Sunday, January 27, 2019

Lilith Likes to Watch - Abigail Lesley is Back In Town

Title: Abigail Lesley is Back In Town
Year: 1975
Starring: Rebecca Brooke, Sarah Nicolson, Anne Keel
Director: Joseph W. Sarno
Synopsis: A seductive woman who left her small fishing town long ago, after being caught with another woman's husband, returns to shake up the place by seducing everyone, including the woman and her girlfriends.
Why it is Notable: It co-stars Rebecca Brooke

I posit that Rebecca Brooke was one of the most beautiful women to ever work in 70's erotic film. Possibly the second most beautiful woman. I have my personal favourite but that's a subject for a different review.

In my review of The Image, I praised at length Brooke's ability to communicate a lot of ideas and feelings in her expressions. She was acting the hell out of that role. Here, she's mealy-mouthed and her jaw is constantly hanging open like a gawping fish.

This movie had Brooke open-mouth fish gawping at every damn moment.

I blame the director. What's worse is that misdirecting Brooke is only one of his numerous crimes.

The characters have no connection to each other. There's no chemistry among any of them. The acting is both bland and over the top, and one character is a flat out cartoon.

Abigail Lesley herself was an aggravating creature. She didn't have an ounce of sex appeal. She had resting stink-face and looked annoyed with everyone and everything. Again, I'm not sure if it was the director's fault or the actress, but it wasn't a good time.

Finally, I wasn't expecting soft core, but that's what I got. The sex was perfunctory and dull, and half of it was off-screen.

However, this movie does have two shining moments, both brought to us by Rebecca Brooke. One is a scene where Brooke's character begins to cry while masturbating. She's wracked with sobs, and these wounded little squeaks escape her throat.

The second is when Abigail Lesley is going down on her. She's in such ecstatic, laughing joy that Brooke totally steals the scene.

Here are the scenes. The timestamps are 1:01:55 and 1:13:15. I've saved you over an hour and a half of your life. You're welcome.

I am loathe to give this movie a rating of 1.5, but I don't believe in giving anything lower than a 1, and those two scenes I mentioned deserve to be recognized and rewarded.

But really, fuck this movie. Boring soap-opera masquerading as porn. And the worst thing a film can be is boring.


NEXT TIME: Now's as good a time as any to examine Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Lilith Likes to Watch - Double Feature! Showgirls & Gia

Welcome to the very first Lilith Likes to Watch Double Feature, wherein I take two movies that are similar in some way and talk about them. For this illustrious occasion I've chosen very special movies. One is an infamous skin-flick that made us laugh in shock and awe. The other is a little known time capsule of a famous woman's life. I hope you enjoy...

Title: Showgirls
Year: 1995
Starring: Elizabeth Berkley, Gina Gershon, Kyle MacLachlan
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Synopsis: Nomi, a young drifter, arrives in Las Vegas to become a dancer and soon sets about clawing and pushing her way to become the top of the Vegas showgirls. - Via IMDB
Why it is Notable: It is the highest grossing NC-17 film of all time.

"You can't touch me, but I can touch you. And I'd really like to touch you."

Ah, fame. Many want it, few people will achieve it. Movies love to tell tales about the rise and fall and resurrection of famous people. Porn and skin-flicks are no different.

Perhaps the most famous-slash-infamous erotic tale of a rising starlet is Showgirls, the 1995 Elizabeth Berkley vehicle, directed by social satirist filmmaker Paul Verhoeven. I was a young teen when this movie came out and holy shit did I want to see it. Jessie Spano in a porno?! Yes, please. I had to see it, I had to see how excited and scared she was. (Jokes only 90's kids would get.)

It has been stated that Showgirls is an extreme morality tale, only, it can't be, when your main character is never really moral.

Nomi Malone is a tough, street-wise girl who sets her sights on being a dancer in the on Las Vegas' greatest stage. She's a bitch to everyone, is constantly told she's the best dancer when all she does is kind of flail about, and has the kind of ideas of  sexy that a 12 year old boy who's never seen a boobie might find sexy. And Gina Gershon is extremely hot in it, nobody eye-fucks like Gina Gershon.

I think a case can be made that this is really Crystal Conner's morality tale, we just sort of came in too late and on the wrong focus.

