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Playing like a series of rough draughts for skits that didn't make it into his 1977 epic "circle of life" ODYSSEY, à la Disney's perpetual "work in progress" FANTASIA, Gerard Damiano's PEOPLE has too often been casually dismissed as a merely minor effort by one of adult's avowed auteurs. True, its straightforward, six-chaptered vignette structure with little in the way of a connecting theme, other than the way characters from various walks of life relate to each other sexually, must have seemed like a retrograde step at the time for the director immediately following his most daring and experimental work. The passing of time has been kind to this particular picture however. As a matter of fact, it would make the perfect place to start for anyone intent on exploring his richly varied and often surprisingly personal body of work as it could practically serve as a calling card for then future employment, exploring different styles in both sex and storytelling.
Half a dozen self-contained short subjects, some of which predominantly focus on sex as performance for an audience of one (or more), while others have the feel of acting school exercises. All but two scenes are exclusively oral, female to male, the director's proclaimed personal favorite among sex acts, lovingly slow and sensuous, just the way he liked 'em, with the notable exception of Jamie Gillis jackhammering Serena's tonsils in the first installment. He's a house-painter whose work's not coming along as fast as she would like. Her verbal abuse leads to his turning the tables on her while she's getting herself off in the bath. As most are aware, Serena and Jamie were a couple both on screen and off, playing out their kinky fantasies privately as well as in public. Diametrically opposed at the other end of the emotional spectrum's a two-hander involving a struggling ad man bidding a fond farewell to his long-suffering lady love, who can't afford to tag along offering a dose of sadly still all too relevant economic reality adult audiences then and now were quite unaccustomed to, now that he has been offered a job on the West Coast. While Bob Bolla does his usual sterling job, the real revelation proves an uncharacteristically brittle Christie Ford, frequently typecast as a bug-eyed dizzy blonde but hauntingly poignant here as her resistance gradually crumbles in the face of her boyfriend's sincerity. Somewhat overused in adult, Johnny Pearson's "Sleepy Shores" still provides the perfect soundtrack companion.
The filmmaker shifts gears once more, creating an incredibly effective otherworldly mood through glamorous sets and costumes (courtesy of subsequent S&M Maestro Vince Benedetti), set to the obsessive strains of Ravel's Bolero. An alluring feather-masked innocent (an unrecognizably attired Kasey Rodgers, the hot redhead with Jake Teague in Bill Milling's affable BLONDE IN BLACK SILK) is ritualistically prepared by her very hands on handmaidens (cult goddesses Marlene Willoughby and Sue McBain) for apparent sacrifice to jaded millionaire Eric Edwards. The pace is slow and deliberate as Kasey erotically engulfs Eric's mighty member time and again, adjusting her rhythm as the music builds to crescendo. Photographic duties have been evenly split between Damiano's longtime collaborator Joao Fernandes (formerly "Harry Flecks" and a mainstay since the days of THROAT and MISS JONES) for more intricate glossy set-ups such as these and Jim McCalmont, who was to hit his professional stride on the director's awesome SATISFIERS OF ALPHA BLUE, handling their more down to earth counterparts with equal aplomb. Then a comparatively brief and slightly surreal dungeon number with one shots Michelle and Kelly Green as dominatrix and submissive putting on a show with an uncredited willowy blonde male slave for the benefit of a peeping pair, the female half of which is fly by night starlet Ellyn Grant who also popped up in Chuck Vincent's MISBEHAVIN'.
Psychodrama's catered for by Samantha Fox thespically strutting her stuff as daddy Damiano's little girl Sally easing her doting parent into accepting her full-grown sexuality. Always a good actress, Fox alternates eloquently between wisely underplayed adolescent mannerisms when relating to her father, an unusually "deep" cameo for the director, and brazen sensuality as she puts on make up to meet her lover. Bringing up the rear (so to speak, there's no back door action) is the late Bobby Astyr, bagging the flick's sole AFAA award for Best Supporting Actor, hitting just the right note somewhere halfway between comedy and pathos as a lovable lonely slob holed up in a sleazy motel room, waiting for a hooker. What he gets is inexperienced and possibly under-aged Mary Lou, sweetly played by fan favorite Heather Young (billed as "June Meadows"), soon to deliver a breakout turn in Milling's excellent SATIN SUITE, bravely standing up to a bulldozing Sam Fox. Juggling darkness and light, the former episode leavened by unexpected humor just like the latter's given weight by wistful poignancy, beautifully brings Damiano's resumé to a satisfying close as the credits kick in to a mighty strange little ditty called "Nursery Rhyme", warbled by obscure off Broadway performer Susan McAneny and composed by none other than Alan Silvestri, prior to hitting the big time as Bob Zemeckis's soundtrack supplier of choice !
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