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The Porn Brokers (1973)
Everything you wanted to know about retro porn...
But were afraid to look. As the storyline suggests, this is a quasi-documentary that explores the porn industry as it existed in Europe in the late 60s to early 70s. There have been many documentaries made about the porn industry, but I believe this was the first of its kind.
Directed by a Scottish porn maker, the film basically plays like one big promotional advertisement for pornography, at a time when it was still illegal to view in most countries outside mainland Europe. It does not explore the 'cons' of porn, only the 'pros'. It argues that pornography is harmless and should not be forbidden from viewing by adults in a democracy. Whatever your personal view of porn is, the film is still an interesting look back at how it existed back in the early 70s.
There are at least three versions of this film that I am aware of. The only version I have not seen is the UK approved version, which ran at about 59 minutes after cuts were ordered by the BBFC. The two versions that I have watched are the 96 minute version approved in Australia and New Zealand, and a 77 minute version that I presume was intended for the North American market. It is important to note that both these versions are substantially different, not just in running time, but in the order and length of the content shown.
In the 96 minute version there are longer scenes of personal interviews with porn actors and directors. So there is a lot of talking, but SUBSTANTIALLY less hardcore content. It starts with Lindsay initiating a young British woman into nude modelling, it then moves onto her getting involved in sex films, shot in London, but intended for the European market. The film then moves to Europe, where the founder of the hardcore magazine Private is interviewed, along with porn film makers in Denmark and Holland. Some mainly non-hardcore scenes depicting the making of these films are shown. These scenes are edited in such a way as to minimise the depiction of actual sex, and therefore depicts the material in a more documentary type context. The film explores various red light districts, including in Hamburg and Copenhagen. Meandering shots of these districts and their shop fronts are shown, and we occasionally enter some. Visiting tourists from the UK and USA are interviewed about their views on pornography.
On the other hand the 77 minute version is slickly edited, moves at a cracking pace, and contains a very large amount of hardcore content in both action and still shots. The content of the film listed above is also in this version, but in a different order. It also contains much less interview footage, preferring instead to focus on the more explicit visual aspects of porn in all its forms, from bondage to rape. If you do find this version, be warned! It contains some scenes that I found gross and confronting, even to today's standards. One scene that occurs at the end, involving three young men and a woman in a farmyard barn, I found downright offensive, but I will spare you the details. This scene is completely missing from the 96 minute version.
Some writers have argued that the true mark of how progressive a society is, is how tolerant and accepting it is of pornography. Things were way different back then! Although the film is not impartial, it is still an interesting curio for those interested in how some societies dealt with porn back in the day.
Sailor in the Wild (1983)
One of Higgins' Greats
As the title implies, Sailor in the Wild follows the adventures (I guess you could say) of a US marine on vacation in and around the Big Bear Lake area of California. Many of the outdoor sequences were filmed around the actual location, but in mid summer. There are also some beach side scenes.
There's just something about this classic that really stands out from many other titles made in the early 1980s. It competes very well with some of the awesome work that Falcon produced, but this is not a Falcon production.
Some people view production values as irrelevant compared to the "action" in an adult film of any kind. However, this film has that something special about it that manages to capture the best of both. The use of music and natural sounds, the locations, bright sunshine, the cinematography, appropriate use of slow motion, and the general feel of the film is excellent, and is unlike anything I've ever seen. The usual angular camera work that is typical of Higgins is used here also. The combination of all these factors adds a special feel to the film that I find a bit hard to describe. No wonder the film has won so many awards.
Brian Thompson in the starring role is the versatile sexual dynamo who really stands out. He is in six scenes and solos once, bottoms once, tops three times, and flips in his final scene. Bill Henson (in one of only a few hardcore roles he did) looks amazing, and is the bottom for Brian in one scene. He also does a solo scene. This film is also notable for the debut of Rick Donovan, who tops Leo Ford. Buster flips after a game of strip poker with two twinks.
