Dec 13, 2013

Nightdreams (1981)

To be quite frank, I hate the Christmas season and cannot remember the last time I couldn’t wait for god’s ½ Jewish double-bastard son’s pseudo-birthday to be over with. As is typical, last year’s Christmas was an especially deplorable and less than merry day for me, but I did enjoy doing one thing on Christ's big day and that was watching the arthouse hardcore porn flick Nightdreams (1981) aka Night Dreams aka Nightdreams #1 directed by music video/television director Francis Delia (Freeway, Long Day Journey) under the curious pseudonym ‘F.X. Pope’ and co-written by Jerry Stahl aka “Herbert W. Day” (who would go on to pen garbage like Bad Boys II (2003) directed by Michael Bay) and Austrian-American auteur-pornographer Stephen Sayadian aka ‘Rinse Dream’ (Café Flesh, Party Doll A Go- Go!), who some people, like myself, would argue is the real 'auteur' of the film. Indeed, today I thought I would get into the anti-Christmas spirit by re-watching a film that would give both Santa Claus and Satan a hard-on and/or a heart attack. Described by Playboy Magazine as, “The first avant-garde adult film…Fellini meets Eraserhead,” and by Velvet Magazine as, “The Citizen Kane of adult films,” Nightdreams is undoubtedly and unequivocally one of the greatest fuck flicks ever made and a rare aberrant quasi-artistic porn flick that goes beyond being a miserable masturbation aid. In fact, with its hardcore absurdist hodgepodge of pussy-licking monster dolls, saxophone-blowing toasted Wonder Bread, deviant droog-like bathroom rapists, cutesy cunnilingus-inclined cowgirls, plastic-like pussies, debauched dildo-wielding demons, frail fetuses popping out of penises, and salacious towelhead sheiks, you would have to be a sick and demented degenerate to get-off to a film like Nightdreams (in fact, co-writer Sayadian has noted in interviews that it was a failure as a porn flick but a big success as a Midnight Movie); a phantasmagoric piece of pomo porn pandemonium of the sexually surreal sort that seems like the sort of nightmares a victim of child molestation might suffer, especially if said child molestation victim has a sick sense of humor. On top of being brazenly bawdy and beauteously bizarre, Nightdreams is both intentionally and unintentionally hilarious in its unhinged and exceedingly eccentric erotic charm, sort of like a bad 1950s sci-fi movie on expressionistic avant-garde steroids, yet all the more wildly wicked and warped. A rare porn flick shot on 35mm film stock featuring music by spaghetti-western-influenced New Wave group Wall of Voodoo, Nightdreams is probably the only porn flick that manages to reconcile the avant-garde hardcore sleaziness of Fred Halsted’s Sextool (1975) with the fiercely fantastic New Romantic aesthetic absurdity of Slava Tsukerman’s culturally cynical sci-fi cult classic Liquid Sky (1982). Featuring porn diva Dorothy LeMay (Trashi, Stalag 69) playing the role of a hysterical housewife named Mrs. Van Houten (a name in tribute to one of the ladies of the Manson Family, no less!) who becomes the hyper horny guinea pig patient of salacious scientists and undergoes experimental shock treatment that induces erotic, albeit oftentimes nefarious and nightmarish, dreams of the decidedly debasing sort, Nightdreams is totally tasteless yet tasty trash-art-porn from sort of fiercely fetishistic forbidden dimension. 

 Accordingly to her less than sexually virile husband, Mrs. Van Houten (Dorothy LeMay) has never had a single orgasm in her entire sad and erotically-deprived boobeoise life, but with the somewhat shocking shock treatment help of two psychiatrists, one male beta (Andy Nichols) and one female alpha (Jennifer West), she manages to have a number of naughty nightmarish dreams that deliver an ominous and otherworldly sort of orgasmic pleasure that ultimately arouses more than the just attention of the two initially frigid soul-doctors. While Mrs. Van Houten is asleep, the two decidedly decadent and oftentimes quarrelling docs send her a series of super sensational electric shocks that stimulate both her mind and body, thereupon turning the little lady into a nasty nymphomaniac of nightmares who will fuck anything anywhere, including a jerking jack-in-the-box with a human cock, two cute cunt-licking cowgirls with big udders, musical negro Cream of Wheat boxes, mask-adorned droog-like rapists, and other wanton and wild weirdos. Too blatant to be mere aesthetic theft, the bathroom rape scene with the deranged droog dude seems to be a rather reluctant homage to Dressed to Kill (1980) directed by Brian De Palma, a man who thrives on cinematic homages and who has made a major monetary killing off of meta-Hitchcockian celluloid killings. On top of titillating toys and cuming on cowgirls, Mrs. Van Houten also travels to horndog Hades where a lesbian-loving Lucifer has a demoness lick the mental patient’s lily and later finishes her off with a daunting demonic strap-on dildo. Of course, Lucifer is no mere vainglorious voyeur but a virile victor of vice who also does his damnedest to sexually violate Mrs. Van Houten during a literally hot and steamy pseudo-sinister Satanic threesome in hell. Of course, you cannot have hell without heaven, so Mrs. Van Houten makes her next nightmarish nympho stop in hedonistic heaven where French composer Erik Satie’s minimalistic masterpiece “Gymnopédies” plays angelically as the mentally perturbed protagonist ostensibly gets on god's dick. In the end, Nightdreams concludes with a fitting twist that puts into question who is really the doctor and who is really the patient. 

