Aug 28, 2014

The Dark Angel (1983)

When it comes to the Golden Age of Porn, you can pretty much guarantee a film is a classic or at the very least interesting if it stars Jamie Gillis (The Opening of Misty Beethoven, Neon Nights), as he proved that porn stars could do much more than bust loads in gaping bungholes and receive sloppy, wet blow jobs while being only semi-erect from busted old slags with aesthetically displeasing platinum blonde dye jobs. Indeed, Gillis did not enter the blue movie realm until he was already in his early-30s, yet he became one of the most demanded, commanding, and captivating actors, as a sort of David Hess meets Harvey Keitel of hardcore flicks who could humor viewers just as much as he could horrify. Indeed, from the incestous patriarch ghost of Jonas Middleton’s Through the Looking Glass (1976) to the excrement-enamored ‘Enema Bandit’ of Shaun Costello’s Water Power (1977) to the Faustian pact-making businessman of Roger Watkin’s Corruption (1983) to the punk-rock-pussy-plagued old dork of Gregory Dark’s New Wave Hookers (1985), Gillis always demonstrated with his multidimensional roles that he probably wasted his talents in the ‘adult film’ world when he probably could have easily made it big in Hollywood were one of his Hebraic homies to have hooked him up (of course, Gillis did appear in a couple mainstreams films like the 1981 thriller Nighthawks starring Sylvester Stallone and Rutger Hauer). Of course, as a Hebrew that was spawned on the same day as Hitler, Gillis was practically born for the dark and depraved world of pornography as demonstrated by his innovation of ‘gonzo porn’ as an auteur of sorts. With that being said, it is only natural that the sexually versatile ‘actor’ would play a role where he would fall in love with the devil. Indeed, in the forgotten phantasmagoric fuck flick The Dark Angel (1983) aka The Devil Wore High Heels directed by auteur-pornographer Pieter Vanderbilt (Blue Dream Lover, Woman in the Window) Gillis plays a wealthy and wanton businessman who degenerates into something nothing short of wickedly obsessed after spotting a mysterious blonde babe who is really Satan in super sensual female form. Featuring multicultural mental institution orgies with black chicks in whiteface, mystifying midnight gang rapes, and satanic shoe fetishism, The Dark Angel is one of those rare semi-surreal and sometimes artful blue movies where it almost seems like a shame that is a porn flick, as this eloquently sleazy erotic flick surely deserves some type of cult following.

 As wealthy businessman Leland Keller (Jamie Gillis) describes while caressing a single red stiletto while sitting in the back of his car next to an ocean side cliff near San Francisco, “You wouldn’t think that this simple object keeps me from total insanity…but it does…because there’s something real. This solitary red shoe haunts me because it was left behind…in my dream.” Flashback many months back and Leland is receiving a blowjob from two pseudo-cultivated chicks at the same time while his chauffeur watches on. As the protagonist explains, “My friends call me ‘Lee.’ I was the original golden boy. Everything I touched seemed to have ‘success’ written on it. The world was mine for the taking. And I took. If I wanted something, I’d buy it. If it couldn’t buy it, I’d find another way to get it.” Of course, when Leland encounters something he cannot simply buy/own, he begins losing his sanity, or as Leland explains himself, “I was riding a glittering wave of success…the future seemed seamless. And then I saw her for the first time. It was one of those San Francisco nights. My chauffeur and I were coming home from a party…she was standing underneath a streetlight. I felt a rush pass through me like an electric charge. She looked right at me, like she could see through my very soul.” While Leland would continue to drive by the spot where he first saw the girl (played by Desiree Lane), who was sporting a red witch-like cape, in the hopes of attempting to swoon her, she would never be there, though he would later spot her at the most random spots in San Francisco. Indeed, obsessed with the mystery blonde in red like James Stewart was with Kim Novak in Vertigo (1958), albeit in a much darker and depraved manner in a San Francisco that barely resembles the sunny city of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, Leland is finally going to see what it feels like to be infatuated with flesh that he cannot find, let alone fuck. 

 As Leland describes to his friends regarding the mystery woman in red, “I don’t know if I want her because she is just that beauteous…or because I just can’t have her.” In the hopes of attempting to get get him to kick his sick infatuation with the mysterious chick, Leland’s friends set up an orgy party for their opulent friend, but it only makes him more enamored with the satanic chick. Hoping to spice things up, Leland has a friend let him stay in a nuthouse with an eclectic group of raving nymphomaniacs, which include a bull-dyke-like amazonian chick with a mullet, a high yellow black chick sporting whiteface, and a crazy cutie who incessantly stares at a mirror-less mirror. Of course, Leland’s naughty night with the nymphs at the nut ward does nothing to diminish his deep-seated desire to defile the mystery girl in red. When one of Leland’s female friends does an erotic dance in a warehouse that ultimately ends with her getting mock gang-raped (indeed, unbeknownst to Leland, his friend hired the fake rape squad) by a threesome of degenerates in demon masks, the posh pervert is hardly affected, or as he subsequently states himself, “I no longer have any feelings. I knew this was what she [the mystery woman] wanted from me.” 

 Hoping to liven things up, Leland gets involved in S&M and even bites a woman’s nipple off, stating of the meta-erotic experience, “I also enjoyed something else about myself that night…I enjoyed hurting people […] had a taste of blood. I knew I was crossing over into some other reality…losing all control.” With his sadomasochistic violence getting out of hand, Leland concludes, “I had to go somewhere and think,” and heads to the beach where he spots the mystery woman in red standing on a rock. After the mystery woman mocks Leland for not realizing who s/he is, the desperate man follows his obscure object of desire up a hill as s/he strips and tells her that he will give her “anything” to be with her. Of course, the devil dame asks for Leland’s soul, which the hyper horny businessman is more than willing to give. Of course, after making strangely intimate love on an otherworldly bed in a bright white room, Leland never sees the sensual satan again. Flash forward about sixth months later, The Dark Angel comes full circle and ends where it began with Leland sitting in his fancy car while caressing satan’s stiletto and stating to himself, “All that was less than six months ago. I’ve been coming here every day since then…in hopes that I may catch another glimpse of her…but I never have. All I have is this memento [red shoe] to remind me of the night I slept with the devil.” 

