Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Macumba sexual (1983)

... aka: Macumba

Directed by:
Jesus Franco

I tell ya what, the Jess Franco catalogue just never seems to end. I've seen at least thirty of these things by now and still have about 100 left to go. Macumba sexual (sometimes titled simply Macumba) is yet another horror / sex combo from Europe's premiere purveyor of art-sleaze; this time a partial remake of his film VAMPYROS LESBOS (1970). Things open just like many other Franco films open, with a shot of a buck naked Lina Romay writhing in bed moaning. Her character - Alice - has been suffering from a recurring nightmare for quite some time. In it, a tall "dark-skinned woman" named Tara (Ajita Wilson) unleashes two "beasts" (a nude man and a nude woman she walks around on leashes) upon her and then dies. Doesn't really sound so bad to me, but whatever. Alice and her husband Peter ("Robert Foster" / Antonio Mayans) are in the middle of a relaxing beach vacation at the Happy Bay resort when she gets a phone call from her boss urging her to get back to work. She's to go to a nearby island to do some kind of business deal with the obscenely-wealthy Princess Obongo, whose first name happens to be Tara... just like the woman from her nightmare. Tara is planning on purchasing some property in Atlantic City or something, but that's not really important.

Alice goes over to the island by herself and learns from a retarded, voyeuristic reptile stuffer named Meme (played by Franco himself as "Juan G. Cabral") that Tara actually died many years ago. Alice still checks into her room and plans of visiting Obongo's isolated home at the appointed time. While she's lying out on her patio sunning, Tara shows up to play with her breasts and finger fuck her (fo real folks!) in another dream and then she catches Meme spying on her. He tells her "You're simply gorgeous and a slut... like all Western women," then warns her not to go to the Obongo place because she'll lose her "whorish body" and possibly die if she does so. Thinking he's crazy, which he is, Alice decides to ride a camel caravan over. Immediately upon arriving, Tara (who has some strange flashback digging up an ivory dildo idol out of the sand, sucking on it while rolling her eyes back in her head and then going to town with it) and her two "beasts" (named Poppy and Tulip) get to work molesting Alice. Afterward, she finds Tara dead on the beach and flees back to her husband. It isn't long before hubby himself is drawn to Obongo's palace and Alice must head back to plead for his life and find out what the 300-year-old macumba-practicing woman / ghost / succubus / demon 's true intentions are.

Macumba is - simply enough - basically just a sex film. It exists entirely in Franco World, a place that isn't quite like the real world you and I are accustomed to. In Franco World all inhabitants have little to nothing on their minds other than sex. If they're not getting it, they're constantly pining for it. Even when they're sleeping they're thinking about it. Sex is so constant on their minds it usually screws everyone up; driving them to madness and murder. People absolutely hate wearing clothing in Franco World and go around most of the day completely naked for no real reason. It's quite impossible to take some of this seriously and it's pretty comic much of the time. Take Romay's character Alice, for instance. She's a real estate agent who has just lined up an uber rich client and will be making a killing in commission if she can just unload a house. How many female real estate agents do you know who - in order to impress a female client; a princess to boot! - would show up at their place wearing a flimsy mesh top and a pair of shorts so short her ass cheeks hang out the back and her pubic hair (!!) hangs out the front?! See what I mean about the Real World vs. Franco World?

As a piece of erotica, this didn't personally float my boat and I imagine it's not going to float many other boats either. The sex is often hilariously frenzied, there's lots of licking and slobbering and often times the action is awkwardly choreographed. The entire film is shot in the brightest light of day and Franco, always with a gynecologist's eye, makes sure to zoom in so close we get to see razor stubble, dry flaky skin and other things I seriously doubt many of us want to see. From a technical standpoint, this has superior and sometimes very imaginative photography for a sex flick, though. The desert / ocean setting is perfect for the story, there are some great locations used and Franco seems to be paying special attention to phallic-shaped buildings. Several isolated setpieces - including one bit with a spinning silver ball and the camera going out of focus a lot - are just out there enough to work and create some hypnotic moments here and there.

The presence of Ajita Wilson manages to make this strange film even stranger. Wilson was a very unlikely 70s / early 80s sex film star and international box office draw who did both hard and soft porn as well as run-of-the-mill exploitation flicks. Perhaps her greatest exposure in America for the longest time was the women-in-prison film Orinoco, Prison of Sex, which was later combined with newly-shot scenes starring Linda Blair and released theatrically as Savage Island. What made her an unlikely star in her field wasn't the fact she was African-American, but because she was born a man... and quite looks it despite some obvious cosmetic surgery and cheek enhancements to try to soften her face. Wilson has soft sex scenes with both men and women here, with some individual shots briefly crossing over into X territory. During one scene her enigmatic character explains "I'm everything that's forbidden... a black woman with an undefined sexuality; shameless and irresistible." Despite having packed on a few pounds since her 70s prime, Romay is still cute enough. Unfortunately she also wears the same God awful mousy dirty blonde bob wig she wore in MANSION OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985) and many of her other 80s films, which actually makes her look much older than she actually is.

The Severin DVD comes with a 22-minute documentary featurette on the film, which has interviews with Franco and Romay.


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