Friday, February 26, 2021

Titillation (1982)


For the first, but almost certainly not the last, time the Rimmer List and Random Number Generator worked together to give me a film for review that I reviewed in the initial incarnation of Pornonomy. I'm going to write this review before reading what I wrote back in October 2011. So, first thing first, on to the 2021 review.

I doubt there's a genre paid homage or lampooned in adult films (at least before 1985; I'm not nearly familiar enough with films from the late '80s on to know one way or the other) more than detective noir. Titillation is a fun example.

Once upon a time, real estate magnate Felix Fitzwilly (Roy Simpson) saw a woman endowed with the bosom of his dreams. He had made a bronzed bra that would only fit his chesty Cinderalla and set to employing every private investigator he could to track her down. Near the end of both his life and the Yellow Pages, he turned to Spado Zappo (Eric Edwards, who was nominated for a 1983 AFAA Best Actor award) and Pigeon Johnson (Randy West). The writing is very good, mostly in Spado's narration ("December was the cleaning lady's day off. It was March now. She still hadn't showed.")

It wasn't uncommon for adult directors (Henri Pachard, Robert McCallum, etc. etc.) to make nonsex cameos in their films, but I like to think of Damon Christian's appearance as the door painter as a nod to Hitchcock's appearances in his films. Granted, Hitchcock never spoke and whether any of Hitchcock's films are "noir" is debatable, so it's not one-to-one, but it counts, at least, as a nod to Old Hollywood.


As a door painter, Christian's presence is an allusion to about a hundred million police and detective films and shows. I can't remember if we actually see the door painted in The Maltese Falcon, but after his partner Miles Archer is killed, Sam Space (after whom "Spado" is named) asks his secretary to have the door repainted from "Spade and Archer" to "Samuel Spade".

Casting Kitten Natividad as Jerri, the object of Fitzwilly's obsession, and Heaven St. John (aka Angelique Pettyjohn) as Fitzwilly's secretary Brenda Weeks, was another nod to a bygone era of entertainment. Both were burlesque legends. Natividad was one of Russ Meyer's muses. St. John appeared in an episode of Star Trek.





Rewatching Titillation, Heaven St. John was a revelation. I'm curious to see what - if anything - I said about her in my previous review. If her reported birth year is accurate (a big if), I was much younger than her in 2011 and just a bit older than her in 2021, which I guess could color my reaction/attraction. This time, I was struck by her acting chops and her sexual confidence, especially compared to the two one-and-done women who appeared: Shery Carter and Sandra Miller, both of whom were paired with Mike Horner (as Rooster, Brenda's boyfriend...side note: Pigeon? Rooster? What's with the bird names), the latter with Horner and St. John.

Rooster, while we're on the subject, was a largely dispensable character, although cutting him would have removed 40% of the sex scenes (50% of the hardcore scenes since the Natividad/Mike Zempter - as Fitzwilly's chauffeur, Roy, who looks like a young Jon Voight/young Jack Black hybrid - was simulated).


Sure, Rooster showed up in the film's cross/double-cross climax (with enough people getting the drop on other people to make the end of The Jade Pussycat blush), but the character's main function was to flesh out Brenda's character: Fitzwilly gave Brenda an apartment complex to run, and - reading between the lines - she decided to turn it into her own harem by only renting to nubile women and then having Rooster test out all the new tennants before bringing them into her bedroom. Which is a pretty boss bitch maneuver!


Checking in with Robert Rimmer:

[T]he plot...[is] a little hard to swallow, but Aldrich (Christian, who Rimmer credits as "Christain")makes it all palatable with silly Sam Spade-style voice-over dialogue and Eric Edwards's very good acting.

Agreed, but he also says, "all the women are very sexy, [though] none of them are very young, and none would win a beauty contest." Whoa! Get fucked, Bob!

Now let's see what I had to say, nearly ten years ago:

I'm pretty sure my mind was wandering like crazy during the film, so while I can recall specific scenes, I can't really suss out how they all fit together.

