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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