GENRE: Straight Feature
DIRECTOR: David Stanley
STARS: Savanna Samson, Nicole Sheridan, Dominica Leoni, Lezley Zen, Wendy Divine, Evan Stone, Voodoo, Eric Masterson, Randy Spears, Dale DeBone, Peter Shaft, Vincent Vega, Tony Tedeschi, David Stanley, S&M, Ida Know
DATES OF PRODUCTION: 2004
LENGTH: 135 mins without bonus material
David Stanley has to be some kind of genius. As a director, he has a rare gift of getting to the heart of the humping with style and grace. And as a writer, he is capable of great wit and inventive pretense. But the most amazing aspect of this porn provider's propensities is his ability to drag dynamic, delicious acting performances out of his casts. That's right ACTING. A-C-T-I-N-G. Playing characters. Pretending to be stuff. Indeed, in a realm where performance is measured by the number of pop shots, stiffness of erections and openness of orifices, Stanley is quickly developing into the Stanislavsky of skin flicks. Apparently able to tap into the inner DeNiro of his diddlers, transforming them from pure pole and pussy props to delightful denizens of the thespian realm, Dave's dioramas are ripe, rich exercises in expectation surpassing. Almost always fostered in the funny (something like The Contestants proves his penchant for the laughable) and usually offering a knowing wink to the wang dang doodle lovers watching at home, a Stanley joint can be a rib tickling, as well as dick stiffening experience. His latest release, Bare Stage, is arguably his masterpiece, a hilarious take on the theater, classic Hollywood noir, the famous rags-to-riches cliché of a country girl in the big bad city and a performance tour de force for all talent involved. Oh, and it should be mentioned that it features some of the hottest fucking, the fiercest sucking and the most sensational sex scenes ever committed to film (or in this day and age, configured to the camcorder). While it does have a couple of stumbling sticking points which keep it away from the level of absolute faultlessness, Bare Stage is probably the cleverest satire on the skin game to ever grace a DVD. And there's no doubt about it – the adult actors here finally get to live up to their characterization, as well as carnal, skills.
The DVD: Bare Stage is a brazen blast, a consistently witty reminder that porn is hardcore heaviness featured within the surreal setting of watching two people propagate their privates in public. Getting an opportunity to see some of the biggest and brightest names in the business actually get down to the job of straight cinema roleplaying, to see someone like Evan Stone or Nicole Sheridan craft a pitch-perfect comic persona that's memorable in a mainstream kind of way is the rarest of off-color treats. Certainly, when they act like they enjoy the taste of each other's ass, when they pretend to be pleased with a less than sensual snatch snacking or dick licking, they save the XXX from being sickening instead of sensual. But Bare Stage takes the situation shamming to a whole new level. The stars here are magnificent, each one perfectly embodying Stanley's satirical bent. Never too broad or too subtle, each actor really proves their cinematic chops here. While it's hard to pick out the absolute best, it's difficult to top Tony Tedeschi's mush-mouthed mobster with attention-deficit disorder, Voodoo's Edward G. Robinson by way of Ben Geisler cigar chomping producer, or Lezley Zen's heartbroken hooker. If anyone ever suggests that sex stars can't convincingly read lines, let alone act, turn them on to Bare Stage. There they will witness some of the best personality pretending ever offered. This is not to suggest that Bare Stage is flawless. Problem is, Stanley has yet to find a way to seamlessly incorporate the copulation into his craziness. Indeed, this movie puts on the arousal airbrakes whenever we move out of the plot and into the porking (or visa versa). Such a case of carnal comedy whiplash can be lethal to one's personal log (or for the ladies, loin) loving. Yet since both elements are individually so exceptional, we never feel completely dissatisfied with the uneven intermingling.
The plot is pure cornpone. Sally Burnside (the sexy Savanna Samson) is betrothed to the beefy Tommy Ferguson (the far-too-funny Evan Stone) when Uncle Sam calls his young men to war. As WWII looms over the world, Sally gets a tragic telegram. A bomb went off in Tommy's tent while his men (Peter Shaft and Vincent Vega) were entertaining a German hooker (Dominica Leoni) and her beau is presumed exploded. Knowing that Tommy wanted her to head out to Hollywood and pursue her dream of being a star, Sally packs her bags and heads out to LA-LA land. Upon arriving at the bus stop, she meets Holly "Wood" Hershel (the wonderfully evocative Lezley Zen), a sympathetic lady of the evening who takes the naive newbie into her hovel-like home. After hearing the poor child's sob story, Holly becomes Sally's manager and gets her an audition with big time producer Buzz Parker (the magnificent Voodoo). Problem is, Buzz owes Guido (porn pro Tony Tedeschi, absolutely brilliant in his non-XXX role) $1 million and he has no way of paying. The wannabe director he employs named Jimmy (Eric Masterson in all his goofy, grinning glory) can't come up with a marketable star for his films and his mistress Amanda (Voodoo's real life wife, the incomparable Nicole Sheridan) places constant demands on his dinero. Besides, she is also Guido's gal. When Holly meets Jimmy in a dark alley, they strike up a try-out. Sally is signed on for a skin flick, Buzz hoping that a little boob will make him a mint. Sally goes hardcore during the braless routine, and suddenly Parker has a hit on his hands. And wouldn't you know it, every one comes calling for some retributive compensation.
