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Flawed but key Adult Romance that launched a genre
Lately I've been watching dozens of mainly forgotten XXX Romances released around the turn of this century by top distributors like Adam & Eve, Sin City, Wicked and Metro, but this "Vivid Visuals" (a quaint old name for the industry leader) release is apparently the feature that launched this genre. Along with director "Philip Christian"'s next movie, the Western "Shame", it is essential viewing to see how Adult Cinema's finest (if brief) era of creativity came into being.
Oddly, both of Christian's films were accompanied by Video game versions, which strikes me as perplexing back in 1993/94 when they were made. With the hindsight of the death of Adult storytelling in the decades that followed (now replaced with gonzo, all the time gonzo) it seems strange that the interactive world of video games would cohabit with romantic narrative filmmaking that is reminiscent of the Gainsborough literary cinema style of the 1940s.
Beyond the authorship here of the mysterious Mr. Christian, the real creative forces at work are writer/cameraman/editor Philip O'toole and composer/writer/designer Christopher Saint Booth, both of whom would become the mainstays of those classic Adam & Eve/Ultimate Pictures productions directed by Nick Steele and Nick Orleans. Also key movies of the period made under A & E's "Ultimate Pictures" label were the influential exercises in style helmed by Cameron Grant.
"Immortal Desire" concerns a pair of lovers whose romance spans centuries, due to the ill-advised resorting to supernatural intervention (love potions and voodoo) by a femme ancestor of heroine Sarah-Jane Hamilton. tic Both Hamilton and Gerry Pike give excellent performances, helping the feature to achieve dramatic credibility comparable to a mainstream fantasy romance. But that is shaky ground to start with (perhaps why this classic genre has faded into obscurity, leaving just me to try and understand and resurrect it at present), as it can seem dated and overly quaint. And that is in a mainstream context; hardened and cynical porn hounds are hesitant to open up to such "mushy" content, preferring to wallow in the now-exalted world of Sleaze and Max Hardcore.
Christian doesn't help matters with a self-indulgent, multi-layered approach that overwhelms many scenes and creates unnecessary distance for even the dedicated viewer. Orleans and Steele were able to simplify the visuals and create dreamy, involving romances of nonpareil erotic beauty, but "Immoral Desire" often dissolves (pun intended - Christian uses lap dissolves almost constantly to create maximum distraction) into artsy collages. Pretentious script attributed to Saint Booth and O'toole takes place in various time frames including 1692 in New Guinea, England in 1792, 1914 in France on the Western Front during World War I and the Los Angeles club scene of 1993.
The sex scenes retain some potency fortunately, not just Hamilton's but the amazing superstars Dyanna Lauren and Celeste teaming up in Sapphic action as well as a BGG threesome; uninhibited Debi Diamond delivering the lion's share of the humping; and a unsung discovery Lady Paree as a voodoo princess, epitomizing the mammoth mammaries Earth Mother role often filled by bigger-name Black actresses on the order of Ebony Ayes, Vanessa Blue or later Kitten and Jada Fire.
Were eroticism to make a comeback in Adult Cinema, and gonzo all-sex material go the way of the dodo bird, "Immortal Desire" could usefully be remade with less filigree and obfuscation and perhaps achieve the greatness (and timelessness) that eluded Christian & co. the first time around.
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