A Scent of Heather (1980)

Taking its cue from Luigi Comencini’s 1974 arthouse hit Till Marriage Do Us Part starring luscious Laura Antonelli, this porno period piece is one of the more ambitious adult films on record. Produced and directed with utmost care by unjustly underrated Bill Milling – a/k/a both director “Philip Drexler” and his producer alter ego “Bill Eagle” – who made this between his surprisingly witty corporate satire Satin Suite and his frivolous fairytale fantasy Delicious, it generally does a splendid job of recreating the early 20th century and more specifically Hollywood depictions thereof, occasional anachronisms such as the presence of electric lights notwithstanding.  Great aspirations heighten expectations so, as a result, shortcomings tend to be magnified. Truth of the matter is that this still ranks as a low budget effort by mainstream standards when all is said and done so rough spots in production and acting by some of the supporting cast do rather stick out a bit.

The part of convent-bred heiress Heather was a breakthrough role for talented thespian Veronica Hart, just hitting her stride following scene-stealing supporting turns in Lenny Kirtman’s Seka quartet.  For the record, these included in descending terms of quality PrincessConfessions of Seka, Tara and, both last and least, The Seduction of Cindy.  She brings out every single delicate nuance as her character evolves from dewy innocence to knowing worldliness. As stated in her father’s will, she’s to marry handsome young Frederick (Paul Thomas in an excellent, brooding portrayal worthy of Vincent Price in his Roger Corman/Edgar Allen Poe heyday), the gardener’s son who – it is disclosed by the spoilsport family attorney on their wedding night mere moments prior to carnal consummation – actually turns out to be her brother ! Unable to make love to his beautiful wife (and sister !), Frederick arranges for his bride to be erotically awakened without taking part in the act himself. The trusted family chauffeur, flawlessly acted by Robert Bolla who was to be Hart’s partner on many a subsequent outing, will do just nicely instead. One stormy night, he gently seduces Heather in the barn as they shelter from the rain for one of the most thoroughly sensuous seductions of all time, her cherry popped ever so tenderly as thunder swells on the soundtrack.

Meanwhile, Frederick releases some pent-up tensions of his own with fiery cook Vanessa Del Rio and fledgling kitchen help Tracy (not late ’80s actress Tracey) Adams, the dream girl from Larry Revene’s frothy Fascination and titular star of Alexander Kubelka’s overlooked little sleeper gem Bella, highlighted by some explosive backdoor lovin’ courtesy of the combustible Latina megastar.  Little-seen Nicole Scent lends her throaty voice and succulent slender frame to the part of maid Margaret, caught in flagrante with the Master and making up for it with the Mistress. She would go on to play Jerry Butler’s fiery fiancée in Delicious and join the cupcake cast of Milling’s lavish Blonde Goddess before disappearing from view altogether. Another now largely forgotten Golden Age actress worthy of mention is busty amazon Lisa Be, who would deliver a career performance in Cecil Howard’s characteristically complex relationship drama Scoundrels and provided solid support in movies ranging from Roberta Findlay’s ill-fated Liquid Assets (Mel Brooks’ The Producers done porn style, badly to boot) to Fred Lincoln’s exquisite That’s Outrageous, portraying Heather’s scandalous aunt Phyllis losing her honor in flashback to sweet-talking soldier Ron Hudd and therefore called upon to instruct her young charge in the ways of the world with a sweltering Sapphic tutorial !

Ultimately, Heather and Frederick can no longer deny their overwhelming passion for one another and agree to one night of unbridled incestuous lovemaking to be concluded by their suicide pact. But there’s a kicker to all this high melodrama, a real sting in the tail provided by another fleshy flashback, this time involving Heather’s mom brought to lusty life by captivating Christie Ford, an underestimated performer somehow forever attired in typical French maid’s outfit in my mind due to her appearances as such in both Shaun Costello’s wistful Afternoon Delights and Ron Sullivan’s exuberant A Girl’s Best Friend. With all the preceding heavy breathing and bodice-ripping, it’s safe to say the remarkably cynical conclusion is not at all what you might reasonably expect…

Directed by Bill Milling (as Philip Drexler Jr). Written by Anthony Vincent. Produced by Milling (as Bill Eagle) for Praexis Productions. Photographed by Billy Blitzer. Music by Arthur Foote Jr. Edited by Lou Kleinman. Starring Veronica Hart (Heather), Paul Thomas (Frederick), Vanessa Del Rio (Cook), R. Bolla (Tom, the Chauffeur), Nicole Scent (as Jessica Teal) (Margaret, the Maid), Lisa Be (Aunt Phyllis), Ron Hudd (as Neil Peters) (Officer), Tracy Adams (Madeline, the Scullery Maid), Christie Ford (Heather’s Mother), Foster Wayne (Gardener), Felix Krull (Jack), Larry Strange (Uncle Roy) & Mark Lewis (Heather’s Alleged Father). Running time : 99 minutes.

Veronica Hart’s Heather in the throes of passion

By Dries Vermeulen

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