Dec 9, 2014
Being an exploitation film fan rarely pays off, hence why I more or less took a break from watching these films for a couple years until somewhat recently after once again taking the irrational plunge in cinema history’s most inhospitable ghetto of debauchery, libertinism, and complete and utter aesthetic worthlessness. As I discovered over time, like with the arthouse world, exploitation cinema has its own great and distinguished ‘auteur’ filmmakers, so I try to watch films by directors whose work I can generally trust, including those working in the pornographic realm like Chuck Vincent (Jack n' Jill, Roommates). Although Vincent, who began his career in regional theater as a director and stage manager, mostly directed heterosexual pornography and sexploitation comedies, he was as straight as a circle and succumbed to AIDS in 1991 at the premature age of 51. Like his fellow gay pornographers who directed hetero hardcore flicks like the Amero Brothers and Michael Zen, Vincent seems to have put a special emphasis on artistry and detail in his work, as if he could only tolerate filming close-up shots of straight people fucking if he had some more creative things to do during the filmmaking process, with his first feature Voices of Desire (1972) being a perfect example of this. A shockingly artsy and atmospheric softcore sexploitation flick of the quasi-psychedelic Gothic horror sort, Vincent’s first feature is, not unlike John and Lem Amero’s phantasmagorical fuck flick Bacchanale (1970), one of the most strangely atmospheric and unforgettable works of overtly erotic horror ever shot on cheap 16mm film stock and had it not been directed by a pornographer and were it more readily available, it might be considered a classic of sorts today. A sort of sick and sleazy yet suave and stylish spectrophilic celluloid symphony as conducted by a slightly chubby alpha-ghoul as portrayed by porn star turned politician Mark Suben (who is now a District Attorney for Cortland County, in upstate New York) and featuring Sandra Peabody aka ‘Sandra Cassell’ of The Last House on the Left (1972) as a hysterical gal who is haunted and gang-banged by a superficially gregarious gang of dapperly dressed libertine ghosts, Voices of Desires probably sounds like one of the stupidest ideas for a film ever conceived yet the marvelously moronic degeneracy contained within the film is executed in such an eloquent and idiosyncratic fashion that it makes one realize that director Vincent was a true artist who sold himself short and whored himself out to the lowest bidder. Advertised with the fittingly pseudo-erotic tagline, “A Hypnotic Voyage to the Spirits of Lust,” Vincent’s film has crude acting, senseless scenes of pseudo-sensuality and unintentionally farcical fetishism, cheap special effects, piss poor lighting, and a variety of other glaring flaws, yet the film offers a totally singular experience that you’re not going to find anywhere else, whether you like it or not. Indeed, Voices of Desire is like a bad sex dream that you just cannot help but look back on fondly. A wayward celluloid wet dream about a young and seemingly rather dumb hysterical female cinephile (auteur Vincent reveals his cinematic influences by featuring film posters from works by Fritz Lang, Josef von Sternberg, Orson Welles, etc. on the protagonist’s apartment wall) who becomes haunted by a group of horny ghosts after attempting to make a simple phone call on a Manhattan payphone, Vincent’s work ultimately proves that even innately idiotic film premises can be exquisitely executed if handled by the right mensch, even when working within one of the most aesthetically vapid genres known to man.
Voices of Desire begins banally enough with a fat, short, swarthy and stocky Alpine-like cop named Detective Holland (David Kirk of Robert Downey Sr.’s Putney Swope (1969) and John G. Avildsen’s early Troma effort Cry Uncle (1971)) interviewing a young pale-skinned and dark-haired debutante named Anna Reed (Sandra Peabody of The Last House on the Left and Teenage Hitchhikers (1975)) about hearing “voices.” As Anna explains, it all started when her boss gave her a package to ship. After shipping the package, Anna decided to do some shopping in downtown Manhattan and in the process, she lost track of time, so she decided to call her friend to tell her she would be late for a dinner date, but instead of getting her friend on the other line, she heard the heavy breathing of pernicious spirits and it scared her so much that she ran away from the payphone. While walking down a sidewalk after the eerie phone call, Anna hears a ghostly being whispering, “Anna, wait for us… Don’t run away from us, please,” so she hightails it back to her apartment thinking she will be safe there, but of course she is wrong. While biting into an apple and reading a magazine in her room, the same being from before declares, “Anna…we love you. Anna…love us.” The mysterious ghoul must have put a spell on Anna with his pseudo-romantic whispers, as she subsequently begins disrobing, rubbing her supple breasts with pieces of fruit, and sucking on a banana like it is a cock. Scenes of Anna masturbating with fruit are juxtaposed with images of a dude (porn star Roger Caine of Jonas Middleton’s hardcore horror masterpiece Through the Looking Glass (1976) and George A. Romero’s postmodern vampire flick Martin (1976)), who happens to be one of the ghosts that has been haunting her, penetrating a semi-chubby chick with curves and jumbo jugs in a completely pitch black room. Indeed, it seems Anna was spiritually raped by a phantasm.
