Hot Dreams (1983)

The last really good adult film made by longtime ruler of the roost Shaun Costello, unfortunately followed by his insipid skinflick swan song Heaven’s Touch, an uncharacteristically tired rehash of the 1978 Warren Beatty blockbuster Heaven Can Wait.  Costello had made the seamless transition from ’70s “Russ Carlson” rough stuff – Forced Entry and Waterpower being the most notorious examples thereof, ironically not credited to his common roughie alias but “Helmuth Richler” and most curiously Gerard Damiano respectively – to ’80s “Warren Evans” gloss. A splendid showcase for the too frequently taken for granted Sharon Mitchell, more active these days as founder and guiding light of AIM as in the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare, HIV watchdog and perhaps unheralded savior of the sex industry, Hot Dreams makes for an unusually thinly plotted feature for the director of Beauty and Pandora’s Mirror with emphasis squarely placed on superior sexual content, not necessarily a bad thing considering the genre. As a matter of fact, the eroticism conjured up for the occasion proves some of the most scorching on this fine fornication filmmaker’s mightily impressive track record, enhanced no end by sparkling Ron Dorfman (a/k/a “Art Ben“) cinematography.

The magnificent Mitch stars as hot shot photographer Lisa Curtis whose ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality is seriously slipping, causing chaos in both her personal and professional lives. The opening bathroom sequence with Lisa imagining husband Michael Bruce (also appearing Sharon Kane’s longtime boyfriend who would eventually pass away from AIDS, nurtured and nursed by the actress) forcing himself on her in the shower, even as she’s watching him shave, is the filmmaker’s knowledgeable nod towards Angie Dickinson’s rape fantasy that jumpstarted Brian De Palma’s phenomenal Hitchcock pastiche Dressed to Kill. Subtleties such as these really set Costello’s creative endeavors apart from the competition. A tux ‘n’ tie formal dinner turns into an impromptu orgy that sees Lisa served up as main course for an almost unrecognizably glamorous Marlene Willoughby (Shaun’s Girl Friday on many a one day wonder, graciously making her way out of the trenches along with the director), suave and sinister Jamie Gillis and Alan “Spike” Adrian as their everready manservant. Pay particular attention to Marlene’s inspired grape play.  Trust me, you will know it when you see it !

Group sex is most definitely the item of choice on the carnal menu here, Sharon transformed into the glowing or rather frosted center of a fevered foursome with hunky male models George Payne, Dave Ruby and gritty NY performer Joey Santini as the shooting of an underwear advert turns seriously awry.  Keep an eye out for Costello’s regular character actor Gordon Duvall, who made such a memorable Renfield in his Dracula Exotica, as the harried advertising executive who winds up with a ball gag to silence his whining.  The late Chris Covino aka prolific porn filmmaker “John Christopher” also makes a token appearance in this sequence as Lisa’s limpwristed assistant.

Rest and relaxation comes courtesy of the awesome Anna Ventura as a very hands on masseuse, inspiring Lisa to drift off into another fantasy involving fellow health club patrons Joanna Storm (still early days and underused), Jinger Jaye (from Chuck Vincent’s longtime producer and companion Bill Slobodian’s unfortunately rather botched sole directorial effort Luscious) as Anna all but devours the endearingly gauche towel boy not to mention unrepentant mullet head Kenny Dee. Meanwhile, Lisa’s best friend Renee (Tiffany Clark at her all time career best in a part Costello created especially for Pandora‘s fly by night sensation Sandra Hillman though the director has inexplicably bad-mouthed her contribution ever since) is playing intricate phone seduction games with Lisa’s left to his own devices better half as an anonymous obscene caller puts them through their paces. Hands down best of show is the last sequence, a heated Hudson River boat ride employing the city skyline, Twin Towers obviously still intact, as a breathtaking backdrop as Mitch and Bruce exchange spouses with Sharon II (Kane, that is) and Ashley Moore to an extended cut from Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells album, one of several regular sources of sound for Costello’s capers. Any residual marital woes are thus casually swept under the carpet. Those who value plot over pornographic content – you know who you are – may not particularly appreciate the director’s single-minded pursuit of pulchritude at this advanced stage of his career. Given these “limitations” however, it surely ranks among his most accomplished achievements.

Directed & Written by Shaun Costello (as Warren Evans). Produced by Costello (as Evans) for Evansfilm. Photographed & Edited by Ron Dorfman (as Art Ben). Starring Sharon Mitchell (Lisa Curtis), Tiffany Clark (Renee Altman), Anna Ventura (Claudia, the Health Club Masseuse), Marlene Willoughby (Ellen Van Zandt), Michael Bruce (Bob Curtis), Jamie Gillis (John Van Zandt), Sharon Kane (Maxine), Ashley Moore (Maxine’s Husband), Joanna Storm (Health Club Patron), Robin Sane, Jinger Jaye (Health Club Lesbians), Kenny Dee (Towel Attendant), Alan Adrian (Van Zandt Butler), George Payne (Tom, Male Model), Dave Ruby (Arnie, Male Model), Joey Santini (Ray, Male Model), Chris Covino (as John Christopher) (Bruce, Lisa’s Assistant) & Gordon G. Duvall (Mr. Levine, the Underwear Client). Running time : 84 minutes.

Always hot but rarely a dab hand with dialogue, Tiffany Clark surprised friend ‘n foe with a warm and witty performance few thought her capable of, sadly including the director who still can’t find anything nice to say about her..

By Dries Vermeulen

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