Directed by Joe D'Amato
Starring Laura Gemser and Gabriele Tinti
Synopsis: Intrepid reporter Emanuelle goes undercover in a mental asylum and discovers a young cannibal girl rescued from the Amazon. Emanuelle's curiosity gets the best of her and after enlisting the help of an anthropologist she sets off into Amazonia...where one-by-one the expedition finds themselves the blue plate special in a cannibalistic feast.

(A "highlight reel" appears after the review.)

Review: Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals holds a special place in my (ahem) heart as it was my introduction to the wild world of Black Emanuelle. After that initial exposure, via a heavily-edited print on Showtime, those familiar with the film will be able to imagine my absolute shock when I finally saw it uncut a couple of years later. The film is a grim, grimy and grisly experience with nearly equal parts sweaty sex and ghastly splatter.

Last Cannibals was Laura Gemser's fifth and Joe D'Amato's fourth excursion into the swingin' series, which by 1977 was on the wane and in search of a new direction. In many ways this is a transitional work for D'Amato. He began his directorial career with spaghetti westerns and sexy Decameron-style pictures before making a smooth segue into nudie travelogues and full-on sleaze epics. Post-Cannibals D'Amato would spend a few years balls-deep in gorefests such as Anthropophagus and Absurd. Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals was the turning point - though it was more of a complete 180 turn than a seamless transition. In fact, the directorial turning point happens smack-dab in the middle of the film! Midway through Last Cannibals' 90-minute running time it abruptly stops being a sex film and switches to chunky blood-n-guts horror. Muff diving gives way to gut munching and Gabriele Tinti's hairy Italian buttocks are replaced with the entrails of the supporting cast.

How much snake can one woman take?
How does Last Cannibals fare in the horror stakes, you ask? For his first full-on excursion into horror, D'Amato's film is surprisingly effective. D'Amato shows a talent for build up using sound and hand-held camera work to layer on the suspense before finally unleashing a bloody cinematic massacre. The gore effects are shocking in their realism and supremely disturbing. I think the film is actually helped by the cheap film stock it was shot on. It takes on a snuff film quality as much of the horror is shown to us from the point of view of the characters, rather than a passive camera plunked into the action.

As the characters are dispatched one-by-one, the tension grows and the gore amps up exponentially. Some of the gore doesn't quite work, but it's so nasty in its execution it still manages to be stomach-turning. Sloppy effects are rare though, as much of what we see looks uncomfortably real. Without giving too much away, the "head on a stick" gave me nightmares the first time I saw it...and I'm not one who scares easily. You won't see it coming either. There are some genuine shocks to be had in this picture.

Call my agent!
As for the supporting cast of walking cannibal bait, the players are really quite good. Gore hounds will quickly recognize Doctor Butcher, M.D. himself, Donald O'Brien. While no one could give the script credit for giving the players anything to stretch with, O'Brien's rugged appearance and fine acting shines through the clunky dialogue and laughable dubbing. He plays a supremely unlikable and unscrupulous (not to mention impotent) jewel thief, but manages to actually be a somewhat sympathetic character.

Even more impressive is Susan Scott, star of many a giallo thriller, playing O'Brien's sensual and sex-starved wife. Scott's career path has always baffled me. She is not only a great beauty (who defies stereotypes about women "of a certain age") she is very fine actress. Oddly, she often took roles that were not only exploitative but bordered on demeaning. Fortunately she plays a strong woman not to be trifled with in Last Cannibals. Her performance is the best one in the film, eschewing the occasional thespian ennui of her cast mates with vibrancy and verisimilitude.

Rounding out of band of adventurers are Monica Zanchi, Annamaria Clementi (or Anne Marie Clementi, depending on the print) and American athlete Percy Hogan. Zanchi is given little to do other than to be blonde, beautiful and preyed upon. Clementi is given a generic role as an edible nun, however she has a few opportunities to display true horror and is very effective. Her final scene in the film is utterly horrific. Hogan has the least to do. He is basically around to play stud to the voracious Susan Scott and he certainly is a statuesque picture of masculinity. It's a shame he is given so little to do because he's got massive screen presence. He appeared in the Civil War sexploiter Black Emanuelle, White Emanuelle (aka Passion Plantation) where he shows an ability to give an affecting performance despite turgid material. He is completely wasted in Last Cannibals, but he looks great sweaty and naked and I guess that's what is required for this sort of picture.

Speaking of looking great naked, Laura Gemser and real-life husband Gabriele Tinti are the stars of the piece and their onscreen chemistry is as good as ever. When they are the only two on screen there is an electricity that is a joy to watch. When the story shifts away from their lovemaking they both seem bored with the project. Who could blame them? Gemser has always admitted freely that she got into films simply to see the world rather than from a desire to perform and Gabriele Tinti was a serious actor who sojourned into exploitation fare mainly to be close to wife Gemser.

We've covered the horror aspect, but how does this fare as a sex film? The sex scenes between Gemser and Tinti have genuine heat and they are shot beautifully. Their scenes are highly erotic and very arousing. The sole sex scene between Susan Scott and Percy Hogan also generates heat, but in a more Earthy, animal way. Gemser and Tinti are making love, Scott and Hogan are fucking, if you see what I mean.

Swept off her feet.
The rest of the film's sex scenes are stilted and bizarre. A scene where Emanuelle and a boy toy have sex standing up under a bridge may well be the clumsiest coupling I've ever seen. It's all fumbling and Gemser pulling faces. But then, having sex standing up is kind of like having sex in the shower - it always sounds like a better idea than it actually is.

