Tag Archives: Softcore

Cosmic Dancer – Norman J. Warren’s ‘Spaced Out’ (1979)

6 Nov

By the end of the 1970s, director Norman J. Warren was more well-known in Britain as a homegrown horror director, having established his career with the features Satan’s Slave, Terror and Prey. But 1979 saw Warren return to the genre that kick started his career, the sexploitation film, with Spaced Out (aka Outer Touch), his first British sex film since 1968’s Loving Feeling.

Spaced Out, a zany sex-comedy, see’s an alien ship inhabited by three female-like humanoids crash-land on Earth (Clapham Common no less…) after suffering engine malfunctions. Sadly for them, their emergency rest stop was witnessed by a few individuals who they take as prisoners to be ‘experimented’ on; an engaged couple called Oliver (Barry Stokes) and Prudence (Lynne Ross), older peeping tom Cliff (Michael Rowlatt) and sex-obsessed, masturbation addicted  teenager Willy (Tony Maiden). Hi-jinks and hilarity ensues as the aliens try to find out as much as they can about their captives whilst also learning about human sexual relations…

Spaced Out is a fun feature to watch and an interesting comedic counterpoint to Warren’s earlier sexploitation films, Loving Feeling and Her Private Hell, which are more serious and downbeat in their tone. After turning down work for fear of being pigeon holed as a director, Warren was persuaded to take on the picture which was originally a script entitled S.E.C.K, standing for Close Encounters of the Sexual Kind. Eventually re-titled, the picture was released in August 1979 as Outer Touch, a title perfectly encompassing the major theme of the film (the film became known as Spaced Out after Miramax picked the feature up at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival for US distribution, where it was re-cut and given new music and voiceovers).Whilst the aliens are completely out of touch and new to human sexual practices, the human characters themselves are also at a total loss with each other. Ross and Stokes are a frigid couple struggling to find a happy medium (‘When we’re married Ollie, you can have it as much as you want… On Saturday nights anyway’ ), Rowlatt is the experienced older man who thinks he can handle women and Maiden is the teenager who has yet to touch anything other than himself (‘I’ve gone blind! They told me it was an old wives tale!’).

The film’s enjoyability is largely thanks to a relatively good cast willing to work with the little luxuries they’ve been given (the spaceship itself, at times, was nothing more than plastic sheeting draped over scaffolding, whilst exterior shots of it travelling through space were shots culled from television series Space 1999). Stokes, Ross and Rowlatt are good in their roles but it’s the rest of the cast that outshines them. The three aliens are terrifically played by Kate Ferguson, Ava Cadell (Confessions of a Window Cleaner) and Glory Annen (Felicity, Prey). Each really make the role their own with defined personalities in a film type which, lets face it, doesn’t really ask for much. The real stand-out is Tony Maiden as Willy, whose teenage virgin is in fact ‘the most advanced body in the universe’. Full of one-liners that the other characters could sometimes do with, Maiden becomes the hero of the entire film, enlightening all three of his alien captors. Special mention also goes to Bill Mitchell as the voice of the ships Wurlitzer, an exasperated sex therapist that you can’t help but feel sorry for.

A marvellous counterpart to Warren’s earlier sexploitation films, Spaced Out is deserving of its status as a cult classic which may look slightly dated but has humour that still translates today.

Back To School – John D Lamond’s ‘The ABC Of Love and Sex: Australia Style’ (1978)

1 Sep

Australian director John D. Lamond, fresh from having recently shot the mondo-style documentary Australia After Dark, found himself in the difficult territory of coming up with a second feature in the late 1970s. And so, having done the sexploitation documentary, moved directly onto the next logical step, in the guise of an ‘educational’ sexploitation flick. Step forward 1978 release The ABC Of Love and Sex: Australia Style, an adult softcore, sex-ed picture exploring every aspect of human sexuality.

And ABC literally is what it says on the tin. Opening with a sweet stop motion animation of a teacher running through sex education with his students, the picture goes from A is for anatomy through to C for contraception (‘the tool of permissive society’), H for homosexuality and even R is for rape. Each letter is followed up with a cutesy vignette exploring the scenario with some lightly erotic scenes and a few good-looking actors, through animation, naughty dialogue, situation segments and porn. Oh, and some large inflatable contraceptive pills, genitals and building blocks for good measure.

It’s a testament to the efforts of Lamond in trying to make the film a slightly different type of sexploitation picture that ABC manages to still feel fresh thirty years later. It does provide some sexy, if not softcore, moments whilst delivering some genuinely interesting facts and figures about human sexuality that, whilst may now be somewhat dated, are revelatory to people who maybe haven’t cared to look at sex with that much depth before. Throw in a Swedish professor providing some psychosexual insight and the odd, borderline hardcore scene (shot in Sweden when Lamond went there to blow up Australia After Dark from 16mm to 35mm and initially cut from the original release) and you have a tongue-in-cheek sexploitation documentary that has a really sweet charm to it.

