Friday, August 16, 2013

Hardgore (USA, 1974)

We came to this triple-X film by way of our research for our blog entry They Died in September 2012, Part X: Addendum: while gathering info on the segment on Hal David (25 May 1921–1 Sept. 2012), we came across the grimy porno film 1976 Linda & Cheri — director unknown — which, among the various working slabs of sausage, featured the reliable rod of 1993 XRCO Hall of Fame inductee (as a "Film Pioneer") and 2007 AVN Hall of Fame inductee John Seeman. Seeman — aka Jeff Box, Jon Seeman, Rolf De Vrees, Robert Koll, Nag Analf, Jay Seemon, Roy Stells, John Simon, John Semen, John Reynolds, John Seemen, John Siman, Bob Stern, John Semany, John A. Seeman, John Seaman, John Toland, John Ocean, John Shipley and Jethro Brunel — was one of the numerous perennially active circumcised penises of the Golden Age of Porn, but like most reliable hard workers of the time he never achieved the legendary status of, say, other hard-working stiffs such as Harry Reems (whom Seeman directed in Ten Little Maidens [1985]), John Leslie (with whom Seeman appears in at least 24 films, including Ultra Flesh [1980 / opening credits]), Jamie Gillis (with whom he worked in at least 14 projects, including the previously mentioned Ultra Flesh and Ten Little Maidens as well as For the Love of Pleasure (1979 / 8 NSFW minutes), or the massively unattractive John C. Holmes* (with whom he worked in at least 17 projects, including Spirit of Seventy Sex [1976 / 1 hairy NSFW minute] and several Johnny Wadd flicks).
Seeman, a 1965 B.S.B.A. graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, probably entered the film business in the Uschi Digard flick Heads or Tails in 1973, a good three years after the then-creditless** Mona the Virgin Nymph ala Mona (1970 / full film) — the first straight, hardcore "feature-length"*** porno film with a plot — hit the screen and helped make the floor of hundreds of cinemas across the US dangerously slippery.
By the time swordsman Seeman retired his seven inches in 1985, he had splattered loads in over 100 films, including this one, Hardgore, which is undoubtedly one of the most bizarre no-budget porno films of the era. Aka Horror Whore and Sadoasylum, the film is the only known film project of the most likely pseudonymous director "Michael Hugo." Along with Shaun Costello's Forced Entry (1973 / trailer), the only film Harry Reems has gone on the record as having regretted taking part in, Hardgore is one the earliest porn films to merge violence and triple-X sex, but whereas the overtly misogynistic Forced Entry takes its inspiration from psycho-on-the-loose films, Hardgore mines the lower depths of cheap, grindhouse horror and gore. Needless to say, it is also one crazy, messed-up and unforgettable film.
Originally released by Tarot Productions, a fly-by-night and long-gone production and distribution company, Hardgore is generally available for free viewing on any number of websites on the internet, all of which use the same scratchy, messed-up copy. The film clocks in at a quick 63 minutes, with all credits savagely edited out of the opening but for the title Hardgore, which jumps around as much as the music and the background it is superimposed upon. Like all porno films and all gore-for-the-sake-of-gore films, Hardgore follows the classic pattern of alternating between a little plot development and a sex or gore scene, with the emphasis being only naturally more on the latter two aspects.
The situation is quickly established: an unidentified and typically overweight (for the USA) man brings Maria (Dianne Galke, whom we here at A Wasted Life recognized from a couple of cards in our 1979 deck of Color Climax Delux Playing Cards — considering the hair of the guy doing her on the 8 of Diamonds, the penis in both cards she's on might actually be that of Seeman) to Fox Hollows Sanitarium to have her masochistic and nymphomaniac tendencies treated. (The plot of course, but for the maso-nympho part, is straight from "Basic Horror Plots 101", almost as equally overused as the broken down car and house on a hill set-up used in the earlier, far less bloody adults-only "horror" flick, Dark Dreams [1971 / SFW trailer] — which features Harry Reems as the lead saber — or that great underground masterpiece, Thundercrack! [1975 / 37 seconds].)
The director of the sanatorium, Dr. George (John Seeman, among whose other cult-worthy porn films aside from those previously mentioned are the porn western Sweet Savage [1979 / full NSFW film] and — ever see a KFC chicken leg used as a dildo? — the grubby House of Kinky Pleasures [1975 / NSFW trailer]), says Fox Hollows is the place for her, and soon she is shown to her room by the relatively hot, brunette nurse (Bunny Savage — who was even given headlining credit on the poster of her only other known film, Lollipop Palace [1976]). Following few sexy shots for the panties-and-garters crowd as the nurse makes the bed, the two babes first play scissor-sisters and moan and groan to the sounds of some sax-and-drum free jazz going batty in the background, and then they take a shower together and the nurse goes heartily for Maria's tuna taco. Could it be the start of a wonderful relationship? Hardly: not long after Maria takes advantage of a dildo she happens to find in her room, the sexy nurse shows up at her door as a dead nurse with a slit throat...
The effects here — the first "gore" scene — are hardly all that gory, the blood neither plentiful nor the slit even half as graphic as the sex scenes earlier, but the next sex/gore highlight that follows is a true jaw-dropper, a true masterpiece of "What the fuck were they ever thinking?" freakishness: when Maria goes running down the hall in terror, she promptly gets pulled into a room and a nightmarish orgy (in which masked women stroke Maria's legs as she blows the rods of two masked men) that is edited less to make you hot than to leave you disoriented. As Maria gives her full oral attention to the more admirably-sized of the two shafts, a hand comes in from the dark recesses and chops the lengthy rod off at its root with a knife; in a perverse travesty of a money shot, blood spurts all over Maria's face as the masked man screams in pain instead of pleasure — and then, suddenly, the room empty. A dream? A nightmare? Was it all even real?
Dr. George and his new nurse Lucy (Justina Lynne of the similarly odd XXX Femmes de Sade [1976 / full NSFW film]) seem concerned, stating as the boom mike hangs well into the frame: "Maria, you were running and dashing about wildly down the halls, screaming at the nurses, insulting the other patients, disrupting the hospital. Just relax, everything's gonna be alright." Maria believes him about as much as we do, but is promptly distracted by the new nurse Lucy, who is more than happy to give Maria her treatment — which seems to consist of getting her off with sex toys and more lesbian sex... but damn! In the midst of all that fun, the new nurse ends up burning her beaver box with an electrified dildo**** — screaming "Help me. It's ruined! Call my mother! Hurry! Call the doctor! Call the fire department!" — when a mysterious hand ups the amps. Talk about coitus interruptus...
But then, most scenes in the entire film end in a form of interruptus, simply cutting to the next scene as if the preceding one never even happened. This is also the case with the electro-dildo scene, which promptly segues into a nighttime scene of Maria being awoken by a deep, distant demonic voice which, as all people are apt to do, she promptly follows — and ends up in yet another sex orgy cum demonic mass overseen by a man dressed in red and wearing a plastic Satan mask. And if you think the tastelessness of the first orgy would be hard to be trumped, well, it isn't: Lucy, theoretically already dead, is put in a guillotine and gets a big boner from behind — from Turk Lyon (1947-1990), aka Bob Angelo | Todd Grinder | Bob Lash | Milton Lewis | Turk Lynn | Robert Lyon | Turk Lyons | Robert Magatoney | Bob Migliano | Bob Migliette | Heinz Russo | Willy Weber, of 7 Into Snowy (1978 / 1 NSFW minute) — which spews its never-ending load all over her rump as she is beheaded...
 
