Friday, December 23, 2022

Princess of Darkness (1988)

Directed by:
"Bill Blackman" (Ron Jeremy)

A man sits in front of Bogie and Bergman posters with his favorite "old picture book" and thumbs to the page of a certain legendary character that he refuses to name but claims that everyone knows. Though the pudgy, hairy, greasy, unkempt-looking actor playing the storyteller also uses the names "David Elliott," "Hiramus Merkin" and "Bill Blackman" in the credits, he'll be instantly recognizable to nearly everyone as Ron Jeremy. You know, the same guy who has appeared in over 2000 adult films and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's most prolific porno star. And the same guy who was chosen by AVN as the #1 porn star of all time. That guy. Sex films aside, Jeremy has also appeared in a hundred or so "legit" films, both big budget and small. Included among his work are over 70 horror films. Troma really got the ball rolling there, making him a regular in their cast rotation starting in the mid-90s. He's usually in the campier stuff and certain directors probably think they're being witty and edgy by casting someone like him. Jeremy has also starred in video games, music videos, television shows, kid's shows (!!!) and had feature-length documentaries made about his life and career. As far as porn goes, he's as mainstream as it gets.

Part of Ron's greatest appeal was, ironically, his complete lack of appeal. It was porn's way of saying, "Hey, if this sweaty, smelly, furry, pot-bellied blabbermouth can score with these beautiful young women, maybe there's hope you for, too!" I suppose that's a relatable angle to use if one can ignore the reality of the situation. You know, the part where these women wouldn't be having sex with him if they weren't being paid for it. Personally, the only feeling ever aroused in me watching him paw and pump away at his co-stars was usually pity for whatever poor starlet was stuck doing the scene with him. But that's just the superficial me talking. The real issue I, and so many others, have with the guy is something much worse, namely Jeremy being a serial sex offender.

Jeremy's off-screen "antics" are also why I never enjoyed seeing him on screen. The countless stories about his inappropriate, and often times criminal, behavior with female costars goes as far back as 1981; just two years after he first entered the business! That he was allowed to flourish in both the adult entertainment industry and in the mainstream regardless is simply pathetic. Even worse, his accusers were disbelieved, and their abuse completely disregarded, simply because they were female adult film stars. It's almost as if society was telling us that assaulting a woman was permissible if the woman also happened to be a sex worker. According to a number of the female performers, the adult industry protected Jeremy, opting instead to punish the female victims who dared to come forward. Meanwhile, the police did their part by ignoring numerous reports filed against Jeremy going back decades. Geesh, what kind of messed up world are we living in, anyway?

It wouldn't be until 2017 when literally dozens of women, prompted by the #MeToo movement, came forward that people started taking these allegations seriously. Jeremy was finally arrested in June 2020 and currently has over 30 charges leveled against him from 21 different women that stretch all the way back to 1996. One victim claims she was just 15 years old at the time of her assault. His case hasn't gone to trial yet though due to Jeremy being temporarily transferred to a mental health facility for a psychiatric evaluation and other lawyer shenanigans. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he claims the accusations are coming from jilted women suffering from "buyer's remorse." We'll see.

Quite an ugly intro for a review for a silly vampire porn, eh? Hey, I needed something to talk about. Besides, this film also happens to be rather dark and ugly itself, so it's rather fitting. One of the very first images we see in this classy production is a barely-dressed woman lying on an ugly rug on a dirty floor in a wood-paneled room with flies crawling on her. You turned on yet? After the woman is bitten by a rubber bat on a string, the young actress then has sex with a guy who looks old enough to be her father in a scene shot in about as unappealing a manner as possible. When a few simple crotch shots are the most horrifying thing in your vampire film, you know you got problems. The girl then flashes a set of plastic vampire fangs after she finishes earning her paycheck. Eek!

The bat flies off into a smoky closet and reemerges as a nameless vampire (Dan T. Mann) dressed in a cape and bikini briefs. I imagine he's supposed to be Count Dracula due to Jeremy's introduction, though the name is never uttered. The vampire approaches Samantha Strong painting her nails, pushes back her foot-high teased hair, leans in toward her neck and then, well, nothing. She snarls, "Don't even try it, fang face! We're two of a kind, remember?" Sam is apparently the vampire's wife or girlfriend or something. She tells him she's been eyeing another woman and is planning on paying her a visit later on that evening, while he's off to the neighborhood hospital to raid their blood bank.

In bat form, Samantha visits a sleeping Frankie (Frankie Leigh) and bites her on the neck. In this film, the bite not only turns one into a bloodsucker but also turns them on in another way. Frankie starts rubbing herself when Samantha appears in her room in sexy lingerie and helps out. Meanwhile, Not-Really-Dracula takes a wrong turn at the hospital, accidentally walks into the "AIDS Patients" ward, comes out spitting and says "I don't want to fuck with their blood!" Yes, that's the level of "humor" to be found here, along with the vampire couple repeatedly telling each other to fuck off. The rest of the film is comprised of sex scenes featuring Not-Really-Dracula with Frankie, Not-Really-Dracula with Samantha and, capping things off, Jeremy having a go at some unknown blonde after finishing up his story, which is somehow an even lower point of the video than that terrible AIDS joke.

