Star of the Orient
- 1h 13m
Year: 1980 A young Japanese girl emigrates to the United States to seek work as a photographer. After a frustrating attempt to make a living as a legitimate photographer, a friend suggests s... Read allYear: 1980 A young Japanese girl emigrates to the United States to seek work as a photographer. After a frustrating attempt to make a living as a legitimate photographer, a friend suggests she contact a certain individual who handles erotic photographs and movies. In the process,... Read allYear: 1980 A young Japanese girl emigrates to the United States to seek work as a photographer. After a frustrating attempt to make a living as a legitimate photographer, a friend suggests she contact a certain individual who handles erotic photographs and movies. In the process, she meets another female photographer with similar needs, and the two pool their talents ... Read all
I had seen ORIENTAL TREATMENT theatrically back in the '70s, and only now caught up with a DVD of this later film. Its video packaging adds to the confusion, with several beautiful oriental women in still photos on the box cover, none of which are related to the actual contents, the usual bait & switch approach.
Making matters worse there are four (count 'em!) different credit lists, contradictory in fact, on front & back box covers plus opening and ending credits crawl. IMDb has done a yeoman job sorting them out.
Sarah Lohrman stars as Arlynn Bromden, an aspiring filmmaker who shows her latest work, a XXX movie resembling a loop, to porn magnate Mr. Kirk (Gary Jones, a portly overage creep who probably acted in ORIENT for free in order to get laid). The projectionist at the screening room falls asleep, but not before we see a poster for Lee's ORIENTAL TREATMENT on the booth wall.
Kirk inexplicably buys Arlynn's negative for $25,000, which must have represented quite a killing in 1979, on condition she make another film for him and come up with some novel story ideas for his approval. He makes an interesting speech about how the target "average Joe" audience member must be kept in mind - a revealing and fairly perceptive element here reflecting back on Lee's work rather than Arlynn's.
Arlynn contacts her pal Suki (played by the English-challenged Kyoto Gee/Suki Yu, who had done a fine job in ORIENTAL TREATMENT) to get story suggestions, and calls her mom (in a Jewish nursing home) for an effectively humorous voice-over gag scene mocking the lowliness of working in porn rather than amounting to something. Throughout the film Lee keeps making Freudian Slips, perhaps intentionally, rebounding on himself rather than his fictional pornographers.
Hinted at by the opening loop representing the ending of Arlynn's demo film, movie at this point devolves into a series of loops, either fresh material or just recycled by Lee -it isn't clear which.
Suki, working as a porn still photographer, recounts various personal experiences which she thinks Arlynn could adapt as story ideas. Each one is illustrated visually by what amounts to a loop. One of these stars (uncredited) John Leslie, Chris Cassidy and Mimi Morgan (future superstars) in an orgy with a gag premise of a pizza delivery boy recruited for sex by ever-domineering Leslie. Another sequence has Suki in a torrid lesbian pool scene (featuring quality underwater photography) spotlighting busty and alluring Rita Finegold, oddly a 1-shot artiste.
Later at her typewriter, it is Arlynn conjuring up story ideas, generally starring herself. Lee blew it here, not taking advantage of Arlynn's big, attractive breasts with instead closeup crotch photography of the gynecological school.
Film resolves when the British head of the National Geophysical Society, after indulging in kinky sex with his shaved-pussy assistant, calls Arlynn up offering her a 6 months-plus gig on location in Iceland photographing seals. This straight job is a dream come true, making Arlynn's mom proud, and giving us a goof-ball happy ending. Amusing sidelight for me was casting a Ken Burns lookalike as the kinky documentarist - I've always wondered what the super-square Burns (his PBS docu on Jazz is one of the squarest looks at that art form ever done) is up to when not cranking out boring TV series.
I haven't seen Lee's debut WILD RIVER GIRLS yet (it's on order) but based on these later two efforts he reminds me of the long-ago criticism leveled by critics of Italian horror movie directors. Though now worshiped and put on a pedestal, it is worth recalling that when their movies were new, Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and Sergio Martino were pigeonholed as not really full-fledged directors but photographers of spectacular individual scenes or set pieces. Applied to porno that's the case with Lee -his films don't add up to anything, just a bunch of porn scenes.
In the case of Suki Yu, it's obvious why her career went nowhere. She's sexy, but one of the worst actresses ever to trod a XXX sound stage - as demonstrated by her terrible line readings in STAR OF THE ORIENT, or horrendous overacting in a non-sex role in THE SINS OF SANDRA.
- Apr 25, 2011