Naked Man, Naked Man
Passing through Naked Land;
Naked Man, Naked Man,
In the sand where is your hand?
Naked Man, Naked Man,
Please go back to Naked Land.
-- Butthole Surfers, Ballad of Naked Man
If ever there where two words which didn't belong on a marquee together, those words are "Porno Holocaust". It's difficult to think of a two-word title that's more squirm-inducing; Mannequin Two is a distant runner-up. Yet in spite of its title, this isn't one of the innumerable post-Night Porter Italian Nazi-sex ripoffs. Rather, it's Joe D'Amato (Aristide Massacessi)'s companion piece to Erotic Nights of the Living Dead, which was shot at the same time, using most of the same cast. Both movies are about a small group of people stranded on a cursed island, where they screw each others' brains out while waiting to be killed by monsters.
Erotic Nights... was more of a straightforward horror film, which had featured one or two effective scenes of shrouded zombies crawling out of the sand. By contrast, Porno Holocaust is basically a sex film with a few horrific elements thrown in, in a half-hearted attempt to lend the movie a shred of dignity. Erotic Nights... had featured a crowd of zombies, and even though the zombies' ability to catch their prey actually went down as their numbers increased, at least they looked scary. In Porno Holocaust, there's only one zombie, and instead of being a voodoo menace he's actually an atomic mutant. The zombies in Erotic Nights... were protecting the island from intruders, and they would tear their victims apart with their hands and teeth. But the monster in Porno Holocaust is every bit as sex-obsessed as the regular members of the cast, and he, umm, doesn't ravage his victims' throats from the outside.
Mark Shanon (Manlio Cersosimo), he of the warty scrotum, is back for this film, though his time he gets to play a less repulsive character than he did in Erotic Nights. Here, he plays the good-natured captain of a charter boat that's been hired by the government of the Dominican Republic to ferry a team of scientists to a remote island. The island had been used as the site of some nuclear tests in the late 1950's, and in the intervening years strange stories had begun to be told about the wildlife in the area. George Eastman (Luigi Montefiore) also returns, once again keeping his pants on for the duration, in the role of Dr. Lemoine, a physicist who had participated in the original nuclear tests. Laura Gemser is conspicuous by her absence from this installment; her place is taken by Lucia Ramirez, a pretty EurAfrAsian girl who is considerably more willing than Gemser to perform explicit sex on camera.
The Captain and his crew are a little reluctant to take on their civilian passengers. Their reluctance leads to a bit of Immortal Dialog that I can't wait to share with my good friend Elizabeth Kingsley from And You Call Yourself a Scientist!:
CAPTAIN: Three of them are women.
JACQUES: Women! We must be crazy! You know what they say about women! They bring bad luck.
CAPTAIN: It's worse than that, Jacques. They're scientists. Can you imagine what kind of monsters they are?
Naturally, the joke is on the Captain. The three women scientists turn out to be young, beautiful and nymphomaniacs to boot. There's Annie, the above-mentioned Lucia Ramirez, who takes an immedite interest in the Captain; Dorcin, who is not only a young beautiful nymphomaniac scientist but also a Countess; and Simone, the insatiable wife of Professor Keller (who is himself totally uninterested in sex). When Keller fails to give Simone what she wants, the Countess is perfectly willing to help out.
I have to point out that thespian skills were not high on the list of requirements for hiring these three actresses (though a similar word comes to mind). Ramirez, for example, maintains the same fixed expression for the duration of the film, whether she's in the throes of passion, being menaced by a monster, or doing nothing at all. There seem to have been two basic requirements for the actresses: first, the girl should look good enough in a bikini that men in the audience would want to see her out of it. Second, she should be able to kiss anything sticking out of Manlio Cersosimo without gagging. Now I know that Cersosimo, with his chiseled features and good physique, is in general a fine specimen of Early Eighties Man. However, we get to see some parts of him that should stay well-concealed, and we see them in detail: principally the ugly growths on the back of his scrotum, and the flapping tongue that comes squirming out of his mouth like a vile pink slug to ooze its way into some unsuspecting orifice.
Naked on a Monday,
Naked all year long —
Naked's never right;
Naked's always wrong.
-- Butthole Surfers, Ballad of Naked Man
While Annie and the Captain go for a long romantic bonk in the countryside, the Countess pays two local men to participate in some extracurricular biology experiments. Here D'Amato and his crew evidently got two guys off the street for a few bucks and the opportunity to schtupp a European "actress". In the event, it seems at least one of the men found it difficult — note I didn't say hard — to concentrate on the job once the lights and the camera were on... what's more, they can't help looking up at the camera and crew. The Countess, for her part, looks less than pleased all the way through.
After what seems like hours of uninvolving, unappealing sex, the action finally shifts to the remote island... where we get more unappealing, uninvolving sex. Once again, the Countess and Simone find better things to do than mere research. Once again, the Captain and Annie go off to a secluded spot to rut. The one thing that's at least mildly different is that Simone takes her husband to the opposite side of the island, where she finally manages to get him to give her a few inches of attention.
However, no sooner has Professor Keller gone off to wash up when he's attacked and killed by a hideously deformed zombie. Finally something has actually happened in this movie!
Simone comes out of her tent looking for her husband. Somehow she fails to notice the hulking zombie that's fast approaching her, until it's right behind her. When she sees him, she stands there, paralyzed with terror... well, perhaps not quite paralyzed. When he forces her to her knees and begins choking her — without using his hands, mind you — Simone can be seen helping out a little, to make sure the scene goes as planned...
