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Linda Lovelace & Her Loops

11 Sep

For many, it started with one film, the film. Linda Lovelace was a no-one before Deep Throat, but upon its release, the whole world knew who she was. Yet what many don’t know is that Lovelace had quite a prolific career and gained a significant amount of notoriety by starring in a number of 8mm loops before going on to do the infamous feature. Shot in dirty motel rooms and sold underground or on the streets of New York, this is where her career in pornography, or her private hell as she referred to it later on in her life, began…

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The start of Linda’s pornographic career begins on a sunny Florida day in 1970. Linda Boreman (her real name) was staying at her parents, recovering from a bad car accident (which included a lacerated liver and a broken jaw, the scars of which were always cleverly hidden or as best as in her films and pictorials). Lounging outside the house in her bikini, Boreman was spotted by Chuck Traynor, a then bar owner and pimp who was driving past her family house. Approaching her, he offered her a joint and a ride in his car, and that was it. They became an inseparable couple and within a few weeks they had moved in together. She, by admission (a lot of which is in her first book Inside Linda Lovelace), knew nothing about sex, whilst Traynor was physically possessive, very rough and promised to use hypnotherapy on her to help her deep throat, a technique he’d taught her after studying it whilst in the Army. It seemed to ‘work’ and eventually Traynor was pimping Boreman out to customers in one of his clubs. In 1971, the couple married.

That year Traynor had an idea; he’d move them to New York City where he would try to sell Boreman’s skills and services to Xaveria Hollander, the famous author of The Happy Hooker and a successful call girl and brothel owner. After moving to New Jersey, Hollander turned her down, and so Traynor moved on to plan number two; loops.  Loops, also known as stag films or peeps, were short films shot on 8mm film cameras that were illegal and sometimes funded by the Mafia. They’d be shot in dingey, dirty apartments with an ‘anonymous’ cast and crew and were then usually sold privately or shown in peepshows.

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Above image courtesy of Eric Danville at The Complete Linda Lovelace

Chuck ended up meeting Bob Wolfe, a successful 8mm producer, and eventually introduced him to Linda. They started working together, using an apartment on 48th Street and a guy named Rob Everett as Linda’s partner, and Wolfe would wind up directing five of the eight loops she filmed (another one directed by Gerard Damiano and the other two by Traynor). The loops they shot are pretty impressive, and its very clear to see Boreman’s appeal. Not overly stunning but naturally pretty in a girl-next-door way, Boreman has charm and, more importantly, is really up for it. You can tell in her face and the way she moves that she’s enjoying what she’s doing and the girl really does have talent. after watching a few of them, it seems hardly surprising that Deep Throat happened when it did. If the film was never made, I think Linda would have eventually become famous anyway from escalating projects off the success of the loops. Initially the short films started out as basic hardcore loops, with Linda doing lesbian scenes and getting involved in a threesome. After a while, the content of the hardcore loops started to cater for more select fetishes. In one loop Traynor had Linda quite literally fuck a foot (which is actually rather impressive to watch and quite easy to find on the internet if you’re interested), whilst another was entitled Piss Orgy and the most infamous one involved a session between Linda and a dog, cryptically named D-1 and D-2 (but also known as the more convenient Dog Fucker and Dogorama). Need I say anymore. All were successful on the Manhattan 8mm scene with Dogorama released into some ‘raincoat theatres’ (porno cinemas) whilst the other loops were eventually released in cinemas as poorly edited compilations with titles such as The Confessions of Linda Lovelace and Linda Lovelace Meets Miss Jones (a film which spliced together scenes from another famous porno The Devil in Miss Jones).

