Cast: Carmen Luvana, Tommy Gunn, Evan Stone, Kylie Ireland, Adrianna Nicole, Shayla LaVeaux, Monica Sweetheart, Justine Joli, Dragon Lilly, Van Damage, Tyler Knight, Johnny Castle, and Todd Driller in sex roles; Nina Hartley and Anglene Black in speaking roles; Claire Adams as the bondage rigger; and Ernest Greene in a brief Hitchcockian appearance (can you spot him?)
Director and writer: Ernest Greene
Videographer: Ralph Parfait
Production dates: 4/1/06–4/3/06, 4/8/06–4/9/06 (taping), 8/11/06 (DVD credits), 9/5/06 (box credits)
Length: 164 min.
Extras: A 32-min. interview with Ernest Greene, a 34-min. behind-the-scenes featurette, a 15-min. bonus scene from Headmaster II, a 14-min. bonus scene from Tailgunners, 33 min. of trailers (Dirty Love, Indigo Noir, Swinging in the USA, Decades, Carmen & Austyn, Pussy Worship 2, Casual Sex, Flight 69, Bound, Tailgunners, Sex Sells, Jane Blond DD7, Rawditions 2, Provocative), a 66-min. (not a typo) slide show from the feature, and a 14-min. slide show from Nina Hartley's Anal Kinksters.
Audiovisual quality: The camerawork is pretty, with a pleasing mix of shots and angles. The lighting is subdued, and the aspect ratio is widescreen. The movie and director's interview are in color; the behind-the-scenes featurette and extended slide show are in monochrome. The audio quality is very good, with the exception of an off-screen comment or two that the quality control folks apparently missed. The soundtrack consists of subtly dramatic instrumentals, which play only during the nonsexual action. I love the theme song. It's a classy little string ensemble with Indian percussive rhythms—it's the type of music that would work well for my yoga classes.
Screenshots: At the time of this writing, an image gallery is available at adameve.com.
Packaging note: The container is a 5.25-inch square box made of card stock (same weight as business cards—it's not very sturdy). A single sleeve inside holds both discs, separated by an accordion pleat. The package also includes a set of three rubber O-rings, with inner diameters of 1.25 to 2 inches.
Plot synopsis: O: The Power of Submission is a modern update of the French classic of kink, Histoire d'O (Story of O), written by Pauline Réage and first published in 1954. The movie shifts the setting to modern Los Angeles but otherwise sticks surprisingly well to the major plot points of the book. In both cases, O is an ambitious photographer, a fuck'em-and-leave'em type who's seeking a partner equally willful as she, someone with the capability to fully command her surrender to pleasure. The movie places more emphasis on this aspect than the original novel, which had an awkward tendency to conflate intense D/s play with romantic martyrdom.
Has O (Carmen Luvana) finally discovered what she seeks when her lover Ray (Tommy Gunn) hands her over to Stephen (Evan Stone)? Or will O's new, more powerful master prove to be just another sap like all the rest? Let's see how it all unfolds…
Scene 1 Carmen Luvana, Tommy Gunn, Todd Driller, Dragon Lilly O brusquely terminates a photo shoot with bondage model Jackie (Monica Sweetheart) after a surprise call from Ray. In the car, O agrees to trade her panties and bra for garters and handcuffs. Ray escorts her into a modern château. O meets her new sisters in slavery, who groom her for a flogging by Marie (played with feline imperial grace by Nina Hartley). O then entertains the attentions of Ray and two other dominant guests (Todd Driller and Dragon Lilly), while Marie and her girls watch. O has no difficulties being the center of attention. There's good energy to the vaginal sex, which culminates with a simultaneous double ejaculation onto O's ample bust. Time: 11:15. Rating: 4.5 stars.
Scene 2 Kylie Ireland, Adrianna Nicole, Tyler Knight, Van Damage Inspired by O's show, the girls do their own evening performance for a pair of male guests. Adrianna soon achieves a vibrator-induced orgasm—her pelvic muscles contract in an unmistakable rhythm. Kylie takes on Tyler while Adrianna pairs with Van for tandem sex. The synchronous positions, captured in subtle rack focus, create great visual appeal. Adrianna does reverse cowgirl anal, and then Kylie borrows Van for her pussy while Tyler tends to her butt. The horny ladies take the cum in their mouths and swap it back and forth. Time: 14:30. Rating: 5 stars.
Scene 3 Shayla LaVeaux and Johnny Castle Fresh from her bath, rich brat Shayla seduces one of the château attendants with the promise of anal access. Johnny applies oil to her back and lustily watches as she fastens her own wrist and ankle cuffs. This leads to a vigorous bedroom romp with breathless dirty talk. Johnny and Shayla both have limber, muscular bodies, and her orgasm looks completely authentic. He rewards her with a cigarette after she's given him her ass. Time: 17:28. Rating: 5+ stars.
Scene 4 Carmen Luvana and Evan Stone Ray leaves O alone at the château for a week. Upon his return, she accepts a ring which signifies that she's available for others' use. The man who claims her is Stephen (Evan Stone), a well-heeled criminal lawyer and Ray's half brother. Stephen wants O to do everything for him that she'd do for Ray, but out of servitude rather than love. She finds this an interesting proposition. Stephen orders O to undress and masturbate before he goes down on her. Her wrists are chained during vaginal sex, but she's allowed the freedom of her hands (and a vibrator) for anal sex. It's good that Marie has trained O with butt plugs, since Stephen is huge. Time: 14:53. Rating: 4.5 stars.