When the Captain, the Countess and Lemoine realize they haven't heard from Keller or Simone, they go out to look for them. They find Keller drowned and Simone dead & violated, and realize there must be another human being on the island with them (well, it's either that or a crab with an enormous penis; and usually it's the other way around...). In the meantime, the zombie reads through the script to determine who the remaining minor characters are: with an efficiency lacking in the movie so far, he wastes no time in killing them. No doubt he's as anxious as the audience to get the movie over with.
When the zombie runs into Annie, though, his reaction is different. He knocks her unconscious and takes her off to the cave which is his lair. Rather than raping her, or killing her, or both (in no particular order), he ties her hands — and only her hands — and leaves her while he goes off to kill a nosy reporter whose entire existence I haven't bothered to mention (not least because he's played by director D'Amato). Left alone, Annie finds an old knapsack in the cave, just below two very old skulls. In the knapsack, Annie finds a woman's and a child's clothes, and a diary belonging to one Antoine Demadura. According to the diary, Demadura, his wife and child had been left behind when the population was evacuated before the nuclear tests. Evidently only Demadura himelf had survived, but in such a degraded and primitive state that only his most basic appetities remained. I think we're supposed to make the connection that Annie's dark skin reminds Demadura of his wife, which is why he doesn't treat her the way he treats the others. It's sort of a reverse King Kong syndrome.
The Captain is upset by the loss of his crew, the disappearance of his boat (which is left unexplained), and by the disappearance of Annie. He's not so upset, though, that he rejects the Countess's offer of sex. The Captain cuts his finger splitting coconuts, and the Countess, ostensibly to prevent infection, sucks some of the blood out of the cut. "Where did you learn how to do that?" he asks. "Where do you think?" she replies. She then baldly invites him to fuck her. Yes, just like that. When the direct approach fails to tempt him, she turns on the waterworks: "Tomorrow we could be dead! Dead, do you hear?? Sob!" Plus, it's his last chance to have sex with a Countess. So our Manlio drops hs trousers with a shrug. What's a guy to do?
At very least, it's a relief to see a nominal horror movie that doesn't directly punish sex with death. Sure, people have sex and die; but there's no attempt to draw some sort of moral connection between the two acts. People also die who don't have sex... the hero gives the Countess a good rogering while Annie is missing, and doesn't suffer any consequences for his infidelity... and the Final Girl is as randy as anybody else in the picture. Even the monster, walking r-cortex though he is, recovers a little basic humanity: he brings his captive Annie a handful of flowers. Of course, he then goes out, finds the Countess, knocks her unconscious and proceeds literally to fuck her to death, but I suppose we need to take our moments of pathos where we can find them.
The Captain, by now apparently the only survivor from the camp, finds Annie while Demadura is gone. Remember: the girl's hands are tied, but her legs are free; yet she's made no attempt to escape. She also hasn't bothered to adjust her expression. As the pair try to make it to the place where the dead reporter's boat is hidden, Demadura intercepts them. The Captain shoots him with a speargun, but the monster mereley plucks the spear from his body and lunges at the Captain. Before the monster can impale our hero — and he's moving so slowly at this point that Annie has plenty of time to think this over — Annie calls out, "No, Demadura! No!" Consider for a moment: the girl, who refused to flee when only her hands were restrained, now waits an unbearably long time before she does anything, and even then she doesn't leap in front of the zombie or anything... she stands on the sidelines and asks him not to. And all without moving the muscles of her face. Not the most inspiring Final Girl is our Annie.
As for the monster? He lets his arm fall; and in what is probably the best shot in the film, he stands still for a moment, directing at Annie his baleful, pain-ridden gaze (as though to show her how it's done). Now that he has heard his name, he has regained some measure of self-awareness. Realizing what a terrible movie he's in, the creature which was Antoine Demadura collapses on the sand and dies of sheer embarrassment. Annie and the Captain run of to the boat, cast off from shore, and...
Well? We still have ten minutes to kill. What do you think they do?
So get the hell away from me,
You goddamn Naked Man;
Go the fuck away from me,
Back to Naked Land.
-- Butthole Surfers, Ballad of Naked Man
Media Blasters has done a courageous thing by releasing movies like this one, or like the uncensored version of Erotic Nights... After all, this isn't the kind of movie you're going to be able to grab off the shelf of your local Best Buy. Nor is it likely to appeal to consumers of hardcore porn, since the sex scenes are extremely dated, far from titillating by today's standards, and interrupted by a half-hearted attempt at a plot... and no matter how thin that plot may be, it's at least enough to interrupt the momentum of the sex. Viewers looking for raunchy thrils will find themselves fingering the remote more than anything else.
So that pretty much leaves the on-line vendors to hawk the DVD, dealing with the other kind of "hardcore" audience: the Bad Movie Fans. Of these, some of us will no doubt be put off by the movie's subject matter, and others may be discouraged by the movie's running time, which is best measured in aeons. Have we come to the point where such a modest subset of our little community is enough to inspire a commercial DVD release? And not just any commercial release, but a remastered widescreen edition with extras? Are we so much of a market force that such things as Porno Holocaust DVDs are becoming commonplace?
Oh, boy, I hope so. Porno Holocaust is a rotten movie, not even as entertaining (in an intended or unintended sense) as Erotic Nights... But its release is inspiring to me, partly because it really does hint that the fan-base for such obscure horror flicks has grown into a potent consumer block; an then, too, because it suggests that some of D'Amato's remaining films (particularly his early Death Smiles on a Murderer) may also be ripe for release in the US. I can't really recommend Porno Holocaust as satisfying entertainment, but it is an interesting curiosity, and I hope it does well enough commercially to encourage similarly courageous releases in the future.