Honeymoon Haven (1977)

Second perhaps only to the likes of Shaun Costello when it came to making the most out of a modest budget, Carter Stevens had been tirelessly toiling in the trenches since adult’s earliest days (1972’s The Collegiates with Kim Pope and Harry Reems marking his moviemaking debut) before hitting the comparative big time by decade’s end, leaving a string of somewhat lavishly produced porno programmers for his legacy.  Like Costello and many other carnal colleagues from the intimate industry’s infancy, Stevens (né Malcolm Worob from Newark, NJ) enjoyed an estimable degree of formal training as a director, having studied photographic science at the Rochester Institute of Technology, serving him well in stretching each dollar he managed to wrangle out of frugal funders’ tight pockets.  Low budget lust mongers like Lickity Split and Teenage Twins (with real life siblings Brooke and Taylor Young breaking the incest barrier, how’s that for showmanship ?!) convinced conventionally cheapskate fuck film financiers of the fledgling filmmaker’s commercial viability, gradually loosening their purse strings in the process.  Still, in order to retain a degree of creative self-sufficiency that’s the trademark of a true ‘auteur’, he would supplement his income by regularly performing (usually as “Steven Mitchell“) for other people, most memorably portraying the pivotal rapist murdered by Crystal Sync in self defense in Roberta Findlay’s thoroughly plotted The Tiffany Minx and in complete contrast the unexpectedly kindhearted pump jockey nicknamed Piggy actually getting the girl (in this case, ravishing redhead Misty Regan) from Chris Covino’s affable Velvet High.  He then poured these proceeds into progressively if not entirely auto-produced ventures of a narrative and artistic nature extending well beyond what the bottom line obsessed money men would allow.

Starting with 1976’s frantic science f(r)iction farce Rollerbabies, Stevens really began to make a name for himself with the moviegoing masses.  He struck gold casting closet case Wade Nichols (aka future soap star and disco divo Dennis Parker), blessed with matinee idol good looks not to mention above average acting ability for adult, in several of his most ambitious endeavors such as the noirish teen runaway mystery Punk Rock and the scorching underage sex drama Jail Bait with the sensational Tina Lynn, actually a professional ballet dancer and amorous acquaintance of Stevens who performed just this once as a personal favor !  1979’s Pleasure Palace, a clever comedy of crime both petty and organized and its ironic comeuppance starring Robert Bolla and Eric Edwards as a wellmatched buddy team with Serena doing some of her best work as their Girl Friday, possibly provides the culmination of Carter’s increasingly sophisticated narrative concerns, sex taking a backseat during the film’s twist-filled final third.  Caving to the changing times like his carnal compadres, his last ‘proper‘ picture was to be the sleazy Charlie LaTour showcase White Hot in 1984, spending the next decade almost exclusively catering to the then new video medium’s crawling out of the woodwork niche markets with specialized BDSM fare (Tied, Tickled and Trampled) and tranny stuff (My Sister Seymour).

Very much from his salad days, Honeymoon Haven takes a premise that could easily have been formulaic and embellishes it so extensively with surprisingly elaborate scenarios and period detail as to raise this little number from the ranks.  Characteristically creative under the direst of circumstances, Stevens had the good sense to hire the services of Radley Metzger’s unsung music editor George Craig whose encyclopaedic knowledge of public domain library tracks effortlessly guides an episodic narrative from the late ’40s to the present day, well the ’70s anyway, with a richly varied score ranging from jazz and honkytonk to rockabilly.  Sandwiched between Mendelssohn’s Wedding March and Here Comes the Bride, this pleasingly paced porno charts the fate of the many newlyweds passing through the titular abode – “just South of Intercourse, PA” a title card helpfully informs – ever since it set up shop in 1949 as loyal receptionist Bob Bolla reminisces to blue balls husband Wade Nichols whose virgin bride Erica Havens has nervously locked herself inside the bathroom.  Although she had been around adult sets at least as long as Stevens (she played Georgina Spelvin’s lookalike alter ego fighting her for Marc Stevens’s mammoth meat in Gerard Damiano’s 1972 landmark Devil in Miss Jones), Havens still makes for a convincingly innocent ingénue, looking positively scrumptious clad in white bra and panties.  Too bad her climactic coupling with Nichols is almost casually brushed aside in favor of an impromptu orgy finale, perhaps Carter’s only real miscalculation on this occasion.

Even longtime fans might need some help in identifying the furtive fuck film starlets, Marlene Willoughby being the only one to approach porn prominence of the period.  She essays the same Southern drawl that played such an important part in pushing her performance way over the top (by intention rather than incompetence) in Ron Sullivan’s hilarious Outlaw Ladies.  She’s wellmatched with fellow ham Roger Caine (billed under his real name of Al Levitsky) for a very funny skit that has her waxing lyrically post coitus, comparing her orgasm to an elevator going up (“and up…and up…“), until her spouse starts talking in his sleep about someone called “Michelle” even though her name’s Francine !  Sporting an appropriate hairstyle, Lisa Marks is the motel’s first customer, her husband scurrying out the door prior to consummation (his presumed dead first wife having just been located on a desert isle in the Pacific !), leaving her to the tender loving care of best man Leo Lovemore.  Kudos for the tastefully applied trickle of blood accompanying Lisa’s alleged loss of cherry !  A large-breasted as well as dependably lascivious beauty, Marks made her mark in solid support for Costello (on opposing ends of the production scale with his cheap ‘n’ cheerful The Two Lives of Jennifer up against More Than Sisters) and Bill Lustig (Hot Honey), playing a rare lead in Roger Colmont’s curiosity looking for a cult White Fire.  Marcia Minor’s the ’50s hausfrau cheating on commuter husband Michael Gaunt, another of adult’s accomplished thespians who’s no stranger to well-cured ham.  She was the star of the appropriately titled one day wonder Venture Into the Bizarre, alternatingly attributed to Costello (who denies involvement) or Ron Dorfman, about a pair of blackmailing celebrity plaster casters !  Most people probably remember her as the two jug lady band from the silly poolside sequences in Armand Weston’s Take Off though.

