Jan 21, 2015

Mystique




Maybe it’s the high number of heebs in the hardcore industry and/or because most fuck flicks, like their viewers, tend to be not too cultivated, but Teutophilac pornography seems to be all but nonexistent, unless one counts Nazisploitation, which one might better describe as “yid smut.” If there ever was a porn auteur with a crush on kraut kultur, it was the late Roger Watkins (The Last House on Dead End Street, Midnight Heat), whose pornographer pen name ‘Richard Mahler’ is a dichotomous tribute to Aryan Romantic composer Richard Wagner and Jewish late-Romantic composer Gustav Mahler. Notably, Watkins’ dark and nihilistic hardcore flick Corruption (1983) is a loose reworking of Teutonic maestro Wagner’s Das Rheingold—the first cycle of the composer’s four-cycle Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”) opera Der Ring des Nibelungen (1876) aka The Ring of the Nibelung—but the pornographic auteur also liked ‘futuristic’ kraut music as well. Indeed, Watkins included the electronic Teutonic track “We Are the Robots” by synthpop pioneers Kraftwerk in his first fuck flick Her Name Was Lisa (1980). Less well known is the fact that Watkins penned the script to a lesbian reworking of great German writer Thomas Mann’s classic ephebophile novel Death in Venice (1912), which largely has to do with the fact that the director of the porn adaptation failed to give him any sort of credit for his work. Directed by ‘roughie’ pioneer and jaded Jewess Roberta Findlay (Take Me Naked, Angel Number 9) under the curious male pseudonym Robert W. Norman, Mystique (1979) is not only the most decidedly degenerate Mann film adaptation ever made, but a rare porn flick that features heavy use of the Mahler song cycle “Kindertotenlieder” (aka “Songs on the Death of Children”). On top of that, the film features cryptic reference to the historical feud between Mahler and Wagner’s wife Cosima Wagner (the lead character’s name is “Alma” in reference to Mahler’s wife, while her love interest turned enemy’s name is ‘Cosima’). As Watkins, who was apparently bitter after all of these years for what he saw as Findley taking credit for his work, stated in an interview in Headpress 23: Funhouse (2002) regarding his crucial role in Mystique (which he never mentions by name): “…What I did was take Thomas Mann’s DEATH IN VENICE and turned it into an old lesbian fashion photographer, dying of cancer, who falls in love with this young woman – she can’t be pubescent like in the book. I gave this script to them [Findley and Walter Sears], they read it and said, ‘This is really great, Roger. This is really great, but can we ask you something? Rather than have the old lesbian be a fashion photographer, could we have her be a tub player?’ [laughs] And they were absolutely serious! I said, ‘You can do whatever you like, I don’t care. You bought it, it’s yours.’ I think that is my main Roberta Findlay story.” Luckily, Findlay ultimately decided to stay true to Watkin’s script and dropped the tuba player idea.  The superlatively sordid quasi-Nietzschean Sapphic tale of a terminally dame of the Apollonian sort who falls in love with a younger dame of the Dionysian sort who makes her live a living hell in between lurid lady-licking, Mystique is certainly, for better or worse, one of the most perniciously philosophical and strangely cultivated carpet-muncher fuck flicks ever made.




Assumedly not to confuse the raincoat crowd, Mystique opens with the following narrated ‘artistic warning’ juxtaposed with waves crashing onto a beach: “The makers of this motion picture wish to inform you of the unique nature of this film you’re about to see. We will take you on a journey of mystery. We will reveal to you the secret passion of a woman…A unique woman who lives her fantasies and dreams her realities…Or is the reverse true? You decide.” After the narration concludes, the following lovely little piece from French Symbolist Paul Valéry that my lady friend especially liked appears: “From this infusions of smoky rose…The sea regained it purity…Its usual transparency…Lost was the wine, and drunk the waves! I saw high in the briny air…Forms unfathomed leaping there.” Indeed, before the film even begins, the viewer knows that they are not watching the average frivolous fuck flick, but an oneiric odyssey where orgasms and orgies take a back seat to perverse poetry.  The protagonist of Mystique is an exceedingly melancholy fashion photographer named Alma (Georgina Spelvin of Devil in Miss Jones (1973)) who cannot get over the fact that she had to give up her successful career because she is plagued by some unmentioned Camille-esque ‘wasting away’ terminal illness. As Alma tells her overly concerned doctor (Jake Teague in an absurd old man wig), she has no friends or family because, as she melodramatically states, “my work has been my life.” Under her doctor’s advice, Alma moves to her secluded scenic beach house where she can wither away in relative comfort while fantasizing about her physician pearl-diving and penetrating her under-used puss, among other things. Notably, during one of her various sex fantasies, the doctor busts a sticky load on Alma’s face and tells her, “Now you can sleep easier.”



