That Lady From Rio (1976)

Wanting more of the same at half the cost, as was their wont, the mostly mob-affiliated moguls that ran the Times Square porno playhouses pressed the dependable Shaun Costello into duty to come up with a sequel to Bill Milling’s Oriental Blue which had netted them mucho dinero the year before.  Since his directorial debut (as “Helmuth Richler“) with 1973’s still shocking Vietnam vet on a rampage roughie Forced Entry, Costello had gained the employably enviable reputation of finishing fuck films on schedule and well within budget, occasional hiccup notwithstanding such as his seasonal sex saga The Passions of Carol which would spiral almost comically out of control on both counts.  Of course, Costello’s good stance also meant that he was never first in line whenever massive means were to be spent on a particular project, causing frustration only quenched by his lavish twilight track record as the posh “Warren Evans“, adult auteur of sprawling erotic epics like Fiona on FireDracula Exotica (both made with as much hindrance as help from the elusive Kenneth Schwartz, who’s an actual person rather than another alias) and Pandora’s Mirror.

That Lady from Rio closed the book on Costello’s initial stab at the big time as alleged dirty movie directrix “Amanda Barton“, a “female” filmmaker of great taste and sensual sophistication called into life as a mendacious marketing ploy designed to attract the coveted couples audiences to such dens of iniquity as the Capri.  Having inaugurated the gender-switching identity on Carol and continued with Midnight Desires, Costello saw himself stuck with the tawdry subject matter of an international white slavery ring, set up by milquetoast Milling in an uncharacteristically wild mood, which he was hellbent to mold into something altogether more “Bartonesque” so as not to betray the (albeit fictional) values associated with the moniker.  Real Hollywood should have such scruples !  Sure, Peonies Jong’s Madame Blue had proven herself a powerful if ultimately put upon ringleader in OB but she was still drugging and selling members of her own sex.  Doesn’t exactly scream “couples flick“, huh ?  Henceforth, her replacement (Vanessa Del Rio’s frugally ID’d Number One) is an emissary from an organization largely run by modern day amazons devoted to sex for monetary gain, somewhat unfortunately called SPHINCTER (Shaun’s predilection for toilet humour rears its ugly head anew), and they’re looking to branch out into male sex slaves for wealthy women.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Plot picks up pretty much where OB left off, with Madame Blue conveniently out of the way and Max (Bobby Astyr) moving in on her turf.  Discarding all references to the original’s much vaunted World Bordello Association, Max now has to answer to SPHINCTER, though I have a sneaking suspicion the name change was just an excuse for Shaun to have a large map with flashing lights indicating successful infiltration (how very 007 !), boldly emblazoned with “World SPHINCTER Control” !  Be that as it may, Head Office has sent down Number One to check why business has dropped by fifty percent since Blue’s demise, suspicious that Max may be dealing on the side with local mobster Don Vittorio, played to the hilt by Leonard Cooper, who was the chauffeur on Midnight Desires, even if he does arbitrarily affect a Russian rather than Italian accent !  Language fooler misunderstanding out of the way (Roger Caine’s henchman Bruno translates Vanessa’s Spanish to con Max into inadvertently spilling the beans, a decent idea Joe Sarno would elaborate upon in Vanessa’s segment from Tigresses and Other Man Eaters), Max shows her the “quality goods” he has got ready for shipping, a sip of OB‘s Love Juice (or rather the new and improved South of the border Jugo de Amor !) still capable of instantly obliterating a young girl’s inhibitions.

Okay, so that’s fifteen minutes of story duly dispensed with.  If it were any better, you might actually have wished for more.  Unfortunately, it’s but a pale rehash of situations and characterizations from the original minus its carefully constructed narrative.  So let’s push on to the sex, shall we ?  Thankfully, this is where Costello’s creativity really comes into play.  A frequent performer in his own films, for fun as much as cutting costs, he has always instintively known how to generate considerable heat.  This ability completely saves the film’s final hour, which is pretty much wall to wall banging and none the worse for it.  Stylishly shot by the director’s trusty camera cohort Bill Markle, scenes successfully blend sleaze and sensuality with a faux feminist flavor clumsily undercut by the final encounter which demonstrates the “turning” of a lesbian couple (butch Crystal Sync, still sporting buck teeth, and femme Brigitte Lavera from Carter Stevens’ Honeymoon Haven) as Astyr and Costello whip out their dicks, egged on by Vanessa.

Although ostensibly a star vehicle for Vanessa, the Latina (almost) has her thunder stolen by Marlene Willoughby’s SPHINCTER sister siren Sultana, a character name Costello was to keep in mind for gorgeous Gloria Todd’s memorable villainess in his Slave of a Pleasure, a more straightforward and dramatically satisfying approach to the same subject.  Screeching like a banshee, she practically devours the director and Jamie Gillis, the latter playing a different part than he did in OB…where he was killed off !  Cult favorite Jean Dalton (looking forward to a rare starring role in Cecil Howard’s 1977 Georgia Peach, formerly known as Peach Fuzz) scores as an allegedly underaged kidnappee in a bathroom bit with hairy John Buco, the cop hero from Shaun’s transgressive Water Power.  Both Jenny Baxter and haunting Hope Stockton look fetching in schoolgirl garb as a pair of Boston sisters submitting to Caine’s cock, wishing he had five, six, eight of them !  Too bad Costello didn’t take full advantage of Max’s loyal assistants Carla and Darla as a legitimate double act, resplendent in identical silver disco togs.  Underused Ursula Austin all but falls by the wayside but Sharon Mitchell makes an auspicious adult debut at the tender age of 18 (whatever she has claimed since) doing a double vaginal penetration with Gillis and Costello !  The late Astyr, resorting to his familiar Borscht Belt shtick, holds the distinction of popping mighty Mitch’s screen cherry however in a spirited scene she would affectionally recall in a Hustler interview many years down the line.  Asked to talk dirty, the best she could come up with was “come in my hand” !

Directed & written by Shaun Costello (as Amanda Barton). Produced by Costello (as Barton) for Carioca Productions. Photographed by Bill Markle (as Robert McShea). Edited by Costello (as Giuseppe Molinaro) & Bob Halsband. Starring Vanessa Del Rio (Number One), Bobby Astyr (Max), Marlene Willoughby (Sultana), Sharon Mitchell (Darla), Ursula Austin (as Joanna Hau) (Carla), Roger Caine (Bruno), Jenny Baxter (as Roxanne Louis), Hope Stockton (as Hope Sexton) (Boston Schoolgirls), Crystal Sync (as Gloria Rickoff) (Butch Dyke), Brigitte Lavera (Julie), Jean Dalton (as Alma Doucet) (Bathroom Jailbait), Jamie Gillis (Shelby), John Buco (as John Taylor) (Rocco), Shaun Costello (as Russ Carlson) (Male Sex Slave), Alan Marlow (as Robert Drotes) (Luger) & Leonard Cooper (Don Vittorio). Running time : 76 minutes.

By Dries Vermeulen

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