If that scene was clumsy, the rest are just plain icky. An early scene where Emanuelle tries to gain the trust of a demented mental patient by, basically, molesting her is more than a little uncomfortable, particularly as I doubt D'Amato would understand why the situation is so repugnant. There is also a gang rape scene towards the end of the film that is supposed to be horrific, but comes off as hilarious because it is so ineptly staged and shot.

Speaking of inept, for added fun watch the English dub of this film! The voice of Emanuelle's boss  changes actors mid-sentence. Strangely, the same scene appears in the trailer and this doesn't happen. A few minutes later Emanuelle stops mid-sentence, twice, to take a bite of her food. Unintentional comic relief, but you're going to need it when the action switches to the Amazon and the horror kicks in.

Don't let the tepid sex scenes and hilarious dubbing scare you off. D'Amato was clearly focusing his attentions on the horror aspect and he does this exceedingly well. I've seen a number of his horror films and this is one of the very few that had any sort of effect on me. This is a grimy little gore flick that shows where D'Amato's storytelling talents really were. The pacing is a little off, but if you remember that this is a first foray into the genre it is really quite impressive. And let's not forget the Marlboro-smoking ape! Highly recommended!

-Johnny Stanwyck

DVD Release: This film is readily available on DVD in several editions from different countries. The R1 release is long out-of-print, but newer international editions are of much better print quality and boast more extras. Worth seeking out. The release from Another World Entertainment looks especially nice.

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Directed by Larry Revene
Starring Veronica Hart and Jamie Gillis
Synopsis: Using her feminine wiles, Wanda Brandt (Veronica Hart) worms her way into Tyler Securities and attempts to take over the prestigious firm...and almost takes down Wall Street in the process! Enter private investigator Lou Perrini (Jamie Gillis) who is hired to sniff out the rat, and it isn't long before he's onto Wanda, in more ways than one!

(Video clips from Distribpix's channel follow the review.)

Review: Larry Revene's revered Wanda Whips Wall Street fits so cozily into the "Golden Age" of adult cinema that one can't help feeling all warm and fuzzy while watching it. The cast is a who's who of the era: Veronica Hart, Jamie Gillis, Ron Jeremy and the talented but underrated Tish Ambrose. The film was obviously made on quite a large budget (relative to its ilk, that is) and every penny seems to have been spent making Wanda look, feel and play out like a mainstream film.

The delicious Veronica Hart as Wanda.
Not that the erotic aspects are neglected, mind you. Oh no, the cast acquits itself quite well in that respect. The sexual scenes are integral to the plot, but don't suffer at all because of it. The sex is frequent, erotic and even pleasantly nasty at times! These are real people having real sex. The sex scenes are shot with flair and taste, full of heat and passion and with great gusto. These folks aren't today's Beverly Hills Bombshells, shot in such stark HD that you begin to feel like an armchair gynecologist. No worries on that point. Despite (or perhaps because of) being shot on film with actors who look like people rather than sun-bronzed robots, the sexual scenes feel absolutely real and draw you in. They are so organic that you don't really realize they are happening - you're never pulled out of the narrative they way you often can be in today's adult features.

Wanda seduces a nebbish-y broker in one
of the film's best comedic scenes.
Sex aside, how does the film hold up? Very well, I'm happy to report! The film is brimming with location footage, from the early shots of Wanda's arrival in New York City, to the hustle and bustle of the Stock Exchange floor! While the scenes of the actors on the floor were shot on a studio set, they are so seamlessly integrated into the location footage that the viewer never gives it a second thought. By the time Wanda hit theaters in 1982, the claustrophobic hotel rooms and dingy apartments of the Deep Throat era were long gone, and adult filmmaking had hit its stride. Productions like Wanda seemed to be harbingers that the adult film would soon take its place as it's own genre in the mainstream milieu. The arrival of video derailed that notion, but it's fun to speculate about what might have been!

Jamie Gillis and Veronica Hart.
All the clever camera work and location footage in the world would be little use without an outstanding cast to carry the film, and fortunately Wanda is not short on talent! Of course, you know you're in for a good time when Veronica Hart takes the lead. Despite Wanda's shady machinations (including duping a dying man out of his shares) you really can't help but like her. Hart gives Wanda a warmth and a charm that just jumps off of the screen. Equally comfortable in both dramatic and comedic roles, Hart's comic timing is perfection here. Wanda is at heart a comedic farce, and Hart pitches her delivery to that level making her scenes vastly enjoyable.

Insider trading.
Hart is ably propped up by her daffy sidekick Janie, played by the wonderful Tish Ambrose. Ambrose appeared in dozens and dozens of films, but rarely was given much to work with to show her talents. Fortunately, Larry Revene knows what he is doing and Ambrose plays to role with a wide-eyed sincerity and kooky charm, getting the film's biggest laughs. Aside from our heroine, she is perhaps the most memorable character here. Ambrose gets the best of the comedic lines and she knows how to deliver them. It's a pity the actress would rarely be given the chance to show her talent in subsequent films. When she is onscreen, the film is electric.

