Monday, March 29, 2021

Blue Ecstasy (1976)

Reviewing this one is a little tricky. Let's start with the title. From what I can gather, the original French title of Frederic Lansac's film is Blue Ecstasy, but it was also released as (translated to English, in some cases) Experiments in Blue, Extra-Marital Ecstasies, Perverted Games of Insatiable Girls, and Games for an Unfaithful Wife (which is the version that seems most widely available, on DVD and streaming services). The box copy for the 64-minute Games for... describes it thusly:

"Offer yourself everything that makes you happy!" This is the unwise telegram sent by unfaithful husband to his wife that he abandoned on the day of their wedding anniversary to join a young and fiery mistress in London. The Abandoned wife seeks then revenge by taking the word "happy" to mean pleasure in the carnal sense of the word and discovers ecstasies she had hitherto forgotten. The regal and lecherous Frederic Lansac attracted a record number of viewers when his film was released September 22, 1976 In Paris rooms in Alpha France.

Change "hitherto forgotten" to "never known" and it would be a reasonable enough description. The first ten minutes show anniversaries one through four of Joelle (Marie-Christine Guennec) and William Legrand (Jean-Louis Vattier).

For the first, William chastises Joelle for trying to blow him since he doesn't want his "wife acting like a whore."

For the second, William presents Joelle with housekeeper Laurene (Michele Grubert) since "the apartment is too much work for" her. Then, they have some sex until he remembers a Dutch client he needs to take care of and cuts things short to make a phone call.

For the third, Joelle and William celebrate with William's brother Eric (Patrick Segalas) and his new bride Ange (Micky Love). Eric and Ange are all over each other, and when William again needs to take a phone call, Joelle falls into a fantasy of her in the mix with the newlyweds.

For the fourth, William and Joelle are again celebrating (or, I should say "celebrating" since William is a real barrel of laughs asking, "Aren't we getting too old for nonsense like this?") with Eric and Ange. This time, Eric's friend Billy (Jean-Paul Allais) has joined as well. After William leaves to show a client Paris by night, Eric asks Joelle if she's happy. Whether she believes it or not, she promptly answers that she is. After a bit more champagne, Eric and Joelle are seated beside one another opposite Billy and Ange. When Billy starts heavily petting Ange, Eric begins feeling Joelle up, which she seems to enjoy until realizing maybe she's enjoying it too much, and excuses herself for the evening.

The remainder of the film takes place on Joelle and William's fifth anniversary. William is in London with his British mistress, and when she mentions their anniversary, he realizes the mistake he's made and rushes to send Joelle flowers and the aforementioned "unwise telegram".

William's insistence that Joelle "have fun" jump starts a day of sexual discovery that includes a lesbian spa tryst with Laurene, blowing a policeman in a phone booth, exploring anal sex with a couple that advertises their services on restroom walls, dabbling in voyeurism (by inviting a young couple making out in a park up to her appointment and then concocting a series of reasons to "interrupt" them) and exhibitionism (parking in public, dropping the top of her convertible, and rubbing one out), and group sex, finally making it with Eric while Billy and Ange ball.

While Joelle's finding herself sexually, William has a crisis of conscience, unable to get back to Paris due to an airport strike. It's hard to tell which he regrets more: cheating on Joelle with his annoying and childish mistress or that a liberal interpretation of the telegram could have Joelle buy herself expensive jewelry, a fur coat, or a Rolls Royce.

When he finally is able to return, he confesses everything and vows to "start being a real husband again." He asks for Joelle's forgiveness, but she's passed out; understandable given the day she had.

As it is here, it's a tidy little film. Joelle's feelings and motivations aren't particularly explored but you can assume she's not happy in her marriage. The thing is, there's a 78-minute version of the film that sheds much more light on the story, but the only copy I could find was in German without subtitles. Whenever I come across adult films that have versions that vary by 8-20 minutes, I assume that the cuts involve "extreme" content (water sports, BDSM, fisting, etc.). Here, the hardcore that was cut was about half of the Joelle/Laurene spa scene and post-popshot frolicking between Joelle and Ange. Maybe the editor had some anti-lesbian bias? Weird. More importantly, though, the cuts included a scene in which Joelle calls a sex therapist* to ask what kind of sexual experiences someone her age would be expected to have, and she's basically given a list of the activities she'd seek out later that day.

