Sex Drive (1985)

Halfway through the '80s, as house lights were turned on all across the nation after decades of minimal employment and once thriving porno palaces faced foreclosure and the probable prospect of demolition, reigning royal of fuck flicks Chuck Vincent took a final stand in the face of adult entertainment's extinction as a communally enjoyed experience with a goodbye batch of four explicit endeavors prior to retreating into the alternative universe of R-rated cable fare until his untimely passing at the age of 51 in 1991.  While his inadvertent twilight years still yielded the occasional gem (bringing to mind the zany body switch farce Cleo/Leo and the claustrophobic psycho horror of Deranged at opposing ends of the spectrum), he will forever be remembered for getting up close and personal with private parts in some of the finest fornication films to come out of the New York area where he lived, loved (his longtime companion and frequent collaborator Bill Slobodian died a few years earlier) and photographed people's pubes for pornographic perusal.

Of these final four, Voyeur garnered most critical acclaim.  A dark spin on Radley Metzger's lightheartedly lascivious Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann (latter available as we speak in the ultimate 2 disc Platinum Elite Collector's Edition from our very own Video-X-Pix), it primarily revealed the potential of previously lightweight lead Robert Bullock - active under an array of aliases since the second half of the '70s - as an intense and tormented character actor.  Sex Crimes 2084 also scored admirably, although promised sci fi trappings proved little more than window dressing for one of the director's more characteristic roundelays of romance.  Pretty much everyone hated Bordello : House of the Rising Sun however, an unexpectedly (for this most humane of hardcore enthusiasts) cold and cynical view of gash for cash commodification as a formerly friendly cathouse has to move with the times and its technological advances.  Which leaves us with Sex Drive, conceived almost as a contractual obligation and casually overlooked or panned by almost every porn-reviewing publication, save for Adam Film World and Swank who took their time to sift through the silliness to get at the gold nuggets inside.

Pilfering its premise from modestly successful 1982 Broadway show Pump Boys and Dinettes, something one had expected Vincent to attempt sooner given his openly gay sensibilities (though, unlike the Amero brothers whose Blonde Ambition and Every Inch a Lady qualify as some of the campest carnal capers ever produced, he never wore his sexuality on his sleeve so to speak), Sex Drive retains both its source material's loose plotting and Southern setting for the sympathetic depiction of a lowly milieu over a single day.  Roadside cafe Joe's Pumps & Eats provides the setting for loves lost and regained as grease monkeys fill 'er up, with all the sticky double entendre details that term implies, while downtrodden waitresses sling hash and make goo-goo eyes at customers to increase tips.  Characters are quickly drawn in broad brush strokes and while the brassy hillbilly humour (reminiscent of Bethel Buckalew's unsophisticated T&A farces for Harry Novak like Sassy Sue and The Pigkeeper's Daughter) feels a little outside the director's comfort zone, he more than makes up for it in heart.  Taking to the tone like a duck to water is Taija Rae as the loudmouthed but kindhearted Rita Jo, a stock character if ever there was but infused with such infectious energy by the actress as to appear fresh.  Still relatively new to the business, having worked only for Ron Sullivan (who prominently featured her in Sex Spa USA and Hostage Girls) and Candida Royalle on early Femme projects like Urban Heat and Christine's Secret, she already shows great ability as a motormouthed comedienne clearly destined for porn's premium league.  She picks up the slack whenever proceedings threaten to get stale.