And thus the film continues, with every rare two minutes of narration or plot development followed by a longer sex sequence that either ends in gore or is set in gore, finally ending after 63 minutes not with a boner but a downer. But then, the only erections involved with this film are all in the film, for there is no way this depraved slab of sleaze is going to make any male viewer's willy even twitch slightly — except, perhaps, for one single sex scene that is so arty, so cinematically superior in comparison to the rest of the movie, that its almost seems to be beamed in from another film: a midnight wander reveals the truth to Maria, that she is intended to be sacrificed and that the men there kill those they screw and then pile the dead bodies up in "the room." Neither the news of her impending death nor the bloody sight of "the room" seems to damper her nymphomania any, however, for she promptly screws Dr. George while his well-hung colleague bonks a corpse (!), a scene intercut with close-ups of blood and gore that suddenly edits into an 8-minute-long hardcore and totally vanilla body-tango scene in a clean white room done in a long, single uncut circular shot similar to that used by Brian DePalma in Carrie (1976 / trailer) when Carrie (Sissy Spacek) and her date (William Katt) are dancing. Though hardly the most graphic of shared-body-fluids scenes, other than for the opening oral activity, the two go at it with such gusto and the circular pan is so lulling that for a moment one almost forgets just how grotesque the rest of Hardgore is — at least, that is, until the scene cuts back to the gore-filled sex scene in "the room" and the money shot of the guy having his way with the corpse. Talk about incongruity...
The corpses, by the way, don't really stay corpses, but whether this is due to the budget or an artistic decision is hard to say: all of the dead nurses are suddenly alive and active again for the big final orgy. Their sudden liveliness is a bit strange, of course, but half as strange as, well, the talking cock that suddenly tells Maria "You were a bad girl Maria," or the little rocket-ship dicks flying through the air spewing cum by the bucketload, or the scene in which Maria's face is literally lathered by a massive, non-stop and creamy cum shot. Whoever wrote this flick must have had some pretty nifty drugs at hand, that's for sure... or at least a bizarre sense of humor. They also seemed to have had problems coming up with an ending, for the downbeat finale may be bonkers but it is also so abrupt it almost seems tacked on, as if after all the weirdness that preceded it they couldn't figure out how to tie things into a neat bow, so why bother?
 