 A sort of superlatively sordid celluloid marriage between Goethe’s Faust and Hitchcock’s Vertigo with an oftentimes silly synth-driven score that sounds like it was taken from some third rate 8-bit NES game (unquestionably, the film would have benefited from featuring the song “Fucked by the Devil” by the L.A.-based deathrock band 45 Grave), The Dark Angel is ultimately a tasteless, if not sometimes aesthetically intriguing, tale of a tragic horn dog with a voracious sexual appetite of the satanic sort. While not Gillis’ greatest film, auteur Pieter Vanderbilt’s aesthetically and thematically pernicious porn flick certainly seems like it was specially tailored for the aberrant adult film star. Part metaphysical horror, part pulp (one reviewer rightfully compared the nuthouse scene to Samuel Fuller’s 1963 cult classic Shock Corridor), part film noir, and part salacious satire of Reaganite preppies, The Dark Angel is certainly one of the more underrated works of the late ‘porn chic’ era as a fuck flick that may not be as good as Nightdreams (1981) and Café Flesh (1982), but it is certainly more sophisticated, horrifying, and titillating than the majority of slasher/horror flicks that were coming out at that time.  As a mensch who was not really plagued by the various ills that seem to be an innate part of his trade (e.g. drug addiction, AIDS/STDs, mental illness, suicide, etc.), as well as a fellow that seems to have genuinely enjoyed his job of getting countless onscreen blowjobs, Jamie Gillis certainly seems like the #1 candidate in terms of a porn star who would have/could have sold his soul to devil.  Indeed, with his devilish charm and appearance, less than kosher Hebraic background, seemingly lunatic love of libertinism (aside from being involved with scat and S&M, he was an open bisexual who sometimes boned bros), seemingly demonically-possessed persona, and virtually immaculate talent for portraying evil sensual beings in already fucked fuck flicks, Gillis most certainly would have been more fitting for the role of the devil in The Dark Angel than some pseudo-blonde bimbo like Desiree Lane, but then again, the Fallen Angel is the master of deceit.

-Ty E

Aug 26, 2014

Senso '45

Leave it to Italy’s foremost ‘erotic auteur’ aka pornographer, Tinto Brass (Salon Kitty, Caligula), to take a classic Italian film like Luchino Visconti’s luscious Risorgimento-era melodrama Senso (1954) and turn it into a quasi-campy fuck flick set during the end of the Second World War featuring sensual SS men as played by Guidos with glaringly fake blonde hair and Nazi whores urinating into bedpans. Ironically, Brass claimed one of the reasons he decided to ‘remake’ the film was because he did not like Visconti’s version and felt the director took a too liberal approach to Camillo Boito’s 1882 source novella of the same name. In other words, Brass probably felt Visconti’s film had a homo essence and had far too much histrionic acting and not enough hairy beavers and supple big sippers. To Brass’ credit, his remake/re-adaptation, Senso ’45 aka Black Angel (2002), is apparently more faithful to Boito’s novel, though both film version make the female lead older and more sympathetic, as if the films were specially tailored for old bourgeois trollops who want to reminisce over the good old days when they had affairs with handsome and sexually virile young men. On top of being another Senso adaptation and arguably Brass’ last ‘masterpiece,’ Senso ’45 is a work of self-reflexive cinema that acts as a ‘fascist-film-within-an-antifascist-film’ with various references to the director’s previous works, especially his (in)famously salacious Nazisploitation flick Salon Kitty (1976) incidentally starring Visconti’s Austrian boy toy Helmut Berger. Featuring gratuitous pussy shots of the corpse of female partisans who have been executed by fascists troops, a blond SS man selling pornographic watercolors by degenerate German artist Georg Grosz to a morbidly obese Jew, underwater shots of an SS man’s hairy balls and bunghole, and various other of forms of Brassian celluloid bawdiness, Senso ’45 is, if nothing else, the most elegantly degenerate and lavishly lecherous Nazi-occupation film ever made. Indeed, a truly ‘libertarian’ work (Brass is affiliated with the ‘Italian Radicals’) in that it mocks pretty much everyone, including the aristocracy, bourgeois, fascists, commie partisans, and Italian industry, Brass’ film certainly deserved the 1.6 million Euros given to the film’s overall budget by the Italian Minister of the Arts and Culture, as a quasi-erotic war epic that puts Liliana Cavani’s somewhat similarly themed work The Berlin Affair (1985) aka Leidenschaften to abject shame in terms of sensuality, aestheticism, and socio-political critique. Featuring a scene where, “Cinema is the strongest weapon,” is featured on the chalkboard of a film studio, Senso ’45 demonstrates that—for better or worse—European cinema has come a long way since the days when Joseph Goebbels oversaw the production of melancholy Veit Harlan melodramas. 

