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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Circle of Life

Author: Dries Vermeulen
31 December 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Celebrating its 30th anniversary at this moment of writing, Gerard Damiano's most ambitious and metaphor-filled movie has stood the test of time rather well, presumably because it was ahead of its time back when it originally came out. The film opens ominously with the caption how in the beginning we are born, in the end we die and the middle is called life. Immediately, you're aware that this is not going to be your typical, run of the mill fornication flick even as it follows a traditional vignette structure, splitting things up into three separate episodes, roughly corresponding to the aforementioned birth/life/death triptych. Each segment has its own tone, beautifully communicated through intricate writing and accomplished acting, along with its appropriate visual style courtesy of for once NOT ace cinematographer and back then Damiano regular Joao Fernandez (a/k/a "Harry Flecks") but the otherwise rather undistinguished Beyen C. Mitchell of LET MY PUPPETS COME infamy, further enhanced by a superb score mixing original music with library tracks with Johnny Pearson's popular "Sleepy Shores" employed to particularly haunting effect.

Kicking things off with searing intensity is an eye-popping psychedelic disco scene straight out of Roger Corman's THE TRIP – ironically, one of few dated elements here – as we're flung into psychodrama with the hateful relationship between Nancy Dare (formerly "Nina Fause" of Carlos Tobalina's MARILYN AND THE SENATOR fame) and Robert Kerman (a/k/a "R. Bolla"). The wife freely admits to her despairing best friend (excellent Crystal Sync in a non-sex bit) that her only reason for maintaining their miserable marriage is that she doesn't want to make her husband happy by actually leaving him ! Some sort of counseling is definitely in order for these two and Bob's buddy, well played by the always intriguing Michael Gaunt, directs him towards the highly theatrical brothel of Madame Zenobia (heavily accented character actress Celia Dargent). Panting passion princesses, including superstar Terri Hall of STORY OF JOANNA in a blink 'n' miss cameo, line the path that leads a bewildered Kerman past men dressed as women and vice versa – allowing lanky Tony Mansfield and the angularly alluring Sharon Mitchell to strut their stuff – with his own masked mystery lady awaiting him in the last room.

The movie's mid-section is undeniably the most conventionally conceived of all three, at least on the surface. A sympathetic female psychiatrist (Sue Bright) listens to the tales of woe recounted by her consecutive patients. Samantha Fox first appears as a young girl whose feelings of guilt towards her own sexuality were alleviated by her listening in on sister Leonie Mars' lovemaking with her husband Herschel Savage in the darkened adjacent room, leaving only the contours of their bodies discernible though muddy video versions have completely obliterated the effect. The bitter divorcée up next is surprisingly well-played by little-seen Linda Maidstone, star of Roberta Findlay's subversively sleazy RAW FOOTAGE, in a deliberately unsatisfying one night stand with less than hunky Phillip Marlow, who was also in Zebedy Colt's rough FARMER'S DAUGHTERS. Gloria Leonard, still Ms. High Society at the time, brings up the rear so to speak as a lonely boutique owner lusting after pretty young client Victoria Corsaut from Chuck Vincent's VISIONS, billed as "Valerie Adami", in a very beautifully shot lesbian encounter.

Narrative coherence returns in the final and often considered finest episode concerning shy model Nicole Andrews (a career performance by lovely, underestimated Susan McBain, the underworld nymph from Chuck Vincent's sleeper VISIONS) who makes ends meet as a much in demand call girl. Great '70s New York footage as Nicole flits about town from one assignment to another, slowly losing her grasp on sanity with ultimately devastating results. Seems like everyone wants a piece of her, whether it's lecherous magazine editor Damiano (face unseen, but the voice is familiar) or the clients seeking sexual services (and, worse, her whining mother) filling up her answering machine at all hours. An orgy sequence involving the cult favorite likes of Vanessa Del Rio, C.J. Laing and deceased Big Apple denizens Bobby Astyr and Wade Nichols might strike as gratuitous but looks and sounds so ghoulish – due to creative camera angles and inspired use of an echo chamber – that it fits right into this doom-laden tale.

ODYSSEY (appropriately subtitled "The Ultimate Trip") rarely receives the same accolades accorded to other Damiano masterpieces such as DEVIL IN MISS JONES or STORY OF JOANNA, though it absolutely belongs in that illustrious line-up as far as I'm concerned. True, there's a thin line separating ambitious from pretentious and not everyone agrees that the director managed to stay on the right side thereof. Several viewings – I watch the movie at least once every two years – have revealed such a multitude of minute subtleties that could fill an entire term paper however that I stand by my personal assessment of the film as one of the most daring, intellectually challenging as well as erotically stimulating adult endeavors ever assembled.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Decent Damiano Flick

Author: ninjaalexs from United Kingdom
29 August 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film is a compilation of three non-connected stories. Each story has a dark feel and deals with loss and resentment. The three segments are: 'In The Beginning we are born', 'The Middle is called life' and 'In the End we die'. Odyssey is by legendary porn director, Gerard Damiano. It's not his best work but it has a lot to recommend it.

The first thing which struck me about this film is how long it took for a sex scene to take place, for example: The film starts with a lengthy dialogue scene which establishes the first story. This is unusual by todays standards as some porn films now contain nothing but sex! The sex scenes in the film are hot but tame by today's standards, there is not much penetration. There's some innovative sex scenes as you would expect from Damiano (e.g. there's a lot of fantasy sequences, an orgy sequence with the cast wearing studded leathers and a shaving scene).

The second thing which struck me about this film is the fantastic soundtrack. There's no cheesy lounge muzak or euro-pop used here. Most of the soundtrack features well produced, almost romantic sounding music and cool 70s funk. One sex scene also featured a tribal beat running through it.

The acting in this film is of a high standard. The actors deliver their lines with good timing and portray their characters convincingly. The film is dark. The characters lead troubled lives and the script does not hint that there's any hope. The film does contain some humour though. There's some witty lines exchanged and the last story contains a blackly comic ending.

This is a good quality, exceptionally well-made and written porn movie. Unfortunately it's not as good as some of Damiano's other films and it remains largely unseen and unknown, which is a shame.

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