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Franco Lo Cascio
One of Luca Damiano's best: big-budget irreverent porn
For porn fans, the phrase "they don't make 'em like they used to" usually refers to the classic hardcore era of roughly the mid-'70s to the early '80s. But Luca Damiano's X HAMLET from 1995 truly fits that description - a lavishly filmed, all-star send-up of Shakespeare that is fun to watch.
In the version on Tip Top DVD in the U.S., tone is set with the theme song, "To f**k or not to f**k" (Damiano pointlessly reprises the song for his 2-part DECAMERON TALES film), a catchy rhythm number, and after the movie ends the cast segues into dancing to it (some via pixillation), also amusing. For the original UK English-dubbed release by Sarah Young Communications only classical music is used, and significantly this 2-part version (reissued on separate DVDs in Blighty in 2013) runs 35 minutes longer with extra scenes, compared to the U.S. edition.
What Damiano has done is to take oh-so-familiar scenes from "Hamlet" and use them as fodder for slapstick comedy & vulgar dialog mixed with XXX sex. I once took a college course at CWRU about film adaptations of Shakespeare plays, in which the issues and difficulties of transferring to the cinema medium were examined. Oddly enough Damiano succeeds where others (including even the celebrated Kenneth Branagh, perhaps more comfortable helming pulp movies ranging from DEAD AGAIN to THOR) have failed. That's because he throws out the rule book and is freed by not having to be "faithful" to the source.
Christoph Clark stars as the melancholy Dane, and with proper puddin' bowl haircut and convincing costuming he is up to the task, his XXX prowess a given. The castle locations are spectacular, and pop up in several other Damiano films made around this time.
Sarah Young as Ophelia remains one of my favorite feature roles for this fabulous British porn icon of vignette video fame. Filmmaker Mario Bianchi brought out the best of her (LUCRETIA, NIKITA), but Sarah's youthful beauty, vivaciousness, and anything-goes attitude serve the part well.
Draghixa steals the show as a lusty Gertrude, and a virtual who's who of European porn stars of the era, from Roberto Malone (excellent choice for Claudius) to Valentino have smaller roles. Rocco Siffredi appears anachronistically as himself (!), admired as a stud by Hamlet's ghost-dad (played by the director, Damiano), seen humping his classic TARZAN X co-star Rosa Caracciola in a quickie cameo.
The famous scene of the players, who reveal the plot in the final act, is very well done by Damiano, and in the spirit, rather than to the letter, of Elizabethan times, the entire ensemble steps out of character in the finale to break the 4th wall and salute the (porn) audience out there watching the movie. It's a wonderfully theatrical moment in a surprisingly upbeat porn opus.
To set the record straight, the dimwitted previous IMDb reviewer credits the direction and cinematography of this movie to Joe D'Amato (he's a fan who gives Joe credit for innumerable pictures he didn't make), both of which are untrue. Luca and his d.p. from his classic SNOW WHITE AND 7 DWARFS Renato Doria made the movie, while D'Amato is credited as 2nd unit director and also has fun playing Polonius. Several classic Mario Bianchi films, including LUCRETIA BORGIA, have the cinematographer listed as René Dorin, quite likely but not proved to be a pseudonym for the talented Doria.
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