This is one early 80s flick that is a definite recommendation for any fan of Higgins' work. I think it will forever remain one of his best. It has been nicely remastered for DVD by Catalina.
I cannot see what all the fuss is about...
Controversy seems to have greeted this documentary everywhere it has screened, and its selection for the Melbourne International Film Festival was no exception. I had to run the gauntlet of a bunch of bleating, ill-informed animal activists who were making false claims that the organisers of the film festival were supporting a 'cat snuff film'. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is NOT a 'cat snuff film' - such claims would be laughable if they were not completely ridiculous and untrue.
I find such premature condemnation irritating in the extreme. It is as clear as there is a nose of your face that the people so strongly opposed to this documentary have not a single clue as to what it actually contains. It does NOT contain the graphic components of the cat killing film in question. It does feature, however, a detailed and confronting written description of the film's content, by way of a written scroll giving a minute-by-minute description of its content. The audience is thankfully spared the real footage of the crime.
Casuistry: The Art of Killing a Cat is a documentary, pure and simple - and I found it a very well balanced and objective one for that matter. It was very thought provoking. It features interviews with the cat killing criminals, as well as animal activists and an investigating policeman, among many others. It also highlights the killer's defence that it was some sort of 'work of art', especially given that one of them had previously made other films depicting animal cruelty in the name of 'art'.
There is some footage of one of the killer's earlier film 'art' works, including dancing with the corpse of a pig obtained from an abattoir, and a peculiar music video featuring dancing skinned animals from a research laboratory. Perhaps the most confronting was the short depiction of the beheading of a small live chicken. All of this imagery was presented in context, and was neither condoning the acts, nor suggestive of such inclusions as being some form of entertainment. It was featured in this documentary to balance out the killer's argument that the filming of the cat's torture was not a precedent setter, but one that had occurred within the context of his previous 'art works' - a nonsense argument in my opinion.
As a viewer, I was left feeling a sense of scorn and pity upon the perpetrators of this act - one of whom seemed to frequent minimise the severity of it, with lines of argument such as: "well, we were drugged out" and "we kill animals for meat, so what's the problem". They seemed mainly well spoken and articulate individuals, but ones that seemed to lack a sense of morality, consequence, responsibility and a honed capacity for knowing when to draw the line with certain reasonable or acceptable behaviours. I think most reasonable adults would agree that the deliberate infliction of real pain on human or animal, regardless of intent, is a tad bit intolerable.
Speaking of what is intolerable, the session I attended contained a hefty presence of police and security personnel, after the cinema received some veiled threats. If animal activists think that threatening innocent cinema-goers - who are merely exercising their right to see what they wish - somehow increases the validity of their arguments, then they are sorely misguided and utterly deluded.
Emanuelle goes Mondo!
Not to be confused with Mattei's 'Notti porno nel mondo' (1977). It was actually this title that was released as 'Emanuelle and the Porno Nights' internationally, for those who are wondering. This is the second film of a series three.
Similar to its predecessor of the previous year, Emanuelle returns to narrate more scenes of perversion, stripping, rituals and other sexual action from around the world. Only this time the film seems to try and take a more 'mondo' approach with a limited degree of success. It appears that most of the action is staged. That said, it is quite an entertaining piece of 70s cult trash. A couple of hilarious noteworthy scenes...
The opening sequence features a weird mystical ritual featuring knives and a mass orgy at the end. Another features a spin on the legend of Lady Godiva, only this one occurs in a German club with a naked blonde and a small white pony. Yes, it's true - rather than ride naked into town on a white stallion, she tries to seduce and coax the pony to mount her (riding HER into town!!!) before engaging in implied fellatio with it in front of a sleazy crowd. It's as if this is some sort of peculiar homage to the bestial perversion in a similar scene in 'Emanuelle in America' made before this film.
We bear witness to a gory, blood soaked close-up penis enlargement operation in Japan. Clearly faked, we watch the surgeons clumsily cut off the tiny prosthetic penis only to attach a huge one, much to the delight of the wife who is watching the operation. Does the film 'In the Realm of the Senses' come to mind?