Alma’s life changes dramatically one day when she spots a dark-haired dame with a red cloak named Cosima (Samantha Fox of Roger Watkins’ Her Name Was Lisa) sitting on a bench on her beachside back-porch. While Alma initially bitches at the sensual stranger for being on her property, she becomes immediately intrigued by Cosima and her ravishing pulchritude, so she apologizes for initial bitchiness and invites her in for some tea. While drinking tea, Cosima complains that the classical music her host is playing is “depressing” and Alma responds by stating, “it should be. It’s Gustav Mahler’s ‘Kindertotenlieder’…’Songs about dead children’.” After bitching some more about Mahler's melancholy music, Cosima remarks to Alma in a dubious way, “You might say I’m an actress of sorts,” so the lapsed fashion photographer invites her to come over later to do a photo shoot, thus ushering in the beginning of their dark and decadent dyke romance. Indeed, the photo shoot is just a pretense so that Alma can get in Cosima’s panties and before the two know it, they are engaging in carpet-munching 69 sessions and cunt-on-cunt ‘scissoring.’ While everything seems great at first, Alma changes the mood of the romance when she asks Cosima, “Do you love me?” and she bitchily responds by complaining, “Does it matter? We made beautiful love…Must I love you?,” as if repelled by the idea of monogamous love. Indeed, as her Squeaky Fromme-esque cloak demonstrates, Cosima subscribes to a hyper hedonistic ‘dark hippie’ weltanschauung and she is rather turned off by Alma’s ‘airs’ of conservative cultivation and introverted hermetic lifestyle, so she decides to change that by inviting some of her degenerate male friends over.




Needless to say, when Alma walks in on Cosima and sees her being penetrated by a criminally-inclined blond hook-nosed philistine named Arthur (Randy West) on her couch, she becomes exceedingly enraged, especially when her young lover asks her “Did you ever taste semen?”  after licking up her partner's cum and then brags that it tastes better than her tea. Cosima demands that Alma kick Arthur out of her house immediately, but the young brute soon comes back with an equally barbaric friend named Max (Vaughn Mitchell) to teach the frigid middle-aged woman a lesson. Indeed, the next day while Alma is taking a quiet and relaxing bath, Arthur and Max storm in her bathroom and gang rape her in the tub, with each man shoving his meaty member in one of her fleshy orifices. Right after Arthur and Max get done showing Alma a “good time,” Cosima walks in while sporting a top-hat and carrying a whip and sadistically remarks, “How cozy…How very fucking cozy. I didn’t think you had it in you, my dear. Two men at one time…My, my.” Later that night, Alma asks Cosima why she did not help her when she was being raped, but the fetishistic femme fatale denies the rape ever took place and soon convinces her lover that it never even happened. The next day, Alma’s doctor comes by to give her some painkillers and compliments her on her taste in music since she is playing a record of Wagner’s “Liebestod.” As soon as the doctor leaves, Arthur barges in and rudely remarks “you’re doctor friend is a fucking geek” while his pal Max steals her painkillers. Annoyed by the soothing Germanic sounds of “Liebestod,” Max complains “Cosima is right, this bitch has no taste in music” and smashes the Wagner record, which causes Alma to get so mad that she calls him a “pig.” As “punishment” for calling Max a “pig,” the two brutal degenerates once again rape Alma while queen bitch Cosima smirks sinisterly.



