Posted by Richard Harland Smith on April 19, 2013
And I quote…
(In) 1973, a horror-porn film called SEXCULA went before the cameras. Costing something in the neighborhood of $85,000, SEXCULA was credited to a director named “Bob Hollowich” (actually John Holbrook, later thecinematographer of GHOSTKEEPER) and a producer named “Clarence Frog” (real name, Clarence Newfield). Holbrook is co-credited under his real name for the music andediting of the film, and a cinematographer named John Goode, credited as “Boris von Bonnie,” lit and shot the 86-minute, full colour picture. Debbie Collins starred as Sexcula, JamieOrlando appeared as Fellatingstein, and Tim Lowry limned the intriguingly-named Orgie. The dual roles of “Gorilla” and “Logger” were played by someone named Bud Coal. Unfortunately, though the film was evidently finished it was never released, and thirty years on it seems unlikely that it ever will be. That’s a shame, since of all the sub-sub-sub genres in the world, Canadian horror porn must be among the most under-represented.
Caelum Vatnsdal, They Came from Within: A History of Canadian Horror Cinema (ArbeiterRing Publishing, 2004)
2013: SEXCULA found! SEXCULA on DVD!
I confess that there is a part of me that is gratified (not sexually gratified, mind you – cinematically gratified) that SEXCULA has been found. For what it’s worth (value yet to be determined), its production is history — specifically Canucksploitation history, about which I am unashamedly passionate. My thing with Canadian movies goes back to childhood, when our TV aerial would, if rotated to the west, pick up television stations from Manhattan and beyond. I saw a fair amount of Canadian cinema from my preteen years and up, from Harvey Hart’s Satanic policier THE PYX (1973) and Bob Clark’s proto-slasher BLACKCHRISTMAS (1974) to the post-HALLOWEEN/FRIDAY THE 13TH boom of PROM NIGHT (1980), TERROR TRAIN (1980), MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981), HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981), and HUMONGOUS (1982), to the fat rat romps of DEADLY EYES (1982) and OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN (1983) to the gnarly Cronenberg movies (SHIVERS, RABID, THE BROOD) made before he became legitimate and classy, and crime capers like STONE COLD DEAD (1979), CERTAIN FURY (1985), and AND THEN YOU DIE (1987). I could go on and on because the deluge of genre cinema out of the Great White North was of seeming Biblical proportions… and riding that wave was a bit of pornographic flotsam called SEXCULA.
It’s worth noting at this juncture that the idea of mixing skin and spooks was hardly new in 1973-1974. In Lee Frost’s HOUSE ON BARE MOUNTAIN (1962), Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, and the Wolfman crash a Halloween party at an all-girls’ academy. The monsters popped up again in the Harry H. Novak-produced farce KISS ME QUICK (1964), as part of a plot to abduct female specimens for extracurricular extraterrestrial activities. The infamous, Ed Wood-scripted ORGY OF THE DEAD (1965) laid its action in a graveyard, where costumed strippers capered and cavorted in various states of undress for the amusement of the undead, headed by TV prognosticator Criswell (a decade past PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE and looking grateful for a place to sit down), and sundry monsters. The straight-up vampire flick COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE (1970) was conceived as a skin flick but actor Robert Quarry (to hear him tell the tale) steered the production in a more mainstream direction so that he could play the title role. Ed Ed Wood took the reins of NECROMANIA (1971), the tale of a man who consults with a diabolist (a role turned down by Vampira) as a means of curing his erectile dysfunction. That particular plot point makes as good a segue as any to SEXCULA, which relates the chronicle of a female scientist who turns to her alluring Transylvanian cousin (“She’s basically a hooker.”) to help get a rise out of the synthetic man she has created for her pleasure.
In my capacity as a film blogger, I am sent a lot of DVDs for films that are inappropriate or just aren’t right for the Turner Classic Movies crowd… and SEXCULA certainly fits into that category. As a fan of both horror films and Canadian films (and, it would follow, Canadian horror films), I have to at least acknowledge the existence of this thing as a curio — a periodically hardcore — but often surprisingly discreet — porn film from a country where there was no porn industry and a Gothic horror movie (albeit only superficially) from a country that had to that point produced no Gothic horror. SEXCULA seems inspired aesthetically by the horror movies Hammer Studios was making in the 1970s, films such as THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970), THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (1970), and LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971) and it actually predates both the influential Universal-NBC telefilm FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY (first broadcast in November 1973, after SEXCULA was in the can), which broke from horror movie convention by depicting a Frankenstein monster marked (at least initially) by his physical beauty and gentleness, and the cult classic THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975), though not, of course, the original stage show. As had the latter day Hammer horrors, which were not content merely to heave bosoms but insisted on baring them, SEXCULA flies its freak flag high, letting its entire cast strip to the all-together for a series of onscreen couplings contrived to supply its woman-made-man (John Alexander) with sufficient sex cells to satisfy his maker by revitalizing his money-maker.
One has to come to SEXCULA with a particular mindset in order to gain anything from the experience, but even then there’s no guarantee the journey will be worth one’s investment of time. As both porn and horror, it is sorely lacking – it barely even qualifies as film, and direction to the actors seems to have consisted of little more than “Say your lines until you run out of breath, take a breath, and say more lines.” (Seriously, compared to what passes for onscreen chemistry here, the little kids they got to voice the Peanuts characters for those old TV specials sound like well-seasoned troupers in a Harold Pinter play.) After an opening scene set in contemporary times, in which a couple set on renovating a dilapidated country home discover a dusty diary, the film decamps to 1869, albeit an 1869 in which wristwatches, telephones, zippers, duct tape, and pornographic films are commonplace items. That the filmmakers made any attempt at all to approximate the look of an old Universal horror movie set is commendable up to a certain point but at another point the caring came to a dead halt. As Canadian film critic Paul Corupe suggested in his review of the film, parts of SEXCULA may even have been culled from another porn flick entirely, as none of its principal players appears in the extended orgy scene that brings the whole affair to a… well, let’s just say it does end.
The making-of SEXCULA is far more interesting than anything that happens during its 86 minutes (I’ll cop to occasional fast forwarding – sue me), especially given that somebody (probably construction contractor turned one-off film producer Clarence Neufield/Newfield) spent $85,000 on something with no viable market and then stood back as it disappeared from the face of the earth for nearly 40 years. The rediscovery of so unprepossessing a title gives me hope that other ostensibly lost films might yet be found. (LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT, we can hear you breathing!) Most valuable as a footnote, SEXCULA does deserve a place in horror history, and for that reason I file it among such other female monster-maker movies as TEENAGE ZOMBIES (1959), JESSIE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER (1966) and SANTO VS. LA HIJA DE FRANKENSTEIN (1972) and marvel at the similarity of its ending to that of Barbra Streisand’s feel-good favorite THE PRINCE OF TIDES (1991), whose dysfunctional protagonist is saved in similar fashion, through the sexual intercession of a lady doctor as beguiling as she is brilliant.
To order the SEXCULA DVD directly from Impulse Picturtes, click here.
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