Not the longest story porn I've ever seen (CITY OF VICES takes that cake), but weighing in at 188 minutes James Avalon's SHADES OF KINK can be a wearying experience. Ever since XXX left the movie theaters to enter one's home directly, this trend toward elephantiasis has accelerated so I can't blame it all on this baby. (Ironically in those good old days all home video porn was of the mail order variety in 8mm running say 5 to 10 minutes long.)
Artistically it is an achievement with stunning (yet simple) cinematography utilizing lighting that gives the impression of sunlight streaming in through windows onto writhing bodies, and intense performances of a seasoned cast not wanting to leave anything on the table. Yet tedium is inevitable in sex scenes now pushing the 40 minute mark each.
Maddy O'Reilly is mighty impressive in a showcase role which plays almost as an audition for her more nuanced and moving performance two years later in THE SEXUAL LIBERATION OF ANNA LEE.
She stars as a young woman headed for a job interview at a marketing firm headed by Evan Stone. He, as I guess has become de rigeur for job interviews these days, puts her on the spot and after many intrusive and politically incorrect questions gives her a flat no to working for him -apparently she's too virginal (hmm...perhaps O'Reilly is one of the few XXX actresses Evan had not yet worked with in a scene).
She challenges him to give her a chance and, this being porn and "KINK" in its title, he hands her a couple of large Ben Wah balls to stick in her vagina and write up a campaign about them. At this point I realized director Avalon was going to take sexual harassment at the workplace to its outer limits. There are only brief office scenes, however, and I finally identified her bewildered co-worker Hector as an uncredited Dane Cross, in a non-sex role for Avalon around the same time he was shooting and starring in the director's feature THE STRIPPER.
She passes this test but next day in his office he suddenly hits her hand harshly with a whip - signs of BDSM to come. He invites her out for the evening and film launches into a rather amazing set-piece as sex performers ("I'm Puppet #1" quips Erik in the BTS short subject) Erik Everhard and Lily LaBeau have sex on a bed across the room as Maddy is forced to watch by Evan. As with all of this movie, the kinky sex is lightweight by design, closer to 50 SHADES OF GREY than a Phil Prince '80s gross-out movie.
The pair deal in suffocation techniques (choking as well as covering partner's mouth & nose for prolonged periods), slapping and other rough moves with an intensity not previously displayed in Sweet Sinner's line of naturalistic sex videos.
At their next dinner together Maddy gets Evan to tell her details of his upbringing and personal history. It all sounds like a load of b.s., but proves not to be relevant to the movie's plot line. On black sheets with Evan dressed in black (and Maddy wearing black high heels) they have a stylized sex scene which results in so many orgasms for the young girl that as she types into her lap top diary later she feels in love with her new boss. In scenes like this (minus the sex?) I conjured up Alec Baldwin as the perfect mainstream actor to play Evan's role in a Hollywood rather than Chatsworth version of the material.
Third lengthy vignette is staged at Evan's lavish mansion, instantly recognizable by its fancy door and spiral staircase as the porn setting of innumerable videos, notably Sweet Sinner's IMMORAL PROPOSAL (that also starred Stone). It's the white-on-white, wide-angle lens distortion backdrop for a somewhat disappointing ritual, as Evan blindfolds his young charge and has three masked studs in black manhandle her, one of whom later takes charge and humps her brains out.
That stud is the easily recognizable Mr. Pete, bringing his porn habit of whispering instructions and reactions to his partner. Pointlessly the 3 guys are wearing masks, because they only show up after Maddy is already blindfolded (and we, the loyal voyeur audience, are not supposed to be actually watching, only getting to do so through the magic of PORNOVISION!!!).
The abuse to Maddy meted out here is fairly lame - I thought the actress was being subjected to discomfort trying to lie on or sit on a little chair while Evan occasionally would intervene and grab her shoulder to make for an even more contorted position. Wardrobe lady having her wear cute flats rather than high heels contradictorily was looking out for her comfort, but that really is a jarring detail, sort of GIDGET GOES S&M rather than the fetish gear one expects to see.
Finale is also a bit of a letdown in a film that starts off way stronger than it finishes. Andy San Dimas guest stars as Evan's true love Alina, and Maddy is forced in true domination fashion to watch, unable to get sexual release herself, as Evan does a number on Andy lying right next to the poor girl on a couch. After about half an hour of this she gets up and leaves, disgusted with the second-class treatment she's receiving from her boss whom she assumed was in love with her.
I liked the film's non-sex trick ending back at the office, but it was hardly worth three hours of waiting to deliver it. Maybe Stanley Kramer's JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG is one of Avalon's favorite movies, when we'd all be better off if he were more enamored of Sam Fuller's THE NAKED KISS.
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