Ajita Wilson also cameos, discussing the joys of lesbian sex. We then see a depiction of girl on girl action, though she (or he?) does not participate.
Another funny scene features an audience of mainly middle aged women, apparently in Oslo (!), moaning and sighing while they watch a muscled guy posing in a g-string thong type of thing. While they watch, you see them bouncing on their chairs, and you think what the heck are they doing? We later learn they are bouncing on rubber dildo's that are stuck to the chair! Hilarious!
The only 'real' footage appears to be the killing and subsequent gutting of a boar somewhere in New Guinea (though interspersed with clearly staged footage of a young woman having sex with various men who insert a white feather into her private parts to ensure she is a bleeding virgin). Also, a short feature near the end showing some sort of nude contest in California appears to be real, complete with naked male sky divers!
As you can see, this flick is a real mish-mash of largely staged footage, but it does feature an absolute abundance of mostly female nudity, including the gorgeous Gemser herself who spends most of her time naked whilst narrating the scenes. There is some male nudity also, for girls and gay guys who may be interested. There are NO hardcore inserts, however. And who cares? It's not the sort of film that needed that sort of thing. Maybe Caligula, Emanuelle in America, or Emanuelle Around The World did? Up to you to decide I suppose.
The film is ludicrous and outrageous, but it really is enjoyable fun. For what is was worth, I enjoyed it, and if you bothered to look it up here I suspect you would probably enjoy it too. It's not meant to be taken seriously or overly analyzed. It's to be enjoyed for what it's worth - a mainly fake Italian mondo sex romp and nothing more. It's WAY overdue for a re-mastered DVD release. Perhaps the holder of the film's distribution rights somewhere on Earth is reading this...
The Last Horror Movie (2003)
Did you love it? Or did you hate it?
It's difficult to imagine a film like this being made in the UK some years ago, if it weren't perhaps for the successes of other excellent horrors produced there in recent times. Some of these brilliant films prompted me to endure an 11:30pm screening at the 2004 Melbourne film festival. This screening saw a steady stream of walkouts, and I can understand why. In fact, I recall over half the audience leaving! The Last Horror Movie proudly displays its low budget and occasionally nasty violence, in much the same way as Man Bites Dog as many have referred to here. But the film also reminded me of the old British horror 'Screamtime' (1983), where some thieves steal horror videos from a store, and watches these only to end up being traumatised in real life afterwards.
I found the killer in this film to be extremely unconvincing. His acting style seemed extremely pretentious, with silly moralistic diatribes occasionally comparing the viewer with this idiotic psycho. Typical comments were of similar ilk to this: "are you any saner by being privy to such acts of violence", etc etc? This film's tendencies to moralise to such extent merely bludgeoned me as a viewer, rather than disturb or frighten. I'm not sure if tactics like this worked here. It almost invited the viewer to relish the violence, and then at once confronts the principles of morality associated with watching films of this nature! I found it a completely bizarre experience, and I don't think the film pulls it off well at all.
What I did find occasionally effective was the murder scenes. Some of these were silly, but others were quite nasty and realistic - possibly about as close to snuff as fiction would allow! I am truly astonished this film only attracted an MA15+ rating here in Australia, and not R18+. So, three stars out of ten for the murder scenes only. In any event, I am confident that a film like this would divide viewers into the simple loved it / hated it category. I nominate the latter.
Dead Creatures (2001)
A new spin on old ideas
There has been some interesting horror films emerging from the UK in recent years, and 'Dead Creatures' is yet another in my opinion. Whilst Japan and perhaps other parts of Europe have contributed to a 'revival' of certain horror sub-genres, Britain has quietly been producing some fantastic horror films.
