire art collector Blake Covington (Scott Baker) is determined to complete own a complete collection of oil portraits of the House of Habsburg and fakes his death to conspire with his assistant Heather (Joanna Storm) to convince the Baroness (Laurie Smith) to sell the paintings to his widow Mariange (Jaqueline Lorians). BUT not all is as it seems when there’s a late-film reveal regarding Blakes supposedly-cuckolded would-be assassin “Umberto” (Zebedy Colt). The twist is entertaining at first, but completely falls apart when you think about it for, like, 10 seconds.

I make it a general rule not to read any other reviews of films before I’ve written mine. When I’m doing initial information gathering and background, if I happen to come across a preview, though, I’ll read it. Unfortunately, Erotic Film Guide labeled what ended up being a review of In the Pink as a preview so I unintentionally broke my rule. That said, the (p)review was written by Candida Royalle who provides some insightful editorializing and had many opinions I shared, too, so I’m going to excerpt some of her review and add my two cents.

IN THE PINK is another of the many "new wave" films attempting to uplift the quality of the adult film genre. As with most others, though, some of it works, and some of it just gets in the way. Fortunately for IN THE PINK, its muddled, confusing story need not interfere with the sex, thanks to an abundance of pretty girls, lush photography, and plenty of eroticism.

...We get to see lots of Paris and Venice scenery as the producers use a trick growing in popularity in the porn industry: exotic foreign locales. The technique is to cart off your stars and most essential crew members, shoot lots of exterior footage of them gallivanting around easily recognizable hot spots like the Venice canals or the Eiffel Tower, then intercut and match it with hard core footage done at home (where it's safe from customs inspectors!), and Voila! You have an expensive looking movie with strong production value. Chuck Vincent did it with BON APPETIT when he had his lovers romancing all over Paris, Rome, etc. And now, Bill Eagle follows suit, having his leads fall in love in Paris, London, Cairo. Rome, Vienna- you name it.

Generally, the interiors they used for the hardcore inserts were ornate enough to sell the “Olde Europe” feel, but there were some truly bizarre blue/green screen effects that gave some settings an aura of a performance art piece or play.

Similarly, the Italian tenement laundry set would have been right at home on stage at the 1984 Academy Awards or in Robert Altman's Popeye.

…[T]he somewhat formula sex scenes are saved by some highly creative cinematography, namely the numerous erotic closeups of anything from a woman's tongue licking her lips to some of their full screen genitalia shots done more tastefully than usual. Also worth mentioning is the music score, which enhanced the sex scenes with its building, driving rhythms and seductive, crooning melodies.

I’m not so sure about the “crooning melodies”, but there was more timpani than I ever recall hearing in a porn flick. Who’d’ve thought you could set so many sex scenes to drum solos?

The women are definitely a plus in IN THE PINK. Jacqueline Lorians is just adorable with her creamy, freckled skin and very full breasts; Gina Carnale [Marie Sharp] promises to be a real hit with her olive skinned, leggy beauty; Lori Smith, who I haven't seen since we worked together in OLYMPIC FEVER seems to be getting lovelier with maturity; and Joanna Storm is always a pleasure to behold. In fact, she looks and acts better than ever in this film.

I’ll cosign Royalle’s praise of Joanna Storm. All the actors perform well, but she really sells her character.

The plot is nothing to write home about, but the film has some memorable moments nevertheless. I would like to point out a couple of my favorite scenes, such as the montage of the two couples getting it on: Heather and a museum worker with a HUGE cock…

It’s pretty incredible how industry standards have changed since the early ‘80s. Jamie St. James is packing, no doubt (there may be a bit of forced perspective since Joanna Storm seems pretty petite and St. James is a twiggy alien man), but his endowment would be par for the course now and the majority of other dongers in the film wouldn’t be seen outside of cuckold/SPH scenes.

...and Mariange and a very handsome Mediterranean type [Starbuck]. ...The two scenes build up to an electrifying pace, never letting you down for a minute. They end up in big wallowing cum shots with a nice touch of tenderness in the end. Music and intercuts are utilized most effectively in both scenes.

Candida Royalle’s right on the money. There were cuts from close up to close up that made it nearly impossible at times to tell which couple you were seeing in action, which was a really cool, evocative, and engaging technique.

