Formerly available as part of Alpha Blue Archives' Avon Dynasty set, After Hours Cinema here give the royal treatment to one of the better "roughies" of the early 1980s ...

Following an opening montage of hardcore sex footage set to sinister electro strains, THE STORY OF PRUNELLA begins proper at the East Gate Penitentiary - a notorious prison from which, a sombre male narration tells us, only a few have ever managed to escape.

The film follows the escape of those few men - Johnny (Martin Patton), Victor (David Christopher) and their leader Jimmy (George Payne). As they race off into the woods upon their escape from the Big House, the warden Cyrus (Marc Roberts) is distressed and calls for their immediate capture (it is election year, after all).

Elsewhere in the city, young cop Paul (Ron Jeremy) calls home early to pay a visit on his pretty fiancée Prunella (Ambrosia Fox). Oh my God, she's the prison warden's daughter!!

Despite claiming that she wishes to abstain from sex prior to their wedding, Paul finds Prunella lying on her bed - and after hardly any persuasion whatsoever proceeds to lick and fuck her, before cumming into her open mouth.

Afterwards, Paul calls his police chief and asks if anything exciting is happening. Indeed, he learns that three dangerous convicts are on the loose. "Ooh", as Paul exclaims. Paul prepares to leave for work, but bumps into Prunella's mother Denise (Dixie Dew) on the way out, and manages to inform the audience that a surprise wedding shower is soon to be held in Prunella's honour.

As Paul exits the warden's family home, Denise has a private fantasy (well, the magic of 16mm allows us to share it) in which she's banged hard by his big penis.

Meanwhile, Jimmy and his boys hide out in the woods waiting for his girlfriend Vendette (Cheri Chanpagne) to meet them with a getaway car. While they're waiting, Jimmy regales his pals with the story of how he first met Vendette: a delightful flashback ensues, in which he shafts her while strapping clothes pegs to her nipples and vagina lips.

When Vendette finally shows up she hasn't got a car with her. She narrowly avoids a beating from Jimmy by helping him flag down a car for them to steal. Lo and behold, the car they choose is being driven by Denise and Prunella - on their way to the wedding shower.

Jimmy checks out Denise's ID and realises he has the warden's family at his disposal. And so, the convicts decide to go along to the wedding shower, taking Denise and Prunella with them as their hostages.

As you can imagine, rape becomes the theme of the party. Jimmy holds centre court as he and his pals get their oats, grimacing and screaming obscenities into the faces of his curiously willing victims (including Niko) ...

THE STORY OF PRUNELLA is wonderful low-rent entertainment. It's wafer-thin story zips along at a cracking pace, the slick editing and economic camerawork keeping expositional material to a minimum as director Phil Prince piles on the perversions.

The sex is hot, even when it feels very wrong to suggest so, with each cast member giving a hugely spirited performance. Jeremy is a very well-endowed player at this stage in his career (1982), and gets a couple of hot early (non-rough) scenes to showcase his talents. Later in the film, the wedding shower orgy takes centre-stage. Despite some aggressive language and Payne's demonic gurning as he forces his penis into Prunella's anus, this is mostly erotic stuff - well-shot, well-lit and well performed. Even the money shots are captured well, which is rarely the case in films of this era.

Payne deserves his own paragraph. He's a truly odd character, an intense onscreen presence - a frightening sex offender who may or may not be behaving like this for the benefit of the cameras. I have to give him the benefit of the doubt for the sake of my own sanity - in which case, he's a great actor who deserved to go on to bigger things. The man is scary, and his character is very probably one of the most misogynistic pieces of shit ever to grace the screen.

As a piece of drama, the film works because it is blessed with the aforementioned ultra-tight pace, canny editing, good lighting and a script that all players seem to be into. The music's more akin to that of a warped thriller too. There's even a typically 70s-style downbeat ending to look forward to.

Performances, outside of the sex scenes, are decent enough and production values show more thought and planning ahead than most other porn films of the time. This works as a demented sex-terror thriller, as well as rough porn. If there is a gripe to be had, it's the slightly annoying tendency to show money shots in slow-motion from varying angles. It detracts from the documentary-like urgency of the rest of the film.

The film is presented uncut in it's original full-frame ratio. Colours are strong and grain is minimal in this well-rendered, smooth transfer. It's not the sharpest for detail, but it does stand as one of After Hours' cleanest presentations to date.

Likewise, the English mono audio track is problem-free and clear throughout.

The disc opens with a nice fast-moving animated menu that focuses on the film's action aspects.

There is no scene-selection menu for the main feature, but it can be navigated through remotely via 10 chapters.

Extras are very interesting indeed.

First up is an audio commentary track on PRUNELLA itself from Brian O'Hara - who we learn was the film's editor. The track is moderated by Michael Bowen in a very affable manner. The two chat with ease throughout the film, providing a constantly entertaining and at times surprisingly illuminating chat track.

O'Hara (credited in the film's opening titles as Max Houseinbold) chats to Bowen and, in the background, After Hours head honcho Michael Raso, with fluent memory about his time working on the film and about the NY porn scene in general. There are a few interesting anecdotes and some funny reminiscing over Jeremy's performances. O'Hara also points out Prince's cameo as a cop, while Raso reins in the enjoyable banter occasionally to focus on the film's more technical aspects. It's a recommended listen.

Next up is the superb 18-minute documentary "Prince Of Porn". Including archive footage of both Prince's films and his side of New York in general (watch out for rare film of the original Avon cinemas), the documentary is most fascinating for rare interview footage with Prince in his NY office, sat amongst a mountain of adult videotapes and magazines.

Prince appears as a surprisingly erudite and clued-up man, presentable in image and well-spoken enough to escape the cliché of what you'd expect the director of some of the most sadistic "roughies" around to look like.

Prince has some choice views on the adult industry, as do the few members of his staff that are also interviewed. Also interspersed with clips from the likes of DR BIZARRO, THE STORY OF PRUNELLA and KNEEL BEFORE ME, and some wonderful footage of George Payne outtakes, this is a brilliant insight into a weird, weird world.

The documentary is presented in full-frame with English mono audio, and is credited as having been directed by O'Hara in 2002.

In a really nice touch, the documentary also benefits from a beguiling commentary track from O'Hara and Bowen. Priceless.

As if all of that wasn't enough, a few outtakes from the PRUNELLA shoot follow. These are presented in full-frame and last 4 minutes in total. These help illustrate how much Prince concentrated on script and other technical factors, such as unwanted noise on set - it wasn't just about the fucking and sucking (although there are both in the outtakes too). It's interesting to note how intense Payne appears even between takes. Scary!

An Avon 7 trailer vault contains previews for MY MISTRESS ELECTRA, DR BIZARRO, THE TAMING OF REBECCA, WICKED SCHOOLGIRLS and TALES OF THE BIZARRE. Some of these are very poor quality (REBECCA, for example, looks like the source is an extremely worn videotape). But it's great to see them - original trailers in all their hardcore glory. Are After Hours releasing these beauties onto DVD too? We can only hope!

Finally, there's a great 8-page booklet with colours screen grabs from the film along with superior liner notes from Bowen. A most welcome bonus in itself, the booklet gives Bowen the opportunity to share his knowledge on the early history of the Avon 7 cinemas and the subsequent career of Prince. Sterling work.

All in all, this is a fantastically provocative film that also just happens to be extremely well-made. A disconcerting minor masterpiece that must be seen by anyone with even a passing interest in grindhouse extremes.

After Hours have graced THE STORY OF PRUNELLA with possibly their strongest DVD set yet, all of which conspire to make this one of the "must-have" purchases of 2009.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by After Hours Cinema
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review