13
Mar
10

Porno Holocaust Review

All right, today we’re doing something different. This is a movie review, which is new, but this is also my first NSFW post (well, as much as an all-text post can be): the movie happens to be a pornographic one. Before you stop reading because you think this is just going to be about erotica (or before you continue before the same reason), I’m actually more concerned with the plot. Nevertheless, I do go into some graphic detail, so if you don’t like people talking about such things, don’t continue. Also, if you don’t like violence you might want to stop here because it’s a zombie movie. If you’re the kind of person who is now even more intrigued, continue on.

And, yes, I do realize how odd it is to see this right above a translation of the first two and a half chapters of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Just take it as a given that I don’t really attach much personal significance to anything religious except some holiday rituals that I associate more with family than faith.

So, I decided to start a “so bad it’s funny” section in my movie collection, and I began with what Brad Jones (a. k. a. The Cinema Snob) hails as “the worst fucking movie [he] has ever seen in [his] life:” Porno Holocaust. Sounds like a good start, ya? Well, as it turns out… not so much.

See, the thing is, I thought Porno Holocaust was actually a pretty good movie. Yeah, the only awards it’s worthy of are Razzies, but while the acting is a little wooden (especially the female “lead”), some of the sex scenes out of the blue, and the decisions of the characters occasionally mind-bogglingly stupid, it’s not really any worse than most action movies.

A brief plot summary: There’s this island in a tropical location that would normally be a lovely resort spot, except there’s been some radiation testing around there, and now the native creatures (none of which were very big to begin with) are now growing to (relatively) enormous sizes. The example in-movie is some 22cm crabs, which doesn’t sound so bad until they mention that the species normally only grows to 2cm. Thank god there weren’t any humans there, right? So, a bunch of (horny) scientists go out there on a government-sponsored project to find out what’s up with these giant creatures, and maybe check up on local rumors of a monster tearing people apart, although they don’t take that too seriously since not a lot of people venture out to the island, meaning there’s only a couple of cases that the government can pass off as shark attacks or something. Also, apparently the locals believe in black magic and voodoo, so ravings about monsters are passed off as being related to that. So, they get to the island accompanied by the captain of the naval vessel that brought them there, and unknowingly accompanied by a curious reporter, and they have sex and do research, and then this black guy with, actually, pretty good zombie makeup starts killing them. Except he only kidnaps the nuclear physicist’s assistant, and he rapes the women before he kills them. Of course, like in any monster movie, he gets everyone alone so no one is the wiser until they find the corpses. Everyone dies one by one (and the physicist’s assistant is kidnapped) until the captain finds the dying reporter, who tells him where she’s being held, he grabs her, they run, and the end.

All right, to describe why this movie is actually fairly good, you need some more detail. First of all, most people criticize the zombie, but that’s because they’re expecting a Romero zombie; he’s actually closer to the original Caribbean zombies, and his antics can be explained by a combination of changes from radiation (okay, bad science, but in the same way as The Incredible Hulk or Day of the Dead so roll with it) and pathos, which makes the movie far more interesting as well as explaining why there’s only one. While trapped in his cave, the physicist’s assistant, Annie Darmona, is fascinated (I guess; her acting in the cave scenes is some of the most wooden I’ve ever seen) by two skulls staring down at her from a corner, and notices a book as well. The book is the diary of a man who decided to get away from civilization for a while along with his wife and child. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who the zombie and skulls are. I would guess that she resembles his wife (he is, like the locals, black, and she’s one of those Mediterranean beauties who tan to about the same skin color of a black person), which would explain why he took her away rather than raping and killing her. It’s apparent that the loss of his wife and child (presumably in the radiation testing, which was performed on the assumption that the island was uninhabited by humans), possibly along with some effects of the radiation testing, has brought him to a zombie-like state, which includes a degree of grief as well as a separation from emotion. Angry at the world and/or attempting emotional highs to find some sort of feeling, he kills anyone he meets (this has been known to happen in the early days of medicating emotionally disturbed people as well; the ham-handed prescribing of emotional inhibitors led people to extreme violence or decadence in an attempt to feel anything at all), and he attempts the other most-emotional activity when he finds women, which is to say sex.

