From After Hours Cinema and Secret Key Motion Pictures, two films from legendary porno filmmaker Carter Stevens. Although, hold the hardcore porn on these occasions ...
PUNK ROCK (a.k.a. ROCK ORGY; TEENAGE RUNAWAYS) opens with still images of the film's various musical performers flashing on screen in neon-type lights as the credits play out to Mike Post-style music.
Then we get a Marlowe-esque voiceover from hardboiled private detective Jimmy (Wade Nichols), celebrating the conclusion of another case, wherein he's located runaway teenager Jenny (Susaye London). But his celebratory nap is swiftly curtailed by a telephone call asking that he return Jenny to her rich father. But Jimmy's not ready to hand over the girl just yet - he hasn't quite finished fucking her.
A second telephone call ends Jimmy's fun though, when his boss Travis (Don Peterson) rings demanding that Jimmy make his way over to his apartment sharpish. When Jimmy arrives, he finds Travis shot dead in the shower.
Meanwhile Jenny has been left alone in Jimmy's apartment with only a dildo for company. Midway through her playtime, a sleazy hippy breaks in and drags her away. When Jimmy discovers this, he realises Travis' murder was simply a diversion so that Jenny could be kidnapped.
Jimmy's distraught, as he genuinely has feelings for the pretty brunette, and calls in the help of his former colleague, cop Joe (Robert Kerman, performing here under the name of Richard Bolla). There's no love lost between Joe and Jimmy, but Joe agrees to help find the culprits because Travis was his friend too.
After agreeing to Joe's policy of no violence, Jimmy immediately sets about beating the shit out of potential witnesses and snitches on the street, in an effort to track down Jenny and her abductors. In one amusing scene, he points a gun at an informant's bare cock in a bid to get the facts.
Jimmy's rough methods work and his quest takes him deeper into New York's underground scene, a seedy neon-lit world of rock music, sex and nightclubs. The leads point Jimmy in the direction of a sex slavery trade, and in particular the elusive pimp Igor (Bobby Astyr).
From here on in, PUNK ROCK progresses episodically through various New York nighttime haunts of the 1970s, and breaking in pace frequently to afford us live club performances from the likes of Elda and the Stilettos, The Squirrels, Spicy Bits and The Fast.
A superbly scuzzy snapshot of the New York underground scene of it's time (1977), PUNK ROCK revels in the fashions and sounds of it's era, even fashioning it's script to contain an incredulous misunderstanding of this culture in Nichols' frequently amusing voiceover.
With hardcore sex scenes substituted for musical interludes in this porn-free version of Stevens' film (two versions were shot), it's an extremely tame film despite a profane script and plenty of graphic references to the sex you don't get to see.
In a way, this version of PUNK ROCK must be arguably more intriguing and therefore more satisfying than the alternate porn version - it relies instead on a convoluted, hardboiled plot and the documentary-style filming of New York at it's seediest.
As a low-budget crime drama with foul-mouthed characters and a plethora of no-wave rockers as it's stylistic backbone, it's a successful pot-boiler that undeniably brings the more sanitary George C Scott film HARDCORE to mind.
Nichols is surprisingly good in the lead role, being at once unbelievably cheesy and convincingly tough. His grasp of the New York dialogue is amusingly strong, while his presence is truly charismatic. Better known for his legacy in hardcore porn, it's a shame he didn't get the opportunity to branch further into mainstream acting prior to his AIDS-related demise in 1985.
Kerman, of course, has managed to stay the distance and starred in films such as CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and EATEN ALIVE!, along with dozens of pornos. It has to be said, his performance is not one of the strongest here. Thankfully, he's not in the film too much (whenever he is, he tends to speak with his finger - wagging it in people's faces whenever his lips move).
Elsewhere, the cast also includes the likes of Crystal Sync, Jean Sanders, Randy Coppasquatto and the excellent Astyr. They all give alarmingly good performances.
Overall, PUNK ROCK is an enjoyably squalid crime thriller with a seedy atmosphere that oozes from the screen. The music tends to grate as do the live performances, but it's worth sticking around for the satisfyingly grim finale.
