Sep 23, 2014

Her Name Was Lisa

A couple years before his depraved dream collaboration with Hebraic hardcore star Jamie Gillis (Through the Looking Glass, Water Power) that produced the two nastily nihilistic blue movie masterpieces, Corruption (1983) and Midnight Heat (1983), artsploitation auteur turned rather reluctant pornographer Roger Watkins aka ‘Richard Mahler’—a troubled and truly underground figure best remembered today for his brutal and majorly misanthropic Manson-esque exploitation flick The Last House on Dead End Street (1977) aka The Cuckoo Clocks of Hell—made his directorial debut in the wayward fuck flick world with the considerably gritty and undeniably unnerving work Her Name Was Lisa (1980) starring archetypical ‘porn bitch’ Samantha Fox (Jack n' Jill, Babylon Pink) and Hispanic negress Vanessa del Rio (Foxtrot, Maid in Manhattan). A former streetwalker and call girl, del Rio is probably best known for having a grotesquely large clitoris, so it was probably to Watkins’ benefit that he refused to shoot the sex scenes for his first porn flick. Unfortunately for the viewer, Watkins had his financial backer/cinematographer Dave Derby shoot these scenes and for whatever reason, the money man thought it would be a good idea to spend most of the sex scenes doing super close-ups of the performers’ mostly unflattering rectums, cunts, and clitorises. As Watkins described in an interview with interview with David Kerekes featured in Headpress 23: Funhouse (2002), he accidentally got involved in the porn industry after going with his friend to collect money from Mr. Derby, who asked him “You wanna do some porn?” after hearing that he was a filmmaker. Of course, Watkins, who had money trouble for most of his life, agreed with the stipulation that he would not direct the fuck scenes, later recollecting regarding the rather strange and somewhat depraved experience of directing his first porno, “So I made this film called HER NAME WAS LISA, which I thought was pretty perverse because Derby had a daughter named Lisa. He says to me, “I have this daughter. I see a film that opens up with this girl called Lisa in a coffin, and I want to see how she gets there.” That was what he wanted to do. So I wrote this thing, which took about two hours—because how much dialogue can there be in a porn film? I remember he paid me $2,500 and I thought “God, this is great!” Then he lost the script […] He called me up and I just wrote it again and he gave me another $1,000.” Of course, Her Name Was Lisa was a big hit and would lead to Watkins becoming one of the most ‘respected’ auteur pornographers of his time, which is no small accomplishment since it was era of ‘porn chic.’ A rather morbid and less than titillating (anti)pornographic tale told through a series of flashbacks about how a lowly massage parlor slut who went from becoming a successful model and ‘kept woman’ of a perverted publisher, only to degenerate into a junky lesbo who died prematurely after getting hooked on heroin after being introduced to it by her nefearious negro girlfriend, Watkins’ film might be described by some as a cautionary anti-drug piece, but it is just too plain dark, depressing, and needlessly nihilistic to convince anyone to stay off drugs.  Instead, it might inspire some more less-than-stable junkies working in the so-called adult entertainment industry to blow their brains out.

 Opening with a seemingly somber young man named Paul (Rick Iverson of Roberta Findlay’s Justine: A Matter of Innocence and Charles Larkin’s The Love-In Arrangement) attending the Catholic funeral viewing of a beautiful young brunette named Lisa (Samantha Fox), the viewer soon questions how the young girls ended up in a wooden box in the first place. Indeed, through a series of episodic pseudo-erotic flashbacks, the viewer will soon find out what led poor Lisa to a semi-lavish life of lechery that ultimately turned tragically lethal.  Flashback to an unspecified period of time in the near past and little Lisa is a bitchy and seemingly stuck-up prostitute who works at a ‘massage parlor’ were clients pay $20 to spend 15 minutes receiving a quick carnal thrill from the girlish hooker. When a young, vaguely handsome, and superficially charming photographer named Paul pays $20 to “talk” with Lisa about the prospect of becoming one of his models, her life is, for better or worse, changed forever. Indeed, although finding the photographer’s intentions to be somewhat dubious at first, Lisa comes by Paul’s studio and witnesses bloody naked chicks with guns being photographed to the soothing Teutonic electronic sounds of “We Are the Robots” by Kraftwerk. While Lisa and Paul develop a pleasant professional, as well as sexual, relationship, that all changes when the latter’s employer decides that he wants to meet the new model. 