Well, that doesn't inspire a lot of confidence! Looks like I was impressed with Heather St. John ("such a solid actress that I - wrongly - assumed hers would be a non-sex role") and also referenced The Jade Pussycat (misidentified in the text as The Jade Falcon, whoops), along with Trashi and Lust on the Orient Express. Ultimately, I was unduly harsh (especially considering I said I wasn't even paying attention?) and gave it a B-. With a whole different rating system now and a much more informed perspective, I'm going to go ahead and rate Titillation a CC25.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

° Titillation is definitely goofy, but doesn't fully commit to a full-blown ZAZ-style film. The only times it gets into Police Squad territory are when the fourth wall is broken by Spado, Pigeon, and Brenda acknowledging Spado's voiceover...


...and when the bearskin rug's tongue boggles around in time with Randy West and Gina Gianetti's after their sex scene.


° I don't tend to provide much color commentary to the actual fucking in these fuckfilms, but there was something about Gianetti blowing West that felt, for lack of a better phrase, ahead of its time. Sort of a Ghost of Gonzo Yet to Come. I think it was the eye contact and drool: much more 1988 than 1982.

° "Pigeon" as a sidekick has to be a reference to something, but the best I could figure it's either Robin (Batman) and/or Hawk (Robert B. Parker's Spenser series).

° Signature Edwards Plank Alert!


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Next up:


Well, this one'll be a change of pace....

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Visions of Clair (1977)

Clair (Annette Haven) is a woman of such beauty, she becomes nearly deified by those around her. Painters attempt to capture her beauty only to find ruin. Ron (John Rolling) is driven to drink and, possibly, suicide. Roahne (Susan Bates) falls into a far off trance envisioning "fornicators" and "tormentors" in modern dance void, worshiping Clair. We're shown how people think of Clair, and how they think she thinks of herself, but are never allowed to see or know Clair herself.

I watched Visions twice and still have no idea how to adequately describe it. I jotted down some notes of films it reminded me of: Barbara Broadcast, Sizzle, and Odyssey. The Love Witch, Zardoz, and Lost Highway. The film has a steady uneasiness, amplified by the avant garde and at times atonal score by Ohm's Law.

Most of the hard core appears in cuts to Roahne's fantasy realm and much of it is zoomed in on to the point of abstraction. Even the sense of reality is thrown into question by Roahne's...friend-with-benefits (I guess?), David (Jay Gamble) saying that he'd heard Clair's father had her institutionalized when she was younger, and Clair's lover Daphne (Bonnie Holliday) begging Clair to send Roahne away saying, "She's not real. You've invented her." Does the title refer to others' visions of Clair, or visions created by (of) Clair? The world may never know!

Director (and presumably writer?), Zachary Strong made Visions of Clair in 1974, but was unable to sell the print until 1977 or 1978. I can imagine distributors or theater owners screening the print and asking, "How the hell can anyone jerk off to that?" It's not that the film isn't erotic, just that the way the eroticism is presented has more in common with an art or European film (I'm fully expecting Robert Rimmer to mention "sophistication") than most other adult features.

Speaking of Rimmer, let's see what he had to say about the film:

My interest in watching over 650 adult films during a period of three years was maintained by discovering, within the conventions (and hence limitations) of the genre, a number of classics of adult filmmaking. This is one.

Right-o, Bob! He goes on to give a brief synopsis, but poses some of the same questions I had: Did [Clair] invent Ron-and Roahne? Is it all figurative, symbolic?

I have (and will surely continue) to hope for restored versions of films that this project exposes me to, but to date Visions of Clair has gone to number one with a bullet on my wishlist, and I'd be hard-pressed to think of a film that could knock it out of the number one spot. Exceptional. CC1.

RANDOM THOUGHTS
° Jay Gamble has a very Bobby Astyr-like energy.

° The title is very clearly "Clair" but Annette Haven is credited as "Claire". A mere typo, or a deepening mystery?

° If Susan Bates never dated an at least semi-famous rock star, I'll eat my hat.

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On deck:



Friday, February 19, 2021

Second Coming of Eva (1974)



Second Coming of Eva
exists on the fence between a softcore sexploitation comedy and a hardcore film. It would have been to its benefit to commit to one or the other.