In regards to the cast, though none would probably ever be given the lead in a college play, they fair well enough as sex-film performers. Seeman's balding Jew-fro and glasses don't really make him good looking, but he is agreeably zit-free and slim and fit and like most of the men in the film pleasantly hung. The girls, in turn, are all surprising naturally attractive, if somewhat unexceptional, and more clean than skanky. The nurses do appear a bit more hardened than "Maria" (Dianne Galke — aka Diane Glanke, Dy Anne, Darla Phillips, Dianne Galke, Diane Galke, Diane de Leigh), who looks as if she could easily be the collage-age daughter of your (circa-74) next-door neighbor. Of course, as to be expected of the times, body hair is rampant and the boobs are all pleasantly silicone free.
To what extent the version of Hardgore we saw is uncut we are unsure, for the editing is both primitive and savage, but then the general quality of the film itself indicates that probably none of those involved ever thought that the movie might be deserving posterity. Sex scenes are often way too dark, but whether due to age or bad lighting cannot be told. The look / body language / music (mostly) / everything about the film screams American-made, but the irrational feel of the film is closer to Jess Franco's much, much, much better-made arty films like Succubus (1968 / trailer) or Virgin among the Living Dead (1973 / German trailer) than the average hardcore porn movie, despite all the close ups of lollipop licking and taco munching and the corresponding cream geysers. The background music, by the way, is as all-over-the-place as the film, moving back and forth from annoying free jazz noise to music that might well have been swiped from some Italo western to generic TV music.
Sleazy and incoherent, un-erotic and bloody, hairy and downright weird, Hardgore actually sounds better in description than it really is. Still, though the film fails on the whole both as a porn film and a gore film, it is such an incongruent and grotesque amalgamation of no-budget triple-X porn and grindhouse gore that, in the end, it nevertheless achieves a bizarre, surreal otherworldliness that makes it inexplicably fascinating. It would seem that in the case of Hardgore, the lunatics didn't just take over the asylum, they decided to write and shoot a film as well... 

* A sad note to a sad life: Though he made a number of gay loops, Holmes only made one triple-X gay feature film, the oddly repulsive Private Pleasures of John C. Holmes (1983 / 6.5 unappetizing, NSFW minutes). According to (straight) porn director Bill Amerson, all the male stars of the film, including Holmes, eventually died of AIDS or AIDS-related complications. (Answer.com is more reserved and says that only the "four principal actors ultimately died of AIDS.") Holmes, although aware he had HIV, continued his swordsman career for another five years after testing positive without letting anyone know he had the virus. He was obviously a man of high morals.
** At the time of its original release, Mona was released without credits due to legal concerns — making porn was illegal in California — but today it is common knowledge that film was produced by Bill Osco and directed by Michael Benveniste & Howard Ziehm, the same trio that brought out the classic soft-core comedy, Flesh Gordon (1974).
The Uncensored Trailer to Flesh Gordon (1974):
*** It should be perhaps noted that many of the early "feature-length" porno films, like Hardgore, were actually closer in length to a second-feature film — i.e., hardly more than an hour — than a feature production. Perhaps the first porno film to truly have the length of a feature film — 118 minutes in this case — is also the first one to feature on-screen (mostly pseudonymous) credits for its cast and crew, the first one to parody the title of a mainstream movie, the only X-rated gay porn film to be reviewed by The New York Times, and one of the first theatrically released gay porn films ever (if not actually the first): Wakefield Poole's The Boys in the Band (1971), starring the ever-popular Casey Donovan aka Calvin Culver (of L.A. Tool & Die [1982 / original NSFW trailer], "Henry Paris's" The Opening of Misty Beethoven [1976 / SFW trailer], Radley Metzger's Score [1974 / trailer], the lost Andy Milligan project Dragula [1973], Some of My Best Friends Are [1971 / trailer] and Ginger [1971 / trailer]). Poole went on to make one of the great semi-lost mondo films high on our "Must-See List," the 1974 art film Bible! (scene). (The name "Henry Paris" above is put in quotation marks because, as any mildly informed film fan knows, it is the pseudonym Radley Metzger used for his triple-X outings.) 
**** This deadly weapon, and a similar death, later occurs in Seeman's 1985 directorial effort Ten Little Maidens.

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