Crystal Conners was a poor girl subsisting on cat food who came to Vegas with dreams of stardom. Eventually she pushed her rival down the stairs and became the star of the show. The thing is, Crystal Conners has small beats of being a genuine person, empathetic, understanding. In fact, Nomi was unnecessarily hostile to Crystal when they first met. Nomi has to be an idiot to think that what she does at the strip club and what the showgirls do with a multi-million dollar production are the same thing.

Crystal sees Nomi as a threat and also as an object of desire and something to control. She sends Nomi to whore herself to some rich businessmen, thereby proving that she's fallen even farther from the sweet country girl she used to be. When she breaks her hip after Nomi pushes her, she realizes that she had figuratively and literally fallen too far and got what she deserved.

By contrast, everything Nomi does is a flat plain. She's the exact same throughout the entire movie. She doesn't grow or change or have a character arc. When she pushes Crystal down the steps we're not shocked because That's Our Nomi.

But, remember how I said this was directed by Paul Verhoeven? The man who directed Robocop, a wacky take on American culture, and hyper-violence normalized, and Starship Troopers which satirized propaganda and pro-war gusto? He probably went into this movie thinking "What if we watch a girl's rise to fame, only the girl is a god damned psychopath?" Sort of like that assessment that people high up on the corporate ladder have psychopathic tendencies, but transplant it to a Las Vegas act.

Let's make the sexy unsexy, let's make the protagonist the antagonist, let's make everyone a vile human being and let's make the innocent get raped.

Because, yeah, that happens.

I think through this lens, Showgirls kind of works, but that doesn't make it a good movie. On the other hand, if you have to explain the joke, you either haven't told the joke correctly, or the joke just sucks.

As for me? I find this movie to be a fun, guilty pleasure. It's a cultural touchstone in porn, one I was actually alive for. I get to say "I was there."

As a tale of a girl with big dreams in a big city, reaching for the moon and landing among the stars, it fails. This is the erotic version of "Get a bunch of friends and beer and watch it."

If you want a movie that more or less succeeds at the same tale, do I have a suggestion for you...


Title: Gia
Year: 1998
Starring: Angelia Jolie, Mercedes Ruehl, Faye Dunaway, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mila Kunis
Director: Michael Cristofer
Synopsis: The story of the life of Gia Carangi, a top fashion model from the late 1970s, from her meteoric rise to the forefront of the modeling industry, to her untimely death. - Via IMDB
Why it is Notable: Essential viewing for any fan of Angelina Jolie

"I do be the piddiest, piddiest girl, I do be dat."

I came across Gia one night while channel surfing. Suddenly a girl was pressed naked against a fence, having a photoshoot, and the shot was black and white. The girl was familiar to me, but I couldn't place her. Near the end of the movie I realized who it was.

It was a young Angelina Jolie. I was glued to the screen.

On my 19th birthday I bought the DVD. I have watched this film countless times.

Gia is the riveting biopic of Gia Marie Carangi, a street-wise girl who's natural beauty helps her become one of most famous American supermodels of the 70's and 80's. Through the movie we delve into her insecurities, her succumbing to pressure, her inability to cope with pain. She's surrounded by cruelty and enablers, and sinks further and further down into addiction.Yet, she still manages to retain a sliver of her good heart, even when she's betraying those she loves and love her. Wounded innocence weaves its way throughout the film.

It has a sweet, sensual f/f love scene and some great acting. Some interesting editing choices are really impactful, like during the segment featuring an argument between Gia and her mother. There are heart-wrenching moments that don't linger on the event but rather show the aftermath and somehow that makes it more horrific.

Then again, I'm biased because Gia is probably one of my top 20 favourite movies, erotic or not, and it's certainly in my top 5 erotic films, soft-core, hard-core or otherwise.


NEXT TIME: Hey, the neighbourhood ladies are all abuzz because Abigail Lesley Is Back in Town.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Lilith Likes to Watch - Cafe Flesh

Title: Cafe Flesh
Year: 1982
Starring: Andy Nichols, Paul McGibboney, Michelle Bauer
Director: Stephen Sayadian, Mark S. Esposito
Synopsis: In the aftermath of nuclear apocalypse, 99% of the survivors are Sex Negatives - they become violently ill if they attempt it. The minority Sex Positives engage in carnal theater for the entertainment of the Negatives at Cafe Flesh. - Via IMDB/Wikipedia
Why it is Notable: Winner of the 84 AVN for best Art Direction. Richard Belzer from SVU is in it. Yes, really.

