Sexual Heights (1981)

Throughout the Sixties and Seventies, the much maligned Carlos Tobalina successfully ran several of the more upscale California porno palaces, most famously LA’s fabled Mayan Theater, shooting many of his self-proclaimed erotic “epics” on the premises, an anonymous stretch of beach frequently doubling for the exotic locations promised by poster and title, for instance I Am Curious TahitiAffair in Rio de Janeiro or Last Tango in Acapulco ! He adopted the “Troy Benny” moniker for his definitive move, excluding the occasional dabble such as 1971’s Refinements in Love, into full bore hardcore territory with 1974’s Sexual Ecstasy of the Macumba, intended to make a star out of blonde Nina Fause, an obscure performer Tobalina named and recruited from the ranks of frugal one day wonders, mournfully playing second fiddle (or should that be skin flute ?) in Rene Bond showcases Sex-o-phrenia and Guess Who’s Coming This Weekend. Many more fornication films were to follow, including the star and director’s most ambitious association with Marilyn and the Senator.  Reputedly a really nice guy in real life, Tobalina’s style or lack thereof married to a dispiriting listlessness sabotaged most of his efforts in spite of the cooperation by many among the industry’s top marquee names. There was the odd exception to the rule however, the lively Sexual Heights scoring against admittedly meager competition my vote for Tobalina’s high watermark as an adult “auteur“.

Nominal plot has a group of disgruntled divorced men planning revenge on the teenage babysitter (tanned ‘n’ toothsome Tawny Pearl whose threesome with Mike Ranger and Dorothy Lemay in Kirdy Stevens’ original Taboo remains indelibly etched on many a dirty movie devotee’s memory) who cost one of them (Herschel Savage, mixing charm and humour to unexpectedly beguiling effect) his marriage to uncredited Jane Lindsay who holds the rare distinction of featuring in two separate Fantasy Island knockoffs, Gerard Damiano’s superior Fantasy as well as Lawrence T. Cole’s solid sleeper Fantasex Island. Stocking up plentifully on booze, drugs and porno tapes, cue leftover (?) footage from some other Tobalina shoot featuring Serena, Jennifer Duran (also in Benny’s unwieldy Undulations) and stalwart John Seeman, they don drag with Hersch playing maid to “husband” Jamie Gillis and “wife” Jesse Adams (the goodlooking blond surfer type hitting the deck with Sharon Kane in Tom Janovich’s more entertaining than it has any right to be Small Town Girls) with Milton Ingley aka “Michael Morrison” dutifully posing as the family chauffeur.

Inviting tasty Tawny to take care of their imaginary offspring (a doll in a cot, she doesn’t even bother to check !), they pretend to leave the house for a night on the town. In reality, they are lying in wait until each of them can get a piece of babysitter booty. Once the simple situation is set up, the action rarely lets up with Tawny soon phoning her girlfriends for much-needed reinforcement against the boinking battalions. Busty brunette Holly McCall (the AFAA awardwinning annoying waitress from Sam Weston’s Nothing to Hide) and lithe honey blonde Lysa Thatcher (mesmerizing star of Howard Winters’ Neon Nights) each provide their own potent brand of sensuality. Cast rather precariously as a precocious pre-teen, one shot wonder Lolita Grant looks all too credibly underage, giving her enthusiastic even if partially simulated participation in the film’s climactic group grope an alluring whiff of the forbidden that might sit uncomfortably with more politically correct adult audiences.

Interspersed with the movie’s main thrust as it were are a couple of John Holmes sequences with ravishing redhead Kitty Shayne (unforgettable as John Leslie’s vengeful nosy neighbour from Jeffrey Fairbanks’ first-rate Exposed) and the genre’s all purpose Oriental Mai Lin, both of which display liberal cocaine ingestion as part of the foreplay. Like the aforementioned “video” footage, I assumed these were loops that might have been initially intended for another of Tobalina’s assembly line products until a dialogue bit between Holmes and Gillis proved that the original Mr. Big was indeed very much part of this project after all. While the retaliation setup may strike some viewers as decidedly distasteful, the harmless way it plays out will win over any potential detractors. There’s even an honest to goodness true love conquers all type ending to soothe any offense this mildly subversive material may have caused.

Directed & written by Carlos Tobalina (as Troy Benny). Produced by Tobalina (as Benny) & Jerry Polk for the Hollywood International Film Corporation of America (HIFCOA). Photographed by Nelson Forte. Music by Lorenz Kauffman. Starring Tawny Pearl (Laurie), Herschel Savage (as Joel Caine) (Joe), Jamie Gillis (Ron), John Holmes (John), Mai Lin (Amy), Kitty Shayne (as Lindy MacGrace) (John’s Opening Scene Lover), Jesse Adams (Jim), Michael Morrison (as Milton Ingley) (Art), Lolita Grant (Lolita), Lysa Thatcher, Holly McCall (Laurie’s Girlfriends), Serena, Jennifer Duran, John Seeman (Video Performers) & Jane Lindsay (Sandra). Running time : 75 minutes.

Stalwart stud that he is, Herschel Savage gets to flex his acting muscle(s) for a change

By Dries Vermeulen

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