Scene 5 Carmen Luvana and Justine Joli Stephen wants O totally to himself, and at his instigation, O arranges for Jackie to stay at her apartment (thus moving Jackie into position for later presentation to Ray). Meanwhile, Stephen takes O to Marie's house for corset training and monogramming. While there, O learns to whip an eager submissive named Claire (Justine Joli). Blend four toys (flogger, vibrator, and two dildos) with a generous dollop of playful aggression—and the ladies cook up one of the better lesbian scenes I've seen in quite a while. O does indeed have a mighty big "O" at the end. Afterwards, she is tattooed with Stephen's initials at her Venus dimples. Time: 22:52. Rating: 5+ stars.
Scene 6 Monica Sweetheart and Tommy Gunn Ray has found Jackie at O's place. She plays dress-up for him, and they kiss and caress. Oral, vaginal, and anal sex follow on the bedroom rug. Jackie has a lovely back arch in the cowgirl position. Ray climaxes from the anal sex, no extra handwork required. O is infuriated, however, when she discovers that Ray lacked the self-discipline to wait until she could make a proper gift of Jackie. Worse yet, Stephen has fallen in love with O. And that is the one surrender that she must refuse. Time: 16:48. Rating: 4 stars.
The extras Ernest's interview is by far the best of the extras. He explains the genesis of this project and convincingly defends his decisions to elaborate certain elements of the novel while de-emphasizing others. Ernest also discusses D/s sexuality in general and his own in particular. The behind-the-scenes featurette offers typical lighthearted fare like bloopers and giggles, the secret technique of the caning scene, and casual chats with Adrianna, Ernest, Dragon, Tommy, and Carmen.
In the bonus scene from Headmaster II, Austyn Moore and Tommy Gunn enact a schoolgirl fantasy (in a lower elementary level classroom?!) after he "corrects" her grammar (incorrectly). There's vaginal sex in three positions, magically appearing shoes, and obvious dubbing. The bonus scene from Tailgunners features Harmony, Vanessa Lane, Trent Saluri, and Joey Ray, with pieces of vintage uniforms vanishing as the action progresses. The gals ham up the enthusiasm, while the guys barely make an appearance above hip level (Joey sneaks in one kiss at the end). The hour-long feature slide show is an interesting concept, but unfortunately, the sepia tones, faux film grain/scratches, and haphazard framing obscure the composition of the original photographs.
Thumbs up: This is the first time I've seen Carmen, and she's impressive. Her body type is all "Barbie Doll," but the moment her eyes dart around with their not-fully-suppressed gleam, you just know that something good (or is that evil?) is going on in that noggin of hers. Carmen delivers a lot of dialog, smoothly for the most part. Everyone does well with this, in fact. The cynical characters sound cynical, the fun-loving characters sound fun-loving, and basically, the whole cast knows how to convey emotion without overacting or underacting. The standout performances, however, are by Carmen and Evan. Nina is also perfect as Marie.
The foreplay in this movie is quite erotic. I love Carmen's sideways glances as she sits in the back seat and complies with all of Tommy's whims. It's immediately obvious that their two characters have a history together, and that they deeply enjoy these types of amusements. Shayla is another particularly masterful flirt; I could watch her pose and preen all day. I wish more pornographers would do what Ernest and his cast have done here: i.e., build the intensity through sensual games and rituals that reveal the characters' relationships to each other.
I could go on at some length, but I'll simply say that I'm very pleased with nearly every aspect this movie. Oh, and let me mention once again: genuine female orgasms. This seems to be a happy theme for all of Ernest and Nina's work (they're a real life married couple, for those who don't already know).
Thumbs down: The second disc differs stylistically from the first. I don't know who assembled the extras, but they dropped the ball. Where's the full interview with Carmen? With Evan? I've seen bonus material with Kylie and Justine for other productions; I can't believe they had nothing to say about this one. I wanted more details about preparations, costumes, locations. How about extra scenes actually related to the theme of the feature? I'd have loved to see something from Nina Hartley's Guide to Erotic Bondage, for example. O: The Power of Submission is adult moviemaking, for adult minds (as Ernest puts it so well). The extras should manifest more sophistication and substance, less filler and fluff.
Themes: BDSM, pairs (M/F and F/F), group, masturbation, oral sex, vaginal sex, anal sex, double penetration, kissing, cumswapping, bondage (rope, cuffs, and suspension), flogging, caning, tattooing, toys (vibrators, strap-on, butt plug, glass and steel dildos), voyeurism, dressing and undressing, and lavish fetishwear (including custom corsets and latex).
Condom use: Yes for Carmen's and Shayla's partners; no for everyone else. Where they appear, the condoms are not terribly obvious.
Final analysis: O: The Power of Submission is an exceptional movie, recently honored with the top audience choice award (for best narrative feature) at the 2006 CineKink NYC Festival. I can only agree with their choice. The script and the sex are a seamless erotic fit, supported by strong performances all around. It's just a shame that the second disc adds little of note (other than Ernest's interview). But in the end, I couldn't penalize the overall rating. O: The Power of Submission is truly a rare specimen, a movie that I enjoyed more than the book.