In the Pink (1983)

As Bill Milling entered the latter stage of his fornication filmography, acquiring the adult alias of "Bill Eagle", he seemed to lose interest in the kind of thorough plotting that had fueled his reputation as "Philip T. Drexler Jr." of Delicious and A Scent of Heather and, to a lesser degree, his funloving alter ego "Dexter Eagle" who created the convoluted spy spoof Blonde Velvet.  Striking up a mutually beneficial association with producer Bob Bouchard, starting with their wildly popular 1982 girlie show All American Girls, he would focus all attention on lavish production values and extensive location shooting, tailoring the narrative accordingly.  Taking a page from the book of the ingenious European eroticists of the '70s such as Jess Franco or Joe d'Amato who routinely spruced up their sexploitation sagas with travelogue footage, Milling traveled halfway round the world scoring stock shots to be seamlessly inserted between intimate encounters instigated on home soil.  As with the comparatively dense Blonde Goddess which just preceeds it, time-tested techniques like rear projection and matte paintings were extensively employed to uphold the illusion for In the Pink.  In retrospect, since both movies were bankrolled by Don Walters' legendary Evart Enterprises (incidentally marking Milling's sole contributions to the company's catalogue), this appears an uncharacteristic fit of folly for the frugal financiers of the Inside profile pictures that had put them on the porno map.

An All American Girls entry in all but name, save for the fact that a mere four featured females could see it sued for false advertising if it were, Pink's plot (such as it is) was partially recycled by its director for an official instalment, notably the third entitled Up Up and Away, with an innocent wife unwittingly prompted to explore her dormant sexuality in the wake of her husband's alleged or staged demise.  Pink's spouse is French "child bride" Mariange (curvaceous Jacqueline Lorians, still feeling her way as an actress at this early stage of an ultimately stellar career), pining away in Paris while her international art dealer husband Blake Covington (Scott Baker) is cruising the canals of Venice with his loyal assistant Heather (Joanna Storm) in pursuit of the "Habsburg oils", a series of royal portraits he's dying to get his hands on.  Upon his return, Blake's accosted by irate Italian art collector Umberto Trentini (Zebedy Colt, closing a career in hardcore histrionics by hamming it up for all he's worth, which is plenty) who accuses him of surreptitiously taking the maidenhead of his young bride Angelina, woodenly played by the delectably dusky "Gina Carnale" aka Marie Sharp who had starred in lots of loops (mostly for Michael Carpenter's Golden Girls series) and made a memorable virgin sacrifice in Stephen Sayadian's 1982 cult classic Café Flesh.  Pulling a gun, Umberto apparently kills Blake before the eyes of both startled women in his life.

Unbeknown to Mariange, a still very much alive Blake confides to Heather that he has only been superficially wounded but that he can only get to the bottom of this if the enraged Umberto believes him dead.  Left in charge of the Covington galleries, Mariange arranges a meeting with the Baroness von Habsburg (Laurie Smith) in Vienna to strike a deal for the paintings under her charge.  Equally bereaved, the Baroness confesses to carrying on a lengthy lusty liaison with the deceased, opening his wife's eyes to possibilities as yet undreamed of.  Gently guided by the resourceful Heather, the widow comes into her own in an excruciately erotic encounter at the Louvre Museum, the women's tentative carresses giving way to deeply satisfying separate trysts for each, Lorians with silent stranger Ken Starbuck while Storm gets a lanky beret-sporting sort who looks a lot like Dan Stephens, her porn partner on J.D. Marlowe's Slit Skirts.  Crossing the channel, the girls go wild on the streets of London as Mariange gets a rise out of otherwise imperturbable palace guard Joey Silvera !  If anyone still cares by now, as it's abundantly clear that Milling surely didn't, the dénouement takes places on the grounds of Salzburg Castle as Blake confronts Umberto with photographic evidence of his wife's past indiscretions, cue a steamy laundry room threesome with supersexy Sharp taking on a pair of uncredited and unfamiliar males.  Unfortunately, this hardcore humdinger is followed by a "clever" twist right out of the blue that's pathetically lame even by less than lofty porno standards, making a mockery out of the preceding plot (such as it is...) meaning the joke's ultimately on the movie's single most sympathetic character as well as the audience.  Ah well, better focus on the fucking... 

