David Stanley's "Candelabra" for Wicked Pictures lacks the outrageousness that marked his earlier work for Vivid, but is still weird enough to bear the stamp of porn's premiere dispenser of mystical and even New Age content.
He showcases Wicked contract star Kailani Lei celebrating her birthday with lover Chris Cannon, while a lightning storm rages outside their window. That is the hint that this will become a rather knowing adaptation of the traditional Haunted House or Spooky Mansion mystery film that was so popular in Hollywood's Golden Age of the '30s and '40s.
After the leads' obligatory romantic sex scene, things get weird in a hurry, as Cannon imagines (or sees in this fantasy world) a strange couple make love in the bathtub. Their body makeup of spots suggests they are snake people, another hint of strangeness to come, and the team of Mika Tan and bald Derrick Pierce deliver a hot scene.
Time shifts to 70 years earlier in 1937, with Stanley staging a drawing room drama with static camera distant from the actors, and the players adopting affected vocal and acting styles of the era. Randy Spears overacts for some cheap laughs, especially when he affects Tony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter aspects, referring to his nurse Clarisse with a decent imitation of how Hopkins would say it in "The Silence of the Lambs". His wife is played by Exotica, the amazingly built stripper who appears in Wicked films but has a real character role this time and proves to be an accomplished actress (though rarely hired for same).
The ensuing fantasy sex scenes involve nurse Clarisse, well-performed by Cassie Young, as well as a busty blonde Brooke Banner as a prostitute brought in for a torrid three-way with Exotica and Spears.
But the second half of the film is dominated by Eric Masterson, a guest star made up with red-painted face and costume resembling that of a circus ringmaster. He takes charge of leading Kaylani through this horrific fantasy world that takes place entirely inside (a bit claustrophobic, but at least the studio sets are expansive) her haunted apartment. The snakes are in a closet and bathtub and well-exploited in a creepy scene where Exotica (perhaps once using snakes in her stage act) and Spears get to interact with the reptiles.
It's all rather sinister, though Eric's over-the-top performance brings levity. Stanley's and his frequent star Spears' trademark foot fetishism is here in spades, with the usual foot-job and cum-on-her-feet action. Lei makes for a sympathetic beleaguered heroine, and the title, typically one-word for Stanley, is eventually a key element to the oddball story.
I watched this after screening a set of four Vivid releases Stanley made back-to-back in 2002, including Savanna Samson's feature debut "Girl of My Dreams", and the contrast in budgets and quirkiness with Stanley's more lavish and necessarily Wicked project is quite interesting, and recommended to the serious Adult Cinema fans out there as a homework assignment.
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