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
Lilith's Notes: 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!