When Eva's (Teresa Svensson) discovered by her sister, Elsa (Kim Frank), in the throes of a near-orgasmic sex dream, she's sent to a Morality & Ethics School for Girls run by Baron Bo Gyllenstake (Rune Hallberg). Unbeknownst to Elsa - and the other concerned parents, fiances, and whathaveyou - the school is actually simply the estate Gyllenstake inherited from his uncle Joakim, temporarily disguised as a school in order to fool the attorney of a part of his family, intent on exposing him as a man of low character, nullifying the will, and taking the inheritance for themselves. When the girls are left under the supervision of the Baron and his staff (so to speak) the whole place turns into a non-stop party.

Gyllenstake's scheme was a little ill-conceived considering it began - and seemingly ended - with staffing the school with his friends, on the promise that they'd be surrounded by promiscuous ladies and would, I guess, figure out how to pass the whole shebang off as an actual school when the time arose. And arise it did, when the attorney, Roderick Elliot (Jack Frank) showed up, catching everybody literally with their pants down.

Ultimately, Elliot is won over after being captured and raptured by five of the female "students", and he uses his newfound sexual progressiveness to, in turn, win over Elsa and all's well that ends well!


It's established shortly after the girls' families leave the "school" that Eva is actually a fish out of water; not nearly as wild or sexually experienced as her cohort...

...especially two women who weren't enrolled by their families at all, but are actually hiding out having escaped a Beirut sex club.

With her name in the title, I would have expected that story line to be more at the fore, though the Swedish titles (Google translated as Porn in the Scandal School and Scandal at School) aren't as Eva-centric, so maybe that's that. It's also possible that something was lost in translation. I watched a dubbed version and also compared/contrasted a bit of a subtitled version and they were pretty similar, but I don't speak Swedish, so who knows how accurate either are? At any rate, Eva eventually does have a sexual awakening, which is marked - as with a few other female orgasms, including her prudish sister - by a sound effect that I can best describe as an amplified robotic dolphin crossed with the Caterwauling Charm that sounds when Harry, Ron, and Hermione return to Hogsmeade in Deathly Hallows.

Director (and writer, here) Mac Ahlberg had a pedigree as a sexploitation director, most famously for the Swedish smash hit I, a Woman. The film was a surprise hit in the United States and is credited, in part, to ushering in the era of sexploitation films and nudie cuties that would lead to the rise and eventual legalization of pornography. It was clear he knew how to handle simulated sex scenes (if I had to hazard a guess, maybe 70%?). Ahlberg was much better known as a cinematographer (including the John Landis-directed video for Michael Jackson's "Black or White" and the Stallone vehicle, Oscar), and Second Coming looked very good throughout. It seemed like shooting the the hardcore scenes was a learning-on-the-fly deal, which would make sense since, as far as I can tell, Eva was Ahlberg's first hardcore film. So, yeah, I think it'd've come out better if it had stayed completely softcore and in Ahlberg's comfort zone or fully committed to being hardcore and forced him to figure out the shooting, flow, and editing of hardcore scenes.

At the risk of repeating myself (repeating myself), this film could have been cut down to, say, 70 minutes, easily. There was a point I was *sure* it was wrapping up, and then there were 20 minutes (more than 20% of the film) left. What is this: Judd Apatow directs a Lord of the Rings movie???

Anyway, let's check in with Robert Rimmer:

[T]his sexvid has very attractive women whom you've never seen before, and an almost indefinable happy-go-lucy, slapstick sophistication that excapes American filmmakers.

Rimmer does love pointing out how unsophisticated American porn-makers are. I can't disagree that the women are very attractive, but feel the slapstick could have been slapstickier. This is the twenty first review since I restarted Pornonomy so I'm starting to see a bit of clarity for what rates as what. Eventually, I may revisit and revise some ratings, but putting Second Coming of Eva in comparison to the twenty other films I've written about in the past eight months, I'll give it a CC100.

