ESCAPE TO PASSION is the lesser of two anarchic 1970 movies made by itinerant auteur James Bryan. More famous for one of the lousier horror movies on everyone's list, ungrammatical DON'T GO IN THE WOODS, Bryan's star is due for unearned redemption, as a no-brainer video company Code Red is poised to foist his work on an unsuspecting public.
The amateurism of PASSION, and flop-sweat intensity of its unbearable leading man Leonard Shoemaker, mask yet another example of a pornographer revealing himself via cinematic Freudian Slips. Here we have a tale of Leo, an overage stock boy working for mean J.J., who lives a life of petty crime while having asinine pipe dreams of "being somebody".
It doesn't take too long to realize that his dumb hopes stand for the equally misguided goals of incompetent director Bryan. Tedious film consists mainly of annoying cross talk between Leo and his stooges Jason (a pimp whose combination of dark glasses and bangs vaguely lampoons Roy Orbison's look, for no apparent reason) and imbecilic yes man Nads (one-note goon Frank Millen), alternating with copious amounts of full-frontal nudity and simulated sex scenes. It's stupid soft porn, with no threat of turning into a real movie.
It's interesting that many of the male cast members later ended up in XXX Rene Bond porn films, albeit in non-sex roles.
Exterior scenes and incompetent "action" footage are staged at the level of a backyard film made by elementary school kids. Even for a no-budget effort, this is slipshod, annoyingly inept filmmaking. Several set-pieces, notably a botched bank robbery and a climactic shootout with the cops, are the sort of garbage termed "satire" as a cop-out -they are so poorly done right down to the exploding tomato-squibs one is supposed to assume it's on purpose.
What got my goat is Bryan's misuse of one of porn's most beautiful leading ladies -not just my own opinion but by consensus. Barbara Mills co-stars as Jason's wife and to her credit maintains a sort of elegance and always-in-character stance, even though she is subjected to a series of ignominies, concluding with endless scenes fully naked covered in Crisco. Bryan's concept of an "orgy" is preposterous even by porn standards: obese J.J., two pretty girls (Mills and the film's makeup lady Signe Marlene doubling as a nude dancer/whore) with Jason as cheerleader.
Bambi Allen and Kathy Hilton also provide pulchritude but the film is a mess. Its only real humor, despite endless failed attempts at slapstick and wordplay, comes with a prescient political current, exemplified when it's stated: "Ever since the Republicans started balancing the budget, money is tight" and other complaining about cuts, as relevant today as 40 years ago.
To show his "I'm an indie filmmaker" chops, Bryan keeps featuring an untalented folk duo, whose songs are performed at a club (with preposterous huge crowd applause when there is no audience), and used as sung-over ballads throughout the action. The height of his pretentiousness is their music used for a stupid back story of Leo's upbringing in Oklahoma, which consists mainly of random still shots of a field, there being no budget to shoot actual scenes.
For further evidence where director Bryan is coming from one needs to watch his notorious THE DIRTIEST GAME. In a world where Tarantino and his ilk are role models, I'm not surprised that this hack may be lameduckedly acquiring a following.
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