It's such an integral part to cut, I'd be curious to find out if there was an issue with the original film and a quality print wasn't available during the remaster. Additionally, during the Joelle/Ange footage, there were multiple cuts to William's rush to the airport and back to Paris that helped frame his final plea to Joelle.

Let's see what Rimmer had to say (and see if we can't figure out which cut he may have seen):

This one is advertised as one of the 10 best films on the European circuit in 1981. Made in Paris, it has an underlying sense of laughter that escapes most American producers. It also offers many of the interesting Parisian exterior and interior scenes that will make you want to take off for Paris.

Sure, okay. I'll tell you what, though, the bulk of his entry is exactly what I had in mind when I started this project. This one may well set the record for shit he got wrong:

After reading a book that her brother has written about sexual freedom, Joelle decides that it's time for her to experiment.

Eric is explicitly William's brother and his book (Sex and Liberty) has yet to be published, as mentioned in the toast to Billy (the publisher) at the fourth anniversary dinner.

Soon she is blowing a surprised but willing chauffeur while he stands near his limousine in busy Paris traffic.

Not a chauffeur. Not a limousine. Not in traffic.

Then she tries the maid, and a few days later a session with the husband of a friend.

She "tried" the maid first, the couple in the "session" were definitely strangers to her, and everything for sure took place on the same day.

By the time William arrives home, Joelle has been to a group-sex party sponsored by her brohter, but tired as she is, she's happy to see William again and is still loving.

Again, Eric and William are brothers. And I know it's subjective, but I don't think she seemed particularly happy to see William, just generally blissed out by her erotic expedition. So much for figuring out which cut (64- or 78-minutes) he saw: it seems like he only half-watched a version that wasn't translated and just guessed at what was going on. (I will mention that he lists the film as Experiments in Blue, so maybe the Caballero release really was that different....)

There were elements that reminded me of High Rise, but Blue Ecstasy (or whichever title you want to give it) lacked the extra oomph that elevated High Rise to a CC5. I'll rate Blue Ecstasy CC25.

* I don't speak German, but I was able to find an online service provided AI-generated subtitles to uploaded videos. Then I used Google Translate to turn that into English. Needless to say, the audio from a digital version of a VHS-copy of a 40 year old movie wasn't great, but there was more than enough that translated accurately-ish to piece the scene together.

° I'm 99% sure the dick Joelle sucks in the telephone booth is (mostly) Jean-Louis Vattier's and not the cop's (Gerald Thomas; though his shows up a couple times in the scene). I'm not sure if it was symbolic - that Joelle was imagining it as William's since he wouldn't allow her to fellate him - or practical - that Thomas couldn't get it up.

° Blue Ecstasy shares a rating with compatriot Erotic Pleasures. Of Rimmer's review I wrote, "The only thing Rob whiffed on is that he said that the film took place over a few days, whereas it was definitely only one day." I guess there's something about French films that made him incapable of perceiving the passage of time....

° This is actually the second Lansac film I've watched since rebooting Pornonomy. The first was the excellent La femme-objet, which I found by way of Your Online Secret's post. It does not appear in Rimmer's book, as far as I know, anyway, since it doesn't show up under it's American release title (Programmed for Pleasure) or it's other - even less apt - ay-kay-ay French Girls for Pleasure. Had Rimmer reviewed it, I'm certain it would have been a Collector's Choice, though, so perhaps I'll review it at some point.



Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Peaches and Cream (1981)

My initial plan was to point out Peaches and Cream the title has nothing to do with Peaches and Cream the film, and wonder if the reason Robert McCallum didn't call it Sunny was because Warren Evans had released a Candida Royalle-helmed picture titled so two years prior. But then, the more I considered the film, the more I wondered if the title wasn't actually well-considered irony rather than a titillating wink, evoking fresh and sweet farm girls (doubled down on the poster). While we're shown protagonist Sunny (Annette Haven) as a sweet farm girl, via flashback, in the opening scene, Peaches and Cream is about Sunny's search for meaning and connection and how her life is anything but. The thing is, the theme is (sort of) hinted at through the first two thirds of the movie, but not specified until Sunny talks with her therapist (Aaron Stewart).

