The Violation of Claudia (1977)

Cutting his teeth trying to break into the movie-making business, Bill Lustig had performed all kinds of technical duties on adult film sets, usually for “Uncle” Peter Savage, most notably his notorious 1977 Sybil send-up Sylvia. In an attempt to put together his first solo project, ideally in the horror or similar exploitation territory, he found his only funding forthcoming from the foolproof fornication film field. Figuring this offered at least an opportunity to create something that might pique some more “respectable” producer’s interest for future reference, he set about adapting Luis Bunuel’s 1967 art-house classic Belle de Jour to fit the porno market, one year before the late Gary Graver’s ultimate undraped update thereof ‘V’: The Hot One with Annette Haven standing in for her “real world” counterpart Catherine Deneuve.

For his more frugally funded version, dramatically christened The Violation of Claudia, Bill secured the services of a then still up ‘n coming Sharon Mitchell who was to become an industry icon for much more than her thespian and titillatory talents, co-founding the now sadly defunct Adult Industry Medical Center screening performers for HIV prior to shoots. Although still feeling her way as an actress, no pun intended, Mitch acquits herself adequately as the bored trophy wife of much older businessman Don Peterson a/k/a “Frank Adams“, Veronica Hart’s married lover from Chuck Vincent’s 1982 landmark Roommates. What cannot be argued however is just how spectacular she looks here, much softer and more feminine than her increasingly butch appearance once she hit her professional stride by the turn of the decade.

Whiling away her idle days taking tennis lessons from studly pro Kip (a purely professional turn by an already stalwart Jamie Gillis), Claudia’s initially turned off when he suggests she joins his stable of well off wenches turning tricks for a cheap thrill and some spending cash their husbands never need to know about. One back rub with unexpected liberties taken later, she warms to the idea however. Experiencing a newfound carnal confidence, she picks up a hunky high school kid (one shot Victor Hines) for some fireplace frolicking, given the full romance treatment by Lustig with sensual slow motion and soft hazy cinematography courtesy of Robert Lindsay who would wind up shooting both Bill’s breakout blockbuster Maniac and Doris Wishman’s head-scratching A Night to Dismember ! Up until this point, the movie has been top grade couples porn with a proper screenplay and lofty production values. About halfway through, the limitations of its $15,000 budget start being felt though. Even a director like Lustig can only stretch a buck so far. Extensively “auditioned” by fellow floozy Crystal Sync, unforgettable star of Roberta Findlay’s masterful The Tiffany Minx, Claudia finds that her walk on the wild side ultimately encompasses all of one client, a skittish senator memorably portrayed by portly character actor “Waldo Short” a/k/a David Lipman who went on to become a regular on TV’s Law & Order. Her next trick, an outrageous drag queen (one Gandi Sanders) with a penchant for pee play, sends her scurrying for the exit…and an unpleasant surprise awaiting her at the homestead.

At little over an hour, Claudia never wears out her welcome but would clearly have benefited of at least one additional erotic encounter. Still, what there is proved plenty to pull in the punters at New York’s legendary World Theater. Scoring a sizable surplus on its modest investment, the movie made sure that Lustig could continue in cinema, albeit still in the seedy underbelly with his decidedly underwhelming Hot Honey, a doing it for dough programmer that never even tries to rise above its station.

With Claudia on the other hand, Bill seriously sought to create genuine eroticism, making good on its tag-line of being ‘a Hardcore Emmanuelle‘. The opening fantasy of Claudia spreading out on an ornate sofa as she’s being pleasured by French maids Clea Carson (billed as “Justine Fletcher”) and “Long” Jean Silver illustrates this uppity approach intended to draw in a better class of porno patron. To this end, the director also made sure the score didn’t scream “cheesy sex flick” by hiring the talents of underrated Michael Karp who wrote several well-known TV show theme tunes as well as the music for T&A dramedy The Yum Yum Girls, notable for featuring an extremely youthful Tanya Roberts among its lineup of lovelies.

Directed & Edited by William Lustig (as Billy Bagg). Produced by Lustig for Low Life Productions. Written by Lustig, Travis Webb & Sally McKinley. Photographed by Robert Lindsay (as Lindsay Roberts). Music by Michael Karp. Starring Sharon Mitchell (Claudia), Jamie Gillis (Kip), Don Peterson (Jason), Crystal Sync (Lisa), Victor Hines (Richie), David Lipman (as Waldo Short) (Senator), Clea Carson (as Justine Fletcher), Jeanne Silver (Dream Girls), Gandi Sanders (Chrissy), Roger Caine (as Jack Jeffries) (John) & Cheri Baines (Maid). Runtime : 61 minutes.

By Dries Vermeulen

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