American Desire (1981)

Born into Italian aristocracy in Algeria back when it was still part of the French colonial empire, freethinking Alberto Ferro diverted from his mapped out destiny in international diplomacy in a big way.  Reinventing himself as self-proclaimed Euro Porn King “Lasse Braun” because of the genre’s Scandinavian connection, he set up shop in Denmark at the dawn of dirty movie legalization.  He made his fame as a superior “loop” director in the late ’60s and early ’70s, shooting some of the most amazingly intense intercourse featurettes then semi-legally available, cruising the globe to work in those countries whose often only recently relaxed censorship laws allowed him to strut his stuff free of authoritative hassle. Eventually, he branched out into full length features with Penetration aka French Blue (a documentary showing the Master at work, intercut with several of his legendary loops, credited to Falcon Stuart who’s an actual British filmmaker rather than another Braun alias as is often erroneously assumed) and Sensations, his crowning achievement lensed in the notoriously liberated Dutch capital of Amsterdam. All sorts of trouble with producers, distributors as well as, eventually, the occasional government (painstakingly detailed on his somewhat self-aggrandizing website finally landed him in the United States, fortunately still in thrall of its pornographic “Golden Age” as the ’80s beckoned. On the surface, American Desire appears almost formulaic in the extreme, the even then already tired tale of a married couple jointly deciding “to see other people” in order to spice up an unadventurous sex life. It’s a good measure of Braun’s genius as a fornication filmmaker and, credit where it’s due, the excellence of his star cast that such doesn’t even begin to register as a hindrance to the hardcore heaven that awaits the ardent aficionado within.

Bob and Sheila Welles (Bob Bolla and Veronica Hart, hands down the finest tandem in titillation cinema) are stuck in a rut. He suggests fooling around. She balks at the idea. Rest assured, she will change her mind. Attempting adultery, Bob calls on the “specialized” services of Mistress Candice (in a rare “regular” appearance outside of Phil Prince S&M porn, also in Robert Michaels’ moderately entertaining Twilite Pink if still as a dominatrix) but gets more than he bargained for in a domination bit gone berserk played strictly for lowbrow laughs. Sheila goes to see her dad (Jake Teague sans toupet, so automatically perfect for the part) for paternal advice, only to find him otherwise occupied with his much younger spouse Mai Lin, adult’s all purpose Oriental of the infatigable Cheshire cat grin. Visiting the dilapidated abode that once belonged to her grandfather, a famous author, she meets handsome young scholar George Payne clearly interested in both the property and her, an immediate attraction she’s initially too freaked out to act upon. Unfortunately, Mai gets her horny mitts on him first, a sorry situation only aggravated when dear old dad intimately inquires whether Sheila would like to join in !  Eww gross !

Bob gets lucky with luscious Lysa Thatcher as a submissive hitchhiker who shows him it’s better to give than to receive as she pulls a cat o’nine tails out of her purse.  Their intense intercourse that follows could serve as a couples introduction to light B&D, memorably playing out to the strains of Vangelis’ ominous Alpha, one of several not quite library tracks employed. Sheila dresses up to the nines and returns to the old house, hoping to find George but running into creepy Roy Stuart (later a famous fetish photographer and subject of several Taschen art books) instead, claiming to be the current owner an accusing her of trespassing. Assuring her she can walk away at any time, he seduces her in ebullient, semi-rape fashion. This sequence might sit a tad uncomfortably with some viewers yet it’s a supremely erotic example of how to treat a non-PC sex fantasy, which is just that : a fantasy, on screen. Hungry for more, Sheila comes on to construction worker Dave Ruby and the resulting threesome could strip the paint of them walls ! Bob and Sheila share their newfound carnal knowledge at film’s closing, adding Lysa to their now wide open marriage with a haunting song entitled I’m Ready to Fly composed by the aforementioned Stuart making their goodnight grope extra special.

Beautifully shot on location in New York and Connecticut by TV camera man Jack Malick, much emphasis is placed – obviously at Braun’s insistence, as US porn was still relatively reticent at this stage – on graphic “monster shots” of almost grotesquely enlarged genitalia, especially on cinema screens. These are not interjected willy nilly but only when and if they can increase erotic effect, jolting jaded audiences out of their carnal complacency like a crash of cymbals at a symphony’s crescendo. Braun continued to work stateside, probably his most productive period arriving half a decade later when he landed a six picture deal with long gone Vidco with Young NymphoSecret Mistress and Flasher the highlights of that lascivious lot, cementing his reputation as a Dirty Man for All Seasons. God bless his sweet salacious soul !

Directed by Lasse Braun. Written & produced by Braun & Carel Rowe. Photographed by Jack Malick. Music by Roy Stuart. Edited by Harvey Kopel. Starring Veronica Hart (Sheila Welles), Robert Bolla (Bob Welles), Lysa Thatcher (as Lisa Adams) (Hitchhiker), Jake Teague (as Alan Clement) (Alan Welles), Mai Lin (Alan’s Wife), George Payne (George Wilder), Roy Stuart (Stranger), Dave Ruby (Hardhat) & Mistress Candice (Callgirl). Running time : 79 minutes.

She would be so nice to come home to : the vivacious Veronica Hart

By Dries Vermeulen

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