On a spectrum of "harsh" to "charitable" it could be argued that McCallum's direction and Haven's performance were "unfocused" to "nuanced". Since I like the oeuvre of both, I'll opt for the latter, though the nuance is too much by half.

Over the course of the film, we see Sunny: on the farm with her drunk and abusive stepfather Will (Dale Meador) and her loving boyfriend Tom (Jon Martin); with oil company-owning client Ted (Paul Thomas), who continually tries to convince her to join his business; rescue and mentor street prostitute Deborah (Tigr); in a session with her client/therapist; rebuke asshole porn producer Jerry (Hal Freeman); and ultimately - after returning to the farm she left - leave her "manager" David (unfortunately uncredited; the character and performance were great) and her career. (By "see" I don't mean "see fucking" since there's no sex with Will, Jerry, or David. Just so that's clear.)

Call it the Cry for Cindy effect, but my opinion of the film improved the more I thought about it. It would almost certainly benefit from repeated viewings and at less than 80 minutes (oh baby, you're speaking my language!), it's a great candidate. With the exception of the second hardcore scene (Sandra Martin, Sparky Vasc, and Mike Horner), the sex was well-integrated, and I can almost guarantee Robert Rimmer's gonna point out how it was often "caring" or "with feeling". In fact, let's see what he does have to say:

This is an adult film with class. [The sex scenes] are all romantic and caring and believable. Most women will identify with Annette.

"Romantic and caring and believable." Vintage Rimmer! The only thing he got objectively wrong was claiming that Annette Haven "plays in all the sex scenes," when she is most definitely not in the Martin/Vasc/Horner threeway or the (admittedly brief) encounter between Holly McCall and Neal Grace. Still, she does the film's heavy lifting, that's for sure.

In the review for Cry for Cindy I said, "I wouldn't be surprised if [it] really improves with multiple viewings (but not the sex scenes, I'm positive of that). So, I'll give a solid CC50." I feel much the same way about Peaches and Cream (although here the sex scenes were fine to very good), so I'm rating a CC25.


° In the wake of my "research" into when Sharon Kane phased out her pseudonyms, I was amused by Rimmer's take on names: The only question this film raises is why does Chelsea Manchester, Tigr, Chelsea McClane (all one and the same woman who has a naive schoolgirl quality use so many different names?

° I wonder if Jerry B. Hershey was modeled after an actual pornographer. The way he was an egomaniacal blowhard and his sunglasses and cigar look seemed super specific.

° I've always wondered what Dale Meador's deal is. It seems like he was tight with the Mitchell brothers. He was a capable character actor (for porn anyway), although it's too bad about his grody teeth. Same thing applies to Frederick Foster (both traits), though I'm surprised Foster's credits are only four titles long.... Maybe I have an inflated sense of his career since I've seen Pandora's Mirror and Roommates multiple times apiece.


On deck:

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Twenty Five Reviews Special

I figured since I'm now twenty five reviews into the Pornonomy reboot, I'd take a little time to review...the reviews, I guess?

First, a quick look at how things have changed. The first time around, it took me 543 days from the time I posted my first review (February 11, 2009) to the time I posted my twenty fifth (August 8, 2010). That was an average of 21.72 days per review. I neglected the blog for months at a time which was obvious since what seemed like a third of the old posts were stuff like, "Wow, it's been awhile since I've posted," or "I'm going to try to do two reviews a week until the end of the year," only to inevitably not do even one per week. I recently went through and culled most - if not all - of those posts since they were pretty tedious.

This time around, reviews one to twenty five spanned a "mere" 283 days (June 5, 2020 to March 15, 2021), at a clip of a review every 11.32 days. That's posting nearly twice as often as in the Old Days. Of course, the main difference between this past year and the late aughts, early teens is (duh) a global pandemic. That's not to say I've been super regular with reviews this past year. I'll almost certainly get one more in this month, so I'll have averaged just shy of three per month since last June, but I didn't post anything at all last August. Though I made up for it (and then some) with a whopping seven reviews in February. (The shortest goddam month, at that!)