 Unlike Visconti’s film, Senso ’45 features black-and-white scenes from the ‘present’ where protagonist Livia Mazzoni (Anna Galiena) tells how she feel head-over-heels for SS man Lieutenant Helmut Schultz (Gabriel Garko). Beginning on, “March 25, 1945, Year 23 of the Fascist Period,” with Livia riding in the car of family lawyer Ugo Oggiano (Franco Branciaroli)—a man she has made a “wicked pact” with—as they drive to get Helmut, the film is mainly comprised of color flashback scenes chronicling the almost always carnal, sometimes comical, and even sometimes accidentally corny rise and fall of the protagonist’s extramarital romance, as well as the German occupation of Guidoland. While watching a horrendous play with her old fart yet opulent husband Carlo (Antonio Salines) where commie partisans stormed the stage and dropped leftist leaflets, Livia first set eyes on Helmut, whose mere stare managed to not only wet her panties, but give her an orgasm. As described by Ugo, Helmut got his elite position in the SS as a member of the German Film Unit and his status as a “stud who fucks them all” by acting as Joseph Goebbels' pimp, even hooking up the Minister of Propaganda with his Czech mistress Lida Baarova. That night, Livia is forcibly fucked behind by her husband while she stares at the moon, but her hubby finishes in a couple seconds, so she masturbates while thinking of Helmut to achieve an orgasm. While her husband tells Livia while he is fucking her that Helmut is , “amoral, cynical, a gambler, a degenerate, with women too,” the horny middle-aged countess does not care. Luckily, the next day, Helmut stalks Livia as she walks down the road, follows her inside her home, and immediately beings manhandling like a major champ while declaring to her “you’re mine,” thus commencing a hot and steamy yet short and bittersweet romance. 

 As Livia in all seriousness states regarding her ridiculously risqué romance with Helmut: “Venice acted as pimp to our love.” Of course, Helmut has a different view of things, as he treats the city as his own personal whorehouse where he buys morphine that is supposed to be used for partisans so he can get high and where he ultimately uses Livia as his southern ‘sugar momma,’ as she offers to pay his way, including funding his drug use and gambling habits, among other things. Before Livia offers to pay his way, Helmut makes money doing dubious things like selling a stolen George Grosz paintings to grotesquely fat Jewish art dealer for 20,000 liras. After the transaction, the Jewish art dealer lets Helmut know that he forgot his suitcase, to which the sardonic SS debauchee says he can keep it, hilariously stating to the Israelite, “A memento of Dr. Goebbels, as a gift from me.” Indeed, Helmut is a shameless opportunist who, although he has a macho Apollo-like appearance, is really quite the degenerate who couldn't care less about the National Socialist cause as demonstrated by the following rant he makes to Livia while buggering her bum: “to fuck the whole world in the ass. Fuck Hitler! Fuck Mussolini! Fuck Stalin! Livia, I’m drunk on your ass! Fuck the priests! Fuck the bosses! I want to go crazy in your ass! Tell me it’s drunk! Say it!” Needless to say, Livia’s husband and lawyer Ugo soon realize that she is regularly humping Helmut, but the wanton aristocrat does not care as indicated by various confessions she makes like, “I realized I was entirely dependent on him. Even giving him money made me cum.” Unfortunately for Livia, Helmut is more interested in her cash than her gash, which she ultimately realizes when it is too late, thus resulting in tragic, if not tastelessly titillating consequences. 

 A would-be-playboy who loves gambling all his hard stolen and blackmailed money away, Helmut eventually realizes he can use Livia for large sums of money. Indeed, after Helmut gambles all of Livia’s money away at a campy drug orgy featuring chicks roaming around wearing giant golden strap-on dildos and SS uniforms sans pants, his mistress agrees to gamble herself to a lesbian actress named Elsa (Simona Borioni) if he loses. Of course, Helmut loses and Elsa penetrates Livia with a strap-on dildo, but the debauched blue blood babe does not care, as she is high on cocaine and feels like she is proving her love to her boy toy by “sacrificing” her heterosexuality. Naturally, when Livia is told by her cuckold husband that they must move to their chateau in the country because the war is getting bad, she nearly cracks, as she cannot stand to be without her sensual SS man. Before Livia moves, Helmut comes by her home and tells her that he needs 1 million liras so that he payoff some quack doctor so that he can sit the rest of the war out. Of course, Livia obliges Helmut and after handing him the money, she proceeds to give him a rough blow job. 

 Needless to say, Livia does not handle being away from Helmut too well after moving to the country, so she offers her lawyer/husband's friend Ugo sex if he agrees to drive her to Venice to see Helmut. Of course, being grovelingly in love with Livia, Ugo agrees to the “wicked pact” and the two head to Venice. When the two finally arrive in Venice after their car breaks down and they hitch a ride from a truck of fascist soldiers, Livia stops by Helmut’s apartment, only to walk in on him screwing a young prostitute and discussing to the somewhat average-looking streetwalker how he does not love his mistress and merely uses her for her money. Hysterically heartbroken, Livia decides to head to local Nazi headquarters to tell a Nazi general that Helmut is a deserter. When the General questions her motives and tells her regarding Helmut, “You’re signing his death warrant, Livia coldly replies, “I’ve done my duty. Now do yours.” When Helmut is arrested and brought to Nazi headquarters to be executed via firing-squad, Livia takes Ugo to watch the big event. A coward to the pseudo-kraut core, Helmut shouts, “I don’t want to die!” and attempts to escape, but is shot down almost instantly like a rabid dog, with his young (and topless) prostitute soon running out to hug his corpse while crying hysterically. Rather hurt by seeing the prostitute crying over Helmut’s death, Livia demands that Ugo fuck her right then and there in a desperate attempt to dull her own pain. 