I suppose this is a good segue to the sex scenes. Make no mistake, Porno Holocaust is aptly named. However, it’s nowhere near as badly done as your typical Skinemax softcore porn, which are themselves far superior to any hardcore porn plot I’ve ever seen (which leads to people sticking to plotless sex when they want hc, which in turn leads to hc creators not bothering to create decent plots). In fact, if you edited out the sex scenes, there’d still be a coherent plot. If you just kept the beginnings of most of them and then panned off to the side when it starts to get steamy, you’d have the same plot about a half hour shorter, and rated PG-13 (or R if you felt the need to leave in some random nudity; probably for violence as well). In fact, that might well cure the movie in Brad Jones’ eyes, as one of his more vehement complaints was that no movie like this should exceed ninety minutes, whereas this one approached two hours. If I were doing such editing, however, I’d only edit out the actual sex, not the plot points that the sex happened (well, except for one) because, as I said earlier, this is a porn with a plot, and the plot is well-enough written that the porn is part of it. Let’s do a list, shall we? Why? Because they’re both prevalent and plot-important, so it’s actually worth going over, and a good way to do another more detailed summary.

  1. The first sex scene isn’t much of a sex scene; it might be allowable for general audiences in France, where they have much more relaxed nudity standards than America (but stricter violence censorship; I actually think they have the right idea). Dr. Keller, the biologist, is reluctant to have sex with his wife because he has to get going to meet with the minister (as I don’t know Italian and the subtitles don’t specify, I have no idea if this is the prime minister or a minister of fish and wildlife or what), which seems reasonable, even if his wife is hot (more on that later). The wife, Simone, tricks/seduces/forces him to have sex, and he climaxes with barely any effort. Although it could be done with dialogue, this scene serves the purpose of showing that Simone and Dr. Keller do really seem to love each other, but there are problems in their marriage involving her being bored (as a housewife who doesn’t really have a house because she’s moving around with her husband’s work) and horny in spite of her husband’s shortcomings, and him being overly devoted to his work and a bad lover, if eager to please (eager enough to let her seduce him; she didn’t try all that hard).
  2. Next, Countess Dr. Dorcin St. Jaques (translated “St. Jack” in my subtitles; I think they went too far and translated names wherever possible, which annoys me) comes in to talk to Simone. The dialogue and following sex scene shows that they are either friendly rivals or hostile friends (or both), both of whom have insufficient sex lives, Simone because of her husband’s inexperience and Dorcin because of her lack of a mate. (The idea that she wants something more fulfilling than sex is brought up in her comment about how eager Simone’s husband is, in spite of his shortcomings, although she is also the biggest nympho in the movie.) I also think this scene shows that the director doesn’t know much about the mechanics of lesbian sex, but it doesn’t seem to show their entire lovemaking, so maybe the first part was just foreplay rather than actually being half of the event. It’s also the first of several instances of Isadora Wing’s “zipless fuck.” (Yes, I read Fear of Flying. The whole damn thing. When I was thirteen. My conclusion: To call Erica Jong a hack is an insult to hacks. It reads like bad fanfiction. It is only because I read Fear of Flying first that I only think of Stephanie Meyers as bad rather than burn-it-with-fire.)
  3. Next, Simone and Dorcin go out into the city and separate when Dorcin stops in at a whorehouse to further satisfy her lust with a pair of gigolos. This one I might cut off after her negotiations with the madame, were I trying to make a PG-13 version, because it is one of the most gratuitous sex scenes, but it’s still not out of place. However, it does demonstrate one of my biggest problems with foreign films that don’t have ginormous budgets: Most movie scenes not shot in studios actually have voiceovers because it’s hard to filter ambient noise properly. Instead, they film the thing, have the actors lipsynch to the dialogue they spoke in the first place, and then edit that together with a muted ambient sound track. A lot of low-budget movies have sound problems because they don’t do this, whereas a lot of medium-budget European movies seem to try, but not hard enough. (Also, German porn, but let’s not talk about that.) It’s usually not too bad in this movie, but they apparently just told the actress to gasp and moan like she’s having sex then dubbed it over this sex scene, for most of which she has her mouth full. Bad sound production, movie. Bad sound production.
  4. During all this, Captain O’Day (my sub says “Harnee,” but IMDB says “O’Day,” and I didn’t pay enough attention to the dialogue to tell) goes on a date with Annie, and they stop on the beach, where Annie strips and goes in the water. This may seem odd to our American viewers, but it’s actually quite appropriate in Europe (at least historically). I did notice small error, in that Annie’s perfectly dry when she comes back to the Captain lying on a blanket, but that’s just nitpicking. The captain says she is so beautiful he must have her, and while it may seem kind of fast that they’d have sex on the first date, it actually does play into later dialogue, when she seems to be ignoring him while others are around because she doesn’t want to seem like an easy lay to them (specifically, to Dorcin), but they actually fell in love (or think they did at any rate) so quickly that it seems natural.
  5. This is the last major plot point before they leave for the island. Once on the island, they split up a bit. Since no one believes in the monster, and they can’t do a whole lot until they’ve set up and familiarized themselves with the island, people wander around taking in the tropical atmosphere. Dorcin and Simone go off together and sit on a large log presumably washed ashore in some tropical storm weeks or months ago. They discuss their sex lives a bit more and then have sex (this one seems more likely to please a woman than their previous scene together), which actually seems reasonable from their “friendly rivals with benefits” relationship we’ve already seen, as well as establishing through accompanying dialogue that both expect to find few opportunities for sex while on the island, thus setting up some later scenes.