RANDOM THOUGHTS
° The English dub calls the Baron, phonetically, "Gillin-stake" whereas the subtitles call him "Goldenrod". The Swedish audio sounds something like "Gillin-stock-uh" and "gullis" is Swedish for "goldenrod", so point goes to the dub.

° This is the second film in a row with nary a popshot to be seen.

° The way the scene between Roderick and Elsa plays out, and that the actors share a (stage) surname, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if Kim and Jack Frank were sex show performers.

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Up next:


Monday, February 15, 2021

High Rise (1972)

From time to time, about 10 or 15 minutes into an adult film, it'll occur to me that what I'm watching would be a good flick to recommend to someone curious about why I'm so interested in porn made before, oh, 1984. Or even, given the right circumstances, throw on while having drinks with friends. High Rise definitely fits the bill.

The carnal education of a sexual naif and/or rekindling the heat in a dead bedroom are well-worn tropes of porn. High Rise puts a fun twist on it by having main character Susie's (Tamie Trevor) "fresh, novel sexual experiences" - a part of her therapist-prescribed "fast course in practical sexual stimulation" - set up as a series of titled vignettes, all occurring in the same high rise apartment building.




The soundtrack slaps, the scenes are visually interesting, the fourth wall is broken periodically, giving the film a lightly surreal, psychedelic flavor, and there's a cheeky twist at the end. Trevor is super sexy and charismatic as Susie. It's a real shame she had such a limited filmography (only four films, two in non-sex roles).

The hardcore scenes are fine. Notably, there's not a money shot to be found, a pro or a con depending on one's appreciation for ejaculate. My only quibble is that the three-way montage and the orgy scene are about 20% too long which end up wearing out otherwise remarkable editing.

Rimmer says:

[U]nderlying all the vignettes is a sophisticated sense of humor.

Yup.

I really, really enjoyed High Rise and would love for it to get a Vinegar Syndrome restoration. I'm giving the film an enthusiastic CC5!

RANDOM THOUGHTS
° Another Marc Stevens appearance, another scene in which he struggles to get - forget maintain - an erection.

° If my review doesn't sell you on seeing the film, reading the excellent piece The Rialto Report put together should do it. Among lots of fascinating information, it sheds some light on why Tamie Trevor's career was so short. Basically, she was nuts.

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Next up:



Saturday, February 6, 2021

Dutch Treat (1977)


Dutch Treat
is a fun, surface-level, simple fuck film shot in Amsterdam. The Rialto Report has a fascinating article about Dutch Treat producer/writer/director Navred Reef, in which they mention that the film (and it's companion film Playgirls of Munich) were conceived of as "XXX-rated comedy ‘road’ pictures in the tradition of the 1940s films starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope," and as far as "Dutch Treat" is concerned, it's a success. (Playgirls of Munich is also a Rimmer Collector's Choice pick, so depending on the random number generator, it may eventually get its own Pornonomy entry.)

Here, American everymen Chuck (Roger Caine) and Barney (Zebedy Colt) are living it up in Holland with Norman Jackson's Sexy Europe as their guide.

The strength of the film is the believable friendship and natural rapport between Caine and Colt, who each have their own unique charm and charisma. I could never quite pin down how to describe Zebedy Colt as Barney, but Roger Caine came off as a sort of Muppet version of David Letterman.

Chuck has more success with the ladies of Holland, but mostly because he unashamedly cock blocks Barney at every turn. Ultimately, they find their greatest success while posing as film producers, which is objectively ethically repugnant.

Though during one tryst, an "auditioning" actress says to her friend:

So maybe we can believe that most or all of the starlets-to-be, with visions of Hollywood dancing in their heads were actually onto the ruse.

Overall, the hardcore scenes were functional and not particularly noteworthy. The standout was a party/orgy scene which was brief (barely two minutes), but impressively and creatively edited.

Robert Rimmer:

I watched this one after I watched Playgirls in Munich. I have no idea which one was made first but...which one is funnier is difficult to decide. If you got hooked on Playgirls in Munich, you'll want to see this one.