 Despite being a quasi-pornographic remake of Visconti’s melodramatic masterpiece, Senso ’45 was heavily inspired by the Italian neorealist films of Roberto Rossellini, especially Rome, Open City (1945), or as director Tinto Brass stated himself in the featurette, The Making of Black Angel, regarding his film: “There are many cinematic elements. Other than character typing, there are scenes, tributes to those I consider my masters. Other than the fact that it can be retraced to Visconti…In fact, the language of the film is more Rossellinian. I was more influenced by Rossellini, who was my master since I was his assistant director. One sequence explicitly refers to the one when Magnani is cut down by machine gun fire as she runs after the van that is taking her husband away.” Of course, there is little about Brass’ film that is socially redeeming aside from the fact that is demonstrates the upper-classes are literal and figurative whores who will join any political movement, even communism, if it is ultimately to their social and monetary benefit, or as protagonist Livia states while quoting Mussolini: “The people are like women…they go with the winning man.” Featuring an original score by Italian maestro Ennio Morricone, countless references to classic Italians films and painters (somewhat notably, Brass received his nicknamed ‘Tintoretto’ from his grandfather Italico Brass, who was a celebrated Gorizian painter), and seemingly immaculate technical direction, Senso ’45 is certainly not your typical Nazisploitation flick as a work that unequivocally proves that Guidos are probably the only masters turning sleazy and oftentimes senseless eroticism into relatively respectable celluloid art. Indeed, for all those individuals that are tired of seeing cliche World War II films that milk the holocaust, portray commie partisans as morally pristine heroes, depict all SS men as humorless bureaucrats and/or coldblooded killers, and present WWII as a clear cut example of holy and righteous battle against evil, Senso ’45 ultimately offers something more morally ambiguous and absurdly amorous, as a rather risqué Rossellini-esque dark epic romance of the Hightalian quasi-impressionistic sort.

-Ty E

Hardware (1990)

Without question, Dylan McDermott is one of the biggest and most grating human dildos to have ever graced the silver-screen and thus it is no surprise that he has starred in some of the most banal movies and TV shows oftentimes playing the unbelievable role of doctors, but there is at least one film he starred in that has some testicular fortitude and aesthetic allure. Indeed, somehow dildo McDermott played the lead role in the post-apocalyptic dystopian cyberpunk flick Hardware (1990) directed by South African auteur Richard Stanley (Dust Devil, The Theatre Bizarre). A sort of superlatively stylish The Terminator rip-off meets a poor man’s take on Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985), albeit more culturally cynical, punk rock, and bitingly acid-washed, Hardware is like a sci-fi flick for those exceedingly negative nihilists who couldn't careless if the world suffers some sort of nasty global nuclear holocaust. The debut feature film of auteur Stanley, who previously directed music videos from bands like English Gothic rock group Fields of the Nephilim and Johnny Rotten's post-Sex Pistols post-punk group Public Image Ltd (PiL), the film is no less musically-inclined as a work featuring cameos from Iggy Pop as a raunchy radio host, Lemmy of Motörhead as a taxicab driver, and Carl McCoy of Fields of the Nephilim as a somewhat sinister desert-lurking nomad of the post-apocalyptic cowboy sort, hence its mostly deserved cult status today as a sort of science fiction flick for losers, loners, born again Spenglerians and/or unrepentant recreational drug users whose brains have been turned to mush. Indeed, set in a world with deformed dickhead midget junk dealers, futuristic television broadcasts inspired by the acid house group Psychic TV, lard ass peeping toms with Hebraic surnames that get off to prank calling their neighbors, bitchy protagonists on welfare with voracious appetites for sex and drugs, and a self-regenerating and human-exterminating robot, Hardware is like Philip K. Dick on punk and psychedelics. Indeed, part unpretentious arthouse, part degenerate dystopian sci-fi, part soft core yet suave spatter flick, and part sardonic satire, Stanley’s less than flattering filmic depiction of the future is undoubtedly a rare science fiction work that does not make you feel like a virginal dork for watching it. Featuring scorching red desert landscape scenes which were filmed on location in Morocco that look sort of like Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas (1984) were it set in some sort of post-Jihad hell, Hardware—a work based on the short story “Shok” from the British sci-fi-oriented comic 2000 AD about ‘Strato-Bat Pilot’ who buys the head of a Shok Trooper Robot and gives it to his artist girlfriend as a present for one of her projects, thus resulting in bloody murderous consequences—is also indisputable proof that you can take a mostly moronic storyline and make something truly aesthetically transcendental if you have the right flare as a filmmaker.

A Nomad (Carl McCoy) dressed in all black that looks like something in between the Grim Reaper and a post-apocalyptic cowboy digs up some robot parts, including a metallic skull, out the sand of a desert wasteland and brings it to a junk shop owned by an assholish midget named Alvy (played by Mark Northover, who is best known for his role in the 1988 fantasy flick Willow directed by Ron Howard). While Alvy is in the back of his store, a smart-ass soldier with a bionic arm named Moses "Hard Mo" Baxter (dildo Dylan McDermott) buys the robots parts from the Nomad, though he sells all the parts to Alvy except the menacing robo-skull, which he plans to give to his rather reclusive girlfriend Jill (Stacey Travis of Phantasm II (1988) and Ghost World (2001)) as a special Christmas gift. Since it has been sometime since Mo has came by to see Jill, she is somewhat reluctant to allow him in her flat, but she eventually gives in as she loves her mensch, even if he is a rather negligent boyfriend who leaves for long periods of time without contacting her. A somewhat eccentric and high-strung artist, Jill uses the robot head as the finishing piece of an ‘abstract’ sculpture she is creating. While Mo tries to convince his girlfriend to make more commercial-oriented works, Jill—a pathological pothead and unabashed welfare recipient who lives off the government—has no interest in ‘selling-out,’ as she creates her art for herself and herself alone. While Mo has given up all hope of having a child, Jill clearly wants one, but her patent pessimism and cultural cynicism makes her think it is a bad idea. Of course, as the two lovers will soon learn, the government is plotting to exterminate humans via killer robots, so it indeed might be a bad idea to bring children into this decidedly dystopian world.