  6. A little while later, Annie and O’Day are walking together on the pretext of looking around, although they are actually trying to fit in a romantic walk together because they are falling in love and, like Simone and Dorcin, expect to have few opportunities to indulge in the near future. They happen to find the same log, take advantage of it for a moment of rest, and decide to have sex. I’ll admit I found Annie’s “Let’s fuck,” a bit abrupt, but given that they’re feeling the first blush of new love (okay maybe reading a bit much into it, but Disney builds love stories on shorter time spans) and have already had sex (and I know from experience that girl friends will do this if they’re feeling particularly joyous about the world in general and their boy friend in particular) I’m willing to accept it at least.
  7. Remember when I said that Simone and Dorcin take 2 would set up later scenes? Here’s one: Simone and Keller have just set up their campsite, slightly removed from the others perhaps in deference to their married status, and Simone, probably sensing that this will be her last opportunity before he gets too absorbed in his work, comes on to him. And in case you thought I was romanticizing the island too much, he gives in even more easily this time, commenting that the island makes him feel different; while this might be the radiation (Simone jokes that she hopes it isn’t), given other times when characters have said similar things, I’m going to guess he’s unused to the feelings evoked by such a romantic setting. Anyway, they have a much more satisfactory session of lovemaking, and then he goes to the nearby ocean to wash up while she waits for him to come back, at which point she plans on opening a bottle of champagne. (Why do they have champagne on a bare-bones scientific expedition? They’re European, what did you expect?) It is at this point that the zombie comes upon Keller and drowns him, then
  8. he rapes and kills Simone. The only sex shown is oral. (Brad Jones says the zombie chokes her with his penis, but she actually seems unharmed when the camera cuts away, right after he stops forcing her to give him head. The dialogue afterwards indicates that he probably raped her more thoroughly, and a later scene makes me think that they were trying not to give away too much of the emotional background this early on. Yes, Italians can even be artsy in their porn.) This introduces you to the zombie’s violent nature and his association of violence with sex, although it isn’t until much later that you discover the emotional reasons for this.
  9. After the rest of the party find the bodies and bury them (and O’Day is the first to suggest the monster might be a man, indicating that nothing else would fuck a woman before killing her, which happens to be a view I agree with outside of some insect species), there’s some other not particularly important scenes that anyone who’s seen a few horror movies can probably guess at, and then the zombie catches a couple of the male assistants and kills them with rocks (the makeup is pretty awesome, actually), then kidnaps Annie, while being chased by the reporter who recently arrived on the island by rowboat. While the captain, Dorcin, and Dr. Lemoir (the physicist Annie works for; the subs can’t seem to settle on a way to say his name) discuss whether they should get the hell out of Dodge (someone has discovered their boat was cut adrift at this point, but since the reporter Benoit got there by rowboat, maybe it’s not too far for a desperate swim) or look for their missing comrades, Dorcin gets drunk and convinces O’Day to have sex with her, with Lemoir looking on until they get naked enough that he realizes he’s being a voyeur and walks off. This is the sex scene I’d leave out altogether if I were editing them, since it serves no purpose other than either showing the captain is more horny than in love (which could be true, but makes me like the plot thread of him and Annie less, particularly after he rescues her, when they seem much like any true-love movie couple) or just to fit in a sex scene because they haven’t had one in a while. In the former case, I think the plot is stronger without it, and in the latter it doesn’t matter because I’m editing out the actual sex anyway.
  10. At this point, everyone goes off on their own (I can hear the horror movie buffs yelling at them already): O’Day goes inland to search, Dorcin (possibly still tipsy) heads to the beach without putting on her clothes, and Lemoir comes back to base camp and sits down, probably confused as all hell. During this time, you see the zombie trying to feed Annie random things he finds on the island (more pathos: he is trying to care for her as he couldn’t for his wife and child), O’Day stumbles upon the dying reporter, who tells him the zombie has Annie and which way they went. On the beach, the zombie finds Dorcin, knocks her out, and rapes her. This sex scene I’m not entirely sure how I’d cut out because it is one of the most telling scenes of the movie. The actress playing Dorcin does a great job of seeming unconscious, not reacting at all (for all I know she really was; movies on this kind of production value could well be full of actors drugged to the gills), and the zombie seems just as wooden in spite of having the active role. He is silent and stone-faced the whole time, yet you can really see him milking the experience, trying to feel something, anything, and in the end he is even more lifeless than the unconscious Dorcin. The camera eventually cuts away, but later Dorcin is shown lying on her side, blood leaking from her nether regions, which seems to me to indicate that he literally fucked her to death (cue images from Kaiba). I can only imagine that that is an indication of just how hard he’s trying to get something out of it. He heads inland afterwards, killing Lemoir along the way.
  11. Acting on Benoit’s information, O’Day fetches Annie, but they are confronted by the zombie while running away. He is about to kill O’Day with a crude spear when she tells him to stop, invoking his name (which she learned from the journal). At this, the zombie stops, falling to his knees and then falling over; although it might be inferred that he has died, there really isn’t much reason for that, and I’d prefer to think that the potent reminder of his former life invoked a rush of emotion that he can’t deal with in his current state. They escape to Benoit’s rowboat, which they use to escape the island, and then they have sex once more, presumably an expression of joy in life, or maybe just a release after a massive adrenaline rush. Afterwards they reclothe themselves and then they see a ship in the distance, which they believe will rescue them. Fine. (Italian for “The end,” just in case you thought that was the English word.)

You see what I mean about the sex scenes being integral to the plot? It actually works, and in spite of some of the problems of low-budget movies in general, I can’t relegate this to the “so bad it’s funny” folder. (Next time I’ll see if Tom Yum Goong is bad enough to go there.)

 

 

Oh, right, this was a porno. I gave descriptions of the porn as it relates to the plot and as a way to divide portions of the plot, but I was really addressing it as a movie that happens to have porn in it, rather than as a porn. Allow me to rectify that.

The most striking thing about this movie is just how hot the women are. I can only assume this is as a result of the cast being all Mediterranean. They are hotter than any woman I can recall seeing in a porn. They are hotter than any of the American, British, Australian, Japanese, Korean, or French actresses I can call to mind at the moment except maybe Jolene Blalock (and before you accuse me of fanboyism, I’ve never actually seen Star Trek: Enterprise) and Lee Da-hae. I’ve also seen some random Brazilian women of equal hotness, but they’re Brazilian, and everyone knows that Brazil is full of the hottest women in the world, so that doesn’t count. The hottest of these is Annie (played by Lucia Ramirez, uncredited if you can believe that), a dusky Mediterranean beauty. All of the women are fit, all have breasts of a perfect size (neither too large nor to small) and shape. All are unshaven as well, since shaving pubic hair is far more stylish in the US than elsewhere, especially in the early ’80s, but I find that (in spite of my personal preference), I don’t mind; they’re that beautiful. And I’m not using “hot” and “beautiful” interchangeably; I have very specific definitions in mind when I use different appearance words. (They’re the hottest women I can think of, among the most beautiful, nowhere near the cutest, and pretty but not all that pretty, by my personal definitions.)

The sex scenes are pretty good. All fairly straight by modern standards, which is to say just sex and oral sex (and in one case both), but probably pretty kinky by the standards of the time (1981), what with the lesbianism, a threesome, plenty of varied positions, and a fair amount of anuses (ani?) showing, even if none are used (except that I’m pretty sure there was some licking of one in the first Simone/Dorcin scene, when it starts to get more like I’d expect a lesbian scene to be, although the camera angle is such that you don’t actually see it). They are also far more natural than what you see in porn today, without the need to shout what they’re doing or slap each other or whatever other nonsense every porn does to keep from being outpaced by others, nor is there any of the awkwardness or bad camera angles of amateur porn. I find it to be a nice balance, and although I wasn’t masturbating as I watched (I wound up treating it like a real movie that happened to have more explicit sex scenes than most), I think that the sex scenes, shown out of context, would be far from the worst fodder for such activities.

Well, I can’t really think of much else to say about it, so I’ll just end with a cast list, in case you can find some pictures of the actors, or want to see other things they’ve been in:

  • Dr. Lemoir: George Eastman (né Luigi Montefiori)
  • Simone: Dirce Funari
  • Countess Dr. Dorcin St. Jaques: Annj Goren
  • Captain O’Day: Mark Shannon (as “Mark Shanon”)
  • Yeah, the zombie and Dr. Keller don’t get credited in the opening, and my version cuts before the end credits (if they existed). Unfortunately, Annie isn’t credited either, but luckily someone on IMDB did research! Annie is played by Lucia Ramirez, and Benoit by Joe D’Amato (the producer of this and many more Italian b-movies).

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