In later years, Linda would completely denounce her career, saying she was forced into prostitution and pornography by Traynor and was, on occasions, held at gunpoint until she finished her work (the bestiality loop being one instance). On the other hand, Traynor has always said that he never forced her into anything, and that she was free to leave at any time. Even Everett and other people she had worked with in the past have said that she ‘loved’ what she did and was always willing to do anything (even Dogorama, with some internet rumours purporting that more than one bestiality loop was made) with none of them seeing any violence against her. It’s a very difficult side of the story to navigate, one that I might explore at another time…

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If vintage erotica interests you, or you’ve never seen Lovelace in anything prior to Deep Throat, her loops are well worth checking out. They’re available on most porn websites and are pretty much stag quality, i.e. grainy picture, jump cuts, blurry from wear on the film itself, however most videos seem to be a compilation of different scenes from different loops cut together (which tend to have an added soundtrack of 70s music so if you hear that you should instantly know you’ve got yourself a mixed video) so if you’re wanting to see a certain loop in its entirety, you may have to visit a few websites. That said, I’ve never seen D-1 or D-2 and don’t intend to so don’t ask for any advice one that one (The Foot or Open Pussy, Insert Foot isn’t that bad).

Traynor and Boreman would wind up meeting with loop director Gerard Damiano, who was at the time shooting a picture called Changes, through Linda’s loops. Damiano had seen a few and eventually directed Linda in one, which also starred future Deep Throat co-star Harry Reems. Damiano was already quite taken with Linda when they met and was also impressed by her skills and ended up writing a script for her. That script would go on to become Deep Throat and the rest, as they say, is history…

Schools Out – Paul Glickler’s ‘The Cheerleaders’ (1973)

3 Feb

Think of porn and one of the clichés that might enter your mind could be cheerleaders. And I wouldn’t blame you, because The Cheerleaders does for promiscuous, overtly sexual cheerleaders what lemons do for lemonade. This softcore porno is exactly what your mind would expect its tin to say, a bunch of cheerleaders flirting and fucking their way though the football team… and a few others.

And that’s essentially the plot of the film. The aim of the girls is to sleep with the entire opposing football team so that their own team, Amorosa High, can win the match. Except that they also need to find a new girl to join them (one cheerleader ended up in the maternity ward…). But the only candidate is a virgin whose virginity the rest of them are keen to get rid of. After much educating and bonking, they end up sleeping with their own team by accident anyway. But that doesn’t matter, because they win the match anyway thanks to newly recruited cheerleader Jeannie (Stephanie Fondue) and the virginal general-all-rounder Norm who scores the much-needed last point.

Like plot mattered anyway. The feature went on to have three sequels over the next six years and was a huge Drive-in & theatre hit in America. Played by a cast of no-name actresses and a real life high school football team, the film did court some controversy for the amount of sex that the girls have and the fact that their powers of seduction extend to the football team Coach, the female gym teacher (the MPAA cut this scene in particular because they felt the actress playing the teacher was suggesting too much of a sex act, apparently she was only trying to hide the other actresses privates because she didn’t want them to appear on-screen…) and their friends family members to name a few. Also a sore spot was the idea that some of the cheerleaders kidnap and rape some players of the opposite team the night before. Because of the issue in some States about what constituted as statutory rape, the film was re-named The Eighteen Year Old Schoolgirls for some of its re-releases so as to make the grey area somewhat clearer.

Whilst not a bad film, it isn’t brilliant and yet it does have quite a sweet charm to it. The first movie of its kind, it went on to spawn many imitations, including porn classic Debbie Does Dallas and in some capacity, Porky‘s. Slightly dated in its dialogue, The Cheerleaders is a semi-decent porno worth checking out, with a few scenes that’ll either make you laugh or exclaim ‘what the fuck’ in bizarre shock induced curiosity.

Nightcall – Curt McDowell’s ‘Thundercrack!’ (1975)

30 Jun

Where does one begin with a film like Thundercrack!? In all honesty, I’m not quite sure where, because the film feels like a dense two-hour plus epic of bizarre proportions. Once seen, definitely never forgotten. Essentially Thundercrack! is an ‘old dark house’ horror story with a tonne of gratuitous hardcore sex scenes thrown in for, what feels like some very strange, fun. Directed by Curt McDowell and written by Mark Ellinger and George Kuchar (the well-known American underground and avant-garde filmmaker), the feature is beautifully shot in black and white with frames composed to highlight the physical and mental mess of the characters minds and lives. Mess I might add is a bit of an understatment.