Set in contemporary London, we largely follow the lives of a seemingly normal bunch of women - one of whom is decomposing badly, and just looks absolutely disgusting. There are a couple of single 'zombie' guys depicted in the film also. The deliberately slow pace of the film eventually reveals that these people have contracted a strange virus, resulting in an urge to eat human flesh. Luring victims via various means, we bear witness to some gruesome images of cannibalism. Unlike other zombie films, these creatures are not green-gray skinned uncontrollable maniacs, but intelligent and emotional beings. They do not physically transform immediately either, but rot over a period of 12 to 18 months. Meanwhile, a mysterious man is hunting these 'zombies' primarily for the purpose of extracting information. After gaining some information, he kills these zombies in a gruesome but effective manner, before dismembering and disposing of the bodies.
Dead Creatures is obviously low budget, and looks it in parts. Look closely and you'll notice occasional camera shadows on the actors, or even a crew member darting off in the distance to avoid the camera! Yet no expense appears to have been spared for the horror effects, which seem gut-wrenchingly realistic. It's difficult to draw comparison to other films. The aura of starkness and dread reminded me slightly of the atmosphere evoked in Pete Walker's 'Frightmare' (1974). There appears to be a direct homage made to the bathtub scene in 'Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer' (1986). In this case the zombie women used a hacksaw to dismember a fellow zombie in the bathtub, lifting her head out of the bathtub in the same manner as Henry! I also noticed that one of the female actors wore a t-shirt of Russ Meyer's 'Super Vixens' (1976), and another later on depicting the silhouette of the 70's TV soap 'Charlie's Angels'. Not sure if the director intended to imply that these women were cannibalistic vigilantes, but that's how I interpreted it!
This film is definitely worth a look if you are interested in the zombie genre. It is certainly something completely different, and quite unlike any other zombie film I have seen. Just don't expect thrill-a-minute action. This is not that type of film.
Freakstars 3000 (2004)
Entertainment or exploitation?
Freakstars 3000 is an apparent social satire that attempts to take off various reality TV programs, most notably the Idol series, and TV in general. It is difficult to determine whether the director intended to make a "mockumentary" of the series, or just some peculiar semi-documentary style comedy. Whatever the motive or intent, the humour in this film seemed to sit very uncomfortably with a number of the people in the audience I saw it with.
Our protagonist gains access to a German institution, consisting of a number of mentally and physically handicapped individuals with the intention of auditioning them for a new band called the 'Freakstars'. In lots of three, each aspiring member sings an impromptu performance, often terribly, and either make it to the next round or are eliminated. Peppered throughout the film are various commercial breaks or panel type debates. One example is home shopping, where our mentally handicapped individuals try to sell us items such as toilet seats to varying degrees of humorous effect. Eventually the final band members give an absolutely appalling stage performance in front of a Berlin audience, arriving in limousines and sporting ridiculous outfits.
Depending on your sentiments, this could be seen as a very clever take-off of reality television - especially given the depths it appears to be sinking to in recent times for the sake of entertainment. The flip-side to that is the argument that these unsuspecting individuals were exploited for the purposes of humorous entertainment. Whether the mentally handicapped people were aware of the fact that they were participating in something that was never intended to be taken seriously is unclear because we are never told. We are also not aware of whether they gave informed consent to participate in a film that eventually ends up taking the p*ss out of them. Who exactly is the director sending up? Reality television? Or the unsuspecting mentally handicapped people? I guess these concerns merely mirror those that exist in the Real World of reality TV. Entertainment or exploitation? The decision is the viewers'. This mockumentary would probably sit well alongside other recent exercises in poor taste, such as the 'Bumfights' series.
Anatomie de l'enfer (2004)
Breillat certainly picked an appropriate title!
It is fair to say that Catherine Breillat is a serious director, who is serious about exploring aspects of sexuality via the medium of film, and from a female's perspective. This is why I guess many people take an above average interest in what she produces. Perhaps even more so with this work - only those of the 'French New Wave' could produce films like this! Yeah right. It is apparently drawn upon her own writings and her own observations of the supposed rampant misogyny within all men, gay and straight, and the tendency for men to be more or less repulsed by females and/or their genitalia. But there are three words I found particularly apt when describing the plausibility of Breillat's 'message', as proffered here, and as it relates to this apparent misogyny. Those words are: suspension of disbelief. There are some minor spoilers here by the way, and if you were wondering what some of the more explicit elements of this film are, then read on.
