Sep 12, 2012

Through the Looking Glass



After my recent re-watching of the phantasmagoric avant-garde porn flick Bacchanale (1970) directed by the Amero brothers, I decided to give the similarly artistic and cultivated but infinitely more depraved surrealist-hardcore film Through the Looking Glass (1976) directed by Jonas Middleton (Cherry Blossom, Illusions of a Lady) a careful and serious viewing. Like Bacchanale (1970), the subject of incest is central to the plot of Through the Looking Glass (1976); a film about a socially-inept, rich socialite who reunites with her distinguished, deceased father, who is now in demon form, via a mirror she ritualistically masturbates in front of in a most narcissistic fashion. Created in the middle of the revolutionary ‘Golden Age of Porn' (late-1960s to the early-to-mid-1980s), a bygone epoch when pornographers were more ambitious in their sensational quasi-artistic endeavors, Through the Looking Glass is one of few films from that era that has aged relatively gracefully over the years, especially when compared to more popular works like Deep Throat (1972) and Debbie Does Dallas (1978), which is probably due to the fact that it is a strikingly vulgar yet superficially Victorian nature and, dare I say, an anti-pornographic work that has very few redeeming qualities in terms of conventional eroticism, but functions well as a surrealistic horror work that is like Federico Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits (1955) meets Ken Russell’s The Devil’s (1971) with a splash of Andy Milligan-inspired kitsch thrown in for good measure. Also released in a R-rated cut version that played in U.S. and European arthouse theaters, Through the Looking Glass has more in common with the artsy adult films of European auteur pornographers like Tinto Brass (Caligula, Paprika) and Walerian Borowczyk (The Beast, La Marge) than similarly themed American adult flicks, thus making it an entirely singular work in the history of American porn cinema that would undoubtedly go on to inspire the sleekly stylized pseudo-New Romanticist works of alt. porn auteur Stephen Sayadian (Café Flesh, Dr. Caligari). Starring Catherine Erhardt (Cinderella 2000) as the lead protagonist and porn veteran Jamie Gillis (Deep Throat Part II, WATERPOWER) as her dashing, demoniac father, Through the Looking Glass is very possibly the most doleful and ferocious attempt at 'adapting' the popular Lewis Carroll novel of the same name.



No stranger to experimental avant-garde pornography, Jamie Gillis starred in Roger Watkins’ (Last House on Dead End Street) experimental adult hardcore flicks Midnight Heat (1983) and Corruption (1984), but I doubt any of his performances are quite as idiosyncratically Mephistophelian as his role in Through the Looking Glass. Notably swarthy and Semitic in appearance and a true blue NYC Judaic in character and pantomime, Gillis makes for a dubious and downright odd choice as the father of fair-skinned and blonde-haired Nordic beauty Catherine Erhardt (aka Catharine Burgess), but when looking at the Through the Looking Glass as an allegorical piece of particularly perverse anti-pornography, it makes perfect sense. As a rich and spoiled wasp whose greatest dilemmas involve what sort of catering company she should use for her next party, Catherine represents the old, significantly weakened, and dying Anglo elite of America. While Jamie Gillis – being as kosher as Kashrut – represents America’s new and wholly hostile Judaic elite as a virtual Golem of the goy gal's nightmares; a Hebraic Freddy Krueger and an extra-cynical "cunning linguist." In every war, one of the first things that the conqueror takes for bounty is the bootys of the defeated female population. Through the Looking Glass, like many films of its era (and especially those created afterward) reflects this transition – whether a conscious or unconscious decision on the director's part (I would go with the latter) – of one group triumphing over another to a most degrading and pitifully prurient metaphysical degree; where a girl's father becomes her most flagrant defiler. Thus, it is only fitting that Catherine begins to question whether or not the necromantic archfiend that appears to her through the medium of her mirror is really her padre or an exceedingly perverted imposter. Becoming increasingly detached from her Anglo husband and daughter, Catherine falls under the nefarious spell of the debonair demon until she is literally dragged down to hell in a scene that echoes the Hades of the classic Italian silent film L'Inferno (1911) directed by Giuseppe de Liguoro; a work based on Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy. Although it would be a stretch to compare the film (as a recent dvd synopsis does) to the Biblical art of early Dutch Renaissance painter Hieronymus Bosch, Through the Looking Glass is indeed a film of discarnate proportions that metaphorically presents the crushing, defiling, and dismantling of a formerly dominant people and a religion. The Jewish community has never shied away from bragging about their contributions to civilization and few are more glaring as their pioneering and undying domination of the porn industry. As Jewish-American 'actor' Robert Kerman aka R. Bolla (Cannibal Holocaust), who at one time lived with Jamie Gillis, once stated, "Sex is not the greatest sin in the Jewish religion" and "I hope that porn is the most unrighteous thing I do. If we go out of our way to be scumbags, that's the sin, when I do porn, I offend Shakespeare more than God." Jewish Professor of American History at Aberdeen University in UK, Nathan Abrams, noted in his article "Triple Exthnics" (The Jewish Quarterly, winter 2004) that: "Jewish involvement in porn, by this argument, is the result of an atavistic hatred of Christian authority: they are trying to weaken the dominant culture in America by moral subversion. Astyr remembers having “to run or fight for it in grammar school because I was a Jew. It could very well be that part of my porn career is an ‘up yours’ to these people.” Ironically, Through the Looking Glass looks more like the work of a decadent and thoroughly demoralized European filmmaker than a profiteering Judaic pornographer, but aside from writing and producing the Jeff Lieberman directed slasher flick Just Before Dawn (1981), director Jonas Middleton seems to have totally disappeared from the filmmaking realm, thus one can only speculate in regard to his background.