PLEASURE PALACE originates from 1979 and, again, is a porn-lite alternate version of a film Stevens had shot earlier.
In it, cop Jimmy (Eric Edwards) tells in an opening narration how he's been booted off the vice squad. We first meet him tearing up the freeway in his car with best buddy Mike (Robert Kerman - again billed as Richard Bolla), on their way to buy a brothel with Jimmy's severance pay.
More hardboiled dialogue and rock 'n' roll songs on the soundtrack punctuate PLEASURE PALACE, as Jimmy and Mike arrive at the brothel and proceed to get friendly with the staff there. Stevens has clearly cut his film down for an R-rating at the time on this occasion, as clumsy music cuts testify. Also, what's left of these trysts, while not explicit, certainly suggests that people are fornicating for real.
Events take a turn for the worse though when a gang of hoodlums led by the coked up Joe (Jamie Gillis) turn up, wanting the brothel for their own. An unexpectedly tight script wraps this one up in just over an hour, building by way of some half-decent gags towards another downbeat - and violent - climax.
Although it's fun in it's own right, I suspect PLEASURE PALACE would make more sense in it's hardcore variant. Without the porn elements, it's not strong enough to hold it's own as a piece of compelling drama. The story is a one-note affair and, while Edwards and Gillis shine on occasion, performances are negligible.
That having been said, it's worth noting the inclusion of gorgeous blonde Serena and huge-titted Veri Knotty as prostitutes. Not to mention, a very young and slim Ron Jeremy in a blink-and-you'll miss-him cameo as a brothel customer (check out his Afro!).
The disc kicks right in with a fast-moving animated main-menu page, allowing access to both films along with the now-familiar "Grind It!" function - an option that plays both films double bill-style, complete with trailers in-between.
Both films are presented in soft anamorphic 1.78:1 transfers. Detail is compromised by the general softness and some minor colour bleeding is evident, but other than that the prints are reasonably clean.
English mono audio for both films is clear and largely free from hiss.
Although there are no scene-selection menus on offer, each film has the following chapters: PUNK (17 chapters); PLEASURE (14 chapters).
Extras begin with decent audio commentary tracks from Stevens on both films. Stevens makes for an excellent listen, explaining how he originally shot a porn version of PUNK ROCK and then spent a further year developing this version, which included lots of new footage and even an entirely new sub-plot. Michael Bowen is an intelligent moderator, while After Hours main-man Mike Raso is also on hand to add to the fun when required.
More of the same follows on PLEASURE PALACE's commentary track, Stevens occasionally sounding like an excited Danny De Vito.
Next up is an engaging 10-minute interview with Stevens. Slickly produced with clips from both films, it's a good chat with the healthy-looking director discussing the genesis of both films, and in particular the background to getting PUNK ROCK made. An interesting tit-bit of info touches upon how Deborah Harry was originally in one of the bands that appeared in the film, but had left the group by the time Stevens was ready to film them.
A music video follows, for The Fast's "It's Like Love". Shot by Stephen Israel and Bob Epstein in 1977, it's a fascinatingly relevant addition. Okay, the full-frame quality is poor and the song is pure bubblegum, but it's a great Devo-like watch regardless.
What kind of After Hours/Secret Key release would this be if it didn't contain a plethora of trailers for other titles in their roster? Sure enough, on this occasion we have THE BUSTY STAG COLLECTION, BEYOND THE BUSTY STAGS, GRINDHOUSE TRASH COLLECTION, GRINDHOUSE TRASH COLLECTION 3, NIGHT OF PERVERTED PLEASURES, SKIN IN THE 50S, SKIN IN THE 60S, SWINGING IN THE 70S, CARTER STEVENS GRINDHOUSE DOUBLE FEATURE and the excellent-sounding THE FILMS OF CARTER STEVENS.
Finally we get a good fold-out 6-page booklet with liner notes from the ever-dependable Michael J Bowen.
An interesting coupling of two mainstream-friendly offerings from porn legend Carter Stevens, boasting some of the biggest names in 70s porn - acting! For PUNK ROCK alone, this is worthy of a gander.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Secret Key|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|