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“Well, what are you doing here?  It’s a little Decadent for your taste, isn’t it?”

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Jamie Gillis is a corporate raider whose allegiance to satan is a bit more obvious than your average all for me, fuck all of you right-leaning Objectivist-Social Darwinist venture capitalist type.  Or is it?

Who the hell knows.  Read on.

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The by all accounts good hearted funnyman Bobby Astyr works his sleazier side as Gillis’ half brother Larry, a rather Charles Cioffi in Shaftlike paisano wiseguy sort whose idea of “helping out” is bringing the guy to peep on some, again surprisingly, pretty damn good looking disciples of Sappho (cute short haired Alexis X and the iffier but quite Mediterranean-featured Sabrina Vale) and beefy domme Melissa Strong before putting a few random characters to bed for good.

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Did I mention that the guy wandering around during most of the early part of the film (George Payne) likes to go semi-drag like a cast member of Rocky Horror and do weird pseudo-satanic rituals, complete with Bach organ accompaniment and a whole hell of a lot of dry ice, with the same (now seemingly deceased) biker bar stripper (Nicole Bernard, cleverly credited as “Dancer”) Astyr was ogling earlier, before acting as a sort of used car dealer for souls in hell?

And just how the hell are Vanessa Del Rio and Kelly Nichols involved in all of this nonsense?

Don’t ask me.  It’s all very Renato Polselli at best.

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As you can probably guess from all this, the film really doesn’t make a damn bit of sense.

A surreal, half-formed metaphysical treatise that manages to simultaneously evokes a very palpable sensation of dread and a languid, immanent eroticism best exemplified by the surprisingly sexy early sequence with the decidedly average looking Tanya Lawson (whose “girl in blue (corset and thigh highs)” delivers a very sensual dirty talk and self-pleasuring bit).

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While many of the ladies involved, Lawson very much inclusive, are hardly the most aesthetic of distaff hardcore performers*, Watkins manages to deliver the sort of up close and intimate experience rarely encountered in adult film: namely a real world sensuality unafraid to utilize imperfect partners or often quite vanilla acts, whose very sexiness is part and parcel of such fantasylessness.

* “Girl in red” Marilyn Gee bears a rather masculine homeliness, “girl in black” Tish Ambrose, no real looker herself, sports an unusually well lit and prominent degree of cellulite, Nicole Bernard is a rather low rent if not butch “Dancer” and Tiffany Clark’s Doreen is an awkwardly lanky, droopy assed Jennifer Garner wannabe – hardly Vivid vixen material, so to speak.  But it’s this very fact that makes the film work, and with Watkins’ direction and Larry Revene’s cinematography keeping things up close and personal, sensual as all get out.

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To put a finer point on it, the sex looks and feels real, the talk unforced and less deliberate line reading than the spontaneous communication of lovers.  In many ways, it puts even Spinelli and Metzger to shame in its very rawness, realism and underlying grimness.  The illusion of, and close relation to, real life and real world sex is quite eye opening and, perhaps only Spinelli aside, unique in the annals of hardcore.

For a reviewer with whom aesthetics (both of framing and locale and performers per se) and atmosphere rank above all else, it’s a truly strange sensation to admit that a film peopled with quite so many average if not (visually speaking) subpar performers on the distaff end was one of the more palpably tactile and erotic adult films I’ve viewed to date – particularly when coupled with the fact that so many sequences go unconsummated or only take the performers (and thus the viewer by extension) half the way.

It’s more frustrating than the oft maligned “softcore” film, in that this is clearly supposed to be porn, right down to the casting of performers rarely if ever seen outside of its confines.

And yet…

Sure, some scenes just don’t work.

Definitely, all this trippy hallucinatory business has a tendency to fall flat, and while inferences can be made, none of it really makes a shit’s worth of sense to any rational human being.

While there is a kink or two being explored herein, most of this is pretty vanilla.

And perhaps most damningly, aside from a non-performing Samantha Fox (who cameos very early on as a bored receptionist in an abandoned building’s sub basement), the aforementioned Alexis X, Toolbox Murders cutie Kelly Nichols and the fleshy but ever sexy Vanessa Del Rio, the ladies range from average to downright ugly.

But yet and still…the film works.  It’s often intensely erotic, and grim if not horribly bleak throughout – even when it’s at its most sensual.  In many ways, you can tell it was directed by the same guy responsible for the uber-dark Last House on Dead End Street.

But with the lighting and cinematography Revene brings to the table, Watkins’ own very in your face direction and framing and Process Blue’s typically crisp, Criterion-level print restoration, this may easily be one of the hottest films Vinegar Syndrome has released to date.

The only extra you’ll find easily is a brief interview with cameraman Revene, but if you’re both stubborn and of a darker bent (there is a reasonably easily gleaned formula to locate and unlock it), you’ll find included a surprise bonus feature, soon to be restored to full Vinegar Syndrome-quality as its own standalone release (but which is here in a perfectly acceptable for an unlisted extra Something Weird-style “grindhouse” transfer).

Nuff said.

You have the necessary facts at your disposal now to make your own decisions, but for my part, I’d say it’s a pretty easy one.

 

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