While having ‘make-up sex,’ Mo and Jill are spied on by a grotesque fat Judaic-like neighbor named Lincoln Wineberg, Jr. (William Hootkins), who on top of being a peeping tom and all-around pathetic pervert, is also responsible for putting security in the local apartment buildings. Meanwhile, junk dealer Alvy learns that the robot parts that were brought in by the mysterious Nomad from the desert are from a robot called the ‘M.A.R.K. 13,’ so he tells Mo to come by his shop, but when the soldier gets there, he finds the wisecrack midget dead as a result of mysterious cytotoxin poisoning. As Mo learns after looking in the Bible, the robot is named after the quote, “No flesh shall be spared” under Mark 13:20, thus making the ex-soldier realize that the government has created a genocidal man-murdering machine. While at Alvy’s place, Mo also realizes that the killer robot is capable of self-repair, though it has a strange weakness to water and humidity. Although Mo attempts to get his friend Shades (John Lynch) to go by Jill’s place to protect her from the M.A.R.K. 13 robot skull, his comrade is far too inebriated on some sort of psychedelic drug. While playing peeping tom, pathetic pervert Wineberg notices a robot—the fully self-repaired M.A.R.K. 13—peeping out of Jill’s place, so he goes by her place to warn her. Indeed, the robot has already attempted to exterminate Jill, who is locked in the apartment, and when wanton Wineberg shows up at her apartment, he doesn't think twice about sexually harassing her in a superlatively sleazy fashion. Of course, Wineberg does not believe Jill’s seemingly far-fetched story about a murderous robot, so he is killed after not taking heed of the young lady’s warning not to go near her blinds (indeed, Wineberg hoped to open the blinds so it would be easier to peep on her). After managing to flee to her kitchen, Jill manages to avoid the robot’s infrared vision by hiding behind a refrigerator and ultimately does a little bit of damage to the death-bot. While Mo, Shades, and an apartment security team manage to kill the robot shortly upon arriving at the apartment, the M.A.R.K. 13 manages to come back to life and drag Jill out the window while she is embracing her boy toy. While would-be-macho Mo attempts to be a bad ass and fights in a foolish haphazard manner with the Robot, he is soon fatally wounded and dies slowly, with the security team also being exterminated as well. After hacking into the kill-bot’s CPU in an attempt to malfunction it, Jill learns the M.A.R.K. 13’s weakness for water, so she lures it into her bathroom and kills it with her shower. In the end, it is revealed by a radio DJ named“Angry Bob - The Guy with the Industrial Dick” that the government’s Defense Department plans to mass-produce M.A.R.K. 13 Cyborgs, thus setting up Hardware for a sequel that was planned but never actually made.

Apparently, director Richard Stanley originally intended to make Hardware more of an allegorical ‘anti-fascist’ work that was inspired by his upbringing in Apartheid era South Africa, but luckily you would never catch that watching the film. Indeed, in its depiction of a government weapon that is capable of exterminating countless people in distant lands, Stanley's film certainly seems more relevant today in our age of unmanned drones and whatnot. Interestingly, before shooting Hardware, Stanley joined a guerrilla Muslim faction in the Soviet War in Afghanistan, which produced the documentary short Voice of the Moon (1990) and inspired the overall aesthetic of the director's dystopian flick. Featuring apocalyptic spiritual references ranging from Mark 13 to the Hindu Goddess Kali to Tarkovsky’s masterpiece Stalker (1979), Hardware is, if nothing else, the greatest metaphysical punk rock sci-fi flick ever made and arguably the greatest The Terminator rip-off ever made as a sort of Future-Kill (1985) on steroids meets Blade Runner (1982) on LSD. Although Stanley never got to realize his dream of making a sequel for bureaucratic business reasons (apparently, the rights to the original film were split between various parties), he did write a complete script under the title Hardware II: Ground Zero, which would have been more ‘acid western’ oriented. By no means a masterpiece of any sort, Hardware is certainly one of the most decadent, degenerate, debasing, pessimistic, and even misanthropic sci-fi flickers ever made, as a work that dares to depict the overall disgusting essence of the particular zeitgeist when it was made. Indeed, with the nerdy philo-Semitism of Star Trek, it is quite refreshing to see a sick sci-fi flick were a grotesque kosher peeping tom states things like, “Taking that big dick […] suck it dry […] squeeze it,” while masturbating while spying on his neighbor being brutally slaughtered by a Biblically-named cyborg. Of course, the soundtrack featuring music by Public Image Ltd., Motörhead, Ministry, and Iggy Pop did not hurt either. And, of course, the film would have been better without dildo McDermott, who might have fared better playing the M.A.R.K., or so one would assume after seeing his rather robotic acting performance.  Indeed, I put off watching Hardware for about a decade because I knew he was in the film, but after watching the work, I have to say that I need to stop allowing myself from being deterred towards watching films because of appalling actors.

