Monday, April 23, 2012

The XXX-Factor: CABARET SIN (1987)

Like a lot of nerdy people, when I was a teenager BLADE RUNNER (1982) had a huge impact on me. It was everything science fiction movies should be: based on a novel by one of the best science fiction writers on the planet, layers of visual detail that takes repeated viewings to take in, production design that rivaled STAR WARS (1977), a great cast of cool cult actors, and so on. Also, girls (with and without clothing) were a constant attention getter. Come to think of it, not much has changed, really. Anyway, as a teenager, if I were given a "big" budget and a virtual who's who of '80s porn stars to use with my five pound Panasonic home video camera, CABARET SIN is the movie I'd make. Totally influenced by BLADE RUNNER, but without the money or the talent, but with lots of effort and hot chicks, who like, do it and stuff.

The year is 2020 A.D. (they make sure to tell you that it's A.D. presumably so there is no confusion that it might be taking place in B.C.) and Earth is a corrupt planet ruled by a totalitarian governing body called The System, who have outlawed sexual freedom. The System enforces their laws using Reformers, black-clad cyborgs who wield laser rifles and wear face-masks with hypnotic red flashing eyes. A group called The Dominants have left Earth and created a dome-based city of sin on an unnamed planet, where sin and vice run rampant, occasionally checked by violent Reformers who act as judge, jury and executioner, particularly when dealing with human analogues referred to as "droids" (*cough* Replicants *cough*).

The apartment of The Future!

Taylor (Greg Derek) is a cop who has fallen out of favor with The System and has been made an Eliminator. A killer with a badge who tracks down rogue droids who are involved in various crimes ("they say you brade runnuh"). The movie opens with a Reformer being gunned down by an off-screen attacker, who then loots it's corpse for something that looks like a futuristic walkman... except in the future, there are no walkmans. Ok, so maybe writers Christopher Saint Booth and Nacada O'Toole aren't exactly a couple of Nostradamuses (Nostradomi?), but don't forget, this is a porno! The walkman-thing turns out to be a System decoder, which, I'm guessing is something very important. In spite of the fact that this movie tells you a lot of things, there's even more things that it doesn't. But more on that later, we have more plot! Yes, I know, in a porno! Crazy talk!

Taylor's wife Nikola (Krista Lane doing her best Sean Young impersonation) left him because he was in love with his job and now Taylor is generally miserable living off planet in the Pleasure Dome city, spending much of his time drinking florescent cocktails and taking advantage of his position to get a sex performer droid (Candie Evans) to clean his harddrive with via her i/o port. Uhhhh, or something... Swearing this will be his last assignment, Taylor follows a lead to a club called Cabaret Sin, run by a sleazemonger named The Turk (Herschel Savage), who wears a giant silk turban and hangs out in his tidy whiteys, occasionally inspecting the contents thereof to make sure that his shishkebab is still hangin'. This is where all of the pieces start to come together.

The car of The Future!

Got all that? Yeah, that's not even half of it, and by the way, all of that plot synopsis? None of that is just handed to you. You have to figure it out for yourself and it'll take the entire movie to do it. Directed by first timer Philip O'Toole, this almost two and half hour epic is loaded with all sorts of bizarre and/or completely unfathomable stuff, not to mention at least an hour of that is actual sex scenes with all natural hotties, at least half of which are stage shows, some of which make CAFE FLESH (1984) look somewhat bland. How so, I hear you ask? For one, the announcer is a ventriloquist dwarf with three eyes and one of the performances is a pornographic parody of Bette Middler's famous mermaid routine (though O'Toole did have the foresight not to include a wheelchair). Not to mention the fact that O'Toole threw down the cash to have two awesome futuristic vehicles appear in the movie. I don't recognize them from another film, but I can't imagine that they had them made just for a porno. Still, these guys might just be crazy enough to do it! It's also worth mentioning that O'Toole loves his fog machine and soft filters. Those elements plus the cool, moody electronic score provided by Cinema Symphonys (sic) gives the movie much more atmosphere and mood than it would otherwise. Don't get me wrong, it's still got amusingly bad acting, shoddy sets, cheap effects, and a complete clusterfuck of a script that is like a group of malfunctioning robots from RUNAWAY (1985) all running off in different directions, making it difficult at times to keep track of everything. On the other hand, these guys get a gold star for the effort that they put into a mere porno. More effort than most of the current DTV sci-fi and horror films put into their efforts, made with film school students and high-end digital equipment, and as far as I'm concerned, that's all that matters.

