Saturday, December 18, 2010

Quickies For Christmas!


Howdy folks! I'm winding down for the Christmas break, so figured I'd throw out some quickies before I dig into the stack of movies I've been meaning to write up. Just four flicks, but it'll tidy y'all over. Enjoy!








Raw: The Rise and Fall of a Porn Star (Antonio Passolini, 2000)

I like porn flicks about porn, so I picked this up after it was listed in a thread about the subject. It's not a bad video -- Joel Lawrence is a wannabe actor, engaged to Kylie Ireland, who ends up performing in a porn movie after a failed audition and a misunderstanding/case of naivete. Some minor hilarity ensues (more like gentle chuckles), and I stuck with it for a pretty long time. However, the sex scenes are too frequent, and in spite of the batshit crazy soundtrack, the sex was ultimately too gross to keep me watching to the end. The sex itself -- performers, positions, camera angles -- wasn't the problem. The grotesque bolt-ons, semi-soft DPs (leading to wrinkled condoms), and other little things of that nature were. If this had more narrative, or perhaps a better balance of narrative and sex, the grotesqueries of the sex wouldn't have bothered me.




Extra Terrestrian: Die Ausserirdische (Lidko and Siggi Entinger, 1995)

More commonly known as E.T. The Porno, this flick is far more horrifying you might expect, thanks mostly to the realistic E.T. mask. E.T. is sent to Victorian era Earth in order to study their "customs" which basically means creepily standing in a foggy doorway watching people fuck. Eventually, she gets in on the action. This movie has to be seen to be believed. The mask is really unsettling, and during E.T.'s sex scenes the eyes stare vacantly out, creating an unnerving sense of a creature placidly accepting its fate. This video review captures the essence of the flick very effectively, and somewhat reduces the need to seek it out. Or it might make you seek it out with even more fervour. Enjoy.



Danish Pastries aka. I Jomfruens tegn (Finn Karlsson, 1973)

For some reason, I thought this was hardcore, but no matter -- it was fun enough to watch the whole thing even with no actual fucking. Two men visit a village where a convent of beautiful, sex-crazed women reside. A planet (I forget which) is about to pass over it, repeating the village-wide-nymphomania that occurred decades earlier when the planet last passed. One man is trying to put a stop to the sex mania with his sex suppressant, while the other man has an aphrodisiac which he too plans to use. The potions get mixed up, and the party pooper puts the aphrodisiac into the water supply, turning the already-sex-crazed women even crazier. Naked shenanigans ensue, including a frankly disturbing "rape" sequence in which the gals press food and drink into a newbie's face and body (it's really pretty violent), and a neat underwater sequence where they all jump into the aphrodisiac-fueled reservoir. Strangely, one of the coolest things about this film is the excellence of the dubbing -- I don't know who the party-pooper fella's dubber was, but he nailed it. I'm told the original with subtitles is the one I should have watched, but I'm happy to have experienced such voice-art.


Heavy Equipment (Tom DeSimone, 1977)

I saved the best for last. Holy smokes, I loved this film. A nerdy shoe clerk dreams of becoming a hunk magnet, and concocts a potion given him by a mysterious stranger. It's kinda like Weird Science in that he cuts up pieces of beefcake from magazines, burns them, mixes them with liquid, and drinks them. Then, like sweet, sweet magic, he turns into Jack Wrangler! Do my eyes deceive me? No. Jack will disappear from the film after a jerk-off sequence though, surely... No. Jack Wrangler is in it for the long haul, ladies and gents., as he takes advantage of his newfound beauty and fucks a string of different men in different places in different ways. I couldn't believe my eyes, seeing as I had been attempting to find what I had started to think didn't exist: a 70s gay flick, with Wrangler in most scenes (every scene...), that is of a high quality to where you can see what's going on, and has a cool soundtrack. Well, I found it. Not only that, this film has some really bizarre sequences (most notably, a giant penis floating above a masturbating Jack Wrangler), and was originally filmed with 3D segments (you can still see the double edges a little -- it's fun). This has restored my faith that there are nicely restored old gay flicks out there -- now I won't feel so cagey about putting down the big bucks it takes to dig through them. Highly recommended!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Your Deepest, Most Hidden Sexual Fantasies": Midnight Desires (1976)

One of my favourite things in life is queer media. When I refer to things as "queer" in everyday life, I often forget that many people associate this term exclusively with "gay," but since the 1980s initiation of "queer theory," the term has come to mean something more complex. When something is "queer" it means that gender/sexual norms are being subverted or undermined in some way; similarly, when used as a verb -- "to queer" -- it means taking what is ostensibly "straight" and exposing the instabilities of heterosexuality, masculinity, femininity, and other norms taken for granted as natural. In a way, queer theory took off where feminism was stumbling, and now they enjoy a healthy, complementary relationship.