-Ty E

Aug 25, 2014


The female cuckold is certainly an underused figure in cinema, especially nowadays, which is probably partially the result of feminism and other sorts of social plagues that prop up women in a superficial way, but whatever the reason, it is certainly a damn shame. Out of all the films about cucks with cunts that I can think of, two classic melodramas especially stick out in my mind: William Wyler’s The Heiress (1949) and Luchino Visconti’s Senso (1954). While both films feature wealthy yet naïve women who become almost willing victims to Don Juan-like characters that were played by bisexual men, Wyler’s film seems like classless counterfeit twaddle compared to the aesthetically aristocratic majesty of maestro Visconti’s visually orgasmic celluloid opera. An aesthetically revolutionary work for Guido cinema that also marked the director’s transition from commie-inspired neorealism to lavish and kaleidoscopic melodramas that make the great Technicolor of the Hollywood Golden Age seem like pumped up kitsch masquerading as high kultur, Senso was also Visconti’s first color film, yet it looks like the product of a seasoned master of colors who approached cinema the way a Renaissance painter would a painting. Based on the decadent 1882 novella of the same name written by Camillo Boito—an Italian architect and engineer of half Polish extraction who also happened to be a talented art historian and novelist who dabbled with dark themes like incest and necrophilia—Senso is a salacious slice of high-melodrama about ill-restraint, lust, treachery, decadence, and deceit set around 1866 in Risorgimento-era Italy during the end of the Italian-Austrian war of unification about a proud yet sexually repressed middle-aged countess in an unhappy marriage with an old fart who falls for an Austrian suave and dapper young Austrian Officer of the manipulative man-whore sort. Featuring Symphony No. 7 by Anton Bruckner as adapted by Nina Rota as a musical score and an antihero named in tribute to Gustav Mahler, the work also was one of the director’s first films where he would flex his Teutonophilia (of course, both the composers mentioned were technically Austrian, but the film was made with a post-WWII context kept in mind, as Bruckner’s music recalled the German occupation to viewers at the time the film was released). A work that somewhat attempts to ‘rehabilitate’ Italian nationalism, albeit from a revolutionary leftisti/‘proto-Bolshevik’ perspective, Senso makes an attempt at connecting the Italy of yesteryear to the present by using references to timeless feuds (i.e. Aryan occupation of Italy) and important historical locations (i.e. Salò, which is where the Nazis set up their puppet state in late 1943 after the Allies beat Mussolini’s ass) that would certainly be pertinent to Guido filmgoers when the film was first released. Originally featuring an ending that was banned by censors in the Italian government due to its unflattering (yet probably realistic) depiction of Austrian soldiers as drunken horndogs and eager defilers of women, Senso is a masterful example of subtle and elegant cinematic subversion with a truly timeless aristocratic flare.

 Opening at La Fenice opera house in Venice during a colorful performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s 1853 opera Il Trovatore aka The Troubadour during on May 27, 1866, Senso immediately lets the viewer know they are about to watch a rare operatic melodrama that seems like an immaculate reproduction of the time it depicts. At the conclusion of the character Manrico's reciting aria Di quella pira, the opera is rudely interrupted by a brazen and belligerent bunch of Italian left-wing nationalists who not only want the Austrian occupiers out of their country, but also the Austrian troops out of their opera house, for no Aryan could possibly understand the great Goombah opera. The rowdy protest was organized by an aristocrat named Marquis Roberto Ussoni (Massimo Girotti), whose unhappily married countess cousin Livia Serpieri (played by Italian diva and real-life Baroness Alida Valli, who was of partial Austrian aristocratic ancestry) is also in attendance at the opera, though unlike her flamboyant relative, she hides her patriotism and merely watches her cousin do all the work while she charms Austrian military men. As a result of his subversive activity and insulting an Austrian officer named Franz Mahler (played by American actor Farley Granger, who is best known for his roles in the Hitchcock classics Rope and Strangers on a Train), Roberto is sentenced into exile, but that does stop his sexually repressed cousin from starting a secret lurid love affair with the Austrian soldier who got her beloved relative banished. An oddball and decidedly deracinated officer who openly admits to his lover that he couldn't care less about the military, has no sense of patriotism/nationalism, and is described by his comrades as a predictably unpredictable philanderer who oftentimes disappears for long periods of times with strange women, Franz is not exactly the most ideal mensch for a cheating woman to fall in love with, but Countess Livia—a woman married to a wealthy Italian collaborator who kisses the ass of the Germanic occupier—is no longer in control of her emotions or so she learns when it is already too late, thus making her the perfect prey of a scheming Aryan Don Juan, who is quite conscious of his narcissism and even openly admits to his mistress: “I never pass by a mirror without looking at myself.” 

 While Livia initially manages to keep her hot and steamy love affair a deep dark secret by renting out an apartment on the other side of the city and meeting Franz there so they can make love, the Countess becomes crazed with heartbreak and jealously when the Austrian officer fails to meet her at one of their planned sensual sessions and goes all around town looking for her sweetheart, even visiting his military barracks and making a fool of herself. With war breaking out, Livia is forced by her husband to flee to the country so as to avoid possible death, but before she leaves, the Countess is told by a maid that a man has come to see her, so she gets excited and goes to meet her. Livia’s husband follows her, but the Countess does not care and confesses to her cuckolded hubby about her affair. Unfortunately for Livia, the man that came to see her was not Franz but her cousin Roberto, who has came back from exile and is more politically active than ever. Believing that his wife was only attempting to hide her cousin, Livia’s husband ignores his wife’s confession of extramarital deceit and attempts to win Roberto’s favor, as he know that as an Italian collaborator, he may face a bitter backlash from his fellow Italians. Upon her bittersweet reunion with his cousin Roberto, Livia is told to temporarily hold a jewelry box full of money and jewels which will be used to supply weapons for partisans who intend to fight the Austrian occupiers. Of course, little does Roberto realize that his cousin has become a slave of love to the very man that was responsible for his exile. 

 Although Livia flees to the country, Franz somehow finds her whereabouts and pays her an unexpected visit that will ultimately determine her romantically tragic fate. Of course, Livia is exceedingly happy to see Franz, who is only there to ask for money from his “wealthy patron.” A coward as well as a con man, Franz tells Livia about how certain Austrian soldiers can get exempted from battle by bribing corrupt doctors who certify that they are unfit for battle. Naturally, as a desperate woman who does not want her love to die on the battlefield, Livia gives Franz the money that Roberto told her to hold that was intended to fund the Italian partisans, who are destroyed as a direct result of her actions, as they are too ill-prepared to battle Aryan Übermenschen. Indeed, Livia is guilty of a double betrayal, or as she confesses herself, “Now I was irrevocably tied to him. For his sake I’d forsaken and betrayed everything for which the others were so desperately fighting – those dreams for which they had struggled so long to make reality.” While the Countess receives a letter from Franz saying he is safe, he warns her not to visit him, but her anxiety has gotten the best of her and she does so anyway, even traveling through hordes of injured soldiers returning from battle to see him. When Livia arrives at Franz’s apartment, she immediately notices he is living a life of luxury and lechery, as a would-be-playboy who is drunk with alcohol and guilt. After Franz states to Livia, “You shouldn’t have come. You were wrong to come, and you’ll be sorry you did. You see…I’m not an officer now. I’m not a gentleman now. I’m a drunken deserter. And I stink to high heaven of cowardice and vice!” the Countess hears the voice of a young woman crying out her lover’s name. Indeed, Franz has been using Livia’s money to pay for a regular prostitute named Clara (played by Marcella Mariani, whose acting career was tragically cut short when she was killed in a plane crash at the mere age of 19), who is much younger and more beauteous than the aged Countess. After forcing Livia to meet Clara and hatefully proclaiming, “I’m not your romantic hero. And I don’t love you anymore. I needed money and took it – that’s all,” Livia runs out of her meta-treacherous lover’s apartment while he calls her a “trollop” and even tells her break her neck on the way out.  Hysterical, heartbroken, and on the verge of insanity, Livia decides to go to the headquarters of the Austrian army to reveal that Franz is guilty of treason. After telling an Austrian general her story, Livia warns that her actions will make her nothing short of a murderer, but she does not care and tells the military man to carry out his duty. In the end, Franz is executed by firing squad and Livia runs into the night while calling the name of the man she condemned to death. 