Picture this if you will. The film immediately opens with a medium close up shot of a man fellating another man out in the open. Oh okay, I get the message. This film obviously depicts explicit sex of a generally non-conventional nature, so I can choose to flee the cinema if I want or need! Thanks Catherine. We shortly cross to a forlorn-looking woman who, for some unknown reason, is hanging out in a gay bar prior to her sauntering upstairs to the bathroom to slash her wrists. Saved by a very 'straight' acting and looking 'gay' man (Siffredi), upon leaving the bar and getting herself patched up, our 'gay' man is fellated by her out in the open. He somehow manages to produce an automatic erection. At this point the film has just lost me. This man is gay, no? The absurdity continued.
Our depressed female offers the man money, primarily to invite him to observe her 'femaleness'. She spends most of the time naked prior to the 'gay' man engaging with her sexually. She's out to test her theory, that all men are misogynistic. Is this for real? He seems such a natural heterosexual for a supposedly gay character! He experiences no trouble obtaining an erection with her around. He experiences an orgasm so quickly that I just cannot believe he is not actually attracted to women. He is more than happy to drink half of a reddened glass of water, after our female dips her bloodied and used tampon into it. He cannot control his urge to digitally penetrate her, and then lick her menstrual blood from his finger. The process of inserting a stone dildo inside of her vagina fascinates him, as does the ejection of the same. And he just cannot help but insert the wooden handle of a long, no doubt heavy garden implement inside of her while she sleeps. All the while we are subjected to these tedious, pretentious monologues of men's deep-seated hatred of women.
It is surely the fault of the vagina! We endure a flashback of a girl and three boys playing 'doctors and nurses', in order for us to obtain a supposedly greater understanding as to the origins of such repulsion for the female anatomy. There is even a brief shot of the little girl's genitalia, surely likely to draw consternation with censors somewhere in the world. Moreover, we are unfortunately subjected to close up shots of what could possibly rank as the foulest looking adult vagina and anus in celluloid history. But the erect penises look fine; perfect in fact. I suspect any man with a slightly confused sexual preference would surely jump to the gay side of the fence after watching this. Maybe some straight men will find the image of a naked male just a little bit more attractive after enduring these ugly images of female genitalia.
I realise that some films can be so far fetched that one is required to suspend their disbelief, for the sake of entertainment at the very least. But when a film as blatant and as occasionally explicit as this is offering forth the sweeping notion that all men are inherent misogynists, it has to be outright plausible. No depiction of sexual activity in this film is plausible. In fact, I found the 'message' downright implausible. This is not entertainment at all. It was made deliberately ugly, almost to the point of disgust. This is one hellish depiction of female anatomy that is for sure! The title is perfectly apt - it was never titillating and could not really be labelled as pornography. I did not like the way this deliberately confronting film tried to portray its message. It was ugly, pretentious, silly, implausible, and utterly sickening in parts.
"Makes Christiane F look like a fairytale..."
...so says the blurb on the Australian video cover of this film. Hanna D appears to be some sort of homage to the former, much more superior German film.
Set in Amsterdam, this Italian film was dubbed into English for its release in English speaking countries. It is about a girl named Hanna, borne of a troubled, uncaring and womanising alcoholic mother (the mother gives an appalling, extreme performance). We have to make the presumption that the virginal Hanna starts to sell her body thanks to the troubles she has had endured due to her parents' separation some years earlier. A man who eventually takes her virginity, becomes her pimp, and introduces her to heroin saves Hanna from some rampaging prostitutes, angry with her after they believe her to be encroaching upon their territory. Hanna eventually meets another straight-laced man, with both characters literally falling instantly in love. You see them about 1 minute later ca-noodling in the streets of Amsterdam, having just met on a ferry! Eventually, this 'troubled' relationship results in some strange (illogical, actually) dramas with the pimp. Indeed, there is no logic to the story's progression, and the acting... it's REAL bad, sadly not even bad enough to be considered 'good'.
