|Stripped (a.k.a. Devon Stripped) (2002)|
The First Word: Director Nic Andrews debuts with Digital Playground in this glossy, couple's friendly feature starring Devon and the legendary Ginger Lynn (in a non-sex role) about a young woman who becomes a stripper after failing as a mainstream actress.
What's It About?: As the movie opens, a title informs us that this story, written by Beth Ann Rafael, is based on a true story. Actually, it's such a cliché story that it seems like it's probably drawn from the story of a lot of starlets. Even though you can probably figure out how the story will unfold within five minutes, it's still pretty engaging for a porno script. Stripped stars blonde Digital Playground contract girl Devon, who plays Anette, an aspiring actress in Hollywood. Facing bills and a starving musician boyfriend (Devon's real life BF, Barrett B.), she spends her days going to audition after audition. She's frustrated that she can't get work without putting out.
But since it's a porno, she does put out, first to her boyfriend in a fairly tender, Vaseline-lensed love scene. Fortunately, it's one of the better boy-girl scenes she's done, probably because of the chemistry between her and Barrett. It starts out with a lot of kissing, a nice blowjob, and a very wet doggy position. And it ends with a pop on the stomach, something that's rarely seen, even in features.
The next morning, Anette goes to Wanda's house to do laundry. Wanda (Ginger Lynn), is her best friend, but it's obvious that Anette doesn't know everything about her friend, including the fact that she's a dancer. In one of the best dialogue scenes of the movie, naive Anette trades barbs with Wanda over the merits of stripping. Ginger Lynn nails the acting--for example, when Devon's character equates stripping to prostitution, her "you did NOT just say that" reaction is about as realistic as they get.
Despite the disagreement, Anette gets to thinking, and decides to visit Wanda at the strip club. There are two strip sequences: first, Nakita Kash performs some of her famous pole work, followed by a number by Ginger Lynn. Having seen her in person, I'd say that it's not her best dancing, but she still has the gift and the body even after all these years. After the show, Wanda gives Anette a rundown of how they drain money from the customers with drinks and VIP lapdances. She demonstrates the technique on Anthony Crane, and unlike the typical porno version of a lapdance, it's strictly hands-off, just like the real thing.
The story takes a detour to get on with the sex, as the club owner, played smoothly by Herschel Savage, gets a private performance from the gorgeous Monica Sweetheart. The scene is a bit on the boring side, especially since Monica plays it pretty coolly, and the lack of lubrication seems to indicate that they're not really enjoying themselves. The bright spot in the scene is the decent oral pop shot (read down in the DVD Extras section of this review to find out how Devon reacted to seeing it).
So, of course, Anette becomes a dancer, and a month later, we see her perform in the club. I don't think she's all that special on stage, but I'm sure fans of hers will be pleased to see her feature act. She's also propositioned by Monica Mayhem and Nakita Kash in the ladies' bathroom (which looks suspiciously like the Digital Playground bathroom given the Island Fever poster hanging on the wall). Even though she refuses, Monica and Nakita do some licking and probing on their own. I'm not bowled over by either of the girls, but what guy could not like the sight of a girl eating another girl out on the bathroom sink or standing next to a bathroom stall? And there's a unique girl-girl twist: there's a creative "reach around" finger-fucking position that I really liked.
The downward spiral begins: screaming fight with boyfriend, lap dance with customer, and Anette's "first" girl-girl with Holly Hollywood on top of the club bar (boy, Devon has a pretty pussy!). From there, she branches out to doing private parties, where she first does a very tame girl-girl bachelor party show with Danella Rush (there's probably less than five seconds of hardcore footage; the rest is non-explicit). Then she hooks up with Julian (boy, Julian has a huge cock!) for some side business. It's a nice little scene, a bit short, but when you have little Julian getting sucked by Devon, who can complain? Even though there's a raincoat used for the deed, it's done for dramatic effect (she's supposedly fucking a guy she's never met before). It also adds a little excitement to the obvious visuals of Julian banging our protagonist to imagine that she's really the out-of-luck stripper who's doing her first private party.
I won't give away the ending, but I'm sure you can already figure out where Anette goes from there...
What I liked: Excellent acting: Devon plays the perfect, naive blonde with the innocent "Jennie Garth (of Beverly Hills 90210)" persona. Ginger Lynn plays the veteran dancer and older friend role to a 'T,' and Barrett plays the jealous boyfriend convincingly (so much so that you wonder what Barrett and Devon's relationship is like in real life). Finally, Herschel Savage in the supporting role of the smarmy club owner manages to avoid the obnoxious New York wiseguy stereotype.
Great sets: Anthony Crane, one of the most underrated figures in the industry, not only has a cameo as a lapdance customer, but he also designed some top notch sets. While most of the scenes were filmed in practical locations, the overall design was very realistic and well-lit. Unlike most strip club sets, this one really does come off like a strip club, not just a soundstage that's dressed up like one (or in this particular case, a bar transformed to a strip club).
