Monday, January 30, 2012

Porno Holocaust (1981)


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

1 comment:

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