Which leads me to an interesting conundrum, unusual for porn, with regard to male performance ability.  Both Baker and Colt, in spite of their solid acting abilities, notoriously suffered from the dreaded adult movie set affliction euphemistically known as "Mr. Softy" as they would valiantly struggle for wood in one humiliating hardcore setup after another.  At least, Colt could lay claim on being a confirmed homosexual primarily employed on the straight side of the sex industry, his spindly middle-aged physique hardly fitting the gay ideal, but Baker's nerves frequently seemed to get the better of him.  Thankfully, Chuck Vincent (another gay artist working in hetero hardcore, albeit behind the camera) came to his rescue, casting him in a series of attention-grabbing non sex parts for Jack 'n' Jill 2, Sex Drive and Voyeur.  He would ultimately gravitate towards lighthearted fetish fare like Carter Stevens's quintessential The Bizarre World of Scott Baker where his inability to rise to the occasion was no longer an issue.  If you pay close attention to camera angles and editing, you should notice that both men's sex scenes here are either simulated (Baker with Smith, ranting about her elusive paintings while supposedly plugging away at her from behind) or conspicuously stunted (watch the hands during Colt's wedding night number with Sharp), marking a rare instance of sexually active male performers having been cast for thespian prowess rather than carnal ability !  Come again ?  Better not ask either of these guys !

The hottest scenes have guys doing their own fucking, thank you very much !  Ironically, several of these go unceremoniously unmentioned such as the hunky houseboy with Laurie Smith in Egypt.  Bowing out of the action because it's "too hot for me", Baker brings in the hotel help to satisfy his mistress.  One of the most lascivious ladies of the blue screen, Smith does a slow and sultry striptease then turns daintily voracious on her male partner, never once breaking eye contact with the transfixed Baker on the balcony outside.  Whew !  From the unseasoned to the stalwart, Joey Silvera comes across uncommonly restrained as the British guard taunted by lovely Lorians in a silly setup that still pays off handsomely in the heat department though it's not a patch on her bedroom burner with the stoic Starbuck, the slender racially mixed (at least part Native American ?) performer perpetually pressed into duty as strong silent seducer to obscure his discomfort with dialogue, his oddly effective turn as the babbling demon in Francis Delia's Nightdreams a notable exception.

If Milling had sacrificed story by now, with plots of increasing indifference, but still proved a dab hand at delivering the dirty, his primal point of interest seemed to be production, more carefully crafted and glossy than ever before.  Depending on the location, he would divide principal photographic duties among two highly talented DoPs, Blonde Goddess's Misha for Italy and Egypt and Ken Gibb for England, France and Austria.  Coming from the outskirts of mainstream, having lensed Matt Cimber's haunting horror movie The Witch Who Came from the Sea and the unique Duke Mitchell DIY mob saga The Executioner, Gibb took a headlong plunge into hardcore porn with Bob Chinn's "Gail Palmer" cycle (including the campy Prisoner of Paradise and massively underrated Hot Legs) as well as all of Milling's All American Girls episodes.  He would also direct a handful of explicit efforts, the first of which proved the best, 1985's Fleshdance starring seldom seen Shana Evans.  Ian Shaw, who scored most of Vincent's crossover classics of the '80s including his landmarks Roommates and In Love, contributes a subtle lilting soundtrack intricately incorporating recurring themes.

Directed & written by Bill Milling (as Bill Eagle). Produced by Milling (as Eagle), Sam Lake & Bob Bouchard for Evart Enterprises. Photographed by Ken Gibb & Misha. Music by Ian Shaw. Edited by Bobby Pittsburgh. Starring Joanna Storm (Heather), Jacqueline Lorians (Mariange), Scott Baker (Blake Covington), Zebedy Colt (Umberto Trentini), Marie Sharp (as Gina Carnale) (Angelina), Laurie Smith (Baroness von Habsburg), Ken Starbuck (Louvre Lover) & Joey Silvera (British Guard). Running time : 83 minutes.