With this in mind, it's no wonder that I enjoy queer moments so much, as I am a firm believer that gender and sexuality cannot be confined to categories. As a great thinker once said, "Gender is such a drag." The proliferation of sexual categories is testament to that -- no wonder many people now simply identify as queer, rather than having to figure out which of the potentially limiting identities they belong to. Furthermore, even if they do choose to align with a particular identity, society will often put them in either the gay or straight camp regardless of the individual's proclaimed sexuality. Society loves simplistic binaries. That's when "queer" becomes useful.

I remember a while back, a friend told me that Blonde Ambition is the gayest straight porn film ever made. Well, I hereby declare Shaun Costello's Midnight Desires to be the queerest. Not only that, it's striking in its framing and cinematography, and the format (fantasies that play out like vignettes) is a simple yet exciting way of exploring the sexual unconscious. And to top it all off, it's fantastic fun.

The premise is delightfully simple: two rich socialites, Wall Street stock analyst John (Eric Edwards) and his wife Amy (Jenny Baxter) have been invited to the Van Nostrands (Jamie Gillis as Martin; CJ Laing as Elaine). Amy believes Martin might be checking John out for Vice Presidency, but on the face of it they have simply been invited for "an evening of games." Martin appears to be insane, believing WWII is still going on, and to alleviate his depression at receiving news of Hitler's invasion of Poland, they decide to play a game of confessions. They will each share their "deepest, most hidden sexual fantasies," Elaine explains, and then vote on which is the best. The remainder of the film is each person's sexual fantasy explained, then depicted, and finally analyzed by the group before they move on to the next one.


After some initial nerves, they get into it, and Elaine elects to go first. Her fantasy involves being punished by hooded men for some form of guilt -- nothing specific, as she points out, but rather a general sense of guilt. "I feel I'm the alter," she explains, "I'm to be sacrificed." What ensues is a dark and eerily-shot ritual of humiliation and degradation at the hands of the anonymous, hooded men. She is whipped, then fucked in the stocks, verbally degrading herself throughout. What is interesting about the way the scene is shot is that Elaine is framed as the subject throughout the scene, both visually and aurally.


Lo and behold, my reading of the scene matches the rest of the group's analysis. Much like some feminist analyses of rape fantasies, Martin explains that while his wife's fantasy seems to be about being punished, in actuality this is not the case: "The men in your fantasy had no voices. You kept saying you were sacrificing yourself to their will. And, in fact, they had no will at all. They were doing exactly what you told them to do, following your orders. They were in fact your slaves." While it is left unstated, the further implication of the fantasy is that women experience guilt in connection to their sexuality because of the ways in which society heaps shame upon the sexually assertive woman. For this reason, rape fantasies serve as a guilt-free, controlled sexual encounter.


Next up is John, in one of my favourite sequences on film. "Make it a good one!" exclaims his wife, and he does! Initially, John's fantasy seems to be a run-of-the-mill transaction with a prostitute, but as John immediately makes clear, there is much more to it. After the transaction, John leaves the room and returns with a girlfriend, whereupon "a man in a tuxedo" appears, only it's "not really a man, but the prostitute." Throughout the remaining set-up, John refers to the woman as "he" and "him," as he describes the prostitute pulling a "giant dildo" from "his" pants. The fantasy scene that ensues is disorientating in its framing, almost dreamlike, as John fucks his girlfriend while sucking the prostitutes strap-on, and finally is anally penetrated at the same time as he is vaginally penetrating his girlfriend. This is one of those scenes I thought would never go the places I wanted it to, and did.


John's wife is very taken with her husband's fantasy (as I was), exclaiming, "I think that's incredibly sexy!" Meanwhile, Elaine and Martin are busy psychoanalyzing him, concluding that he has homosexual tendencies. "There's nothing wrong with being curious about having a thing with your own sex," Elaine contends. She's sure he's "quite heterosexual." Martin is impressed, noting that John "managed to have a homosexual experience without having any men present." In queer theory, this is called "homosociality," which I've mentioned a couple of times in the past. It refers to the male bonding that occurs in society through the bodies of women as a way of strengthening patriarchal systems, but also to engage in male-male intimacy while deflecting the homosexual threat. A woman's body typically functions as a tool in this process, but violence can also function in a similar way.