Jamie Gillis and Ron Jeremy.
Jamie Gillis, as the private investigator, plays his role in a rather subdued manner but manages to retain the screen presence that makes him so hard to turn away from. He has such intensity that he knows that he doesn't need to overplay in order to make an impression. His sidekick Ron Jeremy is nicely restrained here. Directors tended to cast Jeremy in over-the-top roles, but he actually shines much more brightly here in his role as second banana. He knows what is required of him and plays the role as such - no mugging or angling for face time. Wanda gives him one of his best roles, in my opinion.

On the prowl.
The supporting cast is full of familiar faces. Samantha Fox has a small role as an embittered stock trader, Ron Hudd and George Payne turn up as sexual conquests, and the glorious Sharon Mitchell appears by literally rising up behind a copulating couple and joining in. She has no dialogue, but her appearance is memorable. The non-sex cast is fun as well. Kurt Mann plays a hilariously swishy board member with an arched-eyebrow and knowing glint in his eye. A veteran of many-a sex film for The Amero Brothers, Mann is always terrific comic relief. He would wrap up his onscreen career a few years later with a bit role in Passage Thru Pamela, and he is in his prime in Wanda. Another non-sex stalwart is on hand, Patricia Dale, as the wonderfully acerbic office shrew. Another noteworthy performance is the actress who plays the burgled executive's wife. She is a delight, an absolutely highlight of the film. Her identity, sadly, seems to have been lost to the mists of time.

Picnic lunch.
The space behind the camera boasts two people of a very impressive pedigree. The script was written by frequent Chuck Vincent collaborator Rick Marx who would go on to pen Vincent's undisputed masterpiece In Love two years later. Keeping all these pieces of the cinema puzzle together is prolific and talented cinematographer-turned-director Larry Revene. Also an alumnus of the Chuck Vincent stable, he lensed dozens of films - both hard and legit - over the years, and proves with Wanda that he has what it takes to helm a feature film on his own. With Larry Revene Wanda reaches heights it might not have with anyone else calling the shots. Revene is a genius who is finally getting his due in recent years.

The mystery actress who gives one of the film's
best performances!
While I dislike the term "couples film" (because what one couple likes and what another enjoys can be worlds apart) Wanda is often labelled as such. I believe it gets that designation because it's distinctly non-gonzo. The script is a delight, the cast and crew are talented and the sex is hot without being sterile or misogynistic. It is this mainstream appeal that no doubt led to the quasi-sequel Stocks and Blondes, which re-uses footage from Wanda to create a new storyline while simultaneously tying up Wanda's loose ends. But that's another story for another time.

Until then, I whole-heartily recommend Wanda Whips Wall Street for your collection. It's got the sexual goods, but it's unbridled hilarity is what sets it apart from so many other adult comedies of the day and hence. Wanda Whips Wall Street is a laugh riot from start to finish.

Samantha Fox and Veronica Hart.
DVD Release: Wanda has long been available on home media, first on videocassette and later on DVD. However, we can now rejoice further as the film gets a fabulous re-release from Distribpix. The new DVD features a newly-struck master (in 2k!) from the original elements. The results are stunning. While the original elements do have some damage, most of this has been successfully scrubbed away and the vast majority of the film is as pristine as any film of its era could hope to look. The colors, the black levels, the flesh tones are uniformly gorgeous. The restoration is simply astounding! Distribpix is the absolute master when it comes to the presentation of classic adult films on home media these days!

Director Larry Revene and star Veronica Hart
reminisce about the making of Wanda.
The DVD is also bustling with wonderful extras to explore. At the top of the list is a hilarious and informative commentary from star Veronica Hart and director Larry Revene. The two obviously have great affection for each other and for the film, and it's nice to know their recollections of the time, the film and the cast are preserved for posterity in this way!

Other extras include a featurette on the restoration of the elements and a fun ephemera slide show. Distribpix has done it again with another fantastic release! An essential purchase! Available directly from Distribpix.

-Johnny Stanwyck

Clips of Wanda Whips Wall Street from Distribpix.
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Directed by Chuck Vincent
Starring Kelly Nichols and Jerry Butler

(Special thanks to P.J. for his assistance and encouragement!)

Plot Summary: On a balmy night in Florida, Jill Travis - a free-spirited young woman - meets an ambitious married man named Andy Whitman (Jerry Butler) and embarks on a brief but explosive affair with him. When Andy must return home, he realizes he is in love and offers to leave his wife for Jill. Insecure but pragmatic, Jill refuses and the two part ways. Over the next twenty years, as their lives continue apart, they go from lofty highs to tragic lows, yet never can forget each other or the love they shared. As an aging, broken man, Andy sets off to find his long-lost lover until a chance meeting changes their lives forever.

(Trailer appears after review.)

Review: In today's world of gonzo bonkfests, silicone-enhanced bombshells and steroid-infused superstuds, modern audiences probably wouldn't know what to make of the films of the late, great Chuck Vincent. Ever the auteur, and quite a character, Vincent was a filmmaker first and pornographer second. He used the genre to tell stories of ordinary people - often in extraordinary situations - and had an eye for spotting genuine talent in the porno pool. Veronica Hart and Ginger Lynn are just two of the many hardcore performers who appeared in Vincent's more mainstream softcore titles. However, even in his adult films, he had a knack for finding the most talented performers to inhabit his characters. His tales were not simply flesh parades. They were well-crafted and demanding emotional pieces which cried out for strong, talented leads. One of those shining lights appears as the lead in In Love.