 Notably, director Luchino Visconti originally intended to cast Ingrid Bergman and Marlon Brando for the lead roles. While I think that Alida Valli made for a wise replacement for Bergman, the less than Aryan looking Farley Granger was not exactly the best choice for the role. Rightfully determined to find a blond actor to play a blond Don Juan beast, Visconti apparently tried to hire various other popular heartthrobs for the role, including Tab Hunter, but he ultimately settled for Granger, whose hair he even attempted to dye blond. But then again, Granger was perfect for the role if one interprets the film from a less than philo-Semitic angle. Indeed, aside from the fact he is rather swarthy and played a character loosely based on a real-life gay Jewish child murder in Hitchock’s Rope (1948), Granger plays a role in Senso that Visconti intentionally named after the late-Romantic Jewish composer Gustav Mahler (indeed, in Boito’s source novel, the character’s name is ‘Remigio Ruz’). Additionally, Granger’s character could not be more anti-Aryan and stereotypically Jewish in character, as a cowardly and deracinated draft-dodger who is afraid of battle, as well as a cunning schemer who debases women from other nations, with the aristocrat always being the main target of the wandering Jew. Somewhat ironically, Visconti chose to use Anton Bruckner—a composer heavily associated with National Socialism who had a lot in common with Uncle Adolf (they were both Austrian-born Wagnerites from peasant backgrounds)—instead of the seemingly more fitting Mahler for the score. As Roger Hillman noted in a chapter on Senso in his book Unsettling Scores: German Film, Music, and Ideology (2005): “In a Viennese musical journal of October 1932, one critic takes to task the New York Bruckner Society for spreading propaganda for Mahler alongside Bruckner. He sees this as an affront to European sensitivities, and he counterpoints the two composers as “the Aryan Bruckner, our German composer, and Mahler, with the disintegration attendant of his Jewishness…On the one hand edification, on the other a destructive tendency, even modernism! This, too, makes interesting reading when approaching the sundered character of Visconti’s figure Mahler, who appears to the strains of Bruckner.” 

  Although producers hoped Senso would be a hit in the United States (hence its America male lead), it never really received a proper release in America, as it was only played at a couple Italian-language theaters that catered to unassimilated Guidos, thus making the film a lost masterpiece of sorts, at least among the Yanks. Somewhat interestingly, a butchered 94-minute English-language version of the film featuring dialogue written by Tennessee Williams and Paul Bowles was released in England and later the United States under the somewhat sleazy sexploitation-like title The Wanton Countess, but of course the film somewhat betrays Visconti's original vision.  Additionally, nearly a half a century after the film's initial release, quasi-pornographer Tinto Brass (Salon Kitty, Caligula) also remade Senso under the title Senso '45 (2002) aka Black Angel, though he made the story much more cynical, replaced Bruckner with an original score by maestro Ennio Morricone, and changed the setting from Risorgimento-era Italy to the Fascist era, with the female protagonist falling for an SS officer instead of a first lieutenant in the Austrian army. On top of that, frog Television hack Gérard Vergez adapted Boito's novel for the French TV series La grande collection (1991-current) in 1993 under the original title Senso in a work starring Chiara Caselli (who Americans probably best know for her roles in Gus van Sant's 1991 masterpiece My Own Private Idaho and Liliana Cavani's 2002 hit Ripley's Game) as the lead and featuring Jean-Pierre Aumont. A socio-politically-conscious melodrama like Gone with the Wind (1939) of the lavish, luscious, and sensually-charged sort, albeit much more cultivated and aristocratic, Senso is a rare look at history and class from the perspective of a true blue, blue blood who ultimately proved he was right when he said, “Melodrama has a bad reputation because it has been abandoned to schematic and conventional interpretation.” Indeed, it is harder to think of a film that is more simple yet sophisticated, as a work with a misleadingly simple storyline that is layered with subtext and allegorical aesthetic references that only the most cultured of viewers will understand, at least in any more meaningful way. 

