Thursday, November 26, 2020

Indecent Exposure (Gary Graver [as Robert McCallum], 1981)

Sort of a hardcore Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Indecent Exposure presents a typical porn conundrum. One path to legitimacy for adult cinema is to emulate mainstream movies. But if a porno attains the level of something solid yet hardly masterful as Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, then what's the point? I gravitate towards porn that ventures into alternate worlds far away from the solid and the "well-made" because I can't get that at the multiplex (apart from the occasional Southland Tales). So while I grant that the performances of all four principals (Veronica Hart, Jesie St. James, Robert Kerman, and Eric Edwards) in this bed-hopping dramedy are top-notch and Graver's cinematography is typically lovely (especially in Vinegar Syndrome's restoration on Blu-ray) and the incredible Georgina Spelvin is on board in a smaller, but crucial, role, there's not much more to latch onto. I recommend Indecent Exposure. But check out Little Sisters or Graver's 3 A.M. for something truly distinctive. 

Grade: B+


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Unholy Child (Jim Turner, 1975)

There's a thin line in pornography between winningly godforsaken and cynically lazy and, sadly, The Unholy Child tips over into the latter mode. It's already escaping my memory. So I'll record here everything I want to remember. A car blows up and the owner underreacts. The murderer's motive is unclear if not unknown. And the murderer appears in bad male drag. Not actively awful. Just forgettable which may be the greater sin. A dud. But a 57-minute one. So if you're perversely interested, you'll lose little time.

Grade: C+


3 A.M. (Gary Graver [as Robert McCallum], 1975)

According to They'll Love Me When I'm Dead (Morgan Neville, 2018), the documentary about the making of Orson Welles' The Other Side of the Wind, Welles helped Gary Graver edit the scene in 3 A.M. where Georgina Spelvin (Kate) and Judith Hamilton (an unnamed hippie chick) have shower sex so that Graver could return to his work as cinematographer on Welles' film. History has not recorded Welles' exact contributions. But it's worth noting that it's easily the steamiest sex scene in the film. It's also worth noting that the scene in which Kate makes dinner for her nephew Ronnie (Charles Hooper, adorbs) mirrors a similar moment in The Magnificent Ambersons when Aunt Fanny (Agnes Moorehead) serves strawberry shortcake to George Minafer (Tim Holt).

I mention the Welles connection not to rope classical Hollywood dorks into watching a porno but to proclaim that 3 A.M. is every bit the match of The Other Side of the Wind in terms of commitment and formal pizazz and hence would make a dynamite double feature. A tale of murder, incest, and privileged ennui, 3 A.M. benefits from fantastic performances, especially Spelvin as a faux spinster, and Graver's painterly eye. This is truly a cinematographer's film which means subsequent viewings will have to determine the structural role played by the deft dollies, unmotivated fish-eye lenses, and Ozu-like pillow shots. For now, they're absolutely gorgeous to behold/ponder.

3 A.M. is also a sonic marvel. As befits the upper-middle-class milieu, the drama here results from the ways in which sound invades well-cultivated privacy. The first sex scene is tape recorded. So is a climactic murder confession. Family members are heard crying and fucking through the walls. Ronnie self-actualizes through his love of classical music. One delicate sequence has him taking steps towards losing his virginity by bringing over records to sexy neighbor Vicki's (Sharon Thorpe) house. ("Do you like good music?" Yeah, I like good music." "I mean, really good music.") The last sex scene is scored to Pierre Henry and Michel Colombier's electro-psych-rock frug "Too Fortiche." And the very last sound we hear, as the final credits come to a close, is three grandfather-clock chimes, an elegant time stamp acknowledging the precise moment the narrative kicks into gear.

Astonishing from the git, 3 A.M. is one of the finest adult films I've ever seen. The Graver obsession starts here.

Grade: A

Check out Robbie's nifty tennis sweater
Robbie likes classical but Vicki prefers Buffalo Springfield
Foxy Rob Rose as Morgan

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Thursday, November 19, 2020

Honey Pie (Mel White and Howard Ziehm, 1976)

Porn and the musical are my favorite film genres because I have limited use for those well-proportioned wholes that uphold tired canons and itchy concepts (which I abuse, I admit!) like "genius" and "masterpiece." In oscillating between narrative and number, both genres traffic in a hybridity that weakens (and hence devalues) a firm sense of gestalt. Still, I discover deeper pleasures in one coordinate of the oscillation depending on the genre, e.g., I tend to privilege the number in the musical whereas the narratives of feature-length pornography fire me up more. 

With Honey Pie, however, the sex scenes give off plenty of sssteam heat while the narrative stalls with a forced jokiness. Arlana Blue stars at Lois, a writer at the fictional Screw-like magazine Metro, the editor of which is played by Screw editor Al Goldstein. She's looking for something especially naughty to include in Metro and reads several letters to the magazine, each occasioning a dramatization in what amounts to an illustrated Penthouse Letters. The dramatizations run through a typically polymorphous array of options - intergenerational sex, lesbianism, DP, S&M, etc. In between, the ever-horny Lois camps it up with fellow journalist Dick (Bobby Astyr) at the Metro offices and eventually they get it on. These scenes are cute enough. But the real prize in Honey Pie is the hardcore activity which generates a quiet intensity that contrasts with the framing narrative. In short, yet another hybrid that is pornography's gift to humankind.

Also on board is Annie Sprinkle (billed here as Ann Sprinkle) in a cameo at the end. And check out Mel White's platforms before the S&M sequence!

Grade: B+


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Coming West (J.S. Scott, 1971)

Coming West feels like a softcore film that's reluctant to showcase hardcore sex although the director, Steve Scott (working under a different name here), would go on to direct straight and gay hardcore porn. The lovemaking is pretty chaste overall so that the relatively brief meat and money shots startle. In short, it's very much a film of 1971, one year before Deep Throat.  

Three contemporary gals drive a convertible to vacation in Laramie. One gal, Kate (Maria Arnold), daydreams of the Old West where the trio are prostitutes. She wanders off and runs into former lover Matt (sexy George Peters) which triggers a reminiscence of their past together. So this scene is a flashback within a dream sequence! A hunky Native American approaches the other two and moments later, he is lying motionless on the ground. We are left to deduce that Matt, who has returned with Kate, has rendered him unconscious to protect the ladies. An orgy ensues and the somehow-reanimated Native American joins in (?). Kate awakes from her dream and as she tells the other two about it, we see two Matt and the Native American hitchhiking together.

At 53 minutes, Coming Together goes down easy especially with the help of a dippy folk song that sounds like a duet between a bargain-basement Leonard Cohen and Buffy Sainte-Marie. But it does feel rather inconsequential. As with a lot of pornography, this would be best caught on the sly, peripherally experiencing it at the local adult theatre of your mind rather than taking it all in at once.

Grade: B


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Opus (Matt Helmet, 1970)

Opus is nine minutes of avant-porn in which a heterosexual couple have sex with Toshi Ichyanagi's "Extended Voices (for Voices with Moog Synthesizer and Buchla Associates Electronic Modular System)" on the soundtrack (although it seems to be spliced in with another piece). A curio at best, it still ends conventionally with a money shot. According to the Erotica Films blog, the performers are Natalie Nell and John Joseph and the festival mentioned in the opening credits is The Second Wet Dream Film Festival (1971). 

Grade: B-minus

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The Bride's Initiation (aka Demon's Brew) (Duncan Stewart, 1973)

SPOILERS (if anyone could possibly care)

The Bride's Initiation features a Dracula (Marc Brock) in terrible face paint (do we want any other kind?) who subsists on sperm rather than blood. He has his chauffeur (Jack Birch, father of Thora Birch!) kidnap a newlywed couple and his assistant, a cackling witch in better makeup, collects the groom's elixir. The bride's parents (two of the oiliest individuals ever to appear in a porno) hire a detective to find the newlyweds but the detective gets kidnapped too. Dracula sees a beautiful blonde (Carol Connors) at an intersection (during the day - this Dracula is uneffected by the sun) and immediately becomes infatuated. He kidnaps her too. But the hardy-har-har ending reveals that the sperm has turned Dracula gay and he lusts after the detective who himself is gay (which we learn only at that moment). Also included: some light S&M, several $1.98 sets, and sweaty faces (you can tell this was shot in Florida).