Featuring one of the first candid ‘gyno-cam’ shots ever featured in a porn flick where one truly gets to explore protagonist Catherine’s insides in a less-than-flattering fashion, as well as a wicked wealth of incestuous scenarios highlighted in between drudging dinner scenes of monotonous pseudo-wasp-speak, Through the Looking Glass is an authentically abominable, loathsome, and disenchanting work that one can't help but never forget. If the German phrase “entartete Kunst” (degenerate art) was invented for anything, it was to describe a film like Through the Looking Glass; a work where everything that is beautiful, sacred, and holy is laboriously despoiled. That being said, I would not surprise if the main artistic motivation behind the film was to attack and wreak havoc upon the viewer, most specifically of the Anglo-American persuasion, as it was certainly not a work that, unlike the majority of adult films, was made with monetary gain as the most influential factor as expressed in by its exceptionally deranged and distinguished fetishism and all-around ridiculously repellant attributes.  There is no doubt in my mind that if cultural marxist darling Herbert Marcuse got around to seeing Through the Looking Glass before he croaked, I am sure he was quite tickled to see a potent example of the ungodly excesses of his incendiary Occident-overturning legacy.


-Ty E

6 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Once again these kinds of films are a con thats derived directly from "THE TIME OF SEXUAL REPRESSION", the reason being of course that with a title like "Through the Looking Glass" any geezer watching the film would be hoping to see "ALICE" (a real 10 year-old Heather O`Rourke lookalike Alice mind you) being fucked, buggered, sodomized, and spunked all over, instead we have an adult bird standing in for what should be a gorgeous little girl simply because we were born into "THE TIME OF SEXUAL REPRESSION" ! ! !. Alice in Wonderland is just about Lewis Carroll lusting after little girls (a completely normal thing to do by the way) when are people going to finally realise and accept that ! ?, when are Ty E and mAQ going to finally realise and accept that ! ?.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Good to see you`ve taken my advice and reveiwed a completely heterosexual movie. I just wish you`d always do that, all that pansy queer bull-shit really does get on my nerves.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Baa, baa, black sheep have you any celluloid faecal material ?, yes sir, yes sir, the entire British film industry ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Only another 3 months and it`ll be time for either Mary Woronov or Olivia Hussey (the choice is yours of course), i`m really looking forward to reading your reveiw of one of those movies. Actually, why not reveiw BOTH "Silent Night, Bloody Night" (1972) and "Black Christmas" (1974) over the period of yuletide magic, on the 22nd and 23rd of December respectively, that would be superb.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Could you explain the phrase "moral subversion" ! ?, after all, if what is supposedly offensive or objectionable to one generation isn`t to the next doesn`t that make a total nonsense of so-called morality as an actual concept ! !, it proves that morality is just something that is there to fill peoples minds with completely unneccessary feelings of guilt, shame, embarress-girl-t, and fear about things that they shouldn`t be feeling guilty, shameful, embarressed, or fearful about to begin with. The word "morality" and its girl-ling should be completely discarded, if it was all the lies, hypocrisy, and sexual repression that poisons and plagues our society would disapear literally overnight ! ! !.

Ashley West said...

Great article!

Just wanted to let you know that the new Rialto Report show is dedicated to a new interview with Through the Looking Glass director, Jonas Middleton.

He discusses the making of this film and reveals that Harvey Keitel was up for the lead role…

On a side note, The Rialto Report also had a show with a Jamie Gillis interview recently. Hope you you like it!