• Warning: Spoilers
    My rather self-defeating history of sitting through so many Joe D'Amato films (I've watched 109 so far, but only 5 back in theatrical showings) finally paid off with "Flamenco Ecstasy", one of his best by far. It's a minor but rewarding feature for fans of Romance/Couples cinema.

    A companion film titled "Carmen" was made at the same time in Spain with nearly the same cast (but is a stinker), Project was evidently made possible by D'Amato's participation the year before on Cameron Grant's "Passion in Venice". Credited as co-director, that film was backed by America's leading purveyor of Romantic porn, Adam & Eve Productions, through its subsidiary Ultimate Pictures, and so were the two Spanish projects. With Nick Steele as an executive producer, "Flamenco Ecstasy" fits neatly into A&E's product line of that era and it is a shame that Joe didn't work again for the distributor.

    The film shares a few elements with another better-than-usual D'Amato project "Torero" which was released in America by A&E's competitor Digital Playground. As seen in the opening credits, there is equal parts Flamenco culture and bullfighting in the feature's purview, with attractive location photography (shot in 35mm yet) adding to the atmosphere.

    Title roler Maria De Sanchez is named Carmen in both films, and here she's a revelation as the lead player. I have seen her in other D'Amato films plus Rocco Siffredi and Marc Dorcel efforts, but this time she gets a chance to shine. Especially significant are her varying hair styles, all carefully created and adding to her natural, Salma Hayek facial beauty.

    Story is simple, falling into the "Vacation Romance" genre of escapist porn. She and pal Monica Orsini are in Spain looking for fun, in particular hoping to snag some studs for a good time in bed. Both are outspoken advocates of casual sex (certainly a central theme in porn, then and now), but Maria whose character is named Carmen (natch) hopes for something more.

    There is no real drama or conflict in what follows, merely nine well-staged and concise XXX sex scenes that are more romantic than the usual mechanical sex filler Big Joe was cranking out at this time. One 10-minute scene before the halfway mark is a classic. Carmen has seen an attractive guy in her hotel lobby (D'Amato regular Hakan Serbes), and sneaks to his room to peek through the door. He's making love to his blonde girlfriend, and Carmen masturbates while doing her voyeuse thing. During the scene D'Amato deftly (with excellent shot-matching) edits each sex position so that both the blonde and then Carmen perform the same sex act with Hakan, ending with the blonde receiving a slow-mo facial. It's a tour de force of erotic filmmaking.

    Carmen also gets to briefly show some flamenco dancing skills when she goes on stage at a recital featuring pro dancers. She humps her way through many partners during the film, including a sexy double bubble bath scene early on for lesbian content with pal Monica.

    Ultimately it's revealed that Hakan is a torero and we get some well-faked bullfighting footage with him and real bullfighters as doubles. Best aspect of the routine script by D'Amato regular Robert Lyon (usually to be counted upon for a lousy screenplay) is that Carmen imagines having sex with Hakan twice (so we see her enjoying his big cock on screen) but the real consummation doesn't take place until film's end.

    Steven St. Croix got a free trip to Spain to appear in "Carmen", and this time it's Steve Drake who visits from Chatsworth and gets fourth billing, even though he merely plays a jogger who Maria humps in a beautiful indoor swimming venue.