Friday, February 6, 2009

Scummy Hippies! Scummy Hippies!

I watched Forced Entry (Dir. Shaun Costello, 1974) a couple of nights ago as part of my ongoing research, both into the films of Shaun Costello, and the ways in which pornographic film represents rape and sexual violence. Contrary to (or, perhaps because of) arguments that suggest pornography sexualizes rape, recent porn, from the late-70s onward, has tended to shy away from sexual violence as a theme. Of course, there are many films that trade in the sexual fantasy of forced or coerced sex, yet porn films that are explicitly about rape are not that common, especially in feature films. It's become, ironically, something of a taboo.

After watching Cry Wolf (Dir. Paul Thomas, 2008), a recent feature that deals with rape in a surprisingly sophisticated way, I was struck by the "problem" porn films face in representing rape and sexual violence. In effect, pornography's duty to "show everything" in explicit terms renders representations of rape quite a conundrum.

Forced Entry is an interesting example - an early 70s porn movie about a traumatized Vietnam vet, played by a pre-Deep Throat Harry Reems (who turns in a very convincing performance - hard to take if you're used to his zany comedy work) working at a gas station where he takes down women's addresses when they pay with their credit card, and follows them to their homes, rapes them, and murders them. A simple premise, and one that leads to some pretty shocking scenes that are difficult to watch. The second rape scene in particular, in which a woman is dragged from her shower by our "Protagonist," forced to orally pleasure him at gunpoint, and then anally raped, is very realistic. 

Pretty grim, then. Yet, it's difficult to tell what the purpose of the movie is. It doesn't feel like a regular rape-porn movie, as the rape sequences are disrupted throughout by intercuts of black-and-white footage of various atrocities in Vietnam - an effective and very disturbing technique. I find it hard to believe that the filmmakers would have done this if it was intended to simply arouse its audience. Furthermore, the rapist-muderer commits suicide at the end of the movie after attempting to rape a pair of girls who are on acid and don't take his threats seriously. This last scene is one the coolest things I've ever seen - the girls are either awesome actresses, or really on acid, or both. Either way, their reaction to Reems trying to intimidate them into submitting is an oddly satisfying conclusion, their laughter overpowering him and turning his violence on himself.

I'm not sure exactly what I think of this film - but I know it's something pretty special. It's either a reprehensible piece of trash that exploits and sexualizes rape and murder, or it's a brilliant (and reprehensible?) film that skillfully articulates the disturbing cultural connections between violence, sexuality, masculinity, and war. Either way, I would say it's worth watching.

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