As for the films themselves, here's how they've graded out by tier:

A quick refresher on how these "grades" work. Basically, I'm going through - at random - the films deemed Collector's Choice by Robert Rimmer in his book The X-Rated Videotape Guide and then determining how large a collection would need to be in order for me, subjectively, to "allow" for the film's inclusion. So if I rated something a CC100, the collection would need to be a minimum of 100 movies for it to make sense.

Visions of Clair (1977)

High Rise (1972)

Center Spread Girls (1982)
Corporate Assets (1985)
Firestorm (1984)

Dutch Treat (1977)
Erotic Pleasures (1976)
In the Pink (1983)
Sweet Alice (1983)
That's Outrageous (1983)
Titillation (1982)

Cry for Cindy (1976)
Debbie Does Dallas (1978)

800 Fantasy Lane (1979)
Between the Cheeks (1979)
Champagne for Breakfast (1980)
Lady Dynamite (1984)
Second Coming of Eva (1974)
Teenage Cowgirls (1973)
Virgin and the Lover (1973)

Hot Action (1978)
Rendezvous with Anne (1973)
Small Town Girls (1979)
Thoroughly Amorous Amy (1978)

Looking these over, I'm pretty pleased where everything landed. I realize having Visions of Clair as the highest rated film to date could be a little controversial, but fuck it, I was really impressed with it. The only other thing I waffled on was whether Hot Action should be bumped up. If I was able to get my hands on a French version with English subtitles, it probably would. The English voice "acting" on the dub was really pretty awful and I (1) don't speak French and (2) like to know what's going on in my sexvids (as Rimmer would say), so c'est la vie.

The oldest film reviewed was 1972 (High Rise), the newest 1985 (Between the Cheeks and Corporate Assets). The latter makes sense since the second edition of Rimmer's book was published in 1986. The median is 1979 (which effectively the mean, too: 1978.5).

So far, I haven't seen two films by the same director. I think it's unlikely - if not virtually impossible - to get through another twenty five without doubling (or tripling) up at least a few times. There's only been one film that I reviewed previous to the reboot (Titillation).

I must have a bias toward auteurs, because the two highest rated films were directed by men with only two dozen credits between them: Zachary Strong (23) and Danny Stone (1). Of the remaining directors in my top 5, only Robert McCallum hit triple digits (150) with Thomas Paine coming in with 92 and Cecil Howard at 32. I realize talking about five directors averaging nearly 60 credits per in terms of "only" seems ludicrous, but that's porn for ya.

For actors, the males appearing the most so far are Eric Edwards (6), Jamie Gillis and Paul Thomas (5), and John Seeman and Michael Morrison (4). The females are Sharon Kane (4), Bonnie Holiday, Desiree Cousteau, and Kay Parker (3). Interestingly, Seeman, Morrison, Kane, Holiday, and Parker were all in Champagne for Breakfast.

I've long maintained that Michael Morrison should be the patron saint of chubby, averagely endowed dudes everywhere. He was a capable actor, performed with most of the best ladies of his era, and was low-key one of the most impressive and dependable pop shooters of his time (if that's something one pays attention to). I have a vague recollection of someone saying he could be kind of a jerk (possibly on a Rialto Report interview?), but not that he was any sort of creep or predator. Naturally, apologies and retractions all around if there are any skeletons in his closet.

Multiple porn names are not uncommon, but Sharon Kane has to rank pretty high in terms of unique billings (Sharron Kane, Elizabeth Loy, Shirley McGuire, Karen Kane, Sharon Kain, Sharon Caine, Alice Wray, Shirley Woods, Shirley Wood, Sharon Cane, Sharon Cain, Jennifer Walker, Jennifer Holmes, Sheri Vaughan, Sharon Maiberg) and I've often wondered when she became - primarily - Sharon Kane. After some light leg work, it looks like her most-credited name stuck by 1985, although the best I could tell, she wasn't known by anything other than a "Kane" homonym (Cain, Caine) since 1981 when she was credited as Shirley Wood [a great name!] (Vista Valley PTA) and Sharon Maiberg (Aunt Peg's Fulfillment).

