Category Archives: xxx

Female Vampire/Erotikill (1973)

Director: Jess Franco

I’m not sure you can have a proper horror film “festival”—if that’s what you call this—without at least one film banned in Australia, so here we go… I wonder how this would fare these days with the OFLC, for whom it was obviously beyond the pale 40 years ago; given there’s one scene that I suppose would count as necrophilia (the countess riding the corpse of one victim after she’s otherwise finished him off), it’d be interesting to see if they had any conniptions over it. As with the last Franco DVD I reviewed from Kino/Redemption, their DVD of this film contains the longer sexy version (though not the actual hardcore print) and the shorter horror version; the former contains a novel twist on the usual vampire bloodsucking, which, let’s face it, was bound to have come about before long once the porn/horror film became a thing… rather than getting out of the neck, this vampire goes a little, well, further south. (Interestingly, cunnilingus seems to work just as well as fellatio, so the film manages to fit in some lesbian jollies as well…) (oh the searches I’m probably going to attract now I’ve said those words). Franco was unquestionably blessed by the addition of Lina Romay both to his life, and to this film in particular (this being their first full collaboration); la Romay is a remarkable presence through the film right from the somewhat startling opening credits. The vampire is mute (apart from a couple of moments of internal monologue) so she really puts her whole body into her performance. The end result is kind of perplexing, not exactly fully successful in its execution (pacing is slack and some of the sex scenes really do crap on too long; the short version generally benefits from their being cut, and yet Franco actually is kind of successful in conjuring up a particular sombre mood… all soft focus, slightly pale and faded colours, Lina Romay walking nearly naked through a foggy forest, the slightly curious love story Franco evidently felt was the real heart of the film, the overall feeling of not exactly being in the real world. Probably not a “beginner’s” Franco film, but there’s something about I liked for all its faults, even if I’m not 100% able to pin it down…

EDIT (1/11/13): Actually just ran a check on Refused-Classification.com, according to whom a much-shortened version of the film was actually passed with an X rating here in 1985 though probably not released in that form. Also, when the OFLC banned it in 1995 when Redemption were starting out here, their report actually said the “necrophilia” bit only merited an R rating; their real problem was the dungeon scene which would’ve been fine if the film were rated R but not if it were rated X, which rating I presume they would’ve otherwise given the film. Since Redemption obviously decided against resubmitting it (which they did with a couple of other titles the OFLC banned at first), I don’t suppose we’ll find out what would’ve happened if that scene got cut…

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Black Love (1971)

This is the one uncle Herschell wanted to stay lost, and, in fairness, I can kind of understand why. Having been lost for decades, there were apparently mixed reports of what the film actually was—Lewis goes blaxploitation?—and, lo and behold, it’s hardcore! Despite Lewis saying he never did hardcore and left filmmaking so he wouldn’t have to, well, he did this one at least… he’s not actually credited as director, but neither is he on a number of his other films, including the other two in the “lost films” set, so I don’t think that means anything. Still, his lack of enthusiasm for hardcore can be divined from the film even so; other reviews I’ve read of this set think the other two films show him unhappy even just doing softcore, and he doesn’t seem any more excited by doing the hard stuff. No wonder he’s tried to deny directing it. Anyway, the film itself proves to be what they used to call a “white coater”, or a (pseudo-)documentary about sex trying to pretend its scenes of people fucking have educational or sociological value. The opening narration is at pains to deny that Black Love is just the hardcore sex film that it is; what lessons, then, are we to take from it? Well, apparently a black man puts his penis in a black woman’s vagina. Black people do it doggystyle. Black people like fellatio. Black people like foreplay. Black people like changing position during sex. Black people like dancing naked. Black people like fucking in cars. Black people learn how to do it when they’re young by watching other adult black people do it (really, if the other two films in this set have their morally grey bits, this one goes WAY beyond either of them at a couple of points). I don’t know about anyone else, but the cumulative effect of all this information was to make me wonder how white people do it by comparison. Needless to say, it’s not only as exploitative as all hell, there’s a whiff of racism to the whole thing, though the latter aspect of the film is possibly complicated by the fact that Lewis’ producer, the R.L. Smith whose name Lewis apparently took to hide his own directorial (dis)credit, was himself black. Yet again, a film you can hardly call “good” as such, yet it’s hard to actively dislike somehow, possibly because it’s so transparently absurd. I don’t suppose anyone actually ever watched this for its educational value; I just kind of hope they didn’t watch it to get off, either…

Linda and Abilene (1969)

OK, so I had a bit of a go at Herschell Gordon Lewis in the last review for the, er, slapdash character of his films. Conversely, this second film from the “lost films” set almost looks as if actual care was taken with it; maybe it’s because Lewis apparently had slightly more money than usual to spend on it, but for some reason the trademark long master shots in this film look like a deliberate attempt at being “artistic” rather than just crummy technique like they do in his other films… or maybe it’s the grindingly slow pace and wispy, minimal narrative… or maybe it’s the incest angle, which I can imagine being given this sort of languorous treatment in an actual European arthouse film of the period. Or maybe I’m just misreading it, cos the film was otherwise essentially exploitative in its origins, part of an end of 60s trend combining the western with the sex film that Lewis’ producer wanted to cash in on. Here, Abilene and Tod(d) are two nice young people in the old west whose parents have just died and left the two siblings all alone, and, well, I did mention the “i” word just then, didn’t I… Tod(d) witnesses Abilene bathing nude in the creek, and before you can say “taboo” both of them are having dirty thoughts about each other. Then acting on them. Yikes. Once again, the actual sex business (when the film finally gets around to same) is softcore as such—if Harry kept his underpants on in the last film, Tod(d) keeps his jeans on in this one—but, well, yikes anyway. Then Tod(d) suddenly realises they shouldn’t be doing this and goes to town, where he meets local floozy Linda (and thereby finally renders the film’s title actually relevant to its contents)… and Abilene meets local rapist Rawhide. We’re set for the traditional western showdown and the less traditional western lesbian clinch when the two girls finally meet… I don’t know, this is kind of an odd one. Like I said, it almost gives the impression that Lewis was trying to actually take something like care with the film, to create something a bit more serious than the average sexploiter (there’s a distinct unpleasantness to the whole affair in marked contrast with the casual jokiness of Ecstasies). Still, as I also said, maybe I’m reading too much into the thing; although the film gave me that impression, this is Herschell Gordon Lewis we’re dealing with, and not even I would be foolish enough to ascribe actual artistic intentions to anything he did…

The Ecstasies of Women (1969)

There’s a new player on the cult film home video scene called Vinegar Syndrome, and they’ve obviously set out to establish themselves with something “special”, to wit, three hitherto lost Herschell Gordon Lewis films, from camera negatives no less… Not that Lewis himself is likely to be thrilled at their rediscovery, since they come from his late 60s/early 70s detour into sexploitation, he was apparently a hired hand rather than the auteur and owner (which seems to be why they vanished, cos Lewis himself never kept them), and he’s been known to occasionally deny having directed at least one of them… but, with a little help from Kickstarter, here they are anyway.

Let us begin, therefore, with the earliest film in the set. More like the ecstasies of Harry, our “hero”, a lingerie salesman about to enter into his second marriage, so three of his mates haul him out to a strip club for one last night of freedom and getting really hammered. During the course of said night, he keeps thinking back over some of his past boudoir conquests (I supposed we’re left to decide for ourselves whether or not this libido of his is why the first marriage collapsed). Complete fantasy, of course; neither occasion when I’ve been to a strip club myself ended in an orgy involving me and the “talent”… and the apparent youth of one of the visitors to Harry’s love boat—not explicitly stated in the film that I can remember, but given as 15 in the film’s trailer (far funnier than the film itself)—opens Ecstasies up into a potential moral grey area. Maybe just as well the sex scenes are all softcore (that particular one fades out before Harry even gets his underpants off)… Anyway, though Lewis reckons he was just doing work for hire, the film still has that sort of Lewis signature shabbiness. Although being sourced from the negative means the film not only looks better than any other Lewis release I’ve seen but actually sounds adequate too—which is definitely not something I’m used to from his other films—and there’s a certain period charm at work, it’s still hard to say the film is actually particularly good as such, being somewhat rudimentary on the level of actual filmmaking much like, let’s face it, most of his oeuvre. Indeed, for me the most amusing part comes relatively early in the film, a scene in the club where Harry and friends are getting drunker and drunker, and one of them gets Harry’s name wrong, being corrected by one of the others. Now, this just looks like the character being, you know, miraculous full, but if the glorious anecdote in the DVD booklet is true, this WASN’T scripted; apparently Lewis got his old partner in crime David Friedman (just visiting the set) to direct the club bits for him while he dashed off to the toilet (!) and the actors fucked them up amazingly, not only didn’t they know their lines, they didn’t know their character names either… and when Lewis returned from the bog, Friedman asked him did he want to reshoot the scene, and he said no. Which is hilarious, obviously, if true, although at the same time you could read it as sadly symptomatic of Lewis’ approach to film in general…

Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (1980)

There are some films you watch solely to be able to say you’ve seen them. This is one of those. Admittedly, I suspect the possibilities of using the sentence “hey, I saw this film called Erotic Nights of the Living Dead the other day” are fairly limited, though I’m sure they exist… I’m just not entirely sure I want to know what they are. I remember being slightly stunned when I first read about this (and its companion piece Porno Holocaust), largely because of the title… and then, by god/dess, I actually found the thing for sale in a shop. That was kind of head-fucking; it’s one thing to read about a film like this and know it exists, but actually holding a DVD copy of it in your hand is another. The logical (?) next step, of course, was to buy the damn thing, and though I tried to convince myself I could live without actually seeing the film, I failed… And needless to say, yeah, I could easily have lived without ever seeing this, but hey, now I can actually say I’ve seen a film called Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (another winner from Signor D’Amato), which is probably more than can be said for you if you’re lucky. Actually, I find I have the version without the full hardcore scenes, although I’m not actually going to complain about this fact; the thought of watching another twelve minutes of people fucking doesn’t entice me. If you ever suspected the sex film and the zombie film were an ill-fitting mix, this will only further convince you (depending on how you view the scene where Laura Gemser goes to give one of the male leads a blow job but bites his penis off instead). As a final distinction, it has possibly the least believable day-for-night filming I’ve ever seen. At least now I know that if I ever see Porno Holocaust available anywhere, I’ll be better off leaving it on the shelf…

Caligula (1979)

Caligula is one of film history’s greatest follies, colossal trash of a truly epic kind, and the further away we get from it in time, the more batshit mad the whole enterprise looks; I don’t suppose it could ever have been made except at that particular time. So much about it is just jaw-dropping, including the fact that Roberto Rossellini, of all people, wrote the very first treatment for it, the fact that seemingly no one knew producer Bob Guccione intended it to be hardcore XXX, and the fact that it was released at all in whichever of its many versions, given the, well, difficulties of its making, the clash of sensibilities at work, and the welter of lawsuits that attended the process. The production was out of control and so was the “finished” product, if such a thing exists when you’re talking about Caligula. But most bizarre is the fact that, you know, it looks incredible. Amidst all the reams of pornography (sorry), you can’t deny that it looks every cent of the $17m or so it apparently cost (this being when $17m was still worth something, of course). Indeed, I only discovered tonight that the film’s art director Danilo Donati was one of Fellini’s regular collaborators, their first film together having been Satyricon, which makes weirdly perfect sense somehow. It may be a fucked-up mess, but what a bizarrely handsome one. I like Caligula far more than I probably should, but then again I don’t think I’ve ever professed to have impeccable taste in films; if I ever did, be assured I was lying. As extravagant as the recent “imperial edition” release is, I don’t think it exactly reveals an unheralded masterpiece as such,  and I’d always hesitate to actually recommend the film (I don’t think the DVD will exactly make converts of the previously unconvinced). Still, I remain somewhat in awe of its very existence, as a relic of a time that—perhaps mercifully—may never quite come again…

Felicity (1979)

I was baffled, while watching Lamond’s ABC of L&S, by the thought of who was actually watching films like that back in the day, and I find myself similarly puzzled by Felicity. For one thing, I can’t work out if Glory Annen’s a poor actress or if she’s just been poorly served by the script and/or dubbing (and if this is true of the rest of the cast), but that’s not all; I’m just puzzled by who was watching this back then. I think I’m just confused by the idea of the theatrical sex film, soft or hard, and the thought that people would actually congregate in large groups to watch them… and Lamond was making his films for drive-ins, so people were congregating not only in groups but in the open air in their cars. I don’t get it. I know home video wasn’t really an option here in 1979, but even so. Anyway—Lamond himself had gone up in the world a bit by the time of his first actual fiction feature (Australia After Dark‘s “satanists” notwithstanding), and in the interests of fairness it must be said it looks really good; Lamond apparently decided to make a film in Hong Kong while on holiday there or something, and the film does a nice job with that setting, the whole thing really does look lovely on the digital disc. Beyond that… um… well, I suppose it’s kind of interesting that a girl from a rural Catholic girls school in 1979 would’ve not only heard of The Story of O but actually had access to it (the Corgi film tie-in paperback)… I’m sorry, I know it’s meant to be fantasy to some extent, but that’s stretching it a bit for me. I don’t know, maybe I should’ve watched it with the sound turned off and just looked at it or something.