Kelly Nichols
Kelly Nichols has the distinction of being one of the few hardcore performers of the period to be a member of the Screen Actors Guild, and she carries the weight of In Love on her shoulders. In the many years over which the film spans, Nichols manages to be convincing throughout. From the wild woman-child who impetuously rams into Jerry Butler's car, to hippie without a cause, to hardened ex-con and finally to mature woman in charge of her fate, Nichols never fails to connect with the material or the audience. Hers is really one of the defining acting performances of the genre.

Much praise has been lavished on Jerry Butler's acting abilities - mostly by Butler himself - but suffice to say he does his best acting work here. Perhaps Chuck Vincent's passion for the material rubbed off on him, shaving away the ham and revealing a heretofore suppressed ability to give the camera a sensitive and emotional portrayal to capture? But more on our leads in due course.

While the storyline itself (by Henri Pachard, and scripted by Rick Marx and Chuck Vincent) isn't really breaking any new ground, the supporting cast certainly raised the bar and draws us in.

Samantha Fox (left) taunts Veronica Hart.
Samantha Fox is delicious as a scheming seductress, but it is Veronica Hart who gives the most haunting performance of the film. Barely speaking a word, she plays Andy's pregnant and
neglected wife - a wife all too aware of her husband's remoteness and infidelities. At a lavish party, Andy
disappears from the room, causing his wife's years of neglect, pain and humiliation to turn finally into angry despair. Hart conveys all these emotions to the viewer without uttering a sound. It's all there on her face, in her eyes, as she scans the room in vain looking for her emotionally-neglectful husband. She knows full well that as she does this he is doubtless in the arms of another woman. It is a shattering performance that no other actress in the world of adult film could ever have pulled off.

Gay porn icon Jack Wrangler appears briefly as one of Jill's many lovers. Wrangler had only recently migrated to straight hardcore films, and he plays his heterosexual character with a stereotypically gay flamboyance. This stark contrast to the mucho-macho types he played in gay cinema was an interesting and amusing acting choice.

Beth Broderick
In Love marks the screen debut of Beth Broderick, who has had a long career in film and television, and may be best known as Aunt Zelda in Sabrina the Teenage Which. In this film she portrays a unsophisticated but sincere woman who has fallen in love with Jill. Her anguish over these unrequited feelings (which brings up her own insecurities of not being "good enough" for the more worldly Jill) culminates in a bombastic and destructive outburst that is just shattering to watch. Broderick's performance stays with the viewer long after, despite only appearing on screen a scant few minutes.

The film itself looks gorgeous. Cleverly photographed by the talented and prolific Larry Revene, if you didn't know it was a hardcore film made on a small budget you would never suspect as much. Nearly every shot is a picture postcard. Even the hardcore sex scenes are filmed with restraint and taste, and you'll never wonder if you've accidentally switched over to a gynecology training video.

Moment of truth.
The theme song is an infectious (in an over-the-top, AM-radio style) ballad that will stick with you after the last reel unravels. It might even inspire a tear or two, it certainly did in me (and I'm man enough to admit it!)

In various interviews, both Kelly Nichols and Jerry Butler have said that they had absolutely no chemistry and there was certainly no love lost between them. You would never know that to watch them together onscreen. They don't spend a lot of the film's running time together, but when they do they are electric. I feel very confident in attributing this almost solely to Kelly Nichols. I've seen Butler in other films with actresses he didn't care for and it was always painfully obvious (particularly in sex
scenes.) Not so here. Perhaps it is because his leading lady is possessed of much talent and effortless believability? Her character loves Andy, and Nichols' performance is so convincing that it elevates Butler's lesser abilities.

Sue Nero and Jerry Butler.
In all fairness, Butler really gives us the goods as he crumbles under the taunts of a merciless prostitute (Sue Nero.) This is fortunate as the scene marks Andy's emotional turning-point. Butler's performance in the rest of the film is competent, but dims a bit surrounded by Nichols, Fox, Hart and Broderick.

For all the skill behind In Love, being a hardcore film means quite a bit of character and plot development is eschewed in favor of copious sex scenes. This is tragic in a way. While the sex scenes are nicely shot and fairly erotic, none other than the initial encounter between Jill and Andy give us any insight in to the characters or their motivations. A softcore version was released to theatres under the title Strangers in Love, but that cut simply removed the hardcore without adding any further dimension to the film. But, rather than mourning what could have been, I encourage you to see In Love as a well-crafted, beautifully photographed and brilliantly-acted piece of cinema. It can certainly stand proudly beside better-known classics like Behind the Green Door and The Devil in Miss Jones.

In Love can be a difficult film to track down, even in the Internet age, but the effort is well-worth making. In a film canon as long as his arm, this stands alongside Roommates as one of Chuck Vincent's masterworks.

-Johnny Stanwyck

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Due to a death in the family, the planned Sylvia Kristel month will instead begin December 1st. This special month will kick off with a review of Mata Hari, followed by reviews of Emmanuelle, Emmanuelle l'Anti-Vierge, Goodbye Emmanuelle, Emmanuelle IV, and Lady Chatterley's Lover. Several Sylvia Kristel videos will also be added to the YouTube channel. Stay tuned!

EDIT: Since writing this post, I've been given an uncut copy of Mata Hari, so I'm going to re-watch it and review the film accordingly. We'll start out with Emmanuelle IV sometime in the next couple of days.
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Sylvia Kristel (1952-2012)
I've just been informed that the legendary Sylvia Kristel, original star of the Emmanuelle films, has passed away. She succumbed to cancer in her sleep at the age of 60.

