From Seduction Cinema, comes a nicely designed 2-disc set including a vintage film from Nick Philips (GUNILLA; CHANTAL; LES CHIC), plus it's 're-imagining' by contemporary filmmaker Brion Rockwell, along with his own directorial debut.
Disc one features both versions of FIRE IN HER BED.
The original is a 1972 effort by Philips (real name Nick Millard), directing under the pseudonym here of Alan Lindus. The film is also known as FIRE UNDER HER BED.
"I am someone. I am no-one. I am everyone. I am the pain. I am the truth. I am love, I am life. I am me, I am you". The film opens with the female lead purring this philosophical mantra over the wail of sirens, and then quickly cuts to stylish opening titles printed on music sheets.
The narration continues as we meet the lead character, a pretty brunette hippy chick who explains that she is a "big showbiz star". Through a montage of scenes set to post-synchronised folk music, we learn how the unnamed woman was a Janis Joplin-type singer whose success led her to a life of drugs and paranoia.
The voiceover drags us through more thoughtful reflections, taking in the emptiness of sex and the loneliness ("a loneliness that smells") of being without true love. Throughout which, the music flits between jazzy interludes, sitars and dreamy hippy meandering, while Philips/Lindus/Millard/whoever-he-wants-to-be keeps ploughing onwards with the barely connected vignettes of the lead's memories.
They trawl us through summer frolics with her greasy haired boyfriend in the park, soft scenes of sex and the obligatory bohemian-style party scenes.
The voiceover does provide some manner of narrative, clueing us in on what's going on in each of the dialogue-free flashback scenes: the woman establishes herself as a singer; records her first album; her hippy friends have a party to celebrate; fame and success come, with sex and drugs thrown in; a nervous breakdown ensues (demonstrated by the narration becoming all echoed); a chance for redemption is explored by way of relocating to a new life.
It's a tiresome trek through this 60-minute 'film', which aimlessly saunters from one improvised scene to the next. Some of the artificial lighting and roving handheld camerawork does admittedly lend it a modicum of style at times. But on the whole this is tedious, tepid fare that is soon forgotten once you reach the end of the hour-long endurance test.
And that purred female narration? Poetry or pretension? Most certainly the latter. It's a poor show when even the softcore lesbian scenes are dull.
It wasn't long after this film that Philips made the transition to hardcore porn. I can see why - even by 1972's standards, this must've surely been too contemplative and (worse!) tame to make him any money.
Rockwell's 2009 interpretation of the film is also on disc one. It's a longer film (76 minutes) and immediately slicker on a visual level.
This time around, the lead protagonist is art-loving brunette Ivy (Maria Palentini).
She masturbates in the toilet of an art gallery one afternoon and is overheard by blonde Miss Vera (Angelina Dekker). Vera overpowers Ivy and shags her with a strap-on dildo, then leaves her panting on the bathroom floor.
Then the narration begins. Ivy tells us "I wasn't always such a whore", as flashbacks show us her and boyfriend Luke (Peter Pistol) in happier times in Washington. However, the aspiring artist moves to Seattle with the loyal Luke, and that's where Ivy meets Vera. The story, occasionally narrated during the unfurling flashbacks, progresses from there ...
The girls' relationship is shown as beginning with gentle flirting in art class, Vera constantly putting Luke down as being "beneath" her friend.
Eventually Luke stands Ivy up for a date and she calls in on Vera for support. Vera responds with softly spoken philosophical pretensions and this successfully enables her to seduce Ivy into stripping, getting to her knees and performing cunnilingus on her friend.
It's the beginning of an increasingly sensual relationship, whereby Vera dominates Ivy into doing anything she desires. However, Luke is none too keen on this when he walks in on them one afternoon.
He does come back later though, to violently hump Ivy while talking rough to her. This leads to a surprising reveal from Vera.
FIRE 2009 is a more appetising proposition than the Philips snoozefest. Not only because it features dialogue and a more linear-friendly storyline, but also thanks to tighter editing, more stylish photography and a better looking cast. It must also be mentioned that the two female leads share an incredible onscreen chemistry.
The sex is of the discreet softcore variety, but is intensified thanks to Rockwell's penchant for rough handling and S&M physicality. Add to those the aggressive pillow talk shared by the lovers, and FIRE 2009 is a cheap but erotic offering. The sex scenes are a definite turn-on - it's just the cod-psychology dialogue in-between that becomes grating (Dekker's voice became draining too).
Both films are presented in 1.33:1. Image quality is reasonable on the low-budget 1972 original, containing some grain and specks but largely offering decent colours and blacks. FIRE 2009 is sharper and brighter, as it should be, but still a tad dark and soft.