Little more than another enthusiastic video vixen with an anal gimmick, Sheri St. Claire was all but saved from here today gone tomorrow small screen oblivion by Vincent who gave her glamour throughout his final four and even took her along on his concluding R-rated tour of duty for Sex Appeal (a very funny softcore remake of Larry Revene's Vincent-produced Fascination), walloping WIP pastiche Slammer Girls and, coming full circle, reprising her role from Voyeur in its simulated simulacrum If Looks Could Kill.  Her lopsided mischievous grin's perfect for the character of the chronically promiscuous sheriff's wife, stringing along dumb deputy Andy (Bullock, tempering the role's brains in crotch stupidity with his innate charm) or luring away one of the waitresses' blue balls boyfriends (Italian American hunk Frank Serrone, who had his finest hour as the wrong side of the tracks Clete Chinaski on Sullivan's tremendous Taboo American Style) with the promise of an easy backseat lay.  Said put-upon waitress is sweet little workin' her ass off Jeanne, played with surprising assurance by lovely Melanie Scott, a very pretty blonde NY starlet who racked up an astonishing number of credits (well over 50, which was a hefty volume considering the times) yet proved almost pathetically underwhelming in most of these.  Just like she did however in what was easily her best film, Henning "Hans Christian" Schellerup's all time sleeper Tomboy, she glows with a confident carnality and brings genuine warmth to the role of ingenue.  Unfortunately, Sheer Delight (aka "Kathlyn Moore", fruitlessly groomed for stardom in Revene's Candy Stripers II) hardly lives up to the hype Sullivan's army officer initially imbues her with, warning newbie Abel (one shot Malcolm Zee in an affably wide-eyed non-sex turn) for "blueberry muffins and Piranha Patty", pretty much puttering away on the sidelines until it's time for her Big Scene - the climax, adding insult to injury - with four anonymous dicks (belonging to the film's obscured sex performers rather than the uncredited extras who had been heckling her all night) poking through glory holes and brought to orgasm with dispiriting lack of lasciviousness.  Even the music score - by Ian Shaw and Kai Joffe (regular Vincent contributors since his Roommates and In Love heyday) - bows out for this sorry spectacle !

Rae's still curvy figure (she would shed considerable weight on the way to stardom, not necessarily to her advantage) is superbly shown off during her kitchen encounter with Christopher Reeve lookalike Michael Knight, excellent as the bossy Rusty, forever bragging about his sexual prowess but prematurely ejaculating when Rita Jo finally relents.  He panics, assuring her this has never happened to him before.  Rather than shooting him down for being such a liar, she comforts him so he can once again rise to the occasion and finish what he has started.  Classic Vincent.  Although no stranger to the gratuitous sex scene, he also happens to include one of his hottest here when a mini van sporting the license plate SEX-DRIVE pulls up to the service station and its occupants give Abel a free show.  Seasoned Sharon Kane growls like a caged predator and moves with the studied grace of an Oriental dancer as she thoroughly works over a barely glimpsed Buck Adams.  Given the nature of the premise, Chuck's rightfully revered DoP Revene has to work mostly within the cramped confines of cars and trucks which does not allow him a lot of leeway (both literally and figuratively) to wow an audience.  Most porn professionals would have blasted the performers' functioning parts with bright lights but he prefers to bathe them in moody shadows which may occasionally frustrate viewers watching the film on video or DVD.  Remember that he shot with theatrical screening in mind - where, I can attest, none of the detail was lost - with no concession (outside of his meticulous compositions playing equally well in cinematic widescreen or TV's airier 4:3 format) for his work being inevitably scaled down to small screen parameters.     

Directed by Chuck Vincent. Written by Vincent and Tony Rey. Produced by Vincent for Platinum Pictures. Photographed by Larry Revene. Music by Ian Shaw and Kai Joffe. Edited by Rey. Starring Taija Rae (Rita Jo), Melanie Scott (Jeanne), Sheri St. Claire (Shirley Shaeffer), Sharon Kane (Girl in Sex-Drive Van), Sheer Delight (Patty Ann), Robert Bullock (Deputy Andy), Michael Knight (Rusty), Frank Serrone (Peter), Buck Adams (Guy in Sex-Drive Van), Malcolm Zee (Abel), Phil Campanaro (Ralphie), Scott Baker (Sheriff Shaeffer) & Ron Sullivan (aka Henri Pachard) (Army Recruitment Officer). Running time : 76 minutes.

 

Be honest, wouldn't this view of Taija Rae's tempting twat make you pop in your pants too ?