The Entertainment Weekly website has posted a fitting article, and you will be seeing more about Sylvia's interesting life and career here on The Grindhouse Schoolhouse in November.

A sad day. A kind, intelligent and beautiful human being has left us. May she be at peace.

You can read the aforementioned Entertainment Weekly article here.

Our YouTube channel features the following videos starring Sylvia Kristel:

-Johnny Stanwyck

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(Edit: As of October 2014, the channel has now topped over TEN MILLION VIEWS!)

After taking an extended break from blogging and YouTubing to refresh and regroup, I discovered today that The Grindhouse Schoolhouse channel has now exceeded 3 MILLION VIEWS! As I pick my jaw up out of my lap, I would like to thank you all for your tremendous support over the years, and I promise you that updates to the channel and blog will resume in November. In addition to reviews (here) and trailers/clips (the channel) I'll be experimenting with a few other ideas to help take The Grindhouse Schoolhouse in exciting new directions. Thank you all again, and I'll be back with you soon!
-Johnny Stanwyck

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Directed by Pavlos Filippou
Starring Ajita Wilson, Harris Stevens
Plot Summary: A group of arms dealers, led by the statuesque Tamara, begin to suspect there is a traitor in their midst when a routine arms deal goes bust. Things grow increasingly more desperate as the culprit begins picking them off one-by-one, in a shocking display of violence, rape and bloodshed.

Review: In the late 1970s, Greek cinema was in love with Eurospy films and bodacious sex goddess Ajita why not combine the two? Black Aphrodite is a mind-blowing swirl of sex, sleaze, knifings, train tossings, nudity, axe murders and hairy Greek buttocks. If it sounds like fun - it is in it's own way, if you don't think about it too much. Despite having all the ingredients for a rip-roaring exploitation sleaze fest, Black Aphrodite has one fatal flaw: it doesn't make any bloody sense!

Director Pavlos Filippou (using the bizarre pseudonym 'Saul Filipstein') seems to have brought to the set a written "to do" list on how to make a Eurocrime sex film...and the results are rather confusing. Characters appear simply to be dispatched minutes later, people who tried to kill each other a few scenes back are suddenly on the same team, our cast of heroes are rarely seen in close up and look so much alike we never really know who is get the idea. Throw in several very long and clumsy sexual interludes, and you have something that might - under most circumstances - be rather interminable. However, that's not the case here. Black Aphrodite has a certain charm and a secret ingredient that makes it hard to look away.

That secret ingredient is Ajita Wilson.

Ajita Wilson
Ajita Wilson's career is certainly baffling. She appeared in reasonably legit films, sex comedies, high-brow erotica, grimy women-in-prison dirges and bottom-of-the-barrel hardcore. Whether she just had a lousy agent, or was simply more concerned with working than in the quality of the project, we'll never know. She did, however, have an uncanny knack of raising the bar in any scene she appeared in. When she is absent from the screen in Black Aphrodite, things seem to grind to a halt. The moment she re-appears, the film livens up again. Ajita, however, can't take all the credit.

Harry Stevens (Haris Tryfonis)
Harry Stevens (aka Haris Tryfonas) is another bit of brilliant casting. Stevens is probably best known as assassin-for-hire and rapist Mario in the film Emanuelle, Queen of Sados. He really gives the role of Steve a lot of gusto. He's tough, but obviously one of the good guys. He's painted as a sort of Greek Steve McQueen type, roughing up guys by day, bedding the women by night. This is slightly undermined by his uncanny resemblance to John Stamos...but that's hardly his fault. He's an actor who is obviously not afraid of getting dirty, or giving his hairy balls a bit of a cinematic airing.

The rest of the cast, sadly, really don't add much to the proceedings. French beauty Annik Borel has turned up for her paycheck but is given absolutely nothing interesting to do (which is a pity, as she is a pretty decent actress.) The other members of Tamara's team are all fairly interchangeable (mostly because we don't really get a good look at them), and double agent Ada Bartholomew (also of Emanuelle, Queen of Sados, and billed here as 'Anta Bartolomy') is on hand simply so the male cast has someone to alternately abuse/have sex with.

Ada Bartholomew having a bad day.
The sex scenes are frequent, and have a sort of fumbling charm to them, but none look particularly real or generate much heat. Softcore sex on film isn't real, but it should at least try to look that way.

The violence comes in a fairly steady stream, and some of the deaths are really quite graphic - a few actually made me feel a bit queasy. Unfortunately, their intended shock value is diminished by the fact that the director has failed to make us care about the characters very much. Or, perhaps I'm just getting desensitized in my old age.

The supporting cast phones it in.
Despite these flaws, the film is quite entertaining in a goofy sort of way. If Mike and the Bots could have gotten away with it, this film would be perfect fodder for Mystery Science Theater 3000. The dubbing is laughably bad, and everyone takes themselves oh so very seriously - it's really hard not to enjoy their (vain) efforts at competency! The film does have its merits, the cinematography by Mikhaili Stavrinakis is rather clever, and Ajita Wilson is photographed quite beautifully. Her unique attributes require special care for their exquisite nature to be captured effectively, and Stavrinakis does this expertly.

The main problem with Black Aphrodite is there is simply too much going on. The film really could have been so much more fun if the crime aspects were made secondary to the sexual shenanigans (or vise versa.) Filippou has tried to unite two separate audiences and really should have aimed for one over the other.

