Erotic Underground Part Five: Ten Thrillers from 1994-1995

1994 and 1995 marked the beginning of the end for popular adult oriented cinema.  As studios began to run out of ideas and softcore features began to dominate direct to video offerings, original ideas were in short supply, leading to some interesting films that would demonstrate the elasticity of the genre, being able to ebb between art house depth and Penthouse schlock. What follows are ten films from the time period and where to find them. 

Color of Night (1994)

Hailed by Maxim as having the greatest sex scene of all time, Richard Rush's infamous neo-noir is top shelf trash.  Featuring a convoluted, and yet predictable plot, Bruce Willis portrays a troubled psychiatrist who is trying to figure out who murdered his best friend and colleague by taking over his therapy group that consists of a rogue's gallery of character actors.  Matters become complicated when a mysterious woman (Jane March) enters his life.  Featuring some of the steamiest sex scenes ever filmed, Bruce Willis' member, and a wonderful blend of Giallo influences, the director's cut is a cornerstone of erotic cinema. 

Availability: Digital Rental

Disclosure (1994)

Michael Douglas (yet again) and Demi Moore star in a corporate thriller that focuses on sexual harassment, power and gender dynamics, and corporate espionage.  This is an interesting film with complicated ideas that nevee truly manifest.  While the central sex sequence is both simultaneously awkward and enticing, the aftermath is focused more on sexism and gender expectations, which is perhaps more intriguing than the incident at the core, however these concepts are sidestepped in favor of a clean ending that focuses on the corporate elements at play.

Availability: Digital Rental 

Exotica (1994)

Atom Egoyan's masterwork, Exotica is a sexual dirge.  The central plot revolves around Francis (Bruce Greenwood), a bereft man and Christina (Mia Kirshner), an exotic dancer.  Their relationship is defined by boundaries and pain as they form the center of a tragic web that connects the various lives in orbit around them.  Taking the FIPRESCI at Cannes, this is a remarkable meditation on the power of memory, sexual obsession, and guilt.  

Availability: DVD 

The Last Seduction (1994)

Neo-noir master John Dahl's The Last Seduction is a pitch black descent into greed, murder, and sex.  Featuring Bill Pullman, Peter Berg, and Linda Fiorentino in her best performance, the story follows a femme fatale who leaves her husband with a bag full of cash.  The intriguing aspect, aside from Fiorentino's breathtaking bravura, is in how the twists and turns play out.  Everything is part of Bridget's (Fiorentino) murderous design and Steve Barancik's remarkable script refuses to hold back.  Doom is on the horizon for those in Bridget's wake, and the result is an unforgettable, sleazy good time.

Availability: HBOGO, Digital Rental 

Dangerous Touch (1994)

A perfect guilty pleasure, Lou Diamond Phillips' (who also stars) Dangerous Touch also stars Kate Vernon (Battlestar Galactica) as a radio talk show host who begins a relationship with a shady grifter.  What begins as a con slowly devolves into a complex power dynamic.  While the usual elements are at play (murder, betrayal, bedroom gymnastics) Phillips clearly understands the genre and has fun with it, sometimes bordering on satire.  The finale is amazing and worth the rental price alone.

Availability: Digital Rental 

Showgirls (1995)

While a satire and a garbage pail twin of All About Eve, Showgirls is clearly making several statements at once. Sexual violence, sexual acrobatics, and sexual currency are all under the microscope, disguised by the amazing costuming of Ellen Mirojnick and the luscious cinematography of Jost Vacano. The film captures the essence behind the lights of the city and presents Nomi's story as a neon-induced, sexually charged Alice in Wonderland, in which the monsters are men and the rabbit is the idea of fame rather than its unpleasant realities. Showgirls is the ultimate adult fairy tale that will forever be known for its colossal failure, but it will always be remembered for its jaw dropping delivery. A beautiful mess of a film.

Availability: Digital Rental 

Sorceress (1995)

Softcore icon Jim Wynorski directs his best film, a supernatural horror exotica bonanza: Sorceress.  Julie Strain (Penthouse) is a witch who uses black magic to ensure her husband's law career flourishes, at the expense of his rivals.  The wife of one of the victims (Linda Blair, Exorcist) is also a witch who vows revenge.  Also starring Michael Parks, Toni Naples, Edward Albert, and Rochelle Swanson, this is an absolute marvel.  The sex sequences are some of Wynorski's best, fusing elements of horror and witchcraft to create an ambiance that transcends low budget fare.  The finale is absolutely insane, involving dueling witches, mind control, and shower antics while mimicking a slasher film.  The end result is sexploitation at its finest. 

Embrace of the Vampire (1995)

Alyssa Milano's infamous erotic horror film, Embrace of the Vampire was one of the most popular direct to video films in the mid 90's, largely due to Milano's risqué sex scenes.  Directed by prolific editor Anne Goursand, who go on to direct Milano in Poison Ivy 2: Lily, the story revolves around a chaste college student whose dreams are being haunted by a vampire, intent on turning her away from her milquetoast boyfriend.  While the erotica was scandalous at the time of its release, in retrospect, the scenes are filmed tastefully, with art house sensibilities that only enhance the mystique that hangs on each frame.  

Availability: Digital Rental 

Stormswept (1995)

Directed by pornographer David Frazier Marsh and cowritten by his wife Svetlana, an adult film star, Stormswept is a marriage of porn film plotting with late 70's horror sensitives.  There is barely a plot, instead it focuses on a group of people who are trapped in a haunted plantation manner due to a storm.  The evil presence (you guessed it) forces people to give into their sexual desires. The is essentially a softcore hangout movie, with the characters having random conversations before initiating another bedroom romp.  The final yield is an interesting attempt to bridge the gap between pornography and adult focused cinema.

Availability: Amazon Prime 

Jade (1995)

William Friedkin's favorite film that he directed; Jade was a massive failure at the box office.  Written by erotic guru Joe Eszterhas, the script was rewritten by Friedkin which led to nonsensical plotlines that would ultimately doom production.  Featuring another fatale performance by Linda Fiorentino the story revolves around an attorney who is drawn into a murder investigation involving prostitutes and politicians.  At the center is Fiorentino's upper class wife who moonlights as Jade, the eponymous call girl. Featuring David Caruso, Chazz Palminteri, Richard Crenna, Michael Biehn, Holt McCallany, and Angie Everhart, Jade is a labyrinthine noir journey that deals with the power of sexual freedom while also making a sly commentary on the concept of marriage and fidelity.  

Availability: Digital Rental 

--Kyle Jonathan