Fantasm (1976); Fantasm Comes Again (1977)

I decided it made more sense to cover both films in one review, insofar as it makes sense to talk about them at all, and I opted to watch both films with Antony Ginnane’s commentaries; not something I normally do with films I’ve never seen before, but are these the sort of films where you can’t afford to miss a word of the plot-advancing dialogue? Ginnane’s reminiscences are much more interesting; he’s particularly forthright about what he thinks doesn’t work, and really, considerations of making the films and releasing them are more interesting than the results. Both are composed of ten vignettes, each of which was shot in a single day, so this was fast filmmaking apart from anything else. Plus Ginnane would later become known for making films in this country while trying to make them not look specifically “Australian” to better sell them abroad, so it’s interesting to see him actually going overseas and shooting these films with American X-rated film stars (whose American films couldn’t exactly be shown in Australia at the time), but making them with Australian money and the Australian market in mind… Though as Ginnane notes, the second film was shot with the possibility of adding hardcore inserts (but the latter were never added), which in a way kind of adds to the films’ weird hybrid nationality. But what can you really say about the films themselves? Rene Bond is fucking gorgeous. John Holmes is… fucking terrifying. They look OK for 16mm>35mm blowups. That’s about it. Interesting that, while Richard Franklin apparently tried to downplay his pre-Patrick film work but at least seems to have come to terms with Eskimo Nell, he never quite seems to have done the same with Fantasm; at least on the former film he used his own name rather than a pseudonym. In the making-of piece on the DVD, he only appears in silhouette and only indirectly identifies himself, whereas Colin Eggleston is directly outed from behind his pseudonym on the second film. Even the Senses of Cinema Great Directors piece skips Fantasm entirely. Which is pretty much what I would’ve done myself if they hadn’t been in the Ozploitation collection, and I doubt I’d have missed anything.

The Seduction of Amy (1975)

So Jean Rollin died. I find that quite sad; I kind of like the idea of him, if you know what I mean, even though I’d never seen any of his films until this evening, he and his films always struck me as at least sounding interesting in theory. Of course I used to think the same thing about Dario Argento until I actually saw his films (thanks for not very much, Maitland McDonagh), and I fear I probably won’t like Rollin either if/when I get better acquainted… Still, at least I knew going in not to treat this (the only Rollin I have at hand, which is on the second Satanic Sickies box; I really should return those to their rightful owner) as altogether representative of his oeuvre, in which I gather it occupies an interesting place by being the only porn film he released under his own name (though not here; the Alpha Blue print has no credits at all). Where Rollin apparently shot X-rated inserts for his horror films, this looks more like he shot horror inserts for a skin flick; Amy gets attacked and nearly killed by a rapist in an attack about as random as the rest of the film, then rescued by the mysterious Gideon, proprietor of a conveniently nearby isolated chateau, then a bunch of other people show up, the plot fails to advance for another half hour or so, Gideon just needs the love of a pure woman or something, a lot of sense is not made. From what I gather, the setting, some of the actors, and the incoherence are typical Rollin fare, the rest not so much, so I can’t really use this to judge him fairly, I suppose… the American release lost about 20-odd minutes from the original which probably didn’t help, and neither does the godawful dubbing (which seems even more disconnected from the visuals than it usually does for some reason). Nice try by Rollin to tell a proper (if hard to discern) story in a porn film, but I suspect I’m better off sampling his straight horrors…

All the Devil’s Angels (1978)

Ted Roter was a Belgian-born actor who’d been in perfectly mainstream and well-known TV shows in the 60s before deciding to move into the burgeoning hardcore field of the 1970s, directing his own starring vehicles under the name “Peter Balakoff” (that’s what you call living the dream, I suppose). As such, one of the more interesting spectacles provided by this film (originally called The Psychiatrist) from the Satanic Sickies collection is that of an actually competent lead performance (female lead Gena Lee’s not bad either); Roter/Balakoff is the psychiatrist of the original title, presiding over his own clinic for lovely young ladies who think they’ve been possessed by Satan. Some strange things have been happening at this place, namely a number of patients committing suicide, wherefore Jean, the Nancy Drew of porn, infiltrates the clinic undercover as a nurse to find out what’s going on. Needless to say, what’s going on is rather more than she probably expected; though the good doctor avers there’s no such thing as the devil or demonic possession, in his spare time he’s presiding over a satanic cult (I’ll bet the Scientologists would love this). This review sums the thing up as “a remarkable, almost unheard of, and nearly indecipherable glob of fuck-art-trash”, and that’s about the best description I can think of; the final explanation of events in the last reel trips things out into a new dimension of what-the-fuck beyond what we’ve already seen. Essentially it’s a straightforward (if extremely B-grade) horror-mystery that happens to have a lot of sex; it could, I think, be profitably remade as a straight horror film now. Roter clearly had some aspirations for his film beyond the conventional hardcore effort (as evinced by the unusually long running time (nearly 100 minutes; I don’t think either of the other features on the same disc runs over an hour), although it’s hard to deny his ambitions were greater than his ability; this was never going to be more than low-level pulp. Nice try, though, I’ll give him that.