The sex heats up considerably with single shot starlet Karol Kaye doing a beatnik DP with Herschel Savage and Pepe Valentine, who fortunately forget the lingo once the action kicks in.  Gloria Todd, the East Coast’s answer to Desiree West, shines as the sweetie from housekeeping comforting malfunctioning and therefore deserted groom David Williams who’s on the verge of cutting off his useless member.  From the unenlightened era when there only seemed room for one major league performer of each racial minority, ebony temptress Todd found her meatiest role to sink those perfect pearly whites into playing the evil Sultana in Costello’s wonderfully warped Slave of Pleasure.  Williams was a veteran of Joe Davian roughies like Night of Submission and Fetishes of Monique.  The following foursome involves ’60s spouse-swapping and highlights the easygoing comedic capabilities of Bobby Astyr and Paula Morton (née Reisenwitz and the future Mrs. Damiano, meeting him on the set of his minor Joint Venture) who carry along the clueless combo of Susaye London and Peter Andrews, their thespian gaucheness not being a problem since their characters are supposed to be nervous and inexperienced.  Toothsome London also graduated from roughies such as Costello’s The Anger in Jenny and Davian’s Appointment With Agony to upmarket fare with Chuck Vincent’s haunting Visions and Antonio Shepherd’s highkickin’ hardcore musical Chorus Call.  Erica finally gets over her wedding night jitters, dropping to her knees to eagerly inhale Wade’s engorged manhood when…Carter cuts aways to a group grope already underway between a bunch of the Honeymoon Haven Reunion Club members, i.e. swinging married couples who once stayed at the motel, regularly returning for some horizontal R&R, watching their potential latest additions making up by makin’ whoopee on closed circuit TV.  For the record, Marlene’s with Bob Richards (an alleged one shot who played the getaway husband in scene one and has the finest male physique on display, positively gay porn gorgeous), Caine’s doing a barely glimpsed uncredited brunette and Andrews is on the bed with blonde Sharon Kaufman (also in Carter’s The Love Couch) and brunette Brigitte Lavera who appeared in Costello’s That Lady from Rio.

The adult talent pool already being a small pond to start with, Stevens liked to surround himself with familiar faces on both sides of the camera, perhaps none more so than his faithful DoP Bruce G. Sparks (billed under his customary carnal alter ego of “Prudence Prevails“) who passed away a couple of years ago.  Cutting his teeth on Joe Sarno’s moody softcore classics from the ’60s including the classic IngaCome Ride the Wild Pink Horse and the magnificently monikered Scarf of Mist, Thigh of Satin, he was to become the director’s perpetual partner in slime throughout his ’70s heyday, his unerring eye for detail and composition contributing extensively to the effectiveness of scenes both sexual and expository, imbuing the latter with a noirish lighting scheme to compensate for occasionally dire dramatic content.  In keeping with the flick’s lighthearted demeanor, he keeps the colors bright and blazing for the occasion, punching up the patterns of the motel’s tawdry furnishings and garish bedspreads in contrast with the blinding white wedding gowns and delicate lacey finery adorning actresses generically displayed in other dirty movies but elevated to princess perfection here.

Directed by Carter Stevens. Written by Stevens & Richard Jaccoma (as Al Hazrad). Produced by Stevens for FBN Productions, in association with MSW Productions. Photographed by Bruce G. Sparks (as Prudence Prevails). Music by George Craig (as Terri Craig). Edited by Earl Sandwich. Starring Erica Havens (as Karen St. Joy) (Susan Charnowsky), Wade Nichols (Morris Charnowsky), Robert Bolla (Mr. Snow, the Motel Desk Clerk), Lisa Marks (Alice), Leo Lovemore (as Leo Lovelace) (George), Marcia Minor (as Michelle Lake) (Honey), Michael Gaunt (Henry), Karol Kaye (Joan), Herschel Savage (as Bill Berry) (Dan), Pepe Valentine (Jack), Gloria Todd (Lula Mae), David Williams (as Dieter Winderfeldt) (Suicidal Groom), Paula Morton (Annie), Susaye London (Betty), Bobby Astyr (Mike), Peter Andrews (Joe), Marlene Willoughby (Francine Jackson), Roger Caine (as Al Levitsky) (Harold Jackson), Sharon Kaufman (Blonde Reunion Club Member), Brigitte Lavera (Brunette Reunion Club Member) & Bob Richards (Stanley). Running time : 84 minutes.

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