It's no coincidence, with this homosociality in mind, that Martin's fantasy begins with his embodiment of a boxer, Kid Kelly, and swiftly moves on to gang rape as a way of taking out his frustrations. Kid Kelly is asked by the mob to throw the fight he is preparing for. Angered, he grabs the mob boss's "bitch," Lola (Vanessa Del Rio), drags her into the locker room, and rapes her with a bunch of his buddies. The sequence where Martin/Kid Kelly is starting to lose it is intense: while the mob boss continues to talk at the Kid, his voice is silenced by a heady mixture of distorted sounds of punching while Kelly's face becomes increasingly hopeless, and shots of a bare-chested man punching a punch bag are edited in. It's an effective representation of a man's building frustration, and ends with him grabbing Lola and forcing her into the locker room, indicative of the relationship between masculine frustrations and the use of women's bodies as an outlet.


The gang rape that ensues is heavy on verbal communication and laughter between the men, who effectively communicate over and through Lola's body. There is also more literal male-male contact, as the scene involves cocks rubbing against each other, bodies in intimate proximity, and Kid Kelly rubbing another man's semen into Lola's face. What might have been figuratively homoerotic, is rendered literal, and the scene as a whole is suggestive of the connections between constructions of masculinity, homoeroticism, and sexual violence.


While I detected the homoerotics of Martin's fantasy, John theorizes that Lola represents Martin's mother in a classic Oedipal scenario: "Martin, you're a motherfucker!" John's wife, Amy, is the final player, and her fantasy is located in 18th century England. Amy is a "peasant girl" collecting water at the stream, when three men on horseback approach looking for lodgings. After telling them where the inn is, she runs away, but they all find themselves at the inn later that night where they get drunk and bawdy before all going for a romp in one of the upper rooms. It's a messy orgy, depicting the eroticized, fantasy class transgressions of elite Amy. The group realise that Amy's fantasy is different from the others: "it doesn't mean anything." Amy is so honest with herself, that her fantasy is just about having a good time, which according to the group means it must be the best fantasy of all. Personally, I think the way Amy is clearly "slumming" in her fantasy is more significant than the group allow, but it's certainly the least complex of the four -- a neat final chapter, and a fitting statement to close out the film.

The film closes with John and Amy departing, leaving Martin and Elaine laughing to themselves -- evidently, this evening of games they just executed is a regular occurrence for the Van Norstrands. Midnight Desires is mighty queer, but aside from the sexual dynamics it is also incredibly creative in its framing, angles, and colour palate, and I had great difficulty selecting just a few stills for this post. There are literally dozens of frames that so impressed me, I wanted to post them here. You'll just have to watch the film for yourselves. In terms of the sex scenes, this film does what I wish current porn would do: take risks. The vignettes are framed in a way that is haunting, while the film as a whole manages to maintain a mischievous, adventurous sense of humour that renders the experience simultaneously fun and intellectually provocative.

Monday, December 6, 2010

John Leslie 1945-2010

I came home today to discover that the wonderful John Leslie has died. I can't overstate how terribly sad this is -- I'm sure it's no news to regular readers how much I adore this man. This article goes some way in expressing the depth and diversity of this great talent. Join me in celebrating his life and career this evening.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Quickies...Fall Semester Round Three!

Holy smokes. What a rough few weeks! Everyone I speak to is rushed off their feet, stressed, and otherwise overwhelmed, and yours truly is no exception. Nevertheless, I make sure to utilize my downtime efficiently by watching and thinking about copious amounts of hardcore movies. With that in mind, here is my latest installment of this quickies!













The Devil in Miss Jones 3: A New Beginning (Gregory Dark, 1986)

I discovered that this was actually worth watching by reading Yum-Yum's awesome review over at House of Self Indulgence. Thanks to her, I discovered one of the most interesting and "epically bizarre" (as Yum-Yum puts it) mid/late-80s porn flicks I've ever seen. In this "new beginning" Justine Jones is played by wild-peroxide-blonde Lois Ayres, and the tone is radically different from either Damiano's original film, or Henri Pachard's kooky and almost-brilliant sequel. After fucking Paul Thomas, who would appear to be the devil, Justine is propelled into her headboard and knocks her head, resulting in a surreal and delirious trip through hell in an effort to escape. Her guide is Jack Baker, who I remember behaving in a similar fashion as a pimp in Pretty Peaches 3. Not only is this an exercise in the grotesque, it's curiously erotic throughout. A must-see, in my book.