To demonstrate her complete and utter authority over hopelessly lovelorn Alma, Cosima forces the middle-age broad to be the subject of pornographic photo shoots. On top of that, Cosima uses Alma’s wealth to hire a number of pointless “domestics” to ostensibly clean the house, do the laundry, etc.  Naturally, Cosima has hired these so-called domestics to satisfy her debauched proclivities. Of course, introvert Alma can’t handle that many people being in her house and even ignores Arthur when he hilariously asks her, “Hey bitch, where’s the one about the dead babies?,” adding, “That one kind of grows on you” regarding the Mahler album. While Alma broods all by her lonesome in her room, various orgies around the house that Cosima ‘directs’ and photographs while carrying around a whip. When Alma finally gets the gall to confront Cosima and pleads to her, “I love you. Why do you want to torture me so?,” she responds by proselytizing in a hippie fashion, stating, “My must learn who you are. You must live your life. You cannot perpetually hide behind your camera. You must be part of life…Otherwise, you do not live. Come…Join us, Alma, join us in the celebration of life. If you want love, you must learn how to give love. Otherwise, you cannot be part of life.” Alma responds to Cosima’s speech by remarking, “I think I see. I think I’m beginning to understand” and subsequently passively submits to pornographic porn shoots and orgies, thus demonstrating that she has finally embraced her evil girlfriend's Dionysian way of life. In the end, Alma dies after submitting to an orgy and in a bizarre dream-sequence, she says goodbye to her doctor and Cosima, as if to thank both of them for what they have done for her.




Pornography aside, Mystique is certainly a wicked and malevolent little film that depicts gang-rape as an acceptable means to cure an introverted recluse of her social awkwardness, yet it somehow manages to stay true to some of the themes of Thomas Mann’s source novel, namely the Nietzschean dichotomy of Apollo and Dionysus. Indeed, in her innate self-restraint and need to live a life of structured beauty, Alma represents the Greek god Apollo while Cosima represents the god Dionysus due to her practice and active promotion of hedonistic excesses. Of course, being a fuck flick, Dionysus certainly triumphs in the end of Mystique, thus subversively reversing the conclusion of Death in Venice. Of course, the film also stays true to Mann’s novella in its intertexual utilization of the ideas in Plato's Symposium regarding the connection of erotic love to philosophical wisdom as depicted in the stormy yet ultimately insightful romance between Alma and Cosima. Notably, like Italian maestro Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice (1971) adaptation starring Dirk Bogarde, Mystique also features compositions by Mahler that help to accentuate the overall tone of the film. Despite being directed by Roberta Findlay, the film certainly has the idiosyncratic essence of a Roger Watkins hardcore flick, thus making it all the more absurd that he was not credited for his work. Watkins would have his revenge against Findlay in an interview in Headpress 23: Funhouse where he mocked her one-time husband Michael Findlay’s grisly death via helicopter blade decapitation by stating regarding the tragic ordeal, “It’s so funny. I think that is hilarious.” While I think Findlay is mostly a no-talent hack filmmaker who used her belated ex-husband to further her own career, Mystique certainly demonstrates that she had some talent, especially when having a relatively well written script to work with (notably, Findlay worked more as a cinematographer than as a writer/director, thus her 'talent' seemed to be more in the technical realm). In some way, it seems that the sea had a positive effect on her work as demonstrated by her softcore melodrama The Clamdigger's Daughter (1973) which, like Mystique, has a similarly dark and almost Gothic dream-like atmosphere, as well as a complimentary classical score featuring compositions by Beethoven, Bruckner, and Bach, among others. Unquestionably, if you’re one of those oh-so rare individuals that considers themselves both a Germanophile and porn chic era fan like I do, Findlay’s flick will surely provide you with a singular and almost inexplicable experience that will make you realize how amazing it is that such an aberrant work got created in the first place, for surely no such film could ever be monetarily successful (apparently, Findlay regarded the film as a 'misfire' of sorts). Indeed, it certainly says something about the dualistic nature of ‘Richard Mahler’ that he could turn world-class Teutonic masterpieces into some of the seediest, most sadistic, and anti-sexy pieces of celluloid smut ever assembled. 



-Ty E

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