White Fire (1976)

This intriguing adult oddity has slowly but steadily garnered a considerable fan following over the years. However, it wasn’t until a recent Jack Munroe interview talking about his sadly long gone transsexual “spouse” Jill that the real identity of director “Roger Colmont” was revealed as being none other than the late great Edward Earle Marsh a/k/a “Zebedy Colt“. Although the repeated use of Colt’s haunting self-penned song The Day to Say Goodbye (taken from his collectible 1969 torch song album I’ll Sing for You) should have been a giveaway, no one really seems to have bothered to connect the dots. As with all of his filmmaking efforts, the means at his disposal were modest but his commitment and ingenuity went a long way to make up for that. His best films like The Devil Inside Her and The Affairs of Janice have the power of their own convictions overriding frugal funding and “B” casts of habitually supporting studs ‘n starlets thrust into the limelight. His nominal stab at couples-oriented “Porno Chic“, White Fire fits that blueprint to a T.

Lisa Marks, an appealing brunette second stringer who gave solid performances for the likes of Shaun Costello (The Two Lives of JenniferMore Than Sisters) and Carter Stevens (Honeymoon HavenPleasure Palace), shines as fashion magazine editor Vanessa Johnson, living life in the fast lane with no time for true love. Letting her hair down at one swinger’s party after another, where she makes it a rule never to “do” the same guy twice, she “meets cute” with romantic hunk Tim (an early appearance by Herschel Savage, credited as “Bill Barry“) who quickly convinces her he’s the real deal and the very man to “take her away from it all“. Catching him in flagrante with her scheming secretary Cynthia (perky Georgette Sanders from Jim Buckley’s quintessential cheerleader classic Debbie Does Dallas), Vanessa balks at Tim’s apparent – if perhaps misinterpreted – betrayal and drives off in a huff to their cabin in the mountains.

Trapped by a sudden snowfall, Vanessa’s mind starts playing tricks on her as characters from her past start to appear and disappear at will. Memories of orgies past (marking fleeting appearance by fan favorites such as the aforementioned Munroes, pretty blonde Heather Young a/k/a “Colleen Anderson” and Tony Danza lookalike David Morris) intermingle with terrifying visions of helplessness at the hands of crazed rapists led by Dick Stevens from Chris Covino’s Samantha Fox showcase Here Comes the Bride. All the while, you can sense Colt’s steely determination to turn the sex into something quite out of the ordinary. The conceptually clever ladder sequence with Lisa and Herschel stands as a good example of how he wasn’t going to let budgetary restrictions thwart his best efforts. Other ideas, like the sparklers emerging from ladies’ nether regions, don’t come off nearly as well but you have to give the guy credit for trying. The (simulated) violations seem like a temporary throwback to the “roughie” territory Colt explored with Unwilling Lovers and Farmer’s Daughters but aren’t as gratuitous as they initially appear within the grand scheme of what this flick ultimately attempts to convey.

Driven to distraction by the enforced isolation and growing to realize she may have misjudged Tim’s behavior, Lisa downs an entire bottle of sleeping pills with booze, only to be saved by her lover at the very last minute. Or could he be just another apparition conjured up by her fevered mind ? The crushing twist ending comes out of the blue but makes perfect sense in retrospect, closing this serious sex drama on a satisfying downer note that’s entirely in keeping with the overall tone of the material. Cinematographer C. Davis Smith (a/k/a “Charles Lamont“) certainly knew a thing or two about maximizing one’s meager assets, cutting his teeth as bargain basement exploitation empress Doris Wishman’s DoP of choice. He works wonders here with the (granted, fortuitous) visuals of wintry isolation and also manages to incorporate some fresh angles during carnal encounters. By the time Colt’s unmistakable vocals kick in for another rendition of his theme song, the lyrics have acquired a profoundly sad resonance that secures this underrated little cult film’s status as an indelible porno poem alongside the likes of Roberta Findlay’s magnificent Mystique and Roger Watkins’ skin-crawling Corruption.

Directed & Written by Zebedy Colt (as Roger Colmont). Produced by J. Thomas Simpson. Photographed by C. Davis Smith (as Charles Lamont). Starring Lisa Marks (Vanessa Johnson), Herschel Savage (as Bill Barry) (Tim), Georgette Sanders (Cynthia), Heather Young (as Colleen Anderson) (Sally), Dick Stevens, Lisa Heyman, David Morris, Ben Pierce, Bob Evans, Jack & Jill Monroe. runtime : 73 minutes.

By Dries Vermeulen

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