Dec 5, 2013
Before becoming a semi-decent exploitation auteur and directing post-The Exorcist Linda Blair in hokey horror flicks like Hell Night (1981) and tasteless TV series like Freddy's Nightmares: A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series (1988-1990), filmmaker Tom DeSimone (Reform School Girls, Angel III: The Final Chapter) was a prolific gay pornographer who directed skin flicks with curious titles like How to Make a Homo Movie (1970) and Swap Meat (1973) under the less impressive pseudonym ‘L(ancer) Brooks.’ In fact, DeSimone cited his formative poof porn years with nostalgia and fondness, once stating, “I did some really good work in those days, considering the budgets and conditions. I learned to shoot fast and from the hip.” Personally, I have next to nil interest in DeSimone’s cinematic oeuvre—be it gay porn or otherwise—but I decided to watch his documentary Erotikus: A History of the Gay Movie (1973) when I learned it starred my favorite porn-auteur Fred Halsted (LA Plays Itself, Sextool) as its mumbling and masturbating host and narrator. Advertised in its press release as follows, “the naked narrator, Fred Halsted… guides the viewer through decades of all male erotica,” Erotikus was ultimately denounced by Halsted, not least of all due to the fact that the doc reedited the conclusion of his legendary film LA Plays Itself (1972) in a manner that depicts sadomasochistic sodomy in an unflattering light by associating it with the Manson Family murders (a shot of a 1969 Los Angeles Times headline reading “New Weird Cult, Link to Tate Murder” concludes the excerpt). Starting out with Master Halsted fully clothes, the auteur-turned-narrator begins to drop his clothing and choke his chicken as Erotikus progresses, ultimately concluding with a climatic fireworks-like cum shot. Of course, as queer auteur/gay archivist William E. Jones (Finished, Tearoom) revealed in his Halsted biography Halsted Plays Himself (2011) regarding Erotikus, “At the end of the film, he masturbates and reaches a climax during a montage of cum shots set to the theme of Ravel’s Bolero. DeSimone was not satisfied with Fred’s performance in this capacity, so he used a double with a larger endowment and more impressive ejaculation. Presumably this was DeSimone’s excuse for paying Halsted less than his promised fee, to Halsted’s enduring resentment.” Indeed, more than anything, Erotikus is an advertisement for DeSimone and—to a lesser extent—Halsted’s porn flicks than an eclectic and all-encompassing history of celluloid homoeroticism. A seemingly ‘prejudiced’ work excluding important fucked fag flicks that had yet to be released like Roger Earl’s Born to Raise Hell (1975) and the plot-driven ‘arthouse’ works of Jack Deveau (Left-Handed, Drive), Erotikus ultimately seems like a plodding premature ejaculation of a poorly edited mix-tape narrated by a man who clearly is much more charismatic and commanding when fisting young twinks in the ass than when delivering an oral history of blue movie buggery in a most monotone manner.
Beginning in a somewhat satirical storybook manner typical of films from Classical Hollywood cinema era, Erotikus then introduces the film’s chapter titles (Chapter 1: Where Do We Go From Here?, Chapter 2: The “Barriers” Are Down, and Chapter 3: The Spectaculars!) and finally Mr. Fred Halsted, who only seems semi-interested with his job as the decadent doc’s homo hunk host. As Halsted humbly reveals, homos had to buy 35 cent ‘fitness’ magazines before the aberrant arrival of hardcore gay porn flicks during the early 1970s. An American bodybuilder named ‘Ed Fury’ (born Edmund Holovchik), who starred in ‘sword and sandal’ flicks in Italy during the 1960s after following the lead of fellow muscleman Steve Reeves, was also apparently big with gay boys. A forgotten fellow by the name of Monte Hanson was puportedly the first to pose totally nude (minus erections) and was filmed doing so whilst reading nudist magazines in his bedroom. Eventually, some pervert opened up a placed called Park Theater that played softcore porn flicks directed by a fellow named Pat Rocco. From there, Erotikus basically jumps forward all the way to the 1970s and Halsted presents excerpts from DeSimone’s debauched S&M-themed flick The Collection (1970), an explicitly wanton and even deranged work of sadistic sod celluloid grit about a demented dude who kidnaps young men and keeps them as his own personal sex slaves, among other things. One also sees clips from DeSimone’s Assault (1974)—a home-invasion-themed homo hardcore flick—as well as excerpts from the director’s work Duffy's Tavern (1974), which features bleach blond hippie homos playing pool and proceeding to penetrating one another with a different sort of stick. Other DeSimone films featured in Erotikus include the cynical ethno-masochistic/miscegenation-themed gay-western Dust Unto Dust (1970) and the fittingly titled Confessions of a Male Groupie (1971), which was the first gay porn flick to feature a Milligan-esque fag hag in one of the leading roles. Of course, Erotikus also gives a gentle nod to Wakefield Poole’s popular crossover flick Boys in the Sand (1971), which was one of the first porn flicks to receive mainstream credibility, even predating Deep Threat (1972) starring Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems by a year. Director DeSimone must have been jealous of Halsted’s idiosyncratic aberrant-garde skin flicks as Erotikus only features a couple minutes of LA Plays Itself, which has the grand distinction of cinematically introducing fisting and almost singlehandedly popularizing the S&M subculture. In the end, Erotikus concludes with Halsted narrating, “Gay movie… innocent… poetic… commercial… erotic… artistic… all of these or none of these, it remains today the essence of the Greek erotic hope…the adoration and glorification of the male animal’s finest moment,” which is followed by an overly long scene of a climatic cum shot that was ejaculated by someone paid to pretend to be Halsted's cock and balls.
Ultimately, the only real value Erotikus has today aside from the obvious is its inclusion of long excerpts from various long out-of-print Tom DeSimone skin flicks that will probably never ever again be released due to copyright issues relating to the use of surprisingly mainstream music (i.e. The Rolling Stones). Of course, compared to Halsted’s own films, namely LA Plays Itself (1972), The Sex Garage (1972), Sextool (1975), and A Night at Halsted's, as well as work by other auteur pornographers like Jack Deveau (Strictly Forbidden aka Le musée, A Night at the Adonis) and Jacques Scandelari (New York City Inferno, Cock Story), Erotikus seems rather tame in terms of aesthetic prowess. In fact, Erotikus does not amount to much more than a sort of ‘Tom DeSimone’s Greatest Cocksucking and Buttfucking Hits,’ but I guess the auteur did not feel he was charismatic enough to actually host the film itself, so he got then-popular-porn-superstar-auteur Fred Halsted to do so for him. As someone whose solely aesthetic interest in porn does not really transcend porn chic works like Through the Looking Glass (1976) and Water Power (1977) aka Enema Bandit, as well as the shockingly artful auteur pieces of Halsted and Deveau, Erotikus did not amount to much more than an outmoded novelty for me. The fact that Halsted denounced Erotikus only made it all the more unappealing, as he may have been a sexually violent pervert, but he was neither a prude nor pretentious and would have never started a career making cheap exploitation flicks like DeSimone did. That being said, Erotikus is the only DeSimone flick I have ever managed to finish viewing in its entirety, so I think the filmmaker should have stuck with what he knew best – fucked fuck flicks.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 8:14 PM
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