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Friday, March 11, 2011
Charles Dickens done the 42nd St way!
THE PASSIONS OF CAROL (1975) D. Shaun Costello DISTRIB-X-PIX Full Frame Did you ever think you would see a XXX retelling of Charles DICKen’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL? How about one that is actually very well made, with good set design, eye popping colors, neat cinematography and for the most part really good acting? Well it must be the 70’s porn world because modern smut wouldn’t bother. And it must be the work of porn auteur Shaun Costello because very few of the genre’s director’s could pull off such a weird feat and make it work. By all accounts it shouldn’t, but the resulting movie is all the things a could adult film should be, AND a remarkably sweet natured look at good-will to man to boot.
Mary Stuart stars as Carol Scrooge who runs a high society dirty magazine featuring naked men. She works her staff too hard and doesn’t believe in time off, even for Christmas, which she abhors. Her main layout man Bob Hatchet (Jamie Gillis) has to stay over through Christmas eve to get pictures ready she is unsatisfied with while she fucks a new model (Sonny Landham). But that night she is visited by the very well known three spirits of Christmas who take her through her life, past, present and future to try to help her amend her heathen ways.
She is first visited by her former business partner, Lance Marley (Marc “ten inch” Stevens) who warns her of what lies ahead before eating her out and boning her on the bed. Then she meets the ghost of Christmas past who takes her to a rather disturbing moment in her childhood where she cons her playmates into some very kinky playtime (all played by the adult players, acting like kids). Each subsequent scene plays out like the Dicken’s classic but with a decided adult twist, usually with the participants ended up fucking in some way.,
What sets THE PASSION OF CAROL apart is several things. One is the look of the movie. The movie was 90% shot on closed sets with everything designed by hand. While mostly very simply, the work on the set design is still very intricate and superb creating a cartoonish, other-worldliness that sets the movie apart. The whole thing is lit with harsh reds and greens, once again keeping with the Christmas motif. The gliding camera constantly finds the most interesting shots, weather there is sex going on or not, making everything appealing at all times.
The other interesting thing is that the movie has such a big heart. Even though the movie gets considerably bleak as it moves forward, it never loses site of a very sweet core, and the performances reflect it. Characters often tell each other they love them, a rarity in porn films. Jamie GIllis in particular is cast against type of a loving husband whose sole sex scene is with his wife. So when the final “transformation” of the main character happen, even if it is a little cheesy and heavy handed, it feels very sincere. It works because the movie is consistently sweet natured.
For all the sex going on, and some of it gets a bit perverted, the movie is a classy one. And should be a perennial for the Holidays in any sleaze loving families household.
This new DVD from Distrib-X-pix is something to behold. Remastered from ultra rare surviving elements to and HD source it is eye popping to look at. The bold greens and reds are solid for what I can only imagine is the first time (those colors ALWAYS bleed in analog sources). There is so much details newly available on screen that during the mirrored room three way sex scene the entire crew can now be seen hanging out in the reflections! Something that Shaun Costello is surprised to notice on his commentary.
Which that commentary is maybe the biggest reason to pick up the disc. Even if you are only interested in making of these films from the perspective of the era, this commentary makes this an essential purchase. Costello hits the ground running and never stops, giving us tons of information, incredible stories and is a great raconteur. I also appreciate that he never rags out or talks down about the people he is remembering or talking about. I’ve heard other commentaries/interviews about the adult era where people tend to get bitter or just don’t have nice tings to say. But anytime Shaun starts to seem to almost go into territory that may be unpleasant he keeps it upbeat and takes the high road. I liked that. I hope he does more commentaries as more of his films hit the format.
There is also a short little time capsule about 42nd Street that is cool but also a little sad to look at when shown how much it has changed. Add to that Shaun Costello’s exhaustive liner notes (more like a little book, than just liner notes as he goes into great detail on the making of the movie and living on 42nd st in the 70’s!) and you get one of the great grindhouse releases of 2010.
If you are a fan of this stuff you OWE it to yourself to pick this one up.