All of this is played out on a theatrical stage setting, with horribly amateurish scenery and even stupider special effects (a fake stuffed rat that occasionally skitters across the proscenium is particularly hilarious). Randy Spears plays the Principal of the school putting on the production (his 'canary that swallowed the pussy' performance is a pure Spears sensation) and he even introduces the story. In between the plot machinations, we are treated to seven sex scenes that don't really foster the naughty nonsensical narrative. They are present because such a flesh feast mandates them, but they do occasionally distract from all the amazing Method machinations going on. Thus begins our silly saga, a cautionary adventure known as Little Girl, Big City:
It's a typical summer day and Sally is outside her down home Texas abode when loverboy Tommy comes calling. Seems he must answer the conscription from his country, and will soon be off to war. Before, leaving, the couple decides to copulate:
Scene 1: Savanna Samson, Evan Stone
As part of a sentimental sendoff, Sally and Tommy decide to express their love physically, which was the custom amongst pre-World War II steadies. As angels look down from overhead, playing their harps and passing out rose pedals, our pair begins the penetration. There is sensual kissing and a lot of foreplay, including the incorporation of tit tasting, pussy partaking and johnson jawing before a Heaven-sent condom allows the insertion to begin. Our 'soon to be parted' lovers do it cowgirl, mish and spoon style before Tommy 's resolve bubbles over, and he spills his man meringue all over Sally's chest. She cleans him off with her tongue, in perfect accordance with the dictates of Ms. Manners. Evan and Savanna are sensational in this first scene, a classic combination of the fleshly and the funny. Indeed, Stanley's sly hand is evident all over this sequence. When Savanna takes off her top, an unseen audience gasps. When Evan removes his pants to release his rock-hard redwood, the audible screams are a riot. Right before the first big bonking, one of the "angels" (actors in the rafters sporting wings and fake paper harps) tosses Stone a condom, and Savanna puts it on in an incredible piece of usually unobserved porn preparation. Well matched with excellent chemistry, this first fuck sequences gets us "off" on the right foot. Score: 9.5 out of 10.
Tommy is embroiled in the battle for international freedom. His men are low and could use a quick pick up. So our intrepid leader hires a local hausfrau to make groin noises with the GIs. Naturally, the stripping siren is accompanied by a sinister looking accordion player. They all were back in the day.
Scene 2: Dominica Leoni, Peter Shaft, Vincent Vega
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Starting off the Teutonic R&R, Lola gives us a modest amount of literal cabaret (didn't the Germans invent this? Or maybe it was Kander and Ebb) before offering up some dueling head. Tired of the twin tool treatment, one ditzy doughboy swings around to Lola's loins and tosses her salad with complimentary cunnilingus. The two-on-one dynamic is further made free for all when one jaunty Joe explores the doggy dominion while another gets his wiener washed, oral style. The trio trips the fuck fantastic with a little reverse cowgirl (which the locals refer to as Rückcowgirl) and then they move onto some butt bow-wow. Our spent soldiers pass their pecker porridge all over Lola, as an unseen bombs ticks in the background. Needless to say, there are more than a couple of explosions when our Fatherland fem is around. This scene has some classic dialogue (Evan Stone's gay-laced pep talk to his men is classic) and some sensational sharking. Ms. Leoni looks lovely in her dominatrix meets Mr. Dunderbach's regalia, and the added attraction of the weird musician (a big bald guy who looks like a member of a German Goth group) provides a perfect oddball attribute. As with most triptychs to trouncing, the scene is only as good as the performers. The cast here is quite accomplished and makes the bush pushing hot and steamy. Score: 7.5 out of 10.
We now move into a passage with ample narrative. There is the bomb blast, the letter to Savanna's Sally and the meeting of Holly Wood. Eventually, we end up in the office of Buzz Spencer, who is entertaining his illicit ladylove Amanda.
