Thursday, April 4, 2013

SEXCULA (1974) movie review

Sexcula (1974) (1st viewing) d. Holbrook, John (as Bob Hollowich) (Canada)

The Movie Fates are an odd bunch. Back in January of this year, my pal Jon Kitley (of Kitley’s Krypt infamy) loaned me his copy of They Came from Within: A History of Canadian Horror by Caelum Vatnsdal in order to conduct a little background research for the underrated Canuck slasher Curtains. But put a good horror reference book in my hands, and Vatnsdal’s is a quality one indeed, I’m going to read it cover to cover. In flipping through the many different terror titles from the Great White North, I was intrigued to find – amidst the frequent Cronenberg references – mention of a “lost” 1974 horror/porn flick called Sexcula which apparently had screened once and then vanished off the face of the earth. A rare maple syrup flick (made with government funds, no less) that combined vampiric chills and X-rated thrills? What wasn’t enticing about that? Unfortunately, that was pretty much where the story ended...

...until a couple months later when Synapse Films (under their Impulse label) announced that they would be releasing Sexcula to DVD. Ain’t instant gratification grand?

While I’d not been pining to see this insanely obscure item as long as others, it was with great anticipation that I meticulously removed the disc from its wraps when it finally arrived in the post. The impressive painted DVD cover art further piqued my interest, with gorillas, hunchbacks and nudes on operating tables directing our eye to a fetching female form clad in nothing more than knee-high boots, black panties and a strategically draped cape. The tagline, “She’ll suck more than your blood!” promised the goods, and opening the plastic case, I was treated to liner notes providing an extensive recap of the film’s storied production and rediscovery by “porn archeologist” (who knew?) Dimitrios Otis, the flip side of which offered Rick Trembles’ comic strip-like “Motion Picture Purgatory” Sexcula column showcasing memorable lines and commentary.

Before I’d watched a frame of the fabled skin flick in question, I was already a huge fan – if not of director John Holbrook (under his one-off Bob Hollowich pseudonym) and his intrepid cast and crew, then at least of all the folks who had collaborated to bring this discarded curiosity back to the public eye. Looking at you, Paul Corupe, Alex McKenzie, Mirko Mladenovic, and the good people at Synapse Films. Well done all.

Now, regarding the film proper...

Let’s just say that this is no lost classic by any stretch of the imagination. It is, in the final tally, a ’70s porno and as such expectations should be lowered accordingly – no one here is going to win any awards for, well, anything. It’s an affably slapdash affair; to call it a “horror film” is to be as generous with the definition as calling The Avengers XXX a “superhero film.” The basic plot is as follows: Dr. Fallatingstein (Jamie Orlando) creates an artificial man Frank (John Alexander) to meet her sexual needs, but unfortunately the poor fellow’s wires aren’t completely connected and the switch just ain’t flipping the way it’s supposed to. The doc gets on her 18th century telephone (the first of many idiosyncrasies) and calls her “vampire hooker” cousin, Countess Sexcula (Debbie Collins, described as a “Marilyn Chambers lookalike” but I’m not seeing it) to get her fine behind over to the castle and straighten things out, as it were. When the lovely blonde lass shows up, she performs any number of wild techniques to dingle Frank’s dangle, but to no avail. Quel suspense!

To be fair, there’s a pretty impressive writhing body factor, although about 50% of it falls on the softcore side of the fence, with more skin on display than functioning organs. (Not to say there isn’t penetration, because there certainly is. Put. The children. To bed.) The production values are noteworthy – there was at least some effort made in the creation of Fallatingstein’s dungeon/laboratory set and someone did spring for an ape suit – but the pieces don’t always fit together and oftentimes it feels like sequences from other films (specifically the wedding orgy) are shoehorned in to pad out the running time. It would have been nice to at least try to remain within the given circumstances as the end result feels lazy and haphazard. (I know, I know, look up “1970s porn flick” in the dictionary and it’ll say “See also: lazy and haphazard,” but still.) The acting is pretty dodgy as well, although Orlando is at least so shamelessly wooden that her performance transcends poor thesping into the Ed Wood master class realm of unintentional comedy. (Wait a minute. Am I actually critiquing performances? What the heck am I thinking? Ahem, anyway...)

Bottom line, standing O (ovation and orgasm) kudos go out to Impulse Films for their top-flight presentation. While there aren’t much in the way of special features to be had (the liner notes and a ratty trailer being the lot), the prime sound and superb 1:33:1 transfer are prize enough for those questing for such elusive Canadian curiosities.

DVD Release date: April 9, 2013
Running Time: 86 min.
Aspect Ratio: 1:33:1 Full Screen
Audio: Dolby Digital English 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: N/A
DVD Release: Impulse Pictures
Region: 0
SRP: $24.95


  1. Critiquing performances is fair to do,esp. in porn *chuckle*

    1. I like the "especially." I just don't want MY porn performances judged. ;-]

  2. Strange that Stephen Jones missed this in his Illustrated Vampire Movie Guide. He seemed to hit every other vampire-related porno made in the '70s and beyond.

    1. Honestly, I don't think anyone but a few fixated Canucks had any idea it even existed. Funny how if you bury something long enough, it turns into treasure for someone.