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  • James Avalon in his unsung 2000 feature "Shrinkwrapped" explored the fascinating issue of whether a person's vivid Dream World while sleeping is actually reality, and the supposed Real World of mundane everyday life is really the dream instead. This topic is just as interesting in the talented hands of director Henri Pachard and screenwriter Raven Touchstone in "The Neon Bed", another turn of this century porn feature forgotten, but worth rediscovering.

    Chloe, a terrific actress who younger fans might not realize was an all-time great in Adult Entertainment, stars in a dual role: by day she's a reporter for a trashy Hollywood expose magazine, tagging along on crime cases with her cop boyfriend played by Tony Tedeschi. But when she falls asleep she becomes a cheesecake model named Sarah.

    The back and forth action between these two existences is not played for laughs but rather to put her in a quandary: which is real? For the viewer, the intellectual fun begins with the obvious fact: neither. We're watching a porn feature and have to count ourselves lucky there is any point at all to the proceedings, let alone a deep examination of Descartes' philosophy.

    Ron Sullivan aka Pachard packs in seven satisfying sex scenes while keeping us guessing as to the outcome of Chloe's dilemma. Along the way she encounters The Neon Bed, a lit-up table in a tattoo parlor run by a mysterious oriental man known as the Pin Man (uncredited, per porno disrespect for the non-sex roles). The same table appears in her other life, giving rise to the film's title.

    Even odder is a worker for the tattooist named Romeo, who is known as the Pain Catcher, a moniker that conjures up mystical tales like the Soul Catcher of Native American lore. He's played by big-dicked Lee Stone, whose job is to lie there like a mattress, his body softening the blow of the tattoo needle during lengthy sessions on the client lying atop him. Ultimately he gets to service the client with said dick, and the movie elegantly has Chloe ending up with and proud of her only-half finished butterfly tattoo at fade-out.

    There's plenty of food for thought in Touchstone's script, and a strange charm to "The Neon Bed" that might catch dilettante viewers off-guard.

    At times I feel perilously alone in my current mission to take the narrative features of Adult Cinema/Video made at the turn of this century (sandwiched between the junk of today and the classics of the Golden Era that ended mid-'80s) seriously and see what they have to offer beyond raw sex. "The Neon Bed" (along with Avalon's "Shrinkwrapped" on the same topic) is a good place to start; then continue on with a few dozen Adam & Eve pictures from this period.