-Ty E

Aug 24, 2014

Visions (1977)

Admittedly, surrealist operatic porn seems like a superlatively stupid and patently pointless concept, but then again it also sounds quite intriguing, especially if you’re a somewhat peculiar person like me who only watches old school blue movies for potential aesthetic value. As far as I know, the only somewhat operatic fuck flick that exists is the lost classic of lechery, Visions (1977) aka Larrys saftiga porrdrömmar directed by stage manager/director turned porn auteur turned ‘legit’ exploitation hack Chuck Vincent (Blue Summer, Roommates) under the curious Hispanic pseudonym ‘Felix Miguel Arroyo.’ While best known for humorous yet hot porn flicks starring sensual superstars like Veronica Hart, Samantha Fox, and Jamie Gillis, Vincent is best known for creating a seriously dark, phantasmagoric, experimental, and just plain bizarre feature with Visions, hence why he probably opted for using a pen name instead of his own, as it certainly does not seem like it was directed by the same pornographer. A sort of marginally melancholy heterosexual equivalent to Wakefield Poole’s avant-garde fag fuck flick Bijou (1972) as a mostly silent film that is largely set in a sort of pitch black pornographic pandemonium featuring giant genitals and phantom butt-fuckers, Vincent’s transcendentally salacious piece of celluloid has been described by some reviewers as the porn film you might expect Nordic Northern American auteur Guy Maddin to make, yet the film is far too serious and ‘sexually sound’ to have been directed by the incest and all-around-perversion-obsessed man that directed such idiosyncratic works as Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1988) and Careful (1992). Indeed, one of the most intriguing things about Visions is that everything is played ‘straight’ and is never tongue-in-cheek, which is quite unusual for a man whose specialty is comedy-driven cumshots. Of course, like the equally artistically endowed auteur pornographer the Amero Brothers (Bacchanale, The Death of Scorpio), Vincent was a rampant homo who made rampantly hetero porn flicks during the great Golden Age of Porn aka ‘Porn Chic’ era. Indeed, a work featuring a fairy-like fellow with a prepubescent mustache performing cunnilingus on an extra-exotic flapper sitting on a swing juxtaposed to the potent yet hardly pornographic sounds of Richard Wagner’s “Die Walküre” aka “The Valkyrie,” as well as a watching passively as the ghost of his beloved wife sucks the cocks of jagged rock formations, Visions is a curious collection of vice-ridden Gothic and absurdist visions contained with tantalizing and oftentimes even tasteful tableaux that reminds one that there is oftentimes a rather thin line between art and pornography, for both typically wallow in ritual and fetishism. 

 Melancholy musical composer Larry (played by Wade Nichols of Armand Weston’s 1978 pornographic Oscar Wilde adaptation Take Off and Radley Metzger’s 1979 work Maraschino Cherry) cannot get over the tragic death of his lover (Susan McBain), so he spends all his free time composing music while imagining his wife dancing to his compositions. One night while practicing at a study, Larry is approached by a philosophizing Janitor (W.P. Dremak) who asks him if he does anything aside from practice like party. Of course, as Larry explains regarding his music, “this is my party.” After giving Larry a swig of liquor, the Janitor proceeds to get on his figurative soapbox and begins berating the composer’s work for its lack of soulfulness, stating in bastardized American English: “Larry…I’m gonna tell ya’ something. Your playin’ ain’t so hot. Oh now, you got all the notes right, but it’s empty…you lack mystery in your music…soul…you understand what I mean? You gotta get a life-force in it. All those longhairs had to do it, like that, uh, Beethoven fellow…didn’t he die of cirrhosis or syphilis or something like that? Yeah, and Mozart…MOZ-ART…now he was a wild one too. How do you think they wrote great music? By feeding great emotions! Did you ever fall in love with anybody? Really in love with them – more than yourself. I did.” After Larry once again sees a vision of his dead wife, he leaves the studio room to follow her, which makes the Janitor think that he has offended him with his harsh words, so he yells to the musicians, “I think you’re gonna be great one day. I really do.” When Larry enters another room, he bumps into two dorky looking burglars (David Christopher and Michael Thorpe) and is soon hit over the head and knocked unconscious by one of the goons, thus transporting him to a sexually surreal netherworld of gigantic genitals and operatic orgies. 

 After entering the sexually surreal underworld, Larry follows his sensual somnambulist-like lover through various rather risqué orgy rooms. After a long romantic rendezvous with his lover on a fur-adorned bed in what seems to be a cave which is lit up by hundreds of cameras, Larry loses his significant other after being temporarily woken up by the Janitor, who ultimately fails to fully revive him. From there, Larry enters a vice-ridden vaudeville-themed room featuring a cunt-licking Uncle Sam with a faggy frog mustache, a swing-riding flapper with exotic make-up, a midget ringmaster (played by Luis De Jesus aka ‘Mr. Short Stud’), a raunchy redhead, and a construction worker who looks like a member of the Village People. Although Larry does not really join in their somewhat sinister seeming sexscapades, he does get erotically embroiled in an angelic all-white orgy room where he is treated to a long session of skull-buggery, which is topped off with classic coitus. After suffering a heart attack after being checked by two dorky paramedics, Larry enters a hardcore hedonistic hell where he is tiedto a stake and is forced to witness the sadistic torture of the two burglars that hit him over the head by big black beastess and her equally cruel Caucasoid comrade. After one of the burglars faces death via medieval sword to the chest, Larry is set free by his captors and is reunited with his lover who takes him to a dark yet fiery room where they make love and are ultimately united forever. Indeed, while the Janitor yells to Larry’s corpse, “Larry, don’t leave us. You can make it,” the musical composer decides to stay with his love for eternity by accepting death. 

 Like Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Red Shoes (1948) meets a heterosexual take on Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954) with a splash of gentile vaudeville, Vincent’s Visions is not only a visually fantastic fuck flick that is more about phantasmagoria than frivolous fetishism, but is also a genuinely romantic porn picture that will most likely be more enjoyable to lovers than erotically-challenged losers who live with their grandmothers and are merely looking for a cheap and quick masturbation aid.  Indeed, more than anything else, the film seems like the most ambitious and desperate attempt of a real creatively repressed artist who is forced to make a living as a pornographer at truly expressing express himself.  Needless to say, as a work of celluloid art, Visions is a somewhat incoherent cinematic vision, but as porn, it is an unequivocal singular masterpiece that manages to reasonably successfully seamlessly combine poetry and pornography in a way that sometimes makes you forget that you're watching a woman sucking the cock of a rock.

-Ty E