Avalon's summit: a classic for me, but not for all tastes
James Avalon is an all-time great Adult feature director, who has opposed and resisted the gonzo revolution for more than two decades. "Blue Dahlia" represents his most ambitious effort and viewed 20 years after I consider it a classic, especially if one is open to experimentation.
I watched it back to back with another adventurous Avalon movie "Shrink Wrapped", likewise forgotten but terrific in a different way. "Dahlia" goes for the dreamy mysticism popularized by Adam & Eve's couples movies of this era, usually directed by Nick Orleans at the top of his game. "Wrapped" is a Hitchcockian mystery/comedy that is self-reflexive and offers many intellectual insights into the medium.
Perhaps Avalon's misstep in "Dahlia", as far as winning over audiences or critics, is the lengthy abstract opening propelled by what turns out to be star Tony Tedeschi's musings. We see a pantomime fable of Prometheus (Marc Wallice, of all people), humping a pair of mythical beauties (Roxanne Hall & Chloe Nichole), backed by the ethereal New Age music popular at the time in porn (Adam & Eve especially), and stylization of costume, lighting and wardrobe that is as dreamy as any Andrew Blake effort. Blake's influence at the time cannot be discounted.
This segment of the film is resolved abruptly with Tedeschi in his photography studio, navel gazing in a philosophical way one doesn't associate with porn. His obsession with a self-invented mythical "Blue Dahlia" (personified by Misty Rain in severe fetish-gear carrying the flower) is quite strange and puts the viewer into a reflective mood. Avalon takes time out for a very hot & heavy sex scene between Tedeschi and his taskmaster business partner Shyla Foxxx, whose great personality and fabulous huge-breasted body had me scurrying to buy up her other feature films of the period.
Avalon moves back into dream-quest mode with the arrival of models (Lauren Tracy and Sunny) for Tony as fashion photographer to shoot, but instead of doing his job we are treated to his reverie and imaginary sex scene with the beauties, staged in fond homage to Antonioni's classic David Hemmings with the "birds" sequence in "Blow-Up". When he comes to his senses, and it's revealed he hasn't really snapped a single shot, all hell breaks loose, Tony loses his livelihood and Foxxx literally kicks him out of his own studio, which she runs.
At this point Avalon goes even more experimental, switching to black & white save for the blue in the frame representing Misty's cape and the blue flower she carries, as Tony symbolically pursues her on foot down railroad tracks leading to a tunnel. Another Adam & Eve label lookalike mythic scene in which Alex Sanders in long curly haired mane mode plays the God Pan (credits at the end comically call him "Flute Guy") humping spectacularly porcelain-white skinned Laura Palmer and the Dahlia herself in a pristine setting by a natural pond and rocks. This is pure beauty for its own sake, the dreamy sort of porn that soon went out of style after the arrival of the new millennium.
Avalon ends the saga on a very ambiguous note, literally having our protagonist pursue his dream (girl) through a White Out doorway -impressive but perhaps bewildering. He has definitely dared to go way over the heads of the porn public, but I enjoyed the challenge and the DVD sits there in obscurity, just waiting for rediscovery. Perhaps if enough of these solid works from the past are revived and studied, the dark tunnel of gonzo which Adult Entertainment has entered can eventually be escaped by new artists with similar aspirations, countering the current repetition after repetition of basically prostituted sex for a fast buck.
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