The cops of The Future!

Just to show that he's going the extra mile in conveying a story, O'Toole has scenes when Taylor is at home. He watches Japanese programming (on a tiny TV set that doubles as a table lamp), and is tended to by his robot servant Rochester who has the same mannerisms and voice acting as C3PO, but looks like he fell into some random clothes after crashing into a Goodwill van. Sadly Rochester doesn't get his servos lubricated by a female bot, but he does get a heroic moment (to which Taylor's reaction is "oh") and he gets to play the doomsayer, by warning Taylor not to go into Caberet Sin, because it's "eeeeeeevil in there!" Plus you get agents for The System interrogating witnesses, trying to get their hands on Taylor (who they believe has gone rogue) and the decoder; Taylor getting locked up and drugged in what appears to be a reference to FRENCH CONNECTION II (1975); a sex droid (Keisha) who is going to be terminated for being a virgin (Taylor can help her out with that); Randy West as a pill-dealin' biker who dopes-up and fucks Kristara Barrington in a bathroom marked "Gents & Transoids"; a Reformer using his flashing eyes to hypnotize a showgirl droid into giving him a blowjob and Taylor getting his ass kicked by the bar bouncer (Brute Force - no, not Stephen Friedland) who looks as if he's trying out for a spot in a Mentors cover band. All snark aside, in terms of effort, this movie mops the floor with the "new" trend of plot based porn. PIRATES may have had production values that eclipse CABARET SIN, but when it comes to busting ass (figuratively speaking) to push the envelope, SIN wins.



Released in two parts on video. The second part was titled BEYOND CABARET SIN and had a second, almost illegible title card awkwardly spliced in after the real title, reading Kirdy Stevens EMPIRE OF THE SINS. The video was generally met with positive reviews and even a little fan fare. Some of the reviews were so positive, in fact, that veteran porn producer Kirdy Stevens slapped on some pseudonyms and heavily edited it all down to a mere 67 minutes for an unrated video release a year later. The unrated mainstream release, titled DROID, was so heavily chopped that it even cut down the opening STAR WARS-esque scrolling plot set-up by over half of it's length. This opening scroll was used on the beginning of the second part to bring the audience (who they assumed were interested in the story) up to speed. However, even if you had seen the first part, that scrolling text actually clears up a lot of things that were only alluded to in snatches of dialogue littered through out the script! In addition to cutting the sex, Stevens cut the scenes around the actual sex acts. For instance, there is a scene in which a sex droid is arrested by a pair of Reformers, the sex droid protests in a fictional alien language (with subs) in a dialogue exchange before the Reformers (Tom Byron and Randy West) remove their uniforms (with West hilariously pretending to unscrew imaginary wingnuts on his helmet) and have sex with the droid. For some reason the shot of the Reformers bringing the girl into the paddy wagon and the shot of the Reformers removing their helmets is left in, but everything else is cut. If that wasn't bad enough, filler is actually used to pad out the running time. This includes many re-used shots and extra footage of a shadow dancer (Gail Force) spliced into several of the missing sex performances.


Sadly Philip O'Toole went on to work as an editor, writer, cinematographer and writer of many porn movies over the past 30 years, this was the second to last production for Kirdy Stevens, and writer Christopher Saint Booth is now well known for selling his soul to reality TV and becoming rich and famous in the process as one of the Booth Brothers, a team of alleged paranormal investigator/filmmakers who have produced a series of ummmmm... "documentaries" for the SyFy Channel, such as "Spooked", "Ghouls Gone Wild" and "Children of the Grave." Well hell. I guess, just like BLADE RUNNER, it's lightning in a bottle and would be impossible to sequelize anyway. Even so, after all of the accolades from inside the industry, I'm surprised that there wasn't even another film in O'Toole's future and this became such a rarity.

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