The Devil in Miss Jones 4: The Final Outrage (Gregory Dark, 1986)

Naturally, after witnessing TDIMJ 3 with awe, I panted my way eagerly to installment 4, in expectation of continued awesomeness. I could not have been more wrong. While the previous installment is similarly deranged, it is also cohesive and moves along at a swift pace. This fourth flick feels like an afterthought -- perhaps even thrown away scraps from #3 cobbled together and shunted out onto the shelves. Not only that, it was pretty disgusting. Normally, I regard this as a quality, but Jack Baker incessantly rambling on about venereal disease, maniacally shrieking, "Drip drip! Drip drip!" starts to turn your stomach after a while. Worst of all, this film is boring -- effectively a 45 minute group sex scene followed by some random bits and pieces -- which is just about the opposite of #3. Boy, what a disappointment. On the other hand, this double-disc set has one of my favourite XXX typos, as both covers depicted on the box proclaim themselves to be Part 3. So, not a total waste.


Easy (Anthony Spinelli, 1978)

I regard Anthony Spinelli as one of the finest hardcore directors, so I was excited to discover that I hadn't seen what is considered to be among is best films. After receiving my copy, however, I put off watching it for a long time after reading a review that made it seem like rape after rape after rape. Now, those of you familiar with my viewing habits will know I don't shy away from such fare, but it's not exactly something I kick back and watch after a busy day at the office. Finally, after a trusted fellow nerd described it as "fun," I decided this must be one of those flicks where the rape doesn't make you sick to your stomach, and I was right. In fact, this film isn't really a "rape" movie at all -- sure, there are a couple of rape scenes, but they're dynamic, thoughtful, and interesting, rather than exploitative and nauseating. Jesie St. James is a teacher who, after giving a student a BJ and then immediately masturbating to the memory of it, quits, goes through some heartache, and sets off on a sort of sexual journey. St. James is amazing, as is pretty much everyone else involved, and the film really took me by surprise with its intelligence and eroticism. This is easily one of my favourite XXX flicks.


Punk Rock (Carter Stevens, 1977)

After seeing two of Stevens more talked-about films, Teenage Twins and Rollerbabies, I finally sat down to this without terribly high expectations. I didn't expect it to be my favourite Stevens film (so far). I've developed a real soft spot for Wade Nichols over the years, but not really seen him in much, and Punk Rock sealed the deal for me. The title is misleading -- this is really a NYC 70s film noir, with little if any punk rock shenanigans, but I don't care. Drugs, kidnapping, murder, and other sleazy themes comprise this compelling narrative, which is well-told, well-acted, and well-shot. Stevens' films strike me as very low budget, yet with a high level of talent and creativity that elevate the films above their low-dollar origins, and for me Punk Rock is the cream of that crop.






Dr. Lust (Joe Verdi, 1987)

I just happened to see this movie on the shelves of my local store and thought, why not? It was cheap, and thankfully it wasn't bad. It's basically a vignette film, but done in the way I like vignettes to be -- cohesive and compelling. Vanessa Del Rio is a TV show doctor who takes calls from viewers/listeners (this is a bit confusing, as sometimes it seems like a radio show, and at other times it's as if she is looking at a camera...), and gives predictably sexy advice. Then there's a subplot about Jerry Butler (looking a bit worse for wear, it must be said) repeatedly calling, apparently enamored. That's it in a nutshell. Nothing special, but not boring, and I watched the whole thing. I guess that's a recommendation if you happen to see this for sale for $9 and like Vanessa Del Rio.





Dynamic Vices (Joe Verdi, 1987)

Also on the shelf that day was this flick -- same director, same year, and basically the same cast. I suspected it would pretty much be the same film, and it kinda was in terms of style, except that this one was great! Del Rio plays the owner of a sex club, where she hypnotizes men and women with her pussy so they become her sex slaves/workers. Nina Hartley and a dykish woman I'm unfamiliar with play a kinda Cagney and Lacey cop duo who are tracking Del Rio and using their sexuality to interrogate folks along the way. It's all super fun and engaging, but the thing most noticeable was the ample amount of attention to female sexual pleasure and perspective. This is one of those films where you sense something is different, and wonder, "Who is this for?" In this sense, I heartily recommend this seemingly-unknown diamond in the rough.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Red and the White: Hardcore Horror

