Kinky Ladies of Bourbon Street (1976)

Though eclipsed in notoriety by the late Claude Mulot's Pussy Talk (a/k/a Le Sexe qui Parle), which actually preceded it and is therefore often cited as starting point for the charting of French fuck film history - if you want to get totally technical, Ellen Earl was the first actress graphically penetrated on Parisian screens in Lucien Hustaix' silly yet spectacularly profitable Les Jouisseuses - this may very well be the best Continental 'core ever. Initially labeled La Grande Baise (which literally translates as The Great Fuck, a title deemed too blunt at the time but which wound up on one of Mulot's later and lesser efforts) in reference to Marco Ferreri's sulfurous La Grande Bouffe, it provided fertile breeding ground for several of the most intriguing French fornication filmmaking talents of the '70s. Very much a joint effort, nominal directorial credit was bestowed upon Didier Philippe-Gérard (a/k/a "Michel Barny"), production assistant on Pussy Talk and the most conventional of the carnal creators involved here, who resurfaced in the '90s directing videos for industry colossus Marc Dorcel starring his gorgeous wife at the time Laure Sainclair. Mulot (a/k/a "Frédéric Lansac"), frequently if in retrospect perhaps a tad unjustly fingered as the true founding father, contented himself with writing and executive producing. A young upstart by name of Gérard Kikoïne, who had made the moderately successful softcore L'Amour à la Bouche (a/k/a Mannequin) a few years earlier in an attempt to cash in on Emmanuelle's extraordinary box office takings, took care of the intricate editing. Francis Leroi, who had the most impressive cinematic pedigree of the lot, kept things under control as the film's producer.  The only survivor apart from Kikoïne, Philippe-Gérard (now wed to yet another former French fuck film superstar, the still impossibly radiant Marilyn Jess, proving that some guys do indeed have all the luck !) confirmed at a recent screening late last year at the Lausanne Underground Film Festival that, contrary to popular belief, everyone pretty much performed as credited and he flew solo as a director. 

Starting with its tone, both sinister and cynical, Kinky Ladies of Bourbon Street (sporting one of the longest titles on record in its country of origin : Mes Nuits Avec...Alice, Pénélope, Arnold, Maude et Richard) remains startlingly unlike anything found within French fornication cinema to this day. Following pathetic failed suicide attempts, three professional women wind up sharing a hospital room where the mysterious Maude (Dutch Trixie Heinen, who played the lesbian boutique owner in Lasse Braun's legendary Sensations) comes to visit, making them an offer they can't refuse, to join her at her palatial mansion where they can all too literally "love" themselves to death. Alice (Véronique Monod, Trixie's partner in the rug-munching department in Braun's aforementioned opus) is a chamber maid with all the trimmings caught seducing hotel guest Richard Allan (who has just published his autobiography tentatively titled 8000 Women !) and subsequently fired by her jealous employer Carmelo Pétix who spies on them while whacking off in the hallway. Her demise by drowning gone awry, she goes out with a bang, pleasuring herself with a stick of dynamite ! Up 'n' coming singing sensation Pénélope (delectable Dutch Nadja Mons, whose – presumably dubbed – track Noyer Dans Tes Yeux/Drowning in Your Eyes sounds a lot like Jane Birkin in her Serge Gainsbourg period) proves a mere puppet at the hands of her sadistic Svengali, deejay Jean-Louis Vattier (the ginger guy conventionally billed stateside as "Brian Davidson" from Jean Rollin's Phantasmes a/k/a The Seduction of Amy), who doles out her sexual favors to all and sundry to further her and especially his career. Pills don't do the trick, but a group of horny garbage men – including Jack Gatteau and Jacques Insermini, male star of Jean Desvilles' excellent Introductions – eventually drown her in their bodily fluids ! Stewardess Charlene (US ex-pat Dawn Cummings a/k/a Joan Koehler) makes out with "Idi Amin" - played by legit bodybuilder and former Mister Apollo Emmanuel "Manu" Pluton - in the film's opener, finds herself out of work as a result and turns to gas for relief. Attempt bungled, she's poked to exhaustion by Maude's perpetually erect chauffeur (Dawn's real life paramour Brendan Reed, "stunted" by Richard Allan for apparently much-needed insert footage) who casually tosses her spent form into the pool afterwards. A chilling coda shows a now old and decrepit Maude visiting the graveyard where the voices of her dead friends urge her to go out and seek more lost souls to join them. As the camera pans back, the chorus grows deafening, joined by voices from the other graves, Maude's myriad victims clamoring for company…

Absolutely filled to the brim with all the fashionably colorful accouterments of the '70s that have nowadays regained subversive popularity among lovers of so-called "bad taste", Kinky Ladies gloriously rises above its attendant "guilty pleasure" status through its pervading morbidity and impressive professionalism on all counts. Then still new to the genre (although he had been a mainstream mainstay since the late '40s !), Roger Fellous was to become the most polished as well as productive camera man of the decade, his work lavishly lauded by the esteemed Revue Du Cinéma, the single French movie magazine to take porn seriously at the time. While close to continuous, the sex is extremely well woven into the screenplay as each woman's signposted fate is accomplished with disheartening fatalism, the symbolism of their inevitable death wish presented as matter of fact, avoiding the heavy hand mainstream might have inflicted upon it. As a result, the movie remains surprisingly poetic and moving, bringing a soothing serenity to potentially ludicrous images such as Pénélope's semen-glazed corpse discarded amid the garbage cans, recalling influences as far-ranging as Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali, his Belgian brethren René Magritte and Paul Delvaux and French cult director Jean Rollin, a simultaneous adapter of similar sources. Sadly, the French government would soon clamp down on carnal cinema with ridiculously elevated taxes intended to take the wind out of their sails while lining their pockets, effectively rendering the surfacing of another masterpiece of this caliber all but impossible.

Directed by Didier-Philippe Gérard (as Michel Barny).  Written by Claude Mulot (as Frédéric Lansac).  Produced by Francis Leroi for Cinéma Plus-Alexia Film.  Photographed by Roger Fellous.  Music by Bernard Lubat.  Edited by Gérard Kikoïne.  Starring Dawn Cummings (Charlene), Trixie Heinen (Maude), Nadja Mons (Pénélope), Véronique Monod (Alice), Brendan Reed (Arnold), Manu Pluton (Idi Amin), Richard Allan (Hotel Guest), Jean-Louis Vattier (Disc Jockey), Carmelo Petix (Hotel Manager), Jack Gatteau, Jacques Insermini and Charlie Schreiner.  Running time : 87 minutes.

Original artwork for the US theatrical release of Kinky Ladies of Bourbon Street