This is an entry I’ll keep incredibly brief because the film is one that really has to be seen to be believed. Do you like weird, quirky, sexual films with a heavy B-movie aesthetic even though the flick is question is probably lower than B on the movie scale? Great! This one is definitely for you. With a varied amount of highly strung and very over the top characters (Mrs Gert Hammond in particular), weird-multi stranded narratives and enough sex to shake your stick at, you can see why this film is a bit of a cult favourite. Not to mention one that has been unavailable in parts of the world until late because of its content (lots and lots of lovely hardcore shots including vaginal penetration, anal penetration, sex toys, erections, masturbation, oral sex, ejaculation…). Throw in a generous dash of black humour (very fake flashbacks, paper sets, someone inadvertently masturbating someone else, an incident with a gorilla…) and you’ve got an unforgettable film that is well worth picking up.

Another Girl Another Planet – Michael Benveniste & Howard Ziehm’s ‘Flesh Gordon’ (1974)

13 Jun

Sometimes you really can’t beat a good sex parody, and that’s just what 1974 release Flesh Gordon is. Written by Michael Benveniste who went on to co-direct with Howard Ziehm, Flesh Gordon is a porno inspired by the 1930s Flash Gordon serial films and comics (that feature film that we all remember wasn’t released until 1980…) which begins perfectly with a small introduction, and disclaimer, which highlights the Depression of the 30s and assures us that this film has nothing to do with the original comics or their writers. As if they’d want to have anything to do with a film like this…

The film is effectively your typical Flash Gordon fare with an added incredibly camp sexual twist. Earth has become under threat from an evil sex ray that is being beamed from another planet, causing people to become sexually hysterical in a ‘total degradation that has overcome the masses’. Professor Gordon decides that his son Flesh (that’s right, every name is a sexual-like pun on the original characters name) is the only one who can stop it, and after seeing first hand what the sex ray can do (in a scene that turns a normal flight into a plane orgy and then see’s Flesh get a mid-air blowjob whilst parachuting down to land), Flesh sets out to destroy the evil device.

Teaming up with Dr Flexi Jerkoff (aka Dr Alexis Zarkov) and love interest Dale Ardor (aka Dale Arden), Flesh makes his way to planet Porno (aka Mongo, in a spaceship that looks a lot like a vibrating dildo) to bring down the tyrannous Emperor Wang the Perverted (aka Ming the Merciless… you get the idea right?) and together they encounter all manner of Porno inhabitants, including a number of animated penisaurus, an underground group of lesbian Amazonian’s, hermaphrodite wrestling monsters and, lets not forget, the rapist robots with twirling, screwdriver-like dicks.

Originally released with an X certificate, it was re-edited and eventually received an R rating, whilst later releases included both gay and straight hardcore shots that had been supposedly cut out. However, even with these shots included, the film isn’t that much different. The sex scenes are well choreographed so that you don’t really see anything and the hardcore shots don’t fare any better, in fact they look exactly the same. Still, at least the mass orgies, of which there are a few, allude to a lot of good stuff! Aside from the obvious draw of sex, the other fantastic reason to see the film are the somewhat terrible but inventive effects, all done by artists who would go on to later have big special effects careers in cinema (Rick Baker, Doug BeswickMick Minor, Dave Allen, Jim Danforth and Dennis Muren!). The sex ray looks nothing more than red exploding cupcake sprinkles and some of the models are rather obviously shoddy but all have their charm. Also included are scenes using stop motion animation (a personal favourite of mine) which wonderfully evoke the talents of animation legend Ray Harryhausen. The climatic monster The Great God Porno at the end of the film, voiced by an uncredited Craig T Nelson, especially looks like he could have stepped out of Harryhausen’s greek myth features and the beautiful Beetleman who could have easily appeared in one of Ray’s sci-fi pictures.