"Our humble spectacle just might be able to almost make you feel..."

There are two things that really get my goat. When a piece of entertainment bores me, or when a premise is introduced but they fail to execute it to it's full potential. Cafe Flesh falls into that second category.

This movie begins with a wonderful idea. After a nuclear holocaust, most of the survivors are Sex Negatives, meaning they get sick if they try and fuck. The Sex Positives are forced to perform for the Negatives in Cafe Flesh.

Lana and her boyfriend, Nick, are both Negatives who frequent Cafe Flesh, their friend Angel is discovered to be a Positive and his whisked away to perform, despite being a virgin. Meanwhile Moms, the owner of Cafe Flesh, has a crush on Nick and, surprise, Lana is actually a Positive.
Also meanwhile, a famous Positive named Johnny Rico is coming to the cafe. Angel discovers she loves sex, Lana is seduced to the stage and is fucked by Johnny Rico for the enjoyment of the crowd while Nick is cast out into the wasteland.
Did I mention that people dress up as anthropomorphic rat-milkmen and pencils and fuck in elaborate burlesque shows?
Also, Richard Belzer from Law & Order: SVU is here.

Doesn't that sound fantastic?!

The pieces are all there: Dominance, submission, control, voyeurism, helplessness, exhibitionism, style, musical numbers, furries, a post-apocalypse, costumes, sets, roleplay, objectophilia...

And somehow, it just didn't work for me. It should have, my final score even implies I liked it more than I did, but it just sort of went in one ear and out the other with me.

The worst part is that this movie had me with its opening. The film starts with Max, the host of the show, welcoming all to the show. I love Max. He's just the sort of sleaze that I'm cool with. The show would be lesser without him and he knows it, so he chews the scenery while he's on stage because he can. Then, the first act starts. A single mother with thee toddlers has the milkman come over, only the milkman is also a rat man. Then they fuck while the toddlers, who are really grown men in high-chairs, play with bones. You have me movie.

We're then introduced to the main conflict of the film, that Lana and her boyfriend want to fuck but can't because they're Negatives.

Then, it gets weird. A man with a pencil for a head fucks a woman while the secretary repeats "Would you like me to type a memo?", and there was another show that just...Something about arms? I can't remember anything about it but I think it was a lesbian show? This is a bad sign. I love me some girl on girl action. If I can't remember your girl on girl action you have failed so completely.

Turns out, Lana is not a Negative, she just loves Nick so much that she pretends. She sneaks away to masturbate and is caught. Max mocks Nick, Moms humiliates Max, Lana and Angel fuck on stage then Johnny Rico arrives and I make a few Starship Troopers jokes.

And Johnny Rico is the worst at oral. He just sort of moves his stiff-as-fuck tongue up and down. Nothing else. It was laughable and immersion breaking. He's this supposed sex-god and he doesn't know what to do with a pussy if he's not straight up dicking it. It was weak.

The only thing that saved that scene was Michelle Bauer, who played Lana. Her face had a rapturous, broken sensitivity. She missed sex, apparently Rico is amazing at sex, she feels bad for fucking someone other than Nick, for being used and on display in front of Nick for the pleasure of others, but she is also so lost in the pleasure. Her face and body language shows all that. Not only does Nick have to withstand all that, but Max remains the devil on Nick's shoulder, rubbing salt into Nick's broken heart.

Nick is tossed out into the irradiated wasteland while Lana lives on, star of the show.

Do you see what I mean? The version of this movie that exists in my head is better than what was made. God damn is this movie primed for a re-make.

Much like Caligula, I'm giving this film the rating based on the ambition and on the artistic design. They had a vision they strove for, they just couldn't full achieve it.


NEXT TIME: I feel I owe you guys something special, so next time on Lilith Likes to Watch, we compare two tales of  the price of stardom, each featuring big names. One is a little known soft-core celebrity vehicle, the other, an infamous So Bad It's Good flick. Coming soon!