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PERVERTED PASSION [a.k.a Fire Down Below] (1974) / TERRI'S REVENGE (1975).

When it comes to reviewing porno flicks, there are a number of different ways for a critic (ahem) to approach the scummy material. There's (1) watching it with a distanced, moral disdain, while focusing of its rampant misogyny. Or (2) valiantly searching for some minuscule level of artistic merit. And more recently, there's (3) treating it like endearingly kitschy trash. Well, none of those rationales need apply when it comes to this duet. Because they suck!!... But if you do have to watch lousy porn, always head for the mid-'70s variety, since these were cranked out by filmmakers who were still experimenting with the genre, long before today's interchangeable plots, stars and sexual shenanigans. Plus, these low down dirty pics capture a grubby reality that present-day porno can't touch. Here are two examples of what made '70s X-rated moviegoing so groundbreaking, raunchy, and really, really ugly.

PERVERTED PASSION (a/k/a Fire Down Below) may have been credited to director/writer Cindy Lou Sutters, but it was actually made by none other than Mr. RAT PFINK A BOO BOO himself, Ray Dennis Steckler (obviously during his leaner years). The movie's "plot" (I use the term loosely) follows a fat slob on his eternal search for Love. Recently released from the State Asylum for the Criminally Insane, this lowlife deviant peeks into windows (cut to: some grainy sex scene, obviously shot at a different time), ogles various young woman ("I like it, I like it, I like it... Wait'll she sees me.. .She's gonna love me," he slobbers to himself), opens his neighbors' apartment door while they're screwing (of course, they're too busy to notice) and resembles an older, seedier Tom Arnold -- with (difficult to believe) even less natural charisma. Alone in his skanky SRO (complete with Bruce Lee posters on the wall) he stares in the mirror and fantasizes about getting all the women he wants because he's a "Real Man" -- God's gift to the vagina -- when in reality, they guy would have problems attracting a 90-year-old, leprous crack whore. Looking at this guy naked is one of the bigger turn-offs I can imagine (second only to Shelley Winters in a thong bikini), and he finally strangles a dime-store whore when she can't get his teeny-weenie penis to work properly. Along the way he also offs a red-head who (though not credited) look remarkably like Steckler's longtime ingenue, Carolyn Brandt. The sex scenes are routinely shot, with all the white-trash fucking 'n' sucking you could want on a ten dollar budget, complete with penetration close-ups that allow you to inspect every unsightly vein and crease. At least the women and men they found look real -- not like today's chiseled, surgically-altered freaks. I only wish they identified the individual actors, so I could give a prize to our lead degenerate for a performance (and body) that goes far beyond the call of duty. For a bit of unexpected nostalgia, the print even has a huge emulsion scratch right down the middle of the screen, just like the salad days of Times Square's jism-encrusted dives. The entire movie is so unapologetically repulsive that video deviants will probably consider it the funniest film of the year. But by far, the most hilarious aspect of this 62-minute slop is how it tries to justify its own existence by referring to itself as a hard-hitting expose. You see, government cut-backs are actually to blame, since they allow psychos and sex-fiends like this to run wild on the streets. So I guess that means it's actually a socially-conscious chunk of shit, after all.

Up for more early adult thrills? We've also got TERRI'S REVENGE, a much more generic outing starring scrawny Terri Hall (THE STORY OF JOANNA, GUMS), and with porn-star turned porn-maker Zebedy Colt behind the camera. Though distinguished from the normal rotgut by its man-hating feminist veneer, everything else about the flick places it far from the creme de la cum-ola And although Hall chews through her sex scenes like a pro, she's in no way an actress. It kicks off with Terri and her husband Chad screwing outdoors, on a picnic blanket (where's Yogi and Boo Boo when you need 'em?), and takes its sweet time before igniting the storyline. Finally, 20-minutes in, Terri's hubbie suddenly passes her off to a brutish friend, she's raped in a two-way, and learns to loathe all men . Of course, even while she's being raped, Terri still seems oddly enthusiastic with her blow-jobs. After that, she runs into another woman who's also been dicked around by a lying beau, who shackled her hands and gave her an unwanted golden shower. "Men are all alike... Who needs them?" says Terri, so she (and her newfound girlfriend) play with a vibrator instead. At least it gets a little more entertaining when they start up a support group (consisting of the two of them) entitled Women Against Rape (W.A.R.), which has them happily shoving dildos up unwilling guys' asses. Thanks to its flashback structure, the editing gets to be slightly creative, while its sound effects are lovably overwrought (when one character goes down on another, it sounds more like a clogged pool filter). But as a whole, the film is crude, dingy and wretchedly-acted. So much so that it has the same vibe as John Waters' earliest pics -- alas, without any of the humor. Meanwhile, Hall's troweled-on make-up only heightens that comparison. Unfortunately, here she's supposed to be attractive. If somebody like Waters had been behind the camera, this could've been a four-star sleazy romp, especially when these "spaced-out" femme vigilantes go berserk. No such luck here, folks. This is wham-bam cinema with only the slightest touch of imagination -- and even that's purely accidental, as far as I can tell. It's no surprise that despite all his celluloid efforts (VIRGIN DREAMS, THE AFFAIRS OF JANICE, THE DEVIL INSIDE HER), the name Zebedy Colt barely registers a blip in the X-rated history books.

© 1997 by Steven Puchalski.