‘Australia After Dark’ (1975) review

23 Aug
Like mondo-style documentaries? How about art culture and history? Socio-politics perhaps? What about a few nude and topless women? If you answered yes to a majority of those questions, then Ozsploitation classic Australia After Dark is a must see feature for you.

 Originally released in 1975, the film was heavily censored for the British public losing twelve minutes of running time, but now available uncut it is well worth seeking out. With an introduction to Australia that is very Meyeresque in both editing and writing, narrator Hayes Gordon shows us the dark side of the country, exclaiming that ‘it won’t all be beautiful – but its true!’.

And if it’s all true, its certainly interesting! Witness some beautiful shots of the Outback and Ayers Rock juxtaposed with a riverboat restaurant that serves deep-fried witchetty grub (wriggling first in the batter and then in the hot oil – gross!) and snake. Handily for viewers, it also gives you a recipe for cooking snake meat, you know, in case you ever want to try it… If that scene doesn’t bring your food up, the next one might – Madame Lashe’s boudoir. Sounds hot, but is actually a back street, S&M house party with overweight guests cavorting in bondage gear. A slightly cringe worthy scene but one that provides the best line of dialogue in the entire flick, ‘Look at that rack, you don’t see craftsmanship like that these days’. He’s talking about an MDF frame guys…

Sleaze aside, John D. Lamond‘s mondo-style doc follows standards set by Italian 1962 release Mondo Cane. Shot on location, Lamond really travels around Australia making sure we see the neon lit broadwalks of Kings Cross, the highly homosexually populated Perth (the films words, not mine) and Sydney, alongside Aborigine colonies in the Outback. Cue some genuinely interesting moments which explore the plight of Aborigines and their way of living (infant mortality, for instance, is a big problem).

 

Australia After Dark has a bit of a disjointed and manic tone to it which works although does feel somewhat flawed (moments of historical interest next to staged, terribly un-erotic scenes of foreplay). Having said that, it’s a fantastic piece of work which tries to encompass the country as a whole and certainly shows a slightly darker side to the land Down Under…

Gravity’s Rainbow – Willy Roe’s ‘Confessions From The David Galaxy Affair’ (1979)

8 Aug

Teaming up again with director Willy Roe (Playbirds), producer and porn mag mogul David Sullivan released Confessions From The David Galaxy Affair onto the British public in 1979. Starring the ever popular and bankable pornography model and personality Mary Millington (this would be her third film collaboration with Sullivan), the feature also starred Rosemary England (aka Jada Smith) and a whole heap of actors from across Britain’s film (Diana Dors, Anothony Booth) and television (Glynn Edwards, Kenny Lynch) comedy board.

The film see’s playboy astrologer David Galaxy (Alan Lake) having to provide the police with an alibi for a robbery that took place five years earlier. Along the way we get to meet his clientle of bed conquests, including a high society gal who’s never had an orgasm (Millington), a secretive MP and a busty beauty queen (England). Things don’t quite go to plan for Galaxy and he’s eventually sent to prison at the end of the film. Not necessarily a bad thing as Galaxy is a narcissistic pig of a character who is impossible to like.

And that’s, sadly, pretty much it. Advertised as being ‘nearly two hours of non-stop porno’, there’s actually not an awful lot to Confessions in both story or sex (it is a British sex film, obviously I was keeping tabs on the raunchy stuff) but it’s a damn sight better than earlier release Playbirds which was a successful, if not entirely dire, film. Sadly for Sullivan, the public didn’t quite feel the same way as before. Clearly hoping for a hat trick of successes, Sullivan had to deal with a rapid tail off of box office takings after only a few days release. Millington was even called down to the Eros Cinema in Piccadilly Circus (where the film had premiered) to do urgent photo calls for publicity boosting but the film only lasted two months, a massive disappointment considering the success of Sullivan’s Come Play With Me. The film was even re-titled and re-released in 1980 under Star Sex in a bid to capitalise on Millington’s death and recoup some of the budget. Not even the connotations to the very successful Confessions of… franchise in the original title could draw in an audience, the new title fared no differently.

Which is a shame because the film is a bit of a rough gem. Alan Lake is manically fantastic as David Galaxy (probably due to being drunk on set), clearly enjoying himself in a role which was made for him. Tigon, the pictures distributer, heavily publicised Lake’s role in the film in a big to appeal to a female audience as well, but Lake is hardly beefcake material. Millington is however as wooden as ever. Whilst she is certainly better in this then she is in Come Play With Me, the lady was never going to be an actress no matter how hard she tried. Having said that, there is a slither of promise in her performance. If she hadn’t died, who knows where she would have gone with it. Sullivan’s new protegé Rosemary England is beautiful, lighting up every shot and giving a relaxed role. A real life successful beauty queen, the film see’s her taking on the role of a booby queen so to speak. England was Sullivan’s new ‘it’ girl for his magazines and frequently appeared alongside Millington in photo shoots, although disappointingly here neither share a scene. The rest of the cast fair relatively well, including veteran actress Diana Dors (Lake’s real-life wife and this time singing the film’s title track), Anthony Booth (who went on to become a close friend of Millington), Queenie Watts and Bernie Winters. Whilst not as bad as Playbirds, there are certainly more films that are far better then Confessions From The David Galaxy Affair. Completest Millington fans should seek it out, lovers of British sex films should stick to more enjoyable titles.

Good Riddance – Francois Leterrier’s ‘Goodbye Emmanuelle’ (1977)

9 Jun

I have come to the conclusion that I must be some kind of masochist, because I still keep forcing myself to sit down and watch Emmanuelle films knowing full well they are going to be terrible. And guess what? Number three in the original French series, Goodbye Emmanuelle, is no different.

Hedonistic, spoilt brat Emmanuelle (a returning Sylvia Kristel, with an absolutely dire hairstyle) and her husband Jean (an also returning Umberto Orsini) are now living their decadent lifestyle of apparent nothingness in the beautiful Seychelles. It has to be said, terrible and monotonous acting and plot aside, the locations are, without a doubt, stunning and director Leterrier makes use of all the areas within the Seychelles islands. It’s just really sad to see such gorgeous locations with a bunch of ugly people dumped in the middle of them. I digress… Emmanuelle and her husband are continuing to live their indulgent lifestyle with a bunch of friends and fellow expats who like to play games too. For this bunch of sex obsessed, two-dimensional people, regular group orgies, arranging play dates for their other halves and ignoring their emotional well-being in its entirety are just part of the usual every day routine.

Enter film director Gregory who Emmanuelle becomes more than a little obsessed and attracted to. Cue a major problem in that, for the first time ever in their relationship, her attraction to somebody else makes Jean incredibly jealous and angry. Gregory initially treats Emmanuelle like a whore, questioning her motives and her feelings, asking her if she really desires and likes the way she lives. Unlike her, he can only love one woman at a time. However the more time they spend  together, the more Emmanuelle wants to be with him with finally culminates in a bitter fight between Gregory and Jean. Emmanuelle eventually decides that she wants to be with Gregory and give up the emptiness of the life she has been living but Jean in a jealous rage, plots to try to keep Emmanuelle all to himself. It doesn’t work and she leaves him, hence the film’s title and the incredibly annoying title track on the film’s soundtrack by Serge Gainsbourg.

Sadly, this is another vapid and incredibly bland entry in the Emmanuelle franchise which, irritatingly, has no decent sex scenes to compensate with. It’s a shame that nothing a little more serious was done with the script or story considering it involves Emmanuelle rejecting a lifestyle so drastically that she spent two movies hyping up so much. But then again, an empty film just mirrors the emptiness of the characters and the story. Yes, they’re all living this incredibly sexy and indulgent lifestyle but none of them are really happy. If this film teaches you anything, it’s that empty sex doesn’t equal a happy life, whether that be in a committed monogamous relationship (I’m not even sure Emmanuelle knows what that means…) or an open orgyfest. Even better, it’s all one big fucking lie. It’s not a goodbye at all, she bloody returns eventually for four more sequels in this franchise alone…

Threshold – Zalman King’s ‘Wild Orchid’ (1989)

1 Jun

From the people who brought you 91/2 Weeks!’ screamed the DVD cover and so, me being gullible me, I bought Zalman King’s Wild Orchid expecting some late 80s erotic romp in a similar vein. What I ended up getting was a late 80s mildly erotic inferior cousin to one of my favourite films of the decade.

Wild Orchid see’s a young expert linguist, Emily Reed (played by Carre Otis), flown out to a new job in Rio De Janeiro the day after her initial interview. Upon her arrival she is instructed by her new boss (Jacqueline Bisset) to take go on a date with a business associate, James Wheeler (Mickey Rourke) in her absence. Reed goes on the date but eventually leaves hastily when someone dressed as Wheeler tries to seduce her. And from there onwards I honestly have no complete idea of what happens in the movie because, quite frankly, it was utterly dire.

Otis’s character Emily clearly has some sort of psychosexual problem in the carnality of human interaction and the idea physical closeness with someone. She has a near panic attack when she witnesses a couple of strangers having animalistic sex in a run-down hotel and gets angry at Wheeler when he encourages a broken married couple to have sex in front of them. Similarly, Wheeler also has issues with getting close to people which culminates in Reed having sex with a stranger at Wheelers encouragement. Funnily enough, none of them enjoy it but Reed realises that this is Wheeler’s way of getting close to people. Fair enough for a story except that the plot is padded out with a background story of the business that threatens to actually become the main storyline of the picture (hence my confusion to what actually happened in the picture…).

My other issue with the film is that there isn’t enough character developement to make neither them as people interesting or what happens between them believable. Reduced to a fifty minute short, completely focused on Reed and Wheeler, with more emotional weight and the film would probably be a fair rival to 91/2 Weeks (which director Zalman King wrote and produced). Instead, Otis plays Reed as a sexually neurotic young woman without giving any reason to her behaviour and Rourke plays Wheeler as an incredibly arrogant and one-dimensional bland stereotype. Even when we do find out why he acts the way he does, it’s so predictable that it has barely any redeeming value for his character. What is most surprising is the complete lack of chemistry between the two on-screen given that during filming the two leads became a couple and subsequently got married. Even that infamous sex scene at the very end of the film (often wrongly cited as unsimulated, both parties have said they weren’t having actual sex) seems incredibly mechanical and lacks any real excitement.

As for them riding off into the sunset as a happy couple in the closing moments, don’t try to fool me. She’ll still be incredibly neurotic and he’ll end up pushing her away when she disappoints him. He even says that he’s played games for so long he doesn’t know if he can ever stop. Comparisons to 91/2 Weeks will continue and it’s easy to see why. Truth is that Weeks is actually a far more superior and intelligent film, genuinely exploring human sexual interaction and the consequences that can arise from pairings of opposite people. Wild Orchid is simply a bloated attempt to create something and cash in on it.

Flavour Of The Week – Ilias Mylonakos’s ‘Emanuelle’s Sweet Revenge’ (1980)

30 May

Whilst the term ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ is a pretty solid and correct statement, sometimes I feel that it should really be ‘Don’t always judge a book by its cover but there may be one or two that you really should’. In this case, the latter statement can be quite easily applied to Ilias Mylonakos’s 1980 release Emanuelle’s Sweet Revenge aka Emanuelle’s Daughter (its actually Emanuelle’s step-daughter) aka Emanuelle, Queen Bitch (relatively accurate) aka Sexy Moon (just go straight to trading standards on this one, there is no moon…). What sounds like a sexy thriller is actually a wet blanket of a sexploitation film and one of the worst entries in the Black Emanuelle film franchise.

In fact, it’s slightly debatable whether or not it can be considered a Black Emanuelle film. Whilst it stars the always present Laura Gemser in the lead role, on a few occasions during the picture she is referred to as Emanuella and is married which seems completely out of character considering we all know what Emanuelle likes to get up to… Still, the film finds Emanuelle married to a really horrible, abusive older man who owns an orange factory. After being brutally assaulted by her husband and his co-workers, she persuades a stranger (through sex, obviously) to kill him and she eventually inherits his estate and becomes legal guardian to his moody teenage daughter Livia (Livia Russo).

Simple story which played out well could be full of erotic tension but instead plays out like a bloated village idiot trying to be sexy when everyone else is watching uncomfortably. The stranger Emanuelle hired to kill her husband follows her around and becomes interested in Livia, except that he has sex with pretty much every woman he meets. Not much tension going on there. Emanuelle gets it on with one of her late husbands friends in a rather predictable and very obvious piece of story development and everyone else wanders around trying to work out whether they signed up for a sleazy thriller or a piece of pure sleaze. Even the idea of Emanuelle trying to screw over her husband by selling off and changing his established business seems a bit silly, there’s not much punishment a dead man can get through that. There does, however, appear to be some potential audience tension in the fact that Russo looks incredibly young (we’re talking pre-pubescent) and her character appears topless, has a sex scene and gets raped. The version I have appears to be cut as none of this was present in the feature I watched but be warned if you buy this under a different title or uncut. The idea of watching what sounds like a young teenager getting exploited isn’t one that appeals much and one that I had hoped the Emanuelle series wouldn’t have stooped down to (then again, we do have the horse masturbation scene inEmanuelle in America…).

Extended sex scenes are great (and if its one thing this film has, it’s longer sex scenes than some others had at the time) but they ain’t so hot when you end up seeing some blokes squashed scrotum. The best revenge for that is avoiding this crap installment and seeking out the better Emanuellefilms instead.