"Cleopatra Jones, kiss my ass!"
Black Aphrodite is messy fun, and for fans of Ajita Wilson, not a bad way to spend to spend 90 minutes or so.

DVD Details: Black Aphrodite is readily available from major online retailers on its own, and in a two-disc set with another Ajita Wilson film, Catherine Cherie.

-Johnny Stanwyck
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Twenty-five years ago next month, one of the most enigmatic sirens of 20th Century cinema was tragically lost to us. Since her untimely death, Ajita Wilson has been a figure of mystery, of whispers and gossip...but no one could deny her talent or unmatched screen presence. To that end, May 2012 will be Ajita Wilson Month here at The Grindhouse Schoolhouse. Expect lots of reviews, lots of images and many video clips of the mysterious star! Stay tuned! In the meantime, please enjoy this video tribute I made some time ago. Keep your eye on the blog and the YouTube channel for lots of Ajita goodness! Viva Ajita!

-Johnny Stanwyck

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Today marks the second anniversary of The Grindhouse Schoolhouse/Johnny Stanwyck channel on YouTube. To say I am blown away by how well it has done would be an understatement! Two years, seventy-one videos (and counting) and a combined total of over 1.5 MILLION views! I would like to sincerely thank each and everyone of you who has viewed, subscribed, friended, favorited, commented or just taken a quick peek. It means the world to me! (continued below...)

I thought since my first YouTube upload was a musical montage of the Annette Haven classic "8 to 4," what better way to celebrate this anniversary with another montage? I settled on a tribute to the woman whose films started my obsession with exploitation films in the first place...Black Emanuelle herself, Laura Gemser. And, of course, I wanted to give all of you an onscreen thank you. My sentiments at the end of the video are from the heart!

I thank you all again for your tremendous support on the YouTube project, and this blog. It means more to me than you know!

-Johnny Stanwyck
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Directed by Jim Clark
With Bambi Woods and R. Bolla
Plot Summary: Young Debbie Benson has a dream - to join the "Texas Cowgirl" cheerleaders! When her parents disapprove, she and her girlfriends hatch a plan to help Debbie raise money to go to the Texas auditions.

Review: Just the title Debbie Does Dallas makes people sit up and take notice. It's one of those adult films that everyone - from the porn novice to the connoisseur - has heard of, but it seems few of them have actually seen. When people find out I write about classic adult films, Debbie is usually the first thing they ask me about. "What's it about?" "Is it really dirty?" "Is it any good?" Well, the answer to the latter is certainly subjective, but I usually answer with: "Well, that depends on what you're expecting."

It's hard to discern just where Debbie Does Dallas gets its reputation as a classic. The story, while not particularly original, is certainly as engaging as any of the better R-rated T&A comedies of the day. The direction and performances are adequate (even though our heroine, played by Bambi Woods, seems to be suffering from early-onset perma-fry.) And while the sex scenes are completely by-the-numbers, they have enough enthusiasm and naïve charm to hold the viewer's attention. These ingredients, presented here in prose, make Debbie Does Dallas seem rather ordinary, and in some ways it is. However, the film really is so much more.

"IR serioz actrezz. Plz u sex me now?"
Debbie appeared at an odd time for adult film, that nebulous era between Porno Chic in the early 1970's and the videocassette boom of the early 1980's. During this period, adult films were moving away from the silliness of Deep Throat and into the darker realms of directors like Henri Pachard and the lush melodramas of Chuck Vincent. Debbie Does Dallas was one of the last gasps of the hardcore sex comedy and, under the circumstances, acquits itself quite nicely.

The film certainly boasts an impressive cast. Familiar faces like R. Bolla and Eric Edwards are on hand to usher in a bevy of young actresses at the dawn of their carnal careers. These new faces include Merle Michaels, Rikki O'Neal, Georgette Sanders and the always-delightful Arcadia Lake. Part of people's attraction to this film may well be the fact that the cast all look like real, live human beings - rather than the tattooed, pierced and implanted sexbombs of today's porn films. The women and men of Debbie could well be your kid's teacher, your bank teller or your neighbors. This lends a reality that just about makes up for some of the film's technical and acting shortcomings.

And then...there's Bambi Woods. Yes, the mysterious vanishing superstar who created a huge splash in adult films before disappearing into an abyss of rumor and speculation.

The first time I saw the film (at a time when I was much too young to be watching such things), I assumed Debbie was meant to be mentally challenged. Now, older and having seen the film at least a dozen times, I'm more inclined to believe that Bambi Woods'...erm...eccentric, toked-out performance likely stems from the fact that she was still finding her acting feet in her debut...and a large dose of herbs and/or pharmaceuticals. These days, I find Woods' wide-eyed, spacey delivery rather charming, and her deflowering that I once found somewhat distasteful, now seems sweetly quaint.

Good and bad adult films are very like good and bad musicals. In a good musical, the songs serve to flesh out character and advance the plot. Conversely, in a bad musical, the songs bring the story to a screeching halt. Fortunately, Debbie's sex scenes fall into the former part of that analogy. The sex, while certainly not the hottest ever committed to celluloid, is natural and organic, and often quite humorous.

On a personal note, one of the sex scenes always gives me a sudden case of raised eyebrow - the threeway between Rikki O'Neal, David Peirce and Jenny Cole. Not only does Cole bear a striking resemblance to an childhood babysitter of mine - they even share the same name! To see her doing an anal scene (which still wasn't all that common by 1978) sends my head spinning!

While many of the coital couplings are of the older man/younger woman variety, for the most part these scenes don't feel as exploitative as they might have. The story is seen through the eyes its female protagonistas (I just made that word up) which makes scenes that could otherwise seem seedy much more palatable. To the women, these men are the means to an end, and any manipulation is by the women of the piece. Andrea Dworkin would be proud. Or not.

The plot may be threadbare, but the enthusiasm of the young and inexperienced cast makes the characters quite likable - and you may just find yourself rooting for them! Bambi Woods is the star of the show here, and her name couldn't be more apropos. She does often remind one of a deer caught in the headlights. However, she gives us the occasional knowing glance and slight smile, leading me to wonder if the high-as-a-kite, babydoll bimbo routine is all a ruse.

I could go on at length about the many flaws to be found in Debbie Does Dallas - such as the fact that most of the cast looks about five years too old for their roles - but that would be missing the point. As a diverting bit of fluff, it certainly succeeds, and there's nothing wrong with a bit of silliness. Debbie Does Dallas may not transcend the high bar set by The Devil in Miss Jones or Café Flesh, Debbie is certainly an enjoyable evening's entertainment. Definitely a film to watch with friends over pizza and beer.

DVD Details: Debbie Does Dallas was one of the first adult films to make its way to videocassette, and since then, it has been re-released countless times. These releases tended to be muddy, scratchy transfers that made the film look even cheaper than it is. This was remedied circa 2005 when Media Blasters' Raincoat Theater imprint, in conjunction with VCX, released the Definitive Collectors Edition.

This presentation is breathtaking, with a gorgeous new transfer, and multiple audio options (including a vintage Spanish track!) The 2-disc set is filled to the brim with extra features, which include trailers, bios, on-camera interviews and even the softcore "cable version!" This release was further supplemented a couple years later with a special 30th Anniversary Edition. Regardless of how you feel about the film - this is certainly a very handsome package, well worth checking out!

-Johnny Stanwyck

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(American Exxxtasy logo, c. 1985/86)
Special thanks to the various YouTube users who posted the videos contained in this article for giving us a rare glimpse into days gone by.)

Satellite television in the 1980s was a bit like the Wild West: an untamed new frontier of endless possibility. While cable television offered channels not available to those with a standard TV aerial, programming was sparse and expensive - so as many settled for less, more adventurous viewers erected enormous dishes in backyards from sea-to-shining-sea, which scanned across the Heavens for something new and different.

In those halcyon days, these fledgling satellite channels had yet to scramble their signals, so all one needed to enjoy their programming was a dish and an open sky. Satellite viewers enjoyed unrestricted access to a vast array of new networks, from CNN to HBO - though, these fairly family-friendly channels shared the skies with a few naughty neighbours. It didn't take long for adult entertainment to make its way into the living rooms of satellite owners. Networks such as Fun Unrestricted Network (F.U.N.) and Tuxxedo soon appeared - but none were quite as naughty and well-remembered as American Exxxtasy.

Launching in the early 1980's, American Extasy (note the singular 'x') soon set itself apart from its adult competitors. While other adult channels relied upon European softcore fare and American T&A comedies, American Extasy offered edited versions of the biggest adult films of the day. While explicit penetration scenes were trimmed, plenty of smut remained for viewers either unable or unwilling to venture into an adult cinema. Hot on the heels of the video boom, adult films were now available in the privacy and comfort of home.

American Extasy was extremely popular and completely unscrambled in the early days. Based upon reports from viewers of the time, daylight hours were filled with trailers, computer-generated text screens and sexy clips, but the real fun began as the sun dipped below the horizon. It was then that viewers were treated to an evening's worth of edited adult features. A quick Internet search will reveal dozens of former viewers attributing their first glimpses of such stars and Veronica Hart, Seka, R. Bolla and Kay Parker to American Extasy.

In 1985, the folks at the channel decided to crank up the heat and up the ante, with the introduction of American Exxxtasy. After a brief testing period, the channel began offering uncut, uncensored hardcore films throughout the overnight hours. For the princely sum of $399, subscribers received a descrambler box, and a year of access to "the hottest television in America." It was at this point when American Exxxtasy attained legendary status...and began to attract unwanted attention.

American Exxxtasy's reign as the greatest adult channel on satellite would continue unchallenged until one fateful day, March 9, 1990, when the channel that started out with such a bang, would sadly limp off of the airwaves with a wimper. Without warning, channel viewers were suddenly confronted with a series of three computer-generated messages of doom - the fire had been put out of American Exxxtasy by GTE, on the grounds that they were broadcasting obscenity.

The on-screen messages cycled for a few days, until the channel went dark forever. Of course, the reasons for the channel's demise weren't nearly as simple as an accusation of obscenity. As it happens, high school students in the American South (go figure) had been videotaping American Exxxtasy's programming, and selling the tapes to their fellow students! Several parents, reportedly, filed suit, which remained in a legal tangle for years. Herein, however, lies the rub.

If these teens had access to adult material from satellite providers such as American Exxxtasy, it means either their parents were subscribers (which makes them hypocrites) or they were using illegal descramblers (which makes them crooks.) Either way, the fate of American Exxxtasy was sealed. Similar lawsuits would also topple other channels showing adult material. However, the pioneering legacy of American Exxxtasy has paved the way for today's premium adult channels, meaning consenting adults will continue to be able to access and enjoy adult entertainment at home for many years to come.

My hat is off to American Exxxtasy for paving the way!

-Johnny Stanwyck

Note: Here's an interesting article from 1990 about the fate of both American Exxxtasy and TuxxedoHouston Chronicle
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Lina Romay (1954-2012)
A new article will appear tomorrow on the legendary adult satellite channel American Exxxtasy, with a review of Babylon Pink to follow on Monday. However, I couldn't let this sad news pass without mention.

I'm very sorry to say that legendary cult actress and Jess Franco muse, Lina Romay, has passed away after a battle with cancer.

She appeared in more Franco films than you could shake a stick at, and was his companion of many years. One of her more recent public appearances was in an interview for the Macumba Sexual DVD release from Severin Films, talking about her works with Franco, as well as with co-stars Robert Foster and Ajita Wilson.

This grande dame of sexploitation will certainly be missed.

-Johnny Stanwyck
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Directed by Joe D'Amato
With George Eastman, Mark Shannon
Plot Summary: A group of scientists (and a assortment of reasonably-attractive, horny women) set sail for a deserted island to explore the effects of radiation. When they arrive, they are horrified to find the island inhabited by a grotesquely-mutated monster with a murderous streak, an enormous penis and an insatiable appetite for female flesh.

Review: In Joe D'Amato's dizzingly-prolific film career, he was never afraid to take a chance at trying new things. When the bump-grind-and-gut-munching Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals took off, Uncle Joe obviously thought "why not take things a step further?" That brings us to his sublimely strange hardcore porn/zombie horror exercise, Porno Holocaust.

Hmmm, mixing explicit sex with zombie mayhem sounds like a wonderful idea, and it probably would have been if either aspect was properly executed. D'Amato was new to hardcore at the time, and obviously hadn't learned the rules. In the half-dozen (or so) sex scenes in this film, no one seems to be all that interested in what they are doing (with the exception, strangely, of the softcore lesbian scenes.) Also, there is absolutely no variety. Only two of the female cast partake in the bonking, and most of the time with frequent D'Amato star, the Italian Harry Reems himself, Mark Shannon.

"There's no place like home, there's no
place like home..."
One particularly painful coupling (well, tripling) features the completely uninteresting Annj Goren paying for sex with two black men at a bordello. Not only does Goren seem to want to be somewhere else, the men show little interest in her as well. One has trouble getting an erection, while the other fondles her everywhere other than her naughty bits. The scene goes on far too long, and is just embarrassing to watch. When Goren finally gets her turn with our superstud Mark Shannon, the results are no better. Shannon obviously doesn't want his penis anywhere near her, constantly looking off into the distance as if he's watching the clock.

Shannon has stated in interviews that he wanted nothing to do with Annj Goren, due to her propensity for having unprotected sex with any random person Joe D'Amato would drag off the street for her, as well as being a junkie. One can hardly blame him. She's as cold as ice, with a haughty air not befitting her job as a walking, talking mattress.

The mutant solves Lucia's flat-chest problem.
Cult siren Dirce Funari is on hand as window dressing, never heading over into hardcore, so the slack has to be picked up by an uncredited Lucia Ramirez. Ramirez appeared in a smattering of Joe D'Amato genital fests (including the demented Orgasmo Nero, opposite Richard Harrison!) and to call her performance "one-note" would be far too generous. She's just kind of there. Even when she is kidnapped by the hideous mutant man, her expression is unalterably blank. This could be forgiven, I suppose, if she didn't do the same in her sex scenes.

The only reasonably legit performer in the piece is the freakishly tall George Eastman (Antropophagus, Emanuelle Around the World.) His role, despite being the lead, seems superfluous. Eastman spends most of the running time standing around looking on disapprovingly while his co-stars bonk each other silly. Then, he's killed off. That's it, really.

Mark Shannon is, of course, our hero, and he really gives his role a lot of oomph. He's obviously an enthusiastic actor...unless he's bedding Annj Goren, of course.

"Promotional consideration provided by Ragu."
So, we've established that the sex doesn't work all that well. How about the horror? Things are a little better in that regard. While there are no real chills here, the makeup and costume effects used to create the well-endowed mutant are rather impressive, and the whole idea of a monster that rapes people to death is pretty interesting. Since there's no real fright or tension on display, the film has to rest on its gore effects. These I found to be oddly effective, despite being wholly unrealistic. Go figure.

A few random cast members get bludgeoned in the face by the mutant, their resulting injuries seem to have been realized by pouring vast amounts of chunky Ragu over their heads. Still, it works somehow.

"There's no place like home, there's no
place like home..."
If it seems I'm being overly negative - after all, this ain't Gone with the Wind - I really don't mean to be. For all its shortcomings, Porno Holocaust has a certain charm to it. The acting is dreadful, but D'Amato's camera work is superb, and there are quite a few startlingly-creative shots. Even if the film is rotten to the core, I would still rate this as essential viewing. While not nearly as coherent as it's sister film Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (which, if you've seen it, you know calling it coherent is a stretch) Porno Holocaust is goofy fun. Just don't expect to be titillated or glutted with gore.

Castaways in search of a plot.
DVD: The most-recent R1 release seems to be out-of-print, but can be readily found on the used market (though, don't get suckered in by the high prices some are flogging it for. You can usually find a copy for less than $25 if you search hard enough.) Foreign editions are easy to find as well, for those with multi-region, multi-system equipment.

-Johnny Stanwyck
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