Flesh Gordon is not the best film you will ever see, but I defy you to other sex parodies out there that really encompass the charm and feel of the properties they are piss-taking. There’s awful acting, bad one liners and some really dire day-for-night shots but the film has a great script and a good narrative that holds the whole picture together. The sex fits into the story perfectly, and whilst it is obviously gratuitous (it’s a porno for God’s sake!), it doesn’t feel out-of-place. My only qualm is that nearly all of the scenes feel very frantic which sadly means you don’t get to glimpse an awful lot. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of 70s muff, hairy chests, bad facial hair and flesh in all shapes and sizes! If you can track this film down it’s well worth a watch, a terrific slice of kitsch, sexy parody with a heart full of charm. A glorious cult classic.   

Go With The Flow – Bud Townsend’s ‘Alice In Wonderland’ (1976)

26 Jul

Following on from Al Adamson’s sexploitation-musical Cinderella 2000 , I gave Bud Townsend’s 1976 X-Rated musical Alice In Wonderland a viewing, with it proving more entertaining than the former! Originally released as an X certificate feature, the film was picked up by 20th Century Fox and re-released the following year with an R-rating and three minutes of cuts. Upon its VHS release, the three minutes of hardcore footage were reinstated and the DVD disc menu gives you the option to watch either this ‘XXX’ version or the cut ‘X’ version. Of course I was going to choose the ‘XXX’ version!

The picture begins with a screen message telling the audience that the feature being seen is a ‘brand new motion picture’ with ‘never before seen scenes’. The supposed speculation that extra footage had been shot was correct and ‘the Producer has finally relented. The public should be allowed to see this motion picture as it was intended to be shown’. In other words, the cut footage has been put back in. After a credit song that could rival the disco-esque title tunes of Cinderella 2000 and Norman J. Warren’s Spaced Out (1979), we are introduced to our titular Alice, Playboy Pin-Up and cover girl Kristine DeBell. The situation that Alice is in is your very basic and typical porno/sexploitation relationship scenario. She has a potential love interest, William, but she spurns his advances deciding working as a librarian is more important and time-consuming. Cue William’s response of ‘You’re body’s all grown up but still the mind of a little girl… too bad you’re missing so much… You’ve got all the equipment, you just don’t know how to put it to work’.

Kristen DeBell promoting the film on the front cover for the April 1976 issue of Playboy

 After being left by William, she falls asleep reading a copy of Alice In Wonderland and suddenly finds herself being taken on a journey of sexual discovery. This is when it starts to get a little bizarre, with cue cards announcing sexual landmarks that Alice is about to overcome (‘Alice makes new friends and gets a lickin”, ‘Alice learns you can’t keep a good man down’) and the odd moment that’s meant to be erotic but feels awkward. Kudos to the filmmakers though for being the first adaptation of Alice that I’ve seen where she drinks the ‘Drink Me’ potion and her clothes don’t shrink with her. Then again, it is a porno so getting her nude in the first ten minutes is pretty much a ‘must’…

The film is full of a cast that Lewis Carroll would be jealous of. Wonderland’s animal creatures are far more disturbing than the woodland friends of Cinderella’s in Cinderella 2000, channeling the school-play-gone-bad look. They also play host to the most awkward sexual moment in a porno I’ve seen so far, asking Alice to come back and let them play with her when her breasts are full of milk. Not really what I want to hear when I’m trying to get off… The Mad Hatter is typically off the wall with a penis that’s just a big to match (‘That’s not the size of my hat, that’s the size of my thingymajig!’). Much to my surprise, Humpty Dumpty makes an appearance (I had no idea he featured in Carroll’s sequel Through The Looking Glass) with a problem that could easily be solved in this decade with a certain blue pill. The Queen of Hearts is a sexual predator out to sleep with whoever she wants, with a wardrobe that could quite possibly be worn by Lady Gaga in the next few weeks. My favourite interpretation would be that of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, two incredibly randy teenagers who are stuck to each others bodies like glue. They also get the prize of the best interchange between two characters; ‘I love you like a brother’, ‘Aren’t you forgetting I am your brother’.

To sum up, if you like dated porno chic and pornography that genuinely tries to have some kind of narrative then this is a must. Far more musically accomplished than other musical sexploitation pictures that came out in the same decade, the film certainly does have some unique charm about it despite being full of clichés (Alice and William do end up together in the end, having the most ‘romanticized’ candle-lit sex with each other I have seen yet…). Kristen DeBell is delightful as Alice and tries to play her with more to her character than just a two-dimensional adult movie prop. She continued to act in TV movies and series but her career never really took off to stellar heights which is a shame as she seemed to have some actual talent (and no, I’m not talking of that kind of talent…). If it’s sex you’re after than the ‘XXX’ cut has its far share, from the somewhat touching moments between Tweedledum and Tweedledee to the random, like The White Rabbit taking the euphemism for cunnilingus of ‘eating out’ to the next level by literally eating out a woman’s vagina with a spoon. Now, if that doesn’t sell it to you somehow, I’m not sure what else will.

 

Russ Meyer’s ‘Vixen’ (1968)

29 Mar

Sex! Nudity! Lesbians! Incest! Fish?! Russ Meyer’s 1968 sex flick Vixen is one of his most memorable and successful. Starring Erica Gavin in the lead role, the film went on to challenge obscenity laws in America and helped to change the landscape of sex in western film.

My love for all things Meyer started when I was ten years old, when watching late night television I stumbled upon Vixen. Back when Channel 5 first launched and showed soft core sex films every evening (now replaced with permanent CSI re-runs…), I sat fixated on my old 80s television, amazed at what I was seeing. There on my screen was a beautiful woman with thick, gorgeous hair wearing lots of skimpy clothing and doing naughty things with both men and women! Somewhat confused, I fell in love with Vixen there and then, the film remaining one of my favourites to this day.

Meyer’s film concerns the exploits of Vixen, happily married to her husband Tom (Garth Pillsbury) and living in lush Canadian woodland. In her spare time Vixen likes to have sex, and lots of it. The film starts with her playful seduction and sexual encounter with a Canadian mountain rookie. She then sleeps with her husband and has sex with a couple that comes to stay at their cabin. The climax (excuse the pun) of it all? The infamous shower scene with her brother and their subsequent romp. Meyer is even quoted as saying that this is one of the sexiest scenes he’s ever filmed.

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Vixen (Erica Gavin) and Janet (Vincene Wallace)

The actual sexual scenes and their themes (lesbianism, incest), along with lots of nudity and suggestive language, were the main reasons Vixen was so controversial upon its release in 1968. At that point the Hays Production Code was replaced with the new MPAA rating system which had just been established. Vixen became the first American-made film to receive the X certificate, meaning no one under seventeen would be admitted to see it in cinemas. This new X-rated feature challenged obscenity laws in every state in was released in, whilst going on to earn $7 million in its first year alone. Not bad for a $72,000 budget. (Meyer would later claim Vixen eventually netted him a cool $26 million, one of his most profitable films.)

Over the course of the next year, Vixen  ran into problems. In January 1969, one manager and projectionist in Georgia were arrested and their print of the film confiscated. October of that year saw a theatre in Jacksonville, Florida busted by the vice squad and the cinema’s reels seized. The theatre owner was charged for projecting a ‘filthy and indecent picture’ by the courts. In May 1970 a Center Theater manager in North Carolina was fined $250 for showing the film. The biggest battle of them all though would be in the state of Ohio.

In September 1969 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Guilds Art Theater saw both its prints of Vixen seized on two consecutive days. In the November, a permanent injunction was placed against the picture in five Ohio counties on the grounds that it was obscene. July 1971 saw the ban upheld; Vixen could be shown in cinemas if Meyer cut out all the sex scenes. Meyer refused, after all a Meyer film without any sex is hardly a Meyer film. Not surprisingly he lost the case. Vixen has not been seen in the state of Ohio since 1969 and is still legally banned.

 

No sex please, we’re American… One of Vixen’s many banned clinches

 It seems strange, watching the film now, to think it is still an illegal act to screen the film in Ohio. Only three years later Last Tango In Paris and, more explicitly, Deep Throat were unleashed in American cinemas. For 1968 Vixen was certainly a challenging picture in its sexual depictions but watched now would possibly be considered a poor soft core sex film. At the time however, Meyer was making waves in the sexploitation industry. As a filmmaker, Meyer was influenced by the laid back attitude towards sex and sexuality in European films, such as 1967s I Am Curious Yellow, and tried to create western equivalents. There is no doubt that Meyer’s efforts and successes contributed to the eventual greater explicitness that we today are perhaps more used to.

Vixen was not only responsible for raising the bar in cinematic representations of sexuality and physical sex but it also helped to draw in female audiences. The film is regularly referred to as the first instance in ‘couples porn’. This is thanks largely to Erica Gavin’s portrayal as the lead character. Meyer decided to go against type and settled on Gavin’s more ‘smaller’ and ‘normal’ physique. In her physicality, she is less intimidating than some earlier, and later, Meyer women and in that respect, is more identifiable for women.

It wasn’t just Gavin’s looks that made Vixen so unique and irresistible but the potency of her beauty mixed with her behaviour. Vixen oozes sex appeal, and plenty of it. If her bedroom eyes and cheeky grin don’t win you over then her playful and dominating sexuality will. Here was a woman who loved sex, was confident and comfortable in her own (very) active sexuality and got what she wanted, when she wanted. To hammer this point home, the first sexual encounter we see Vixen have is weighed more in her sexuality, with her sexual desire far exceeding the Canadian Mountie’s ability to perform. Once he is done she gets up and leaves to get on with the rest of her day, her focus firmly and always on herself.

And this is where Meyer excelled. In order to play in drive-ins and grindhouse cinemas Meyer added one fabulous little touch to all his films to justify the nudity and sexual depiction; redeeming social value. In previous and subsequent films, many of Meyer’s women are ‘punished’ for their behaviour or desires. But not Vixen, she gets away with it, incest included. The reason? She saves America from communism.

 

Vixen and her brother Judd. One of Meyer’s sexiest scenes?

Part of the film’s plot involves Vixen’s racist attitude towards her brothers black friend Niles (played by Harrison Page). When Vixen gets going, boy does she get vicious. This gets overlooked by Meyer when a greater threat enters the characters woodland idyll, communism. (On a side note, Meyer hated Communists and the Nazis after serving in the Second World War. Certain aspects of his feelings would reappear throughout his work, including the frequent casting of ‘Martin Boorman?’) Towards the end of the film, an Irish man called O’Bannion comes to stay with Vixen and Tom. He later confesses to being a communist and tries to hijack a plane to fly to Cuba. He too also happens to be a racist which angers Niles. A fight breaks out in the plane which results in Niles knocking out O’Bannion and Vixen flying and landing the plane to safety, getting O’Bannion arrested on the ground. At this point Niles and Vixen come to some sort of ‘understanding’. And thus the All-American Vixen saves the day and her racist and sexually deviant escapades are all forgiven. Your typical Meyer heroine then.

Vixen is one of Meyer’s best films. The plot is admittedly somewhat ridiculous but overall the picture has a certain charm you can’t ignore. Gavin is excellent, one of the few true natural actresses in a Meyer film. Alongside Tura Satana (Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) and Alaina Capri (Common Law Cabin), Gavin’s acting is miles away from the forced, wooden performances of other Meyer leading ladies. She is also incredibly beautiful, her natural good looks shot wonderfully by Meyer’s camera which clearly loves her (Meyer himself describes her as ‘Radiant! Alive!!’ in his autobiography A Clean Breast which seems incredibly accurate and poignant). Sadly, Gavin would later develop and battle anorexia and anxiety upon watching herself on the big screen and lives partly as a recluse in Hollywood.

I love Vixen now as much as I did when I first watched it all those years ago. It has had such a large and profound impact on my life ever since, with Meyer being my favourite director and my main interest being sex in cinema. However, all these years later I’m still trying to perfect Vixen’s make up and get that back-combed bouffant of a fabulous hairstyle. I’ve had no luck in finding a yellow push-up bikini either. Still I can dream…

 

The other infamous scene. Vixen sleeps with everyone in this video except, surprisingly, the fish.