Strong's naturally voluptuous body notwithstanding, this Video Exclusives release has next to nothing to offer even avid porn watchers. Some of the dialogue is raunchy and you get a look at two new-ish actresses (Liza Anne and Crystal Hart) who didn't do much else beyond this but, as a whole, this is unappealing, bottom of the barrel stuff. Poorly-shot scenes, poorly-improvised dialogue, butt ugly 80s décor, ugly actors and one set of cheap, ill-fitting plastic fangs being passed around by the entire cast, although that's hardly the least hygienic thing seen here. 

This also has nothing to do with John Carpenter's similarly-titled film from the previous year. They really missed a golden opportunity to make a green lava lamp the erotic catalyst.


Spooked! (1988)

Directed by:
John Kolopanis

With the advent of the internet, iPhone's and cheap digital cameras, which enable virtually anyone to make their own own movies for next to nothing and then release their glorified home videos to the unsuspecting masses online, came the true death of the B movie industry. We're at such a low point now that streaming platforms are virtually bursting at the seams with so many zero budget horror films that no person could possibly see them all... not that they would necessarily even want to. Most of these things are bloody awful! And it's truly a headache having to wade through so much junk to find a single worthwhile indie horror film. 

80s and 90s amateur filmmaker kids had it much harder than the kids of today. First of all, we had to have access to something like a VHS camcorder, which started out as a fairly pricey piece of equipment and wouldn't become "every household has one" affordable until the end of the 90s. Then we had the issue that the internet either wasn't around or was in its infancy, so we had approximately zero chance of ever releasing our films. Strangely enough, this hardcore porno reminded me of my youthful days as a video-shooting wannabe horror auteur in the 90s. No, not for THAT reason, ya perverts! Let me explain...

Back when my friends and I shot our camcorder horror videos, we would never, ever use a script. It was all ad-lib. We'd come up with a single idea, or have a single cool prop (skull, prop gun, etc.) or some fake blood and make-up or access to a good shooting location (abandoned farmhouse, college theater), and we'd just roll from there. And this movie is quite identical to the way we did it back in the day. Well, minus the sex, of course. It's quite obvious that the genesis for this one day wonder's entire existence was access to a fairly decent latex monster mask. Everything else smacks of make-it-all-up-as-you-go-along indifference.

Amateur magician Daddy (Frank James) is jealous of his roommate Sonny (Marc Wallice) because he's the best looking one in the house, though admittedly that's not saying much when your competition is Frank James and Buddy Love. Sick of Sonny getting "all of the pussy in the world" and leaving his "left-over trash" for them, Daddy talks their other roommate (Love) into helping him concoct a magical potion to turn Sonny into a hideous monster. After mixing all of their ingredients together (though I don't know how many people keep Nile crocodile balls stocked in their kitchen pantry), they slip the concoction into their unsuspecting roomies morning coffee and it works like a charm. Sonny is now a hideous monster.

Sonny's generously-endowed blonde girlfriend (star-billed Samantha Strong) shows up, sees a photo of the new Sonny and sighs, "I used to go out with him but there's no way I can go out with that!" She then immediately goes into another room and has sex with Buddy right on the living room floor. It's just that simple, folks!

Sonny's blonde "main squeeze" Dana (Dana Lynn, who can't act a lick but is awfully cute) shows up to help and reveals that Daddy has a magic spell book. She plots to steal it, reverse the spell and give Daddy and Buddy a taste of their own medicine. But first she needs to seduce Daddy. Well, actually she doesn't really need to but it's time for another sex scene so there she goes. Jessica Longe (K.U.N.T. TV) shows up as yet another of Sonny's bottle blonde girlfriends and she's so kind and compassionate that she's willing to have pity sex with her malformed lover on the couch, which is the most memorable scene in the film by default.

Meanwhile, on the back patio, Jessica and Samantha try to comfort one another. Jessica explains: "I tried to talk him in to trying out the story of the Princess and the Frog. You know how the princess turned into the monster? I tried to talk him into it and we, we're makin' love and we finish but he doesn't change back and I mean, he's the same if, if not uglier!" Samantha replies, "I personally can't think of any man on campus that could turn me on", leading to the following lesbian scene segue that the girls can barely spit out without laughing: "But you said man." / "Man. That's right." / "What about a woman?" / "That's true."

As is often the case, the highlight of these poorly slapped together quickies, and the greatest source of amusement for yours truly, is watching the performers try to bs their way through the dialogue scenes. We'll just say that some are better at it than others.

Most of these VHS-shot porn titles from the 80s were quickly cranked out with the absolute bare minimum of effort for the sole purpose of stocking adult book stores and video rental establishments back in the day. These things will never be remastered. They will never have special edition DVDs. They will never look or sound good due to the fact they were so poorly shot and lit and will simply float around the interwebs becoming more and more obscure and forgotten as thousands of new and much better-quality porn clips get uploaded every single day. That's the sad, albeit deserved, epitaph of these cheap tapes, which were once big money-makers. This one was put out by Video Exclusives.

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