Sunday, May 8, 2011

Far Out Films from the Seventies: Midnight Desires (1976)

Released a year after his ambitious and fascinating feature The Passions of Carol (1975), Shaun Costello’s Midnight Desires (1976) helped continue to solidify him as one of the most original voices in all of adult cinema. Featuring a superb cast of some of the era’s best actors and adult-icons, including Jamie Gillis, C.J. Laing, Eric Edwards, Jenny Baxter and Vanessa del Rio, Midnight Desires is an erotic and witty film that is as entertaining as it is sizzling.

Essentially a series of four vignettes tied together by a humorous storyline, Midnight Desires focuses on a wealthy bored couple (Gillis and Laing) who entertain themselves each weekend by inviting another couple over to tell their fantasies to each other. The script, from Costello’s own pen, is given a nice twist with a funny plot device that has a butler bringing Gillis updates on Hitler’s invasion of Poland, and the outcome of World War Two, even though the film is set in the late seventies. This bizarre behavior of Gillis and Laing adds to Costello’s ingenious look at just how docile and humdrum the lives of the rich can be, and Midnight Desires finally plays out as an erotic satire, and a comedy of manners, elevated at every tun by Costello’s solid direction and the great performances from his talented cast.

Indeed it is the cast that makes Midnight Desires so compulsively watchable and downright fun. Gillis is at his most debonair and charming here and his vignette with del Rio, in which he plays a boxer who refuses to be bought out, shows how ferociously physical he could be. Simply put, there has never been anyone quite like Jamie Gillis and he shines here. Equally compelling is Laing, as his bored but loving wife, who stands as one of the most underrated great stars of the era. Like her work in Waterpower (1977) a year later for Costello, Laing shows herself as absolutely fearless, with go-for-broke anddevil-may-care attitude that few adult performers can match. She’s also absolutely gorgeous and cinematographer Bill Markle photographs her obsessively well here.

As the unsuspecting couple who visit Gillis and Laing, Edwards and Baxter are both quite charming in Midnight Desires. Edwards is of course, along with Gillis, one of the great male performers in adult film history and he’s very funny here and plays both shock and surprise at Gillis and Laing’s antics quite well. Baxter, who would prove so memorable in a couple of key Radley Metzger productions in the years following Midnight Desires, is also a delight and her period-based vignette that ends the film is quite unforgettable.

Even though it was shot very quickly, Midnight Desires is an exceptionally good-looking film, thanks to Craig Esposito’s production design and art-direction. As he did for Costello in The Passions of Carol, Esposito helps Costello make what is in reality a very low-budget work into something that looks both elegant and plush. The DVD from Video-X-Pix serves the film well and the rumored possible special edition of the film would be cause for celebration. More information on Midnight Desires can be found at Distribpix’s website and blog.

Midnight Desires is a terrific film from adult’s golden age, as well as being one of the best works from Shaun Costello, one of the great auteur’s of porn. Fans shouldn’t miss it.

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