The Bride's Initiation is a tad too linear for my taste. But it's more fun than the cranky (and bizarre - this is a melodrama??) IMDb reviews would lead you to believe. In fact, it's more linear than the reviews themselves, reminding me yet again how difficult it is to tell sustain an argument (or story). As user Hollwoodshack avers, "It's interesting that a lot of the goofy plot resembles some events in the real life marriage of Jack Birch and Carol Connors. For example, his daughter was fired from a production of Dracula because he objected to Thora getting a back rub from a cast member. The main character here in parody is Dracula, also. A change in sex preference caused by a magic formula appears here, too. Thora was given her name because the couple expected a boy." In comparison to this review, The Bride's Initiation is as tight as The Usual Suspects.

Grade: B+


Monday, November 16, 2020

Funny Farm (George Roy Hill, 1988)

I officially apologize to Leonard Maltin because I thought he gave Funny Farm ***1/2 in his movie guide. In fact, it received only **1/2 and good, because I couldn't imagine anyone giving this thing even that many stars. Lawd, this was a slooooog. I didn't laugh once but a few cat naps were taken. And there's a venal anti-city bent running throughout, particularly irksome in 2020 when so many rich folks are abandoning New York City for the "safety" of the greener climes of Connecticut and Vermont. Y'all don't come back now, ya hear?

Grade: D


Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Rites of Uranus (no director credited, 1975)

An hour-long, bottom-of-the-barrel wonder, The Rites of Uranus follows Sarah (Vivian Parks) into an anally focused cult whose members chant "Hail to Your Anus, Your anus takes my thrust and the penetrating force of my grey hot venom shall shatter the sanctity of the mind" over and over, although some of the more inebriated cast members mangle the pronunciation. And at 18:37 in my copy, a disembodied voice intones, "I'm going to enter your body through your anus," but the last two words are uttered in mock-Cookie-Monster style. 

Much sex occurs in the first twenty minutes before Sarah accidentally kills the high priest by sitting on his face. Sporting purple, sparkly knee-high socks, Sarah is thrown in a jail cell and seems distraught over her crime. But it's difficult to be certain since her dialogue sounds like those "I had a stroke" memes: "I didn't kill him. I killed him. But he was...he committed his own suicide" or "I want keys and a hard-on."

The narrative then abandons Sarah for a while and we're treated to a vaginal examination on a waterbed in a wood-paneled room. Cult members (Uransites, as they're referred to) in hooded robes perform various duties such as handing out fliers for the cult ("Lost? Find Yourself in Uranus.") and attaining hard-ons for ever more sexual activity. They manage to entice one hapless gal but not much happens with her beyond signing her life away to the cult (on a poster-size contract). 

Sarah has ever more sex with disrobed male cult members, one of whom is anally penetrated with a thin sword-dildo while mounting her in the missionary position. The climax reveals that the high priest did not, in fact, die. He returns in a tuxedo t-shirt and matter-of-factly sends her home for a hilariously deflating dénouement. 

The soundtrack is comprised of several Santana and Tomita songs including the latter's Firebird and, I think, his outer-spaced version of Holst's The Planets. There are also plane and car sounds even though the sets seems to be interiors. And check out the final screen shot for a glimpse of an early videotape machine.

Yet again, I'm supposed downgrade this kind of burned-out nonsense that is pornography's gift to humankind? Neauxp!

Grade: A-minus

Available on the Vinegar Syndrome collection Storefront Theatre: All Night at the Bizarre Art

Edit: This was directed by Richard Mailer according to Vinegar Syndrome's Joe Rubin.