After Hours Cinema has just provided us with a triple feature consisting of two Nick Phillips films and a genuine obscurity, Easy Alice. I've never been much of a Phillips fan, but I know nothing about these so I'm ever hopeful. Easy Alice is another story.
1. Wendy's Naughty Night
We open in familiar Phillips territory as a pretty girl and boy screw passionately on a familiar couch. The girl, Wendy, then informs us that she has to visit her shrink since she tried cutting her wrists. She visits her shrink...That's the end of the plot.
Wendy's Naughty Night is typical Phillips; a light plot created solely to connect a series of clumsily filmed sex scenes performed by usually beautiful people. Although Sarno tries to make a slightly more serious film here than his typical lesbian dramas (an attempt which is aided by this being his very first synch sound film), the frequency of the sex and only bare minimum psychological insight into Wendy's suicidal behavior makes this nothing more than a routine Phillips outing.
Overall rating */*****
2. Siv A Swedish Girl
We find ourselves back in Phillips territory for Siv, our second feature. This time a couple of American college students take in a Swedish exchange student but get more than they bargained for.
Although no more narratively complex than Phillips other features, Siv offers a rare artistic side to Phillips work seen in very few of his films. While this still isn't a good film in the conventional sense of "goodness", it offers photography and editing which is far more complex than just about any other Phillips film I've yet seen. Most impressive is the score which is by far one of the grooviest things I've ever heard in some time...
Overall Rating ***/*****
3. Easy Alice
Easy Alice is an easy film to pass over. It's generic title, seemingly low budget and presumably cheap production values render is a "typical grindhouse flick" from the mid 70s, however if one looks beyond its tawdry shell, Easy Alice is easily one of the most complex and underrated features of the golden age of sexually explicit cinema.
Easy Alice emerged from the San Francisco film scene in early 1976, implying that it was most likely shot in mid to late 1975. The cast is entirely of San Francisco origin and the film makes liberal use of infamous S.F. sex dens such as the intersection of Broadway and Columbus. Also, clocking in at a rather long running time for its time of production of 84 minutes and containing a great variety of both indoor and outdoor locations, Easy Alice would seem to be an ambitious, high budget production. However, nothing could be further than the truth.
The production is poor, the microphone and lighting stands make numerous cameos, and at one brief instance a crew member can even be spotted hiding in the corner of a room snapping shots of the carnal action taking place on the bed. In fact, all the hallmarks of a bad production are present in this film yet as it unfolds, we are asked the question:what is the sepaeration between cinema and reality?
Joey Silvera plays Joey, a slightly altered version of himself. He's a hapless loser who occasionally moonlights in, has no life or day job, but has a girlfriend named Carrol (Linda Wong) who pleads which him to abandon his career in the sex industry. When Joey leaves Carrol for the day to replace an actor (Paul Scariff) who has been too abusive towards a co-star; "they like it rough!" he says, Alice decides to head over to a friend's house for a day and ends up getting high and into a three-way with none other than a young Annette Haven (billed here as Annette Funette). Meanwhile Joey and the other actor take on the town, but end up getting drunk and milling around North Beach for the night having delirious adventures.
Easy Alice is one of many hardcore films which is critical of porn, but unlike most such films, Easy Alice takes a humanistic look at the people involved in the films rather than commenting on their morality. Alice examines the hopelessness and abandon of the lives led by performers in porn films, but simultaneously the film is shot with the same sloppiness as its characters live. This gives the film a double entendre of almost exploiting visually what it pities socially.
The opening credits are presented without the luxury of high class printed opticals, instead printed on large pieces of black card stock. Notably missing is a director credit which makes the film even more of a mysterious. Not including this credit could be a deliberate in-joke to the absence of this credit in the type of sex film this picture is attempting to belittle.
Silver's character allows the film to further expand on it's existential subtext. Easy Alice doesn't pull any punches in supporting or condemning being in or making porn, but rather serves to document the hopelessness of making a life from acting in explicit films.
Paul Scariff as Paul represents the lowest of the low. He is revealed as living in a room, unfurnished besides a dirty mattress on the floor. His subsequent acts of violence serve as aggression towards the society which has ignored him. The film leaves Scariff after one of his attacks, focusing back on Silvera for the remainder of the film, ending with Silvera returning to Carrol only to repeat the same cycle again some other day.
Easy Alice is a depressing and realistic look at the hardcore film world.
Overall Rating *****/*****
Trailers for some Nick Phillips films are presented as well as some insightful liner notes. Nothing all that special.
The Phillips films are full screen. Easy Alice is in presented in 1.85:1 and looks a bit tight. The film was probably meant to be shown at either 1.66:1 or in 1.33:1. All the prints show evidence of wear, but all are complete and have reasonably good color.
Two OK to bad films and a masterpiece! Worth it for Easy Alice.