Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sex and Black Magic (1980)

Written by: Joe D'Amato
Directed by: Joe D'Amato
Starring: Nieves Navarro, Richard Harrison, Lucia Ramirez

Mitchell is one of the most loved episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and I'm certainly not going to argue that it isn't great. But I think the much less talked-about Joe Don Baker episode Final Justice they did years later for the Sci-Fi Channel is much funnier. Mitchell was about evenly split making fun of Baker for being a hopeless drunk and a big fat slob, while his character in Final Justice didn't drink, at least that we saw, so they concentrated solely on the big fat slob jokes. The extra focus on just the one type of joke made that episode a lard-seeking missile of hilarious cruelty.

Of course, the Brains were (and in their various current incarnations, still are) an exceptionally clever and funny group of people who put a great deal of thought into what they did. Joe D'Amato, while by all accounts a pretty decent guy personally, is never going to be called exceptional in regards to, unless it's something like, “Joe D'Amato makes exceptionally icky movies”. And he certainly didn't put any thought into them beyond how much money they were going to make and if he could grab a little extra cash by shooting a porno on the sets erected (huh huh huh...erect) for one of his more mainstream projects. His exploitation flicks typically have a blend of sex and violence, most times tending towards the violence although in a few instances sex is the favored theme. But they're almost always together in some ratio. Take the violence away, and instead of giving D'Amato a clarity of purpose like a sexy version of the Brains ragging on Joe Don Baker's beer gut (did that last clause make anyone else feel uncomfortable?), what you get is just about the most aggressively un-sexy sex movie you'll ever see. Oh, and all the characters are miserable assholes too.

Paul is an anthropology professor studying primitive island cultures. Don't ask me what islands, I doubt the writing process ever went that far. Paul has a problem, because he wants a child, but he's never home and his unfaithful nymphomaniac wife Helen may be barren anyway. Even if she does end up being able to bear him a child to carry on his genetic legacy of beefiness and bad comb overs (yes, those actually are a genetic disorder), staying home to take care of the kid while he's gallivanting all over the globe is going to seriously cramp her style, which happens to be picking up scads of guys from bars and boinking her boredom away.

In a last-ditch attempt to save the marriage, Helen is flying out to whatever nameless tropical paradise Paul is studying this week in the hope that the romantic setting will bring some of the old spark back. Well, there's a spark all right, but it's between Helen and a local girl named Haini. So bright and warm and sparkly is this spark that at Helen's whim, Haini suffers the “ritual of refusal”, meaning her mom beats the shit out of her with a whip and kicks her out of the house so that she can leave the island and go back to civilization with Helen. Oh yes, even in a movie with only the thinnest of ties to the cannibal genre, the tired old, “who are the real savages here?” theme gets trotted out for its token lap around the track before it collapses wheezing in its pen hoping Umberto Lenzi isn't lurking around outside with a camera and a boom mic.

Back in the world, all of Helen's friends start making googly eyes (and in one case googly fingers) at Haini, and Helen gets all jealous because dammit, Haini is her property...uh...I mean new friend. Because this movie isn't racist at all, and I have some lovely oceanfront property in Montana you might be interested in. Eventually Haini explains to her that despite sucking every dick in Italy, Helen remains sexually unsatisfied because she didn't learn where all the fun parts are with a girl first, like they do in Haini's tribe. Despite her obvious interest in Haini, and Haini's even more obvious willingness to be just as big of a whore (hoo-er!) as Helen, nothing happens between the two until Haini does some kind of voodoo ceremony and summons up the Disco Dick Devil, a swingin' 70's bachelor from beyond designed to catch Helen's eye and make her lady parts all gooshy. Haini dispatches him to Helen's favorite bar and sure enough, before you can say, “What the hell is going on?” they're back at Helen's house getting horizontal. That is, until Haini charges in with a big-ass knife and chases the Disco Dick Devil away! This being a sex flick, Haini's violent and irrational behavior makes Helen even hornier.

The next day Paul arrives, and it doesn't take him long to cotton to the fact that Helen brought Haini home to do more than her nails, and bursts in on their vagitarian buffet to teach Helen a lesson by raping Haini. This being a sex flick, Paul's violent and irrational behavior quickly turns into an icky threesome involving a lot of pawing and grunting and Paul wiping his mustache on both women's faces.

Not long after, a letter from their doctor arrives clearing Helen for childbirth, and they decide their unconventional threesome is no kind of environment for bringing up a kid with any hope of psychological normalcy, so it's time to take Haini home. But didn't she get officially banished from her tribe? And why are they coming down the beach toward Paul with the rigamarole for consuming the spirits of the dead? This could get messy...

Nieves Navarro has the worst fake boobs I have ever seen. There really are no such thing as good fake boobs, but these are extraordinarily horrible. The implants look like they're rock hard, and the way they sit makes them look like they're mounted upside down. All the swell is on the top, the nipples pointing down and to the sides. Ugh. I could deal with the movie just being boring, but having to look at these nasty things every three or four minutes is uncalled for.

And Paul is the worst anthropologist I have ever seen. Despite having just spent several months with these people, taking part in their rituals and observing Haini eating a piece of her father's heart (he died when a shark bit his leg off) to take his spirit into her, he doesn't recognize the big scarecrow-looking ceremonial statues (essentially a long wooden pole with a crossbeam for arms and, I shit you not, a soccer ball with an angry face drawn on it for a head) the natives are carrying toward him at the end, even though the only thing they did to disguise them is pull hats down over their faces. Yes, really. And that mischievous glint in Haini's eye is the only emotion she's shown the whole movie, are you sure you want to be drinking whatever strange potion she hands you? Hey, that's the same knife she used to chase away the Disco Dick Devil buried in Paul's chest!

But they saved the worst for the special features. A lot of European sex movies (and quite a few horror movies too, as we shall see in some upcoming reviews) that were intended originally for the more widely-distributed softcore market had hardcore inserts shot to play in porno theaters and places where censorship wasn't as strongly enforced. Several hardcore inserts for foreign markets were shot for this flick as pickups while D'Amato was filming Italy's first hardcore porn movie, Sesso Nero. That movie also starred Lucia Ramirez, alongside porn star Mark Shannon. There's a scene in Sex and Black Magic where Haini gets herself off imagining blowing a guy on a beach, and the hardcore inserts are extensions (huh huh huh...extend) of that scene. There are some unfortunate camera angles (seriously, Joe, Sam Raimi you ain't - no one wants to see doggy style shot with the camera sitting between the guy's feet pointed straight up at his asshole and swinging balls) that allow us all too good a view (and that bright tropical sunlight doesn't help either) of Mark Shannon's awful, herpes-covered scrotum. And they're not using a condom! Ew! There's no way Ramirez didn't see those disgusting disease pupae dangling off his nuts, but she was OK with it! Just went ahead and stuck that shit in her twat and her mouth anyway! But even that isn't the worst part. There's one bit where Shannon sits on her face (isn't that supposed to be the other way around?) and maneuvers his half-flaccid schlong into her mouth. As soon as her lips are on that sausage, he starts thrusting and plops his festering nads RIGHT IN HER FUCKING EYE!!!

That about perfectly sums up what watching this movie is like. Eye herpes.

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