Lots of cameos: Aside from Ginger Lynn's major non-sex acting role, there are quite a few cameos beside Anthony Crane's lap: Andre Madness, Robby D., April, DP Publicist Adella, Chenin Blanc, Lea De Mae, AVN's Tod Hunter and Nic Andrews himself. It adds quite a bit of production value to see a lot of non-sex cameos, especially of folks who work in the industry but not in front of the camera.
What I didn't like: Not the best movie to wank to: Forget this one if you're a raincoater: no anal, a couple of non-facial cumshots, no toys, and little dirty talk. There are really only two visually stimulating boy-girl scenes (Devon/Barrett and Devon/Julian) because of the guys' big dicks. And if you hate condoms, then the second scene is going to be a write-off (never mind that DP is one of the only feature companies that doesn't require raincoats). With the tame and more tender sex to go along with the bona fide storyline, Stripped would make ideal couple's porn if it wasn't for...
Too much girl-girl: I suppose you can make the argument that the two and a half scenes of lesbian sex was necessary to the story or that a lot of guys like to see girls get it on. I tend to think the real reason for such a heavy amount of girl-girl in a couple's feature is either the writer's preference (Beth Ann Rafael is into girls) or that it was cheaper filler material to buoy the already-expensive film. Don't quote me on that--it's just my guess. Regardless, this would have been a stronger couple's film if it wasn't for the Sapphic emphasis, since a lot of straight women are turned off by girl-girl. As for me, I don't mind, but then again, I'm a guy!
The Music: Well, this is really just a minor gripe. The original soundtrack is pretty decent and ranges from new age instrumentals to 80's rock to dance/techno. Obviously Derik Andrews, the composer, put a lot of effort into the 23 original tracks. It's too bad then that the audio mix during the sex scenes favors the musical soundtrack, drowning out most of the production track. I don't like to have to either spin the volume knob between dialogue scenes or watch the whole thing with really loud music throughout just to keep up with the script. But again, that's just a minor complaint.
DVD Extras: Ah, I love to see full-featured DVDs, and Stripped is chock full 'o extras! There's an 11.5 minute behind-the-scenes video, which is not as detailed or as long as the ones that Wicked does, but it's still interesting. There are a few funny moments included, such as Barrett playing penis puppeteer. Next, there's a 5-minute casting video showing the final readings with Devon & Barrett and Monica Sweetheart (who was considered for the lead role--thankfully, she wasn't selected; she's a beautiful woman but her accent would have totally killed the role).
With such a dialogue-intensive movie, it's inevitable that there will be a lot of flubbed lines, of which Nic picked out three and a half minutes worth of funny bloopers to add to the DVD. One of my favorite extras is a very unique set of audio outtakes. The first recording is the complete radio DJ spot that is partially used in the movie, where a radio talk show host is interviewing adult director "Brad Raven." It's done in deadpan style and it sounds completely professional--very creative. The second recording is made up of different takes of the strip club DJ voiceover, first with a Cuban accent and then in a normal one. It's hilarious (for example, encouraging the patrons to buy a $20 lapdance because the girl's "double-wide is a single-wide right now at the trailer park"), and the presentation is unique since the video image shows a visual representation of the audio while you're listening to the tracks.
There's also a trailer for the movie (an excellent one, by the way), a 23-picture photo gallery with both hardcore and softcore, high-resolution pictures, and bios of Devon, Ginger Lynn, and Nic Andrews.
The best part of the extras, though, is the audio commentary track. It's easily one of the best one's I've listened to, and I've listened to quite a few. It's a really fun, high-energy session with Nic Andrews, Ginger Lynn, Devon, Barrett B., and the writer Beth Ann Rafael. I chuckled most of the way through--there are a lot of good filming stories and some really funny comments (such as Devon saying, "Oh, I don't like the chunky [sperm]!" after watching Hershel pop into Monica's mouth. There's a lot of good-natured ribbing between the cast and crew, and it's definitely worth listening to.
About the only thing that is missing from the extras is some extra sex footage. Nic mentions in the commentary that he had to cut a lot of the footage because the movie was running long. It would have been nice to throw in a bit of the outtakes or deleted scenes for a perfect value-add. Still, given the number of supplemental features included on this single DVD edition and the quality of the commentary, it's worthy of a Visionary Award for DVD Extras.
A/V Quality: The video quality is very good, although the soft focus in some of the scenes was distracting. From the commentary, we learn that Nic filmed using Mini 35, an adapter that uses 35mm film lenses with digital video cameras. That gives the picture a motion picture depth of field and focus and the results are definitely harder to distinguish from film at a glance. I was less impressed with the audio; aside from the music being too loud during the sex scenes, a lot of the dialogue had a noticeable amount of echo (from the small, acoustically reflective shooting locations). However, the audio commentary is very well done considering the number of people--it's like sitting in the same room while they recorded it.
The Last Word: This is nothing less than the best DVD I've seen come out of Digital Playground as of June 2003. It was a real coup for DP to pick up Nic Andrews since he brings class, experience, and production value with him. I can only imagine what Nic could have done with Island Fever, Playground's much ballyhooed but boring artistic feature. Most of the performers turn in good acting performances, and while the story isn't groundbreaking, it is a very watchable couple's feature. Even if you aren't into couple's movies, it's worth a look for the extensive DVD extras and entertaining commentary track.