 Stephen Sweet (David Pierce of Debbie Does Dallas and Carter Stevens’ Double Your Pleasure) is a successful publisher and entrepreneur and Paul owes his career to the perverted businessman, who regularly buys nudie photos from the small fry photographer, who cannot say not to his prestigious pompous boss' demand to see his latest model. Against Paul’s will, Mr. Sweet comes to meet Lisa, who he has become obsessed with her since seeing nude photos of her.  Before she can really say anything, Mr. Sweet begins feeling up Lisa and bragging about how successful of a businessman he is. While Lisa claims that she is “nobody’s fool” and tries to hold her own against the rather persuasive Svengali-like businessman, she soon becomes the virtual sex slave and ‘kept woman’ of Mr. Sweet, who gives her a fancy apartment stocked full of expensive alcoholic beverages, sex toys, and other lavish, if not decadent, creature comforts. After showing Lisa the apartment that he has bought specifically to keep her semi-imprisoned in so that he can use her as his own personal whore, Mr. Sweet makes the following stipulation to his sassy sexual serf, “Alls I ask in return is that you’re here when I want you to be.” Indeed, a pathologically punctual man, Mr. Sweet demands that Lisa be at the apartment at no later than 10pm that night and that she get acquainted with “a few odds and ends in the bedroom,” which includes whips, a leather gimp mask, and other stereotypical BDSM related items. When Mr. Sweet returns that night, Lisa demands that Mr. Sweet strip of all his clothes and then she proceeds to tie him to the bed, but not before slapping him across the face like a little bitch.  Of course, being a social sadist who is really a closet masochist like so many other successful businessmen and lawyers, Mr. Sweet rather enjoys the decidedly degrading experience.  After strapping Sweet to the bed and putting the gimp mask over his head, Lisa hatefully whispers to him “I’m not going to let you cum…even when you beg me, I’m not going to let you cum.” Indeed, after pouring wine over his body and less than impressive prick, Lisa forces Mr. Sweet to lick her “nice ass,” which he does with gusto for a number of minutes in a rather grating scene that features less than flattering close-ups of Ms. Fox's tail.  When they are finished doing what some might describe as 'fucking,' Lisa hatefully states to Mr. Sweet, “Get out and don’t come back until your tongue grows another six inches.” Of course, born sexual dictator Lisa is not amused when he brings two of his friends, ‘Doc’ (played by Samantha Fox’s common law husband Bobby “Clown Prince of Porn” Astyr) and ‘Dopey’ (Randy West of Kim Christy’s Squalor Motel), over to gang-rape her. Indeed, after giving Lisa some pain killers in what is her first step towards drug addiction, Mr. Sweet masturbates to his concubine being devilishly defiled by depraved duo Doc and Dopey in a variety of eclectically damaging and degrading ways. 

 Luckily, Lisa has just made friends with a big black beastess that she met at an otherworldly spa named Carmen (Vanessa del Rio) and she will help her take revenge against Mr. Sweet because, as she states, “I hate seeing beauty being abused.” Indeed, one night, Mr. Sweet is delighted to see Carmen randomly show up with a long whip and leather S&M garb while Lisa, whose thighs are covered in large bruises, ferociously masturbates on the floor in a rather acrobatic fashion. After declaring like a true pompous posh pervert, “My, my…I guess the evening won’t be a waste after all. Let me compliment you on your choice of friends, dear,” Mr. Sweet joins Lisa and Carmen for the carnal escapades but before he knows it, he is being raped in the rectum by a vengeful woman. Indeed, While Carmen pins Mr. Sweet down and declares, “Get it all the way up there…fuck his ass,” Lisa hate-fucks him with a thick strap-on while he begs for mercy in vain, though the viewer suspects the majorly masochistic businessman enjoys being viciously bum-buggered by a woman. While Carmen earned Lisa's love and affection by acting as her savior and helping her take her revenge against Mr. Sweet, she is really a disturbingly deceptive and conniving little Sapphic cunt of the certifiably psychopathic sort and she wastes no time in getting her new ‘friend’ hooked on heroin. Indeed, as the film ultimately reveals, compared to Carmen, Mr. Sweet seems like a slightly depraved little angel. In an offbeat scene featuring an orgasmic opium haze juxtaposed with the fitting sounds of “Dazed and Confused” by classic rock degenerates Led Zeppelin, Lisa begins peddles her pussy to a threesome-inclined husband (Ron Hudd Cecil Howard’s 1982 classic Scoundrels) and wife (played by Robin Byrd, who later hosted the ‘adult oriented’ cable talk show ‘Robin Byrd Show’) so that she can fund her devastating drug habit. Looking for a fix after she can no longer seem to sell her gash for cash, Lisa soon comes crawling back to wanton wench Carmen, who immediately remarks upon seeing her fallen friend, “you look like hell,” to which the withdrawing junk replies in a meek fashion, “I feel like hell. That’s why I am here.” After Lisa begs for some dope in a groveling manner so that she can inject it into her arm to temporarily relieve the pain of heroin withdraw, Carmen demands a kiss, but when the jaded junky gives her psychopathic non-friend a passionate peck on the lips, the nefarious negress does not kiss back but merely looks at her desperate victim with abject contempt. After giving Lisa a cold figurative kiss of death, Carmen states, “I’ll let you help yourself” and hands the forsaken beauty a needle with the heroin that she will ultimately unwittingly kill herself with.  As one might suspect, Her Name Was Lisa ultimately concludes coldly with a shot of the eponymous anti-heroine’s casket. 