For a long time, I had trouble keeping John Seeman and Ken Scudder separate, even though they don't really look much alike. It looks like they shared around 45 non-compilation credits. Of those, they appeared in the same scene (in varying degrees of proximity, since some were orgy scenes) in seven: Baby Rosemary (1976), Female Athletes (1979), The Hit (1975), Inside Baby Sister (1977), Rendezvous with Anne (1975), Ski Hustlers (1976), and Vista Valley PTA (1981). Of those, only Rendezvous and Vista Valley PTA got Rimmer's CC rating. Since I've already reviewed the former, if the latter ever pops up in the random number generator, I'll try to pay close(ish) attention to the Seeman/Scudder scene.

This turned into a bit of a stream of consciousness post. I covered the stuff I intended (laying out the reviewed films by rating) and got into some stuff I hadn't (the history of Sharon Kane's name). I guess the upshot of this whole thing is I'm pretty pleased with where this project is at and would be ecstatic if I can keep the momentum going through then end of Year 1 of the Pornonomy reboot/refresh.


Monday, March 15, 2021

Champagne for Breakfast (1980)

I'm immediately skeptical of adult films that run longer than 90 minutes. Unfortunately, Champagne for Breakfast does nothing to earn it's 102 minutes. Ostensibly, the film's about cosmetic company marketing VP Champagne's (Lesllie Bovee) search for a fulfilling life outside of work; a search that's aided by her new bodyguard/chauffeur Harry (John Leslie). There's a secondary story line concerning Harry's business aspirations and shady dealings with his brother-in-law that's essentially introduced and resolved in less than four minutes of screen time. It's too brief and uninteresting to really get into. The film also has attitudes towards homosexuality that are clumsy at best, outright homophobic at worst.

Champagne for Breakfast raises - and leaves unanswered - a host of questions about character motivation and decision making, but the questions are so low stakes and, again, uninteresting that I wasn't bothered by them, which is a problem. Overall, the film looked good (though there were some amusing oversights concerning reflective surfaces and crew members; see below) and the actors performed well. Acting-wise, that is; the sex scenes were mostly pedestrian and the foursome in the male brothel Champagne patronizes (Bovee, Jonathon Younger, Jon Martin, William Niles) stood out, but for the wrong reason. The "choreography" was clunky, Niles had trouble getting wood, and the climax was anti-climactic: despite Champagne pleading for the men to all come on her at once, it seemed like only Younger complied, and even then possibly to the consternation of Martin, since he was functioning as a human drop cloth, what with Champagne riding him cowgirl at the time.

Let's see how Rimmer justified his Collector's Choice rating:

"Mostly this is a laughing sexvid.... John Leslie and Leslie Bovee are good comedians. By concentrating most of the silly story line on Bovee she becomes a more interesting woman."

I'm going to assume by "laughing" he meant "light" and have no idea what he meant by the "more interesting woman" bit. It's certainly comparing apples to oranges, but in the grand scheme of things, I couldn't possibly rate Champagne for Breakfast lower than Between the Cheeks, but neither could I rate it any higher. So CC100, it is.

° Harry referring to his blue balls as "the stonies" was pretty amusing.

° In his Rialto Report interview, Jon Martin mentioned that producer/director Chris Warfield was "90% blind" when he produced Hot Lunch (1978; two years before making Champagne). Warfield's also credited (at IMDB) with directing adult films until 1985 (Sounds of Sex) as Billy Thornberg, though IAFD has two different entries for Warfield and Thornberg.

° IMDB also has a long list of acting credits for Chris Warfield, beginning in 1953 and ending in 1995, with a film called Unstrung Heroes, directed by Diane Keaton and starring Andie MacDowell, John Turturro, and Michael Richards. That's a weird resume!

° Like I said above, there were some problems with reflective surfaces. To wit:

Admittedly, this guy's easier to see in motion.

Arrow not required, I'm sure.

° There was a cool connection between the colors in David Morris's shirt (and the towel) and the motel he and Lesllie Bovee go to:

As well as Bovee's outfit and the motel's lamp.

Also of note is that the aqua/orange of Morris's shirt and the motel are very similar to the ubiquitous palette in AP Bio.

Next up: