Smart Talk on Skin: What Does It Take To Un-tame the Savage Beast?
Mar 25, 2013
Oh, Canada! From sea to sea! Scourge of the North! The Land of Plenty Ski Trails! The rib of way too many easy jokes! The world already owe you thanks for things like SCTV, Bryan Adams, Alanis Morissette, the late Peter Jennings, and maple syrup; but now it would seem that you’ve got some serious explaining to do! Pornography? The great nation of Canada is responsible for pornography? Yes, I’m talking about SEXCULA – a bit of a bizarre venture into the world of immortal skin flicks by way of a curious farce.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Only the truest high dramas use the narrative device of reading an old diary, and SEXCULA comes to life in much the same: the buxomly beautiful descendant of an old countess stumbles across her grandmother’s journal, and, during a naked lunch, she suns herself while her male lover reads excerpts and sips wine. Suddenly, the audience is transported back in time to the creation of Dr. Fellatingstein’s monster, an intended male sexual consort who’s curiously devoid of lust. Before you can say “boo,” the good doctor calls upon her cousin – a vampire prostitute named ‘Countess Sexcula’ – with hopes that the curvaceous vixen can spark her monster’s loins to life … once and for all!
These days, young adults have a wealth of choices when it comes to enjoying any number of films exploring truly adult themes, but – back in the day – pornography wasn’t available on the boob tube. Stag parties (or ‘bachelor parties,’ if you prefer the term) were typically held in a lodge (or the neighbor’s basement), where the men would gather to enjoy a handful of beers and some theatrical entertainment that took the form of the revered skin flick. The plots were never that complicated – after all, the seminal purpose of the film (despite what your grandfather or great-grandfather may tell you) was to give the fledgling groom some inspiration of what wedded bliss may (or may not) look like – and the films were clearly put together on the cheap with generous use of dark spaces, single take sex, or whatever wide open spaces filmmakers could find across the vast countryside.
As fate would have it, SEXCULA was a bit of an oddball – a horror-comedy with strong hints of farce sprinkled between bits at even broader, bawdier humor. It was shot in Vancouver; records indicate it was only screened once in 1974; and, then, it curiously vanished from the face of the Earth. How could the only X-rated movie ever shot in Canada simply disappear? Well, truth is, when SEXCULA screened it caused a bit of a stir because industry executives invited to the gala affair were completely unaware that they’d been invited to the premiere of a skin flick. (And a skin flick it is indeed as there are several encounters, including traditional guy-on-gal as well as gal-on-gal and even gorilla-on-girl followed quickly by girl-on-gorilla action.) As a consequence, many folks connected to the picture – including producer Clarence Neufeld – didn’t want to be associated with it, so the reels were tucked away into obscurity … only now given the light of day by Impulse Pictures.
Truth is stranger than fiction, but I thought fiction ruled this go-round. While the history of SEXCULA is exciting to explore, the motion picture stumbles a bit awkwardly from one coitus to the next. The story remains the same – everyone here is ‘looking for love’ in all the wrong and right places – but it just gets stranger and stranger and stranger right up until the last reel when, perhaps, someone threw the script away, and they just went right to sexplay. Still, I couldn’t look away – not for the obvious reasons – but that I was convinced there was some underlying message here. There wasn’t – not really, anyway – but there’s a last minute plot switcheroo that just might make you question whether or not all this ribaldry was directed by Jack Darcus (as cited) or Stanley Kubrick.
SEXCULA is produced by Mr. Clarence Neufeld along with some “contributions” through the Canadian Film Development Corporation (LOL!). DVD distribution for this premiere engagement is being handled through Impulse Pictures and CAV Distributing Corporation. For those who need to know, this film contains scenes of explicit sexual content. As for the technical specifications, much of SEXCULA holds up surprisingly well, though there’s ample graininess (to be expected), and the sound mix is a bit uneven at times … but that’s not really why you’re watching this, are you? Sadly, the only special feature on the disc is a theatrical trailer, but the DVD slipcase does include a brief essay in the form of liner notes which explore the history of this campy horror roll in the castle.
RECOMMENDED if for no other reason that it captures a mindset about adult films unique to its time. Hey, look … let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that SEXCULA is ‘high art.’ However, the film has an inescapable charm that’s tied to an area when films depicting hardcore sex were bargain basement productions with very little or no creativity whatsoever. But SEXCULA has creativity in excess! At times, it’s clearly only about the sex; while, at other times, it toys with adult themes of role-playing, fantasy fulfillment, and soft bondage. Undoubtedly, some folks were inspired enough to give this thing a life of its own – much like Dr. Frankenstein brought his monster to life, so does Dr. Fellatingstein – and I’ve no doubt that folks who discover this curiosity might just be delighted with its bawdy wholesomeness if not its curiously retro chic feel.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Impulse Pictures provided me with an advance DVD copy of SEXCULA for the expressed purposes of completing this review.