I know it’s late, but for Halloween I painstakingly put together my Top 5 XXX horror flicks, and here they are. Horror and porn often find themselves in bed together; their fans, films, and theorists frequently overlapping and intersecting, while the films themselves destabilize gender, call sexual identity into question, and unsettle the status quo, if only temporarily. Feminist texts on horror, not to mention mainstream media and idle prattle on the topic, at some point invoke pornography as a genre that horror seems to brush up against. Horror theorist Isabel Pinedo puts it bluntly when she asserts that horror trades in the “wet death” while pornography trades in the “wet dream” and goes on to characterize both types of film as genres that “dare[] not only to violate taboos but to expose the secrets of the flesh, to spill the contents of the body”; genres that “are obsessed with the transgression of bodily boundaries.” Linda Williams also makes such connections in her influential 1991 essay, “Film Bodies,” in which she collectively refers to horror, pornography, and melodrama as “body genres,” looked down on as “low” due to “the perception that the body of the spectator is caught up in an almost involuntary mimicry of the emotion or sensation of the body on screen along with the fact that the body displayed is female.” The extent to which the genre is considered trash tends to correspond to the level of physical effect on the spectator – what Williams calls the “jerk.” Horror makes you cringe, jump, scream, or cower, while pornography provides the most visceral, messy, and blatantly sexual “jerk” of all. In other words, one genre appears to be about violence and one about sex, but in reality these lines of distinction are never so clear cut.

Yet in spite of such generic cross-pollination, or perhaps because of it, there aren’t as many horror-porn flicks as you might expect; certainly not in the latter part of the 20th century to the present. My suspicion is that an increasingly politically aware society simply isn’t that comfortable with unconscious fears and desires, capably displaced and suppressed in each respective genre, being exposed for all to see. Yet, for me, this nightmarish exposure of the more troubling contents of our collective unconscious is the exact reason why these particular hybrids are so compelling.



5. Hardgore aka. Horror Whore (Michael Hugo, 1974)

A young woman is sent to a sanatorium to cure her nymphomania, only to discover (by way of scalding vibrator-death, walls of blood, and levitating ejaculating rocket penises) that it’s a front for a Satanic cult. This is by no means a great film by traditional standards, but it’s a must-see for so many reasons, not the least of which is the blood-and-feathered massacre finale.











4. Waterpower (Shaun Costello, 1977)

Jamie Gillis turns in an ingeniously disturbing, and darkly amusing, performance as The Enema Bandit: a peeping tom who discovers the fetish he’s been waiting for after a lucky trip to a brothel catering to special preferences. Obsessed with feminine filth, asserting that women “must be cleansed,” the Enema Bandit goes on a rape/enema rampage around New York City while two cops are hot on his trail, building to a horrifying and truly bizarre finale. Not for the feint-of-heart.












3. Dark Angels/ Dark Angels 2: Bloodline (Nic Andrews, 2000/2005)

The only relatively recent selection in this list, these two flicks definitely do not skimp on the gore like so many other PC 21st century XXX horror flicks. While a blood-lusting pair of women (Sydnee Steele and Jewel deNyle), and their complex relationship dominate Part 1, Part 2 is really where it’s at for splashing red and white, brutal decapitations, and monstrous transformations, as Barrett Blade and Evan Stone attempt to populate the world with zombie-vampires, and Sunny Lane attempts to stop them. Watch both though – they’re a double feature treat for any trash aficionado.







2. Dracula Exotica (Shaun Costello, 1980)

Jamie Gillis was born to play Count Dracula, and indeed he did in this film and one other (Dracula Sucks). It’s this dark and funny film, though, that rises to the top of the myriad Dracula porn crop, with Gore Gore Girl favourites Samantha Fox and Vanessa Del Rio rounding out a heavyweight cast. Still undead in the 20th century, Dracula is living under a self-imposed curse for raping his 19th century virgin lover, which renders him unable to climax from sex. Bored by his Transylvianian home (now a tourist attraction), sick of his vampire-twin-concubines, and drawn to a mysterious American who resembles his dead bride-to-be, he leaves his castle for the States, leading to a complex network of subplots involving FIB agents, cocaine smugglers, Romanian cultural arts, and of course love.







1. Through the Looking Glass (Jonas Middleton, 1976)

Catherine Burgess stars as Catherine: a wealthy and sexually disturbed housewife, obsessed with her dead father, played with usual creepy, sophisticated eroticism by Jamie Gillis. Catherine spends ample time naked and fondling herself in front of the large mirror upstairs, when a demon in the shape of her father appears, crossing into her world in a memorably horrifying and powerful scene, and gradually luring her into a sexual hell that is unsettling, beautiful, and terrifying all at once. In my book, this is the greatest hardcore horror film ever made, and perhaps the greatest hardcore film period. Through the Looking Glass is a bona fide masterpiece.


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