The next day, Anna’s (or more like director Vincent’s) taste in cinema is revealed in a scene of the protagonist’s apartment featuring vintage posters of Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (1930), Fritz Lang’s M (1931), Michael Curtiz’s Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), and Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) on her decrepit apartment wall. Somehow, Anna thinks packing up her things and heading out of town to see her friend will save her from the wrath of the wanton spirits, but as soon as she hears said wanton spirits declaring, “Anna…you won’t need your suitcase where you’re going,” the petrified protagonist loses her will power, drops her luggage, and starts heading to a lavish apartment where the ghosts reside. Indeed, like a somnambulist possessed by a demonic spirit, Anna manages to arrive at a luxury baroque style apartment with fancy furniture and antiques without any sort of directions. Although the apartment seems unoccupied, Anna soon hears sinister laughter and eventually finds two young longhaired men (Roger Caine and some other dude) in fancy suits and a young pale darkhaired woman (polack-guidette porn star Marlene Willoughby) in an enticing blood red dress sitting at a table in the kitchen who declare, “Anna…we’ve been waiting for you” without so much as moving their lips or saying a single word. Not long after, an older suited man known as the ‘Conductor’ (porn star turned politician Mark Suben under the pseudonym ‘Gus Thomas’) enters the room and the fearsome foursome of ghouls coerce Anna to drink red wine with them. It seems the sensual spirits are into date rape, as the wine is spiked and knocks out poor Anna instantly. After Anna passes out, the Ghouls carry her limp body to another room and take turns defiling her after she wakes up and screams “help me.” Of course, as demonstrated by her big warm salacious smiles, Anna is having a fabulous time being frisked and fucked by the charming phantasms. Indeed, first the two young suited ghouls gangbang her while the Conductor conducts the carnality and the female ghoul in red, who seems rather aroused by the entire scenario, hold a candle in a rather provocative fashion. Next, the young ghoul gal played by Marlene Willoughby, who has traded in her elegant red dress for a lethally lecherous black leather dominatrix outfit, chases Anna around and acts if she is going to brutalize her like some sort of sadistic bull-dyke, but when the Conductor plays a beautiful melody on a piano, the sadomasochistic spirit gets soft and gently defiles the protagonist, who seems to rather enjoy dyking out with a fellow pale babe with dark hair.
While the Ghouls initially seem more friendly than fiendish, even if they more or less date-raped the protagonist, their general tone changes after Anna makes the mistake of eating dinner by herself. Indeed, when Anna spots a grotesque bluish-green gelatin platter at a dinner table, she cannot help but dig in, but before she knows it, the female and two young male ghouls approach her from behind with butcher knives in both of their hands and point them at her in a most threatening fashion. Of course, Anna attempts to escape by running like her little life depended on it, but in every room she single runs into she finds a sinisterly smiling phantom waving a butcher knives in her direction in a most sinisterly playful fashion. When Anna decides to run to the main living room of the house, she finds herself encircled by the three younger ghosts, so she curls up in a fetal position and waits for her assumed brutal death via knife-wielding phantasms. Luckily, Anna is saved when the charming Conductor comes out and gestures his fellow ghosts to leave immediately, which they do with a certain discernible sadness in their eyes, like depraved young children who have been denied the opportunity to slaughter a cute kitty cat. From there, the Conductor embraces Anna in a most romantic and sensitive fashion and the two are transported to a glittery oneiric realm where they make passionate otherworldly orgasmic love on a glowing red bed. After her truly ethereal erotic escapades with the Conductor, Anna awakes inside the living room of the apartment and notices everyone is gone. On further research, Anna finds a man stabbed to death in a bathtub, the female and one of the young male ghouls dead in a closet, and the Conductor hanging from a noose in the living room. Flash forward to the present and Detective Holland reveals to Anna after she gets done telling her seemingly senseless story that the dead people she encountered died over 15 years ago as a result of a murder-suicide scenario, with the oh-so sensitive Conductor slaughtering every single person in his house and then subsequently committing self-slaughter via hanging. After the cop tells her that she will “get over this” and that he can find her a “good psychiatrist,” Anna runs off and heads to a bridge where she plans to commit suicide by jumping off, but just before she does, her fiendish ghost friends call out to her, “Anna, come back to us,” which she does. Indeed, it seems that Anna just cannot help but love bedding the undead.
For all its scenes of superlative stupidity, Voices of Desire offers one very important insight and that is that the only way you can calm a hysterical woman and make her shut the fuck up is by fucking her senseless, but of course, when the fucking ends, the insufferable hysteria inevitably begins again, or so the film demonstrates in its depiction of a deranged dame who can only find solace in sexual satisfaction of the spectrophilic sort. Indeed, director Chuck Vincent might have been a homo, but he knew that if there is something that can at least temporarily sedate a hysterical woman, it is a good old fashioned fucking. In that regard, Voices of Desire is probably the only film where poltergeists have a positive effect on the protagonist, who ultimately decides she would rather be the personal plaything of a group of ghosts than commit suicide. In its depiction of a rather intimate relationship between the protagonist and ghosts, as well as foreboding atmosphere and imagery (especially in the scene where the violent deaths of the ghosts are depicted), Vincent’s film has much more in common with Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) than most cinephiles would probably give it credit for. Certainly, the spirit-on-human carnal action in Vincent's film is infinitely more sensually unsettling than The Entity (1981) directed by Sidney J. Furie. While Vincent focused specifically on porn and sexploitation trash after Voices of Desire, he did return to the horror genre in 1987 with the surely underrated work Deranged (not to be confused with the 1974 Ed Gein inspired Canadian-American necrophiliac classic of the same name co-directed by Alan Ormsby and Jeff Gillen), which is a sort of all the more deranged reworking of Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965) with a chamber-piece-like structure starring genuinely talented porn thespians like Veronica Hart, Jamie Gillis, and Jerry Butler. Unquestionably, both Voices of Desire and Deranged demonstrate that Vincent could have probably had quite a fruitful and singular career as a prolific horror auteur had he wanted to, but as his surrealist experimental fuck flick Visions (1977) surely demonstrates, he was an eclectic artist who seemed to wallow in creating celluloid art in the gutter, which is certainly admirable in its own warped sort of way.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 4:24 PM
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