Girls on Fire (1984)

Passed on producer Ted Paramore aka “Harold Lime“, whose credits stretch all the way back to the earliest days of sexploitation cinema with 1960’s cornerstone nudie cutie Not Tonight Henry, stood for integrity and loyalty within an industry not always associated with such qualities, forming fruitful affiliations with filmmakers like Richard “Ramsey Karson” Kanter and Gary “Robert McCallum” Graver, nurturing their talents over the course of several successive projects. Sandwiched between the Graver glory days (spawning such carnal classics as The Ecstasy Girls and Amanda by Night) and Lime’s latterday shot on video stint collaborating with ace DoP “Jane Waters” – actually a guy named John Keeler who passed away late last year – lay a string of thus far casually overlooked fornication features, alternating between “old school” 35mm and its small screen rival gaining foothold by the day, the work of yet another unheralded camera wizard turned director, Jack Remy. Their set, which was to conclude with an accomplished albeit compromised Amanda sequel, kicked off in grand style with Girls on Fire, probably the best among many porn versions of Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot, material both previously and subsequently mauled by disputed directrix Svetlana in Sexboat and Bad Girls III respectively.

Suspecting foul play, a pair of insurance adjusters comes to call on mobster Tony Cardoza, portrayed with customary hammy relish by the late John Alderman, a wildly popular leading man from the simulated sex days turned pants on character actor in the explicit era. Deliberately distracted by the kingpin’s dumb broad spouse (a superb scene-stealing turn by Kimberly Carson minus her habitual Cher wig), they have to make a run for it when caught in flagrante by her irate husband who immediately sicks his idiot henchman (the legendary John Holmes, revealing unsuspected comedic prowess) on their sorry asses. Seeking sanctuary with his fiancée’s home girl Almond (Angel, adorable as ever), a runway model for flamboyant though “gay by reputation only” underwear designer Lance Lalot (another faultless Bob Bolla performance), the pair find themselves knee-deep in lingerie-clad lovelies just gagging for a shag, seeing how their employer formally prohibits them from fraternizing with members of the opposite sex while on catwalk duty. Predictably, chaos ensues as our horny heroes attempt to outrun the grasp of gunslinging hoodlums hot on their tail without letting a single sexual opportunity offered by this throng of satin and lace adorned sirens go to waste.

Although porn production values had already dwindled noticeably since his heyday, Lime still puts out quite a spread in the face of encroaching cathode ray competition, Remy’s sparkling cinematography going a long way to conceal a limited location shoot. Having previously only seen this film on full screen VHS, I was amazed at the rich vibrancy of the colors in his studied compositions on attending a recent showing at the valiantly persistent ABC theater in Brussels, especially considering their projection system has definitely seen better days ! Conceived as cinema rather than mere masturbatory aid, the movie got a lot of undeserved flak from fans and genre scribes alike for its continuous cross-cutting between sex and story, picking up the pace whenever the action in either department threatens to lag.

Cast consisting of veritable constellation of contemporary carnal superstars certainly doesn’t hurt either. Stalwart Jamie Gillis plays bumbling screw-up very well to Bobby Bullock’s straight man. The sight of both him and Holmes in drag is hard to forget, try as you might ! While he had been active under various aliases since the late ’70s, Bullock was just hitting his stride as a personable leading man and many female performers’ partner of choice at that unfortunate moment in time as the adult industry began to narrow its focus to fit the format of a TV rather than theater screen. Most effective when suggesting a darker streak barely contained by his deceptively clean-cut exterior, as was the case in Chuck Vincent’s excellent Voyeur and Ron Sullivan’s woefully underestimated She’s So Fine II, his slightly neurotic charm here pales next to his cohort’s clowning. He does bring out the best in the usually aloof Angel however, who genuinely seems to enjoy their tender tryst. Still, it’s the captivating Carson who pulls rank early on with a spirited threesome that has both leads pleasuring her from opposing ends.

Apart from a throwaway number involving veteran Harry Reems and statuesque Shaun Michelle who was in tons of early ’80s movies if invariably stuck on the sidelines, most of the movie’s carefully orchestrated sexual scenarios occur over its second half at the frilly fashion retreat. A resplendent woman among girls, sensuous Cody Nicole adds a touch of class as the models’ tattle tail den mother scared into silence by Gillis and ravishing Raven tying her to the monkey bars for a memorable if not even remotely nasty B&D display. Arguably the original “video vixen“, parlaying her porn prominence into a modest venture that was to become industry giant Vivid, a glowingly youthful Ginger Lynn almost steals the show as the mischievous model sensuously stalling the huge Holmes’s hot pursuit. Hard to imagine in the face of her astounding longevity, Shanna McCullough was poppin’ fresh at the time, a brunette breath of fresh air in an unseemly universe predominantly populated by blondes. Making an eleventh hour entrance as Gillis’s put-upon betrothed, she’s consoled by finery fascist Bolla in a solid scene highlighted by their credible acting rather than honest hardcore heat. Watch for a priceless cameo as a pasta-gobbling heavy by the oft-discussed if representationally low profile Bill Amerson, Big John’s friend and manager throughout his fraught trajectory and one of the fornication film industry’s founding fathers.

Directed & photographed by Jack Remy. Written by Ted Paramore (as “Harold Lime Jr.”). ¨Produced by Paramore & Bill Amerson for VCX. Music by Shamus Music. Edited by Barry Cleve. Starring Kimberly Carson (Charity Cardoza), Jamie Gillis (Danny Roberts), Robert Bullock (Greg Taylor), Ginger Lynn (Suzie), Angel (Almond), Cody Nicole (as Roxanne Potts) (Rosalyn), Raven (as Vicky Vickers) (Tamara), John Holmes (Rocco), Robert Bolla (Lance Lalot), Shanna McCullough (Jamie), Shaun Michelle (Beach Bunny), Harry Reems (Beach Jogger), John Alderman (as Frank Hollowell) (Tony Cardoza), Bill Amerson (Charlie), Misty Dawn, Blossom Leigh, Linda Kay, Stacy Pool & Denise Munson (Models). Running time : 72 minutes.

Criminally underrated Cody Nicole (pictured in naughty Nazi regalia in Joe Sarno’s salvage job of Bill Milling’s cutting room floor footage that was Hot Stuff) could handle dialogue as well as (heh heh) meatier roles

By Dries Vermeulen

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