Harry Reems channels his inner Gable and the briefly appearing, uncredited Carol Lott her best Harlow for this nicely photographed 1940’s period piece.
The attention to period authentic detail is admirable, from Reems’ Brylcreemed hair, spaghetti strap T and sock suspenders to the big band swing of the opening credits (though they do muff things up a tad by using 1920’s art deco title cards). Fancy, smoky clubs with cigarette girls and pinstripe suits provide an appropriate backdrop and offer a chance for folks like Steve Drake the chance to use their acting chops a bit.
Ginger Lynn, long known to fans of the cult cinema of Rick Sloane to be a fair enough “mainstream” actress when called upon, pulls off a respectable ingenue cum replacement moll here, with the foul mouthed, pouty Amber Lynn the hard bitten gangster moll who breaks her in and Reems really storming the floorboards as the infamous gangster Dutch Schultz.
All three are eyebrow-raisingly good here – anyone doubting the thespian skills of some of these hardcore stars and starlets are advised to check out their work herein, you’ll find yourself quite surprised at what a few folks here are capable of.
Tom Byron pops up as newsboy cum stud for hire, the now infamous Marc Wallice as a boxing trainer (of all things for a scrawny SOB like him!) and Francois Papillon as his slightly more believable would-be contender. Bunny Bleu is Reems’ maid, and Herschel Savage offers a fairly strong performance himself as jailed rival gangster “Big Louie” – nowhere near as strong as the aforementioned trio of Reems and the Mmes Lynn, mind, but still far more competent than any of the other folks just mentioned. No one really falls flat or embarrasses themselves here, which is admittedly quite unusual in the world of hardcore.
The story isn’t really the focus here – what makes the film work is the (generally well written for the genre) dialogue and sumptuous visuals. But it still feels that what passes for a plot (outside of the pure characterization element, which they did certainly attempt to address with even throwaway minor characters) is rather lacking – Dutch trades up women, has his favorite moll “break in the new girl” and ostensibly patches up a rivalry with Big Louie.
In other words, nothing really happens, but when 2/3 of what makes a mainstream film work are as well addressed as this within the world of porno, you have to cut some slack. I’m calling it a win.
Sets are well dressed with a strong eye towards avoidance of anachronism, the stars sport the proper couteure and they even dug up vintage cars for exterior scenes – these guys really went all out. Director Steve Scott and cinematographer Tom Howard have a real eye for this stuff, balancing some rather intimate, close focus prurience with well shot, mainstream cinema-style mise en scene, with appropriate setups, transitions and visual flair.
Did we mention they actually bothered to write a proper script that runs more than a crumpled half of a cocktail napkin, and one clearly informed by a good working knowledge of the cinema of the era being evoked? It’s as impressive as hell, even trumping Anthony Spinelli’s loveable Dixie Ray, Hollywood Star and Bob Chinn’s Sadie in striving for nigh-total authenticity of feel.
Blonde-oriented hardcore fans of this era should be ecstatic to find both Lynns and Bunny Bleu together in the same picture (and at times in the same scenes), and the acting, particularly of the aforementioned trio of leads and to a lesser but still notable extent Savage, is surprisingly good. There’s an often meticulous attention to period detail and setting, and the picture itself, especially given the usual Vinegar Syndrome restoration treatment, is absolutely gorgeous.
What’s not to love?
The disc comes with an hour long loop “Coming West” by the same director/cinematographer team, and as expected, it’s pretty sumptuous looking, vibrant and quite in your face in terms of the prurient end of the spectrum. Three girls (a blonde who looks like a younger, skinnier Jennifer Welles, a pale brunette and a cute brown haired girl blessed with one hell of a bottom end) go off on a road trip and fantasize about being in the Old West.
In the same vein as Inn of the Damned or A Knife for the Ladies, this is tapping into the mid-70’s obsession for grotty 1800’s Americana ala Little House on the Prairie and the boring “modern day” sections of David Carradine’s Kung Fu, but you probably won’t care when the ladies doff their silly period petticoats and bloomers and start using what God gave ’em. Not bad at’all for a bonus “short”.
You also have the option to rewatch the main feature in the company of either cinematographer Tom Howard or Herschel Savage himself, so those so inclined, have at it.
You probably don’t need me to spell out how I felt about this one. Yeah, it could’ve been longer, there definitely could’ve been more of a plot and it wouldn’t hurt to have fleshed these characters out more.
But for the type of film this is, in the genre it’s marketed to?
This Lady isn’t all that Trashy…she’s impressive as shit.