The other scene I particularly liked took place inside a tiny English Royal Guardsmen's station between Jacqueline Lorians and Joey Silvera. Joey is trying his best to be the proper Guardsman , ignoring her advances, but Mariange pushes him inside saying, " I bet I know something that knows I'm here." Then she has her way with him ... a fantasy I am not unfamiliar with.

It was a cute scene, but completely superfluous and one (along with the Ambrose/Sharp/guy laundry scene) that I happily would have traded for an alluded-to tryst between Mariange and the Baroness.

IN THE PINK is headed in the right direction. It's an ambitious project attempting to uplift the standards of adult films. The women are pretty and convincing in their eroticism: the men are hot, and the sex, though routine, does deliver. In other words, it's definitely worth a peek.


Let’s check Rimmer’s take:

Put this one near the top of your “Collector’s Choice” sexvids. Unlike some American-made sexvids that try to capture a foreign background with stock shots, much of this one must have been shot in Paris, London, Venice, Vienna, and Luxor.

Well, yep.

It’s too bad The Davinci Code hadn’t come out 25 years earlier. Bill Eagle could have cribbed some story beats and put some of the exotic locales to better use and made In the Pink a CC10, but as it is, I’ll rate it a CC25.

° I really wonder about the title of this one. Idiomatically, “in the pink” means “in very good health”, so I guess it could be an allusion to Blake faking his own death. The ellipsis in the title card is weird.

Was there a contemporary movie that it’s emulating? Or is it an Occam's razor deal and pink is what you think it is?

° There’s a shot late in the film where Jacqueline Lorians is scaling an outdoor staircase wearing an outfit not fit for such a task where it seemed like she was going to fall to her death. It was legitimately nerve-wracking.

° Bill Eagle had Starbuck doing some very GQ poses.


On deck:

Oh, damn. This one's been on my radar for awhile, but I haven't watched it because the description sounds bleak as hell. I guess we'll see!

Saturday, September 5, 2020

That's Outrageous (1983)

You know what's outrageous? That I haven't posted in a freaking month and a half! It feels like it was maybe three weeks since my Sweet Alice review. Time has no meaning anymore.

That’s Outrageous
is a film about fantasy. The plot is conveniently summed up by Paul (Jamie Gillis) in the first 30 post-opening credits seconds:

"The girl I picked up when I was dressed like the starving writer turns out, coincidentally, to be the sister of my girlfriend, all right? Now I gotta keep them separate. I want them both, I don't want them mad at each other, I don't want them to be mad at me. At the same time I want us all to get together eventually, have a little menage a trois."

Paul lays that explanation out for his partner Rick (Joey Silvera) - who happens to be in love with the model Nichole (Anna Ventura) they’re in Paris photographing, but is too shy to make a move. Fortunately for Rick, Paul sets it up so that Rick needs to be the male model in a shoot with Nichole. The pop some bubbly in order to break the ice, and then sparks fly.

The girlfriend Paul mentioned is Michelle (French adult film veteran France Lomay). Her sister, who knows Paul as Phillipe, is Martine (one-and-done French actress Natasha*). Paul plans a masquerade party in an effort to get Michelle and Martine in the sack together. The plan backfires, though, when all three of them get too loaded. Martine passes out first, and when Paul and Michelle get up to the bedroom, they end up passing out, too, using Martine’s butt as a pillow.

In the morning, the sisters wake up and realize that they’ve been two-timed and duped by Paul/Phillipe and leave him high and dry.

Though, really, the plan was destined to fail considering, well, they’re sisters and the possibility of siblings down to clown is far-fetched at best. Incest, of course, has been a well-worn taboo in pornography, but is just out of place in a film like this. Fred Lincoln seemed to agree considering he changed the actual sister/sister scene from the script into a fantasy scene. I wonder why he didn’t consider taking things a step farther and just make the sisters best friends, instead.