The Italians often take old ideas and re-jig them into something else - with a tendency to make things more explicit or extreme. This has been seen in various Giallo productions, and it can be seen here. Everything that was largely implied in Christiane F is made explicit. There is a copious amount of full-frontal nudity, and what appears to be close up shots of real drug injecting. We discover new ways of injecting drugs - under the tongue, in the scalp, and even under the eyelid. As was the case with scenes in Christiane F, you even see Hanna experiencing a drug withdrawal, complete with chunky vomit and some pretty ridiculous acting. And there is an unforgettable scene of a woman retrieving a small vial of drugs from her jail mate's anus - these are scenes that stay with you, but for all the wrong reasons.
To be fair, it is not unreasonable to expect an Italian 'remake' to be pretty over the top. Hanna D sure is over the top! On the one hand it is amusing and silly, and on the other you might think 'why did they even bother'.
This film did not appear to have had a wide release back in the 80s, and it is not hard to see why. It was released in Australia back in the mid-80's some time, and has had some exposure in parts of Europe and North America. This film is to soon receive a DVD release.
28 Days Later... (2002)
Adding to the chorus of praise...
Prior to its belated opening in this country, I remember seeing the trailer for this flick many months ago - in late 2002 - and thinking just how damned average it looked. The trailer seemed to make the film look very poor indeed, and revealed nothing of the inherent nastiness and desolation this film so brilliantly portrayed. With the benefit of hindsight, I must say that that disappointment was not such a bad thing my lowly expectations were completely blown away after seeing this film. I'm pleased that I wasn't turned off completely, because I would have denied myself a treat.
Reviewers here have oft criticised the films' supposed lack originality. The opening moments of a naked Jim waking up to an empty world, and eventually finding two survivors, is clearly reminiscent of the brilliant New Zealand film 'The Quiet Earth' (1985). And running zombies were depicted in Bava's 'Demoni' (1985). Sure, it borrows elements of this film and that. But how many films can one see these days that doesn't borrow a bit of this and a bit of that? What makes this an absolute stand out is its capacity to reel out the tension and never let up. I found the tension relentless, to the point of almost finding it difficult to watch. The infected zombies actually frightened me, by the twisted and speedy way they moved and the ghastly noises they made. Also, its portrayal of despair and hopelessness was quite rare, and extremely effective. It worked well, and the cinema audience I was a part of looked rather shell-shocked at the end of the film. Amusing!
The addition of humour in these types of films can sometimes seem corny. But the couple of humorous moments provide the audience with some nervous reprieve from the horror, rather than an unnecessary distraction. A couple of plot flaws are forgivable e.g. why was the deserted supermarket lit up like a Christmas tree if the power was supposedly cut? But these are inconsequential in the bigger picture. The addition of the journey to the Fort Knox like army barracks and the barbaric soldiers seemed logical in terms of plot. In my opinion, it provided an interesting and perfectly reasonable comparison to the barbarism and desperation of the 'infected' outside the compound. So what if it stank of ideas already shown in Romero's 'Day of the Dead' (1985) it simply worked.
Hats off to the British for producing a fantastic addition to the zombie genre. This is most unlike the terrible mess the Australian film 'Undead' (2003) was. Incidentally, both films opened here on the same day! I'm at risk of sounding most un-patriotic here, but that film isn't a shade on this. I'm excited at the increasing quality of British horror. None of this flashy Hollywood-like horror nonsense here, and thank goodness for that.
Given this films' inherent nastiness, it's interesting to note that the Australian censors only saw fit to assign this film an MA15+ rating, rather than an R18+. I thought it was definitely pushing the envelope...wouldn't let my kids watch it.