 Not surprisingly considering its popularity, Nightdreams was followed by two sequels, Nightdreams II (1989) and Nightdreams 3 (1991), but being shot-on-video, these two would-be-weird-and-wacky porno turds lack the aberrant artsy and phantasmagoric cine-magic that the original film is quite rightfully (in)famous for. Indeed, while Nightdreams co-writer Stephen Sayadian failed in his attempt to direct worthy sequels to the original film, he was responsible for directing the positively potent post-apocalyptic porn flick Café Flesh (1982), which has the grand distinction of being the first porn flick to completely crossover and become a Midnight Movie classic as a work that played in repertory theaters across the United States and Europe throughout most of the 1980s. Additionally, Sayadian is also responsible for the non-pornographic yet erotically-charged avant-garde flick Dr. Caligari (1989), which is a severely sardonic and fetish-fueled tribute/quasi-sequel to the German expressionist masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) aka Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari directed by Robert Wiene. While I can state without hesitation that Dr. Caligari is easily the most aesthetically and thematically complex, as well as snidely sardonic, of Sayadian’s films, Nightdreams is unequivocally the darkest and most memorable of the film projects he worked on. Interestingly, in a somewhat recent interview with, Sayadian stated he was compensated for his work on Nightdreams in the following peculiar manner: “I got $60,000 to make Nightdreams, and the entire film was paid in change. There used to be these peep shows everywhere. People would put quarters or dollars and they could see a show behind a glass wall, and it would go on for as long as they kept the money in. The people that financed that paid the budget of the film in coins. They didn’t want to convert it to bills. I made Nightdreams with $60,000 in quarters.” A rather humble arthouse pornographer if there ever was one, Sayadian also stated in the same interview regarding the root of his aesthetic prowess: “Everything I had ever done, in terms of filmmaking, my hands were always tied by the budget. The budget always came first. People always ask, how did you come up with this or that? And I always have the same terrible answer: I had no money; it was all I could do! I never shot a film on location. Not one location. And that was because you go where your strength is. I’m a good production designer, good art director, good enough for low budget, so you do that.”   Indeed, considering the history behind the making of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and a number of other German expressionist films, it seems Sayadian was influenced by more than just the aesthetic and 'twist' ending of Wiene's masterpiece, as the work was made under similarly 'unwasteful' circumstances (the sets for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari cost less than $800 and the leading actors were paid $30 a day).

 A sort of heterosexual celluloid equivalent to Michael Zen’s Falconhead Part II: The Maneaters (1984), albeit more humorous and satirical in persuasion, not to mention more aesthetically eclectic, Nightdreams is essentially is a rare piece of porn specially tailored for the more discerning cinephile. Originally conceived to be a modern filmic equivalent to an “old vaudeville review,” Nightdreams—which was originally made under the work title “I Know You’re Watching Me”—ultimately evolved into a perturbing yet perversely pleasurable purgatory of potent preternatural petite vignettes that Werner Schroeter might have directed had he been a heterosexual horror fan with a sickly sardonic sense of humor and a foul fetish for jagged and otherwise bizarrely shaped dildos. As Sayadian also noted during his interview with, “I came from hard porn, but was trying to inject an artistic film sensibility into it. But at the same time I was doing that, downtown in New York and in the L.A. scene, these people from the art world were putting porn into their images – people like Nick Zedd, Lydia Lunch, this transgression stuff – but if you look at that stuff today, I think we won out. I think our porn to art approach holds up much better.” And, indeed, I have to concur with Sayadian, as there seems to be more artsy in a single cum shot featured in Nightdreams than in all of Kern’s ‘poor man’s art-porn’ flicks combined, not to mention the fact that no one—and I mean no one—wants to see an ugly gutter-feminist bitch like Lydia Lunch naked.  Indeed, while porn star Dorothy LeMay might not exactly be the most gorgeous gal in the world, her ‘penetrating performance’ in Nightdreams is as good as they cum in regard to pornography, especially considering the innately idiosyncratic and aesthetically/thematically iconoclastic nature of the film. Indeed, as I hoped it would, re-watching Nightdreams certainly got me into the nihilistically nostalgic, anti-Christmas spirit.

-Ty E

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