 Despite being one of Roger Watkins’ greatest artistic efforts, be it fuck flick or otherwise, the filmmaker had mixed feelings on his wicked little pornographic debut Her Name Was Lisa, stating in an interview featured in Headpress 23: Funhouse: “I don’t like the film very much. It had some things I like quite a bit: it has a scene where Vanessa Del Rio is injecting Lisa was heroin and stuff. And I like the ending, it’s pretty bleak.” Indeed, Watkins’ was so disappointed by Dave Derby’s direction of the porn sequences that he later decided to break his rule that he would never direct porn scenes, stating regarding the poorly directed sex segments: “But what I don’t like is Dave Derby’s photography and directing of the sex. And its tempo. It looks like a Mexican Super-8 loop or some shit. That’s why some of the later pornography I did I directed everything. If I’ve got to do it, it’s going to look good.” On top of directing some of the most sexually unflattering porn scenes in film history, Derby was apparently part of a sleazy social scene that was just as degenerate as the one featured in Her Name Was Lisa, with Watkins later remarking regarding working with him on the production of the film: “Here we are, Easter Sunday, 1979. There are derelict coke-heads lying on the floor, some bitch got mad at Samantha Fox, picked up a knife, threw it at her, it went in the wall about this far from her head. There are drugs all over the place. I’m turning around and some guy’s dick is standing there…” Not surprisingly, Fox also led a drug-addled life comparable to that of her character in Watkins' film, though she apparently eventually got off the hard stuff and in 2003, she had the distinct honor of being inducted into the AVN Hall of Fame. 

 Unquestionably, in terms of its aberrant ‘aesthetic’ brutality, cultural cynicism, psychosexual ultra-violence, unwaveringly nihilistic essence, and misanthropic undertones, Her Name Was Lisa comes closer than any of Watkins’ other films to resembling the depraved tone of the director’s maniacal magnum opus The Last House on Dead End Street. Interestingly, the films have a couple similarities, with the most obvious probably being that the character ‘Stephen Sweet’ in the porn flick is clearly named after the actor of the same name who played the rich fag porn producer character Steve Randall in The Last House on Dead End Street who is tortured and humiliated by being forced to deep throat a deer hoof that is worn by a crazy topless bitch.  Rather interestingly, as the exploitation flick demonstrates in its depiction of sociopathic ex-con (played by Watkins himself) that takes revenge against a society that he believes has wronged him by torturing and killing porn producers and other untermensch rabble, it is as if Watkins—a man who once bragged that he spent the entire budget of his first feature on drugs—foresaw his own timely degeneration into a resentful pornographer.  Indeed, long before he ever made his first porn flick, Watkins dealt with themes of post-Manson sexual violence, sadomasochism, and nihilistic sex, so I see it as only natural that he got in the business, even if he claimed that he initially never had any plans to do so. A protégé of Hollywood bad boy Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause, Bigger Than Life) who once penned a Sapphic reworking of Thomas Mann’s classic novel Death in Venice for female porno/sexploitation director/producer Roberta Findlay and directed an extra-loose pornographic adaptation of Richard Wagner’s opera Das Rheingold under the title Corruption (1980) starring Jamie Gillis, Watkins epitomized more than probably anyone of his time what one might described as the “fallen artist” as a considerably cultivated man with genuine artistic talent that loved opera and German classical music but who got mixed up in hard drugs, nihilism, and a dark and depraved underground scene that probably contributed to his premature death in 2007 at the age of 58 from a heart attack before he could make a real comeback (indeed, with the long-awaited release of The Last House on Dead End Street on DVD in 2005 by Barrel Entertainment and various planned collaborations with contemporary horror filmmakers, it seemed like Watkins would have at least directed a couple more films).  As a fan of the seemingly accursed director's oeuvre, I can certainly imagine a great biopic being made about Watkins' life under the title His Name Was Roger, though I somewhat hope it would not be pornographic. 

-Ty E


LCSG said...

- "and various planned collaborations with contemporary horror filmmakers, it seemed like Watkins would have at least directed a couple more films"

Though his first collaboration was apparently going to be with Toe Tag, a company which, SFX aside, is kind of... eh.

jimmie t. murakami said...

Exactly, Watkins was never going to be a Spielberg or an Emerich or a Cameron or a Bay but thats precisely why hes worshipped by Ty E and this site.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I like how LCSG now writes his name in blue to make sure i cant pretend to be him anymore, very clever.

Soiled Sinema said...

Yeah Toe Tag blows...and represents the worst in underground horror fanboyism.