1 June 2015 | lor_
Case study in incompetence
I've seen about two Carlos Tobalina's movies and he's a rare case of a veteran who never bothered to learn his craft. SENSUAL FIRE would almost be worth studying as a Master's Thesis project, analyzing how a potentially viable film project amounted to nought.
The comparison is obviously to Kirdy Stevens' TABOO made a year later. Both films share young Dorothy LeMay in a leading role, both deal with the topic of incest, yet CT's movie is so poorly constructed as to die on the screen in the early reels, while Stevens made an all-time classic which was a hit not only in theaters but two decades later a video smash.
Idiotic premise of SENSUAL FIRE is that happily married (to gorgeous Jesie St. James) Jamie Gillis has a yen for wife's daughter, who's just moved in with them, played by nubile Dorothy LeMay. The cute blonde had been introduced as a lookalike in A FORMAL FAUCETT and co-starred in Tobalina's 3 RIPENING CHERRIES, but this could have been a breakthrough for her.
Tobalna ruins any chance at proper dramatic arc, structure or erotic suspense around the second reel when he features two lengthy sex scenes of Gillis humping young LeMay. They are very poorly staged and edited as supposedly his fantasies (I am inferring almost everything, since the film as edited is not too helpful to the viewer) as he peeps through a bookcase/wall hole (never properly shown to us) to observe sexy Dorothy with her young boy friend.
In a novel obviously a protagonist could describe an unrealized fantasy, but in cinema (and especially graphic XXX porn) showing the actual sex act has an impact which affects the viewer directly. The intended suspense of whether Jamie will ever consummate his jail-bait sex wish and what will happen to his happy marriage with Jesie is ruined completely due to the director's urge to get that LeMay porn footage into his movie as early as possible.
The anticlimactic middle section of the film is in extremely poor taste and idiotic in conception. Jamie consults a shrink, Frisco porn comic John Seeman, who suggests he visit a whorehouse run by Madam Rose (Francine Sorensen, who due to further poor construction of the movie does not appear till much later in the film, cryptically) and find a young whore as substitute jail-bait. Notions of kiddie porn were foreign to Tobalina as evidenced in several of his questionable (now) movies.
That visit has Serena as Rose's assistant running the place, and Jamie opts to hump Serena instead of one of the five teen candidates. Tobalina's poor editing keeps cutting back to cutting-room-floor panning shots across the five girls just sitting around downstairs in a line-up, during the Serena/Gillis hump scene, totally pointless and stupid.
Jamie next consults with his priest friend Father Carlos (the director in a self- serving moronic cameo). Emphasizing the recent Vatican congresses and perceived growing liberalization of the church doctrine (boy was CT ever wrong!), the kindly priest encourages Jamie to solve his problem, an unrequited crush on a girl in high school whom he never humped, by finding a lookalike for his stepdaughter via Madam Rose and humping that girl instead. Enter pretty Madam Rose in the picture, who has Dee on the payroll, played by LeMay of course.
When Jamie is through and deposits his money shot on Dee's posterior he is still unsatisfied. Solution is to arrange it so he can hump his real step-daughter at a masked ball -which is cheaply staged, he manages to fool the real daughter and a contrived happy "surprise" ending (with Jesie's idiotic final suggestion) is concocted.
This same exact twist for Jamie Gillis was used, just about as stupidly and unconvincingly, by Fred J. Lincoln in the 1983 French-based film THAT'S OUTRAGEOUS starring Joey Silvera as Jamie's sidekick. Proving a bad idea is worth repeating (or ripping off?), in that one Jamie is bedding down two beautiful French sisters, neither of whom has a clue
about the identity of sis' mystery boyfriend. He dreams of having sex with both of them at once -troilism that he consummates by way of, you guessed it, a masked ball, only to get his comeuppance until a similar "surprise" ending just as dumb as this one.
Tobalina's usual defects: terrible lighting throwing vast, extraneous shadows all about; poor editing; sub-par acting, and no notion of narrative progression have an extra crappy attraction here of pastel lens flares in many scenes, especially exteriors, to distort the visuals and strictly incompetent from an A.S.C. point-of- view.
Punchline is that this forgettable junker is not even interesting within Tobalina's own oeuvre, and Kirdy Stevens really had the last laugh by following up his historic success of Kay Parker and Lynn LeMay in the first TABOO by hiring Gillis to star in several of the hit sequels, also bringing back LeMay. Tobalina missed the boat.