English 2.0 audio is provided on both films, and is clear and consistent throughout.
The disc opens with a decent animated main menu, although there are no scene-selection menus. However, each film has it's own chapters: FIRE 1972 has 12 chapters; FIRE 2009 has 18 chapters.
Extras on disc one include seven outtakes from Rockwell's version of the film. These can be played individually or all at once, by selecting the "Play All" function. They begin with a couple of soft lesbian scenes set to annoying electronic music, then proceed through minor scenes of dialogue including a choice thirty seconds of rough dirty talk. These scenes don't add much, but pass eight minutes in total.
We also get trailers for CURIOUSLY OBSESSIVE PEEPSHOW, both FIRE IN HER BED films, NAUGHTY NUDES '64, PLEASURES OF A WOMAN, THE FLESH MERCHANT, THE SEXPERTS, THE SEXPLOITERS, MOONLIGHTING WIVES, INGA, SEDUCTION OF INGA, DADDY DARLING, SWEDISH WILDCATS, CONFESSIONS OF A YOIUNG AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE, VAMPIRES ECSTASY, GIRL MEETS GIRL, BUTTERFLIES, ABIGAIL LESLIE IS BACK, LAURA'S TOYS and MISTY.
Over on disc two, the sleazeathon continues with Rockwell's 1997 debut feature WHERE THE AIR IS COOL AND DARK.
The film opens with recovering addict Emmett (Emmanuel Malcolm Martinez) returning to his small Olympic Peninsula hometown, looking for work. He hooks up with old friend Dell (John Klein), a fellow addict.
Emmett has dreams of making it as a filmmaker. All he needs is some way of making the necessary money to pursue these dreams. Dell has a plan, and leads Emmett to his marijuana garden at the back of his house. Reasoning that it's no different than selling alcohol at a convenience store, Dell persuades Emmett that this is a great way of getting the cash to finance his dream.
Dell is such a good mate that he's even hooked Emmett up with a place to stay - a cabin he's bought for him on the beach with it's own garage primed for growing weed. They just need to evict the current tenants first.
Then it's back to town where Emmett runs into ex-girlfriend Laura (Hollis Welsh). Emmett still has feelings for Laura, but she's now dating another reformed addict. So Emmett concentrates instead on attaining his other goal.
However, even with Dell's assistance, the marijuana is going to take at least two months to grow. Emmett needs money in the meantime, and so takes a job as a logger.
Unhappy with his lot, Emmett continues to work as a logger while letting off steam on a night at house parties and winds up dating Laura shortly afterwards.
This fills a hole in his life for a while, but ultimately leads him back into drugs when he and Dell visit Laura after witnessing a colleague die in the woods.
The drugs work for a short time, but Emmett eventually realises the error of his ways and tries to move on with his life - a different direction, a new love. But, will his old ways resurface and prevent him from ever finding happiness?
WHERE THE AIR IS COOL AND DARK is a sombre indie production with ambitious elements (actual footage of loggers at work; scenes shot from a rescue helicopter; a lot of dialogue). It also benefits from a decent rock soundtrack and convincing performances from its young cast.
It's perhaps a little too low-key to register as a recommendation, but takes it's quiet story and leisurely brings it to a sobering conclusion. Most interestingly, the film - while reportedly not autobiographical - follows Rockwell's own career path quite closely: former addict, logger, budding filmmaker ...
Quite what it's doing paired with the two FIRE films, I don't know. It feels out of place, and would've been better served as an individual release. But then ... would it have shifted enough copies to justify that?
Again, the film is presented in full-frame with English 2.0 audio. Picture and audio quality are fine without being exceptional.
Although there is no scene-selection menu, you can make your way through the film by way of 15 chapters.
A static main menu gives access to the film, and a handful of trailers serving as extras: BACTERIUM, BITE ME!, CREATURE FROM THE HILLBILLY LAGOON, DARK CHAMBER, DRAINIAC, FEEDING THE MASSES, MILENNIUM CRISIS, NECROVILLE, PRISON-A-GO-GO, PSYCHO SISTERS, SCREAMING DEAD, SHOCK-O-RAMA, SINFUL, SKIN CRAWL and SUBURBAN NIGHTMARE.
Rounding off the package is an ever-welcome 8-page colour booklet, boasting nice photographs and excellent liner notes from Ed Grant. Also featuring an interview with Rockwell, the booklet's a nice addition which Seduction Cinema are quite reliable at providing. In these ages, it's great to see a DVD company still prepared to offer a bit of literature inside their cases (not many do).
Okay, the films contained here didn't particularly float my boat. But, yet again, it's tough to knock Seduction Cinema in terms of effort or offering plenty for the punter's money.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Retro-Seduction Cinema|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|