Since I haven't seen Playgirls, I can't speak to which was the funnier film. If it's at least on par with Dutch Treat, though, I'd say both films would be great candidates for the Vinegar Syndrome treatment. Rimmer's only glaring error is calling the guidebook Sex in Europe. If the sex scenes had been more engaging or if a bit more of the film had been treated with the artistic touch of the party scene, Dutch Treat would have rated higher, but as is it still merits very, very good CC25.

RANDOM THOUGHTS
° Casa Rosso, the sex club Chuck and Barney patronize, is still open. Well, it's closed until further notice due to COVID-19. Presumably it will reopen eventually.

° The first film I saw Roger Caine in was the fucking bleak Taking of Christina. He was so effective as a psychopath I still have a hard time seeing him as a protagonist.

° The recorded date on this film is all over the place. IAFD says 1975, Rimmer says 1974, and The Rialto Report says 1977 (for the filming, at least). I'm inclined to go with 1977, though, since Ashley West and April Hall are thorough researchers and Sexy Europe was published in 1976.

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Coming soon:



Monday, February 1, 2021

Firestorm (1984)


There is an excellent 80 minute film in Firestorm's 104 minute run time. The film is about the complicated relationship between blond, blind naif Claire (Joanna Storm) and on-again-off-again couple Kenny (Eric Edwards) and Liza (Tina Marie). The story is told as a flashback while Kenny is interviewed by some sort of reporter (Veronica Hart in a non-sex role). There are a few flashbacks within the flashback (including how Claire lost her sight and how Kenny and Liza became "off-again").

The atypical timeline and some really creative and Cecil Howard's ambitious directorial choices and editing techniques - with elements of music videos, avant-garde advertising, and European film making - elevate the film well above average. Unfortunately, lost momentum in the middle of the film, a turn to the maudlin in the final third, and an "all ideas welcome" script (Liza can't have orgasms; Claire's father Lee - John Leslie - is an alcoholic womanizer involved in shady dealings with an oil magnate and goes nuts at the threat of blackmail), kept it from achieving Mt. Rushmore status (which it was on track for through about the first 40 minutes).

I'd also be remiss not to mention Kay Parker's delightful scenery chewing performance as Claire's mother Magda. She really goes for it!

Let's get Rimmer's thoughts:

Amazingly, Howard, with the help of a good screenwriter (Anne Randall), tells this complicated, almost incredible story so that you get involved with it and believe it. He succeeds through excellent cinematography (ranging from sharp, clear lighting to chiaroscuro effects that suit the mood of the story), fast editing, good acting, and never stying too long on the genital aspects of sex.

It is no small feat that the story was presented as well as it was, though I still think it was over-complicated and over-long, and Rimmer is spot on with his praise of the cinematography, editing, and acting. "Genital aspects of sex," though, sounds like something an alien pretending to be human would say.

Firestorm, Firestorm 2, and Firestorm 3 all made AVN's 500 Greatest Adult Films list. About the trilogy, AVN says:

With scripts that scorch in their sexual energy, production values tht put most other movies of the day to shame and, most of all, performances that bind the carnal and cinematic, this trilogy stands teh test of time.

I wonder if I wouldn't be kinder to the first film with the benefit of seeing the sequels. Presumably, Robert Rimmer would have rated the subsequent films as "Collectors Choice" so it would be in the spirit of this blog to screen them. If I do, maybe I'll return to and revise this review. In the meantime, though, I'll give Firestorm a CC10.

RANDOM THOUGHTS
° Cecil Howard won AVN awards for Best Director in 1984 (Scoundrels), 1986 (Snake Eyes), and 1987 (Star Angel), but lost to Anthony Spinelli (Dixie Ray, Hollywood Star) in 1985, when Firestorm presumably would have been nominated. In 1985, AVN began awarding the Best Director (Video) category, and Henri Pachard won for Long Hard Nights. Long Hard Nights is also on AVN's 500 list, but I was surprised to find that Dixie Ray isn't.

° Since I started Pornonomy up again, Eric Edwards has appeared in more films (5) than anyone else. He's followed by Jamie Gillis and Paul Thomas (4 each), and Desiree Cousteau, John Seeman, R. Bolla, and Sharon Kane (3).


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On deck: