Now it’s time to venture into new territory.
Like the short lived “roughie” that succeeded the “nudie” craze of the late 1950’s and early 60’s, New York based Avon Films was noted for its ostensibly more “problematic” forays into S&M and just plain rough sex territory. So those who frown upon this sort of thing, go click on another review onsite right now – this may turn a tad unpleasant.
Known for launching the career of Phil Prince (and according to some sources, another, more contentious director*), Avon tended to feature no name performers and a stock crew of regulars whose predilections or circumstances led them to consent to appear in material somewhat outside the norm, even for 70’s porn.
*The director in question claims to have no involvement with Avon whatsoever beyond some of his films playing their theater at 42nd Street, and suggests that sources claiming otherwise are invalid. As I’m neither personally familiar with or interested in serving as mouthpiece to someone else’s opinions or statements, I leave it to the more seasoned hardcore historian to settle that one.
A step up from stag reels and loops, these productions were nonetheless brief and to the point, with few even running to an hour’s airtime. They were shot indoors and in basements, and the aesthetic tends towards the grotty, the single camera setup, the master shot. There’s a hint of even seedier urban legend territory to the look and feel here, though the presence of occasional names (C.J. Laing, Annie Sprinkle, Vanessa Del Rio, et al) should set the nervous mind at ease – it’s pure spectacle, albeit in a very Stan Borden/Michael and Roberta Findlay/Joseph P. Mawra fashion. You almost want to insert an “it’s a New York thing, you wouldn’t understand” here.
So there’s a homely girl (Nicole Bernard) lounging around in a Tarzan outfit, beneath a framed print of Nastassja Kinski (remember that poster with the snake?). Some guy literally says “ding dong” in falsetto, and in walk two bonebreakers (David Christopher with the ‘stache and scrawny Dan Stephens in the gym socks) – the “Savage Sadists” of the title who avail themselves of her dubious charms to the tune of some really bad Sex Pistols imitators. Seriously, this is some of the sorriest punk rock ever recorded…
Meanwhile, husband Martin Patton is yelling repetitive nonsense at phone callers at his dingy car sales office style job, while an overweight reject from Rocky Horror (with Roseann Roseannadanna hair besides) acts as secretary. “What’d I tell ya about wearing clothes like that around here?” This guy’s mustachio must be seen to be believed – he must’ve been a hit at the leather bar, that’s for sure!
I guess Columbia there isn’t so bad in a young Lydia Lunch sort of way, but sheesh, that hairdo…and did she frost her pubes? Seriously, there are bleach blonde ones mixed in there…(rolls eyes in disbelief)
So our Drescher hit by the ugly stick from the opening scenes shows up right when hubby and friend finish doing the Time Warp, and repeats variants of “what the Hell’s go-win’ awn? Can you explain this,” over and over until the heavies show up. We get to see a Boris Vallejo calendar, and get informed that hubby is actually a porn producer, with an X-style bondage device right in office. Sure.
They conveniently discover an actual attractive member of the cast (Shock! Horror! How can this be?) – a vaguely Hispanic Daphne Zuniga type in a lacy black teddy who’s apparently been laying on the floor throughout all of this (talk about deus ex machina) and strap her onto it. This means our heroin-teeth gym socks pal gets to talk more ridiculous roughie jibber jabber and lightly fiddle with a dime store cat o’ nine tails before setting her free and returning to more typical hardcore territory. She also seems to really enjoy all of this, which kind of blows any pretense of roughness or non-consensualness…
Our mustachioed “muscle” enjoys himself enough to put his gun down…well, ok, very obviously right over his head to where our porn magnate has been hiding, and the two are summarily dismissed from the office. “My hero,” his homely wife says with a kiss, as Prince inserts some juvenile if strangely appropriate fart noises as commentary. The End.
Next up, the exact same cast shows up at the local bar, and it’s a strange one. There’s no hard liquor to be sold, despite the cherry and mahogany bar setup and smoked glass mirrors – instead they “serve” dinner on the bar…and I’m sure you can guess what’s on the menu at this ersatz eatery.
When I say everyone returns, I do mean everyone – our Gilda Radner goes Rocky Horror and the Zuniga of the fried ice cream circuit are back as well, with the former’s awful ‘do more under control and the latter looking a tad Apollonia Kotero this time around.
Patton the porn producer is still making weird faces, but at least this time he’s got justification. She’s pretty smokin’, particularly with that bottom end… Did I mention the fart noises are back as well? Must’ve been a laugh riot among the pervs down the Deuce…
So after our couples finish up, they head to the dining room area of this “Den of Dominance”, where Scrawny O’ Yellowtooth and Gilda’s Club are putting on a mild S&M show. Essentially, he goes around in Manowar gear and talks dirty while giving the odd paddle for punctuation. Somehow, this awkward display of public abuse turns everyone on, and both couples start going at it. It’s brief and not particularly erotic, there’s one last fart joke, and it’s all over.
Finally, we come to the odd duck of the bunch. You can tell something’s changed in tone right away, with its slow introductory pan over the Williamsburg Bridge set to an eerie soundtrack of howling wind.
Two rather Dixie fried chicks for a film shot in NYC are sitting around a bedroom boasting a poster of Scott Baio and another of Miss Piggy (of all detestable characters), flipping through some sleazy fetish mag. This apparently “turns them on”, so they start getting it on.
You can tell which way they’re going to swing by the prominent male gym socks, short cropped hair and nasty tattoos, but do we have to endure the ridiculous sub-Adam Sandler baby talk (picture the phrase “oh, that feels so good” as delivered by Baby Snooks, and you’ll get the idea)? It’s pretty painful on both the eyes and the ears…
After sufficient time has been wasted, our heroin(e)s decide to call one of those numbers in the back of their sleazy magazine, and some horny guy actually shows up at their place. After a closeup of Baio’s face, the poor sap (well, go-o-lee, it’s our pal David Christopher again) shows up and has a fairly standard menage a trois with the duo for another 15 minutes. But then they very pointedly convince him to take a nap (seriously, like you wouldn’t be suspicious), which allows them to get him on that same damn bondage apparatus from the office in Savage Sadists…
Things finally get kinky in the last third of the final picture on the set, which could be a good or bad thing depending on your orientation to this sort of material. But even this sort of thing gets thrown a curveball, when the (very New Yawk) “parents” of our two lez-leanin’ Southern gals show up, park everyone in front of the Nastassja Kinski print from Savage Sadists, and push matters into My Sinful Life territory.
Of course, our schlub friend still comes out on the worse end of the stick, winding up having to service a rather scary middle aged yenta who delivers lines like “I love it…beautiful, nice and deep” like she’s reciting the grocery list.
oh, geez…I shoulda never put that ad in Goldstein’s weekly rag…
Considering the reputation and focus of Avon Pictures, I’d assumed these would be far more grim and unpleasant than they actually are – while Costello seems to tread darker waters, Prince leavens his material with some distinctly lowbrow humor, and the regular cast members seem to be having a big laugh out of all of these onscreen shenanigans, at least in his pair of productions.
It’s hardly lighthearted family fun, but all things considered, this trio of sub-40m loops are simply not as bad as some more mainstream cult films out there, particularly nowadays…
Of course, the surprises aren’t all on the pleasant side.
Visually speaking, you’re lucky if these were shot on Super 8, so don’t expect a typical Vinegar Syndrome restoration here. Knowing the company (and how bad this sort of thing can get in terms of transfers), this is probably the best these bad reputation 42nd and B’way classic(k)s will ever look. But make no mistake: they’re still pretty nasty looking.
And if we’re talking Avon films, don’t expect shiny, happy, upbeat material…whatever its merits or lack thereof, there’s just no bones about it: this is the scummiest of New York lensed hardcore.
You may enjoy these near-amateur glimpses at some behind the scenes doings from back in the heyday of Times Square sleaze – I certainly found them entertaining on that level, and not half so nasty as their reputation would lead one to believe. But make no mistake – these are strictly view at your own risk.