The scene between the sisters (which, not for nothing, was incredibly well-shot) brings me back to the idea of fantasy in this film. Here, Michelle considers her sister’s beauty and wonders what it would be like to have sex with her. (Presumably, that is: the voice over is in French sans-subtitles, unlike the rest of the French in the film.) Other fantasy scenes include the first scene between Michelle and Phillipe, which is actually playing out in Michelle’s head while she masturbates; the scene between Paul and model Karen (Tiffany Clark), which is her imagination; and the scene between Karen, other model Keiko (Mai Lin), and Paul’s client (David Ambrose), which is the client’s fantasy during the photoshoot. More broadly, Paul’s desire to be with both sisters at the same time and Rick’s pining for Nichole are fantasies themselves (though ones which - spoiler alert - ultimately come to fruition). And lastly, what’s a masquerade party if not a venue for living out fantasies?

I’d be remiss in not mentioning the music in the film, which was omnipresent and all over the map. The opening theme, is disco-rock earworm that’s a bit Donna Summer-y, if you squint your ears. The credits themselves, with lighting flashes and glowing text are a kind of proto-Weird Science sequence.

There are a couple songs by a Dollar Store Johnny Rivers type including one that soundtracks a restaurant scene that could be used to great effect as a music video to a much better song:

...and another song that’s a “romantic” duet with an off-off-brand Barbra Streisand (let’s call her Debra Stryzand) that kind of torpedoes what was purportedly a scorching hot scene between Joey Silvera and Anna Ventura. There’s also some accordion music for one of the street scenes to really hammer home the fact that the production’s in Paris. (The other street scene - where Paul and Rick are photographing a kind of awkwardly modeling Nichole in front of a bunch of real-life on-lookers - uses the main theme song again.)

On to why Robert Rimmer classified That’s Outrageous as Collector’s Choice (in "Classics" in the "Update"):

...Actually, his entry is just a plot recap with no subjective reasoning for a CC mark. The closest he gets is saying,, “[a]ll the conversation between Martine and Michelle is in French with subtitles, and the background cinematography of Paris night and day contributes to the realism.” True enough. In fact, remarkably, there isn’t a single glaring error in Rimmer’s write up. Way to go, Bob!

That’s Outrageous is a solid picture that’s easy to recommend. A few tweaks here and there could have made it CC10 caliber, but as is, I’m going to give it a CC25.

That’s Outrageous was previewed in the March 1983 Porn Stars and profiled in the August 1983 Erotic Film Guide magazines, both available for reading thanks to the digital library an the amazing The Rialto Report. These few tidbits are pulled from those articles:

° Paul and Rick apparently had a bet as to whether they could score chicks without being known as high end fashion photographers, which explains why Paul was pretending to be a “starving writer” when he courted Martine.

° The masquerade scene was filmed at New York’s Hellfire Club both for inclusion in the film and as a de facto wrap party and the partygoers were mostly club regulars who supplied their own costumes.

° The street scene shooting Nichole got a little tense with the number of people that stopped and watched (Fred Lincoln: “They started to get so excited just because of the way she was throwing her body around, and Anna and Joey got a little frightened. So we packed up and left.”), which definitely came through in the film.

And these are a few of my own thoughts:

° The masquerade party was somewhat reminiscent of the party scene from Midnight Cowboy:

° That party was based on happenings at Andy Warhol's Factory. The original Factory was at 241 East 47th Street which isn't too far at all from the address that Rick tells Michelle and Martine that they'll find Paul (36 West 46th Street) after they've decided that they want to give being a trhouple a chance.

I wonder if Silvera ad libbed the address or if there was a reason it was used since the address (and block, generally) have an interesting back story:

34-36 West 46th Street. No architect was involved here. It was an engineer, Robert B. Bowler, who designed this in 1914 for general loft use. He framed the large, simple windows with skimpy masonry banding of brick and terra cotta, a sort of architectural Automat but without the nickel slots. What particularly enlivens this building is the extensive use of classical ornament in black and red floral relief, egg-and-dart molding and, miraculously still over the doorway, a classical Greek frieze of a charioteer racing toward a woman leading a procession of children. For an engineer it is a particularly unexpected design.

She is listed with a second credit at IAFD for Dark Angel (1983), but I think it’s a misattribution based on someone else credited as “Natasha”: 

..because I sure didn’t see her anywhere in the film. It's too bad, really, because she seemed like a good actor (admittedly, it's difficult to gauge a performance in a language one doesn't speak, but still) and she's very attractive.


Okay, so what's on deck?