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

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