Scene 3: Nicole Sheridan, Voodoo
Our prohibited romance begins with some incredibly hot head, as Amanda spends ample time on the shaft and nuts. Buzz responds by repositioning himself and fucking the smirk off of Mandy's fresh face. Proving she's got the chops for the crotch chow down, our amazing Miss deep throats Buzz's big fat bat. After a little dick slapping and position preparing, standing scissors is the order of the day. Buzz pounds his paramour like cheap scaloppini and it's not long before he's tired and needs to recline. Amanda climbs on top and reverse cowgirls the shit out of her suitor. Spent like a wooden nickel, Buzz unleashes a load of secret lover liquid all over his gal pal's face and chest. She applies her mouth on the drippy parts to help in their cleansing. As a real life couple, Nicole and Voodoo are a hilarious mismatch. She's a big blond Amazon, and he looks like a diminutive maitre'd at an all-you-can-eat Taco shop. But once they get to slammin', their no-holds-barred, 'know each other intimately' intensity is a thing of engorging beauty to behold. This is a great scene, with some seditious sex. Better yet, Voodoo is so absolutely amazing as Buzz (he has the wisecracking producer spouting untold jargon filled clichés down to a hilarious science) that when he talks dirty to his pork partner, it adds an untold level of humor to the humping. Along with scene 1, this is one of the best sequences in the film. Score: 8.5 out of 10.
As a kind of mandatory menacing subplot, we are introduced to a strange sex fiend who picks up whores and assaults them. Holly has a fellow call-girl pal named Bridgette. This faux-French femme becomes our mashers next victim:
Scene 4: Wendy Divine, Randy Spears
Randy is Fancy Pants, a suspicious John with an equally unusual foot fetish. Feasting on Wendy's tootsies the entire time he taps her, this is one outlandish bit of bonking. Bridgette begins the business with a little cabaret (figures, the French kowtowing to the every whim of their German "daddies"). Mr. Pants replies by eating some feet. There is a blowjob with ball action, followed by more foot fun. After some minor spanking, the couple conjoins in the mish manner, with Fancy insisting that his pay date keep her hose on. After the cowgirl routine turns into a standup sticking, our final hoof-based humping occurs. Bridge gets her torn up tights, wraps them around Fancy's cock, holds one end of the stockings in her mouth and stretches out the nylon between the couple. Then she takes her toes, wraps them around Pant's perk peter and jacks the dude into next Sunday. When he's finally ready to discharge, our podiatric paramour leaves sex slick all over this Parisian pussy's insole. Post-pop, Fancy Pants grabs a lamp and bashes Bridgette over the head (this violence is all suggested with a paper prop utilized and nothing shown on camera). Divine and Spears are scrumptious together, bringing an energy and invention to the sex that is sensational to watch. While the fetish element is fleshed out nicely, we also get some scintillating straight strapping to satisfy our log to loins longing. While it's not on the level of the Stone/Samson, Sheridan/Voodoo violations, this is still a fantastic fuck fest. Score: 7 out of 10.
Instead of a meet-cute for Sally's agent and wannabe filmmaker Jimmy, we get an oral introduction along a back street:
Scene 5: Lezley Zen, Eric Masterson
Jimmy meets up with Holly in a seedy, secluded alley and they propose to do business via a little rod to rima oris negotiations. Holly sucks Jimmy's joint, using lots of hand action until he unleashes his ultimate opalescent offer all over her mouth. As a standard oral workout, this is a decent enough diversion. But when matched up against the rest of the ribaldry here, it's kind of a letdown. Score: 5 out of 10.
Trying to find a way to thank her gal pal for setting up the audition, Sally shows Holly a little Sappho attention:
Scene 6: Savanna Samson, Lezley Zen
Our ladies leisurely disrobe as they kiss and cuddle. Eventually moving beyond the calm caressing stage, we are treated to the lesbian criterion for carnality – cunnilingus, tit play, fingering, 69 and groin-to-groin grinding. Working up quite the sweat, our sweet young thangs really ratchet up the randiness as they build to a sensational softcore apex. Same sex scenes are usually pretty dull. Unless the ladies are squirting everywhere like hyperactive fountains, it's hard to measure the actual amount of passion. Savanna and Lezley put on a very good 'show', but it's the 'telling' part that's barely passable. Along with the lone log lunching in Scene 5, this is an usual lull in Bare Stage's otherwise wonderful wantonness. Score: 5.5 out of 10.
Finally, the big day arrives. Sally is going to do her topless scene. But for some reason, she takes it further than Holly, Jimmy, Buzz or the crew could even imagine:
Scene 7: Savanna Samson, Dale DeBone
Using the device of an old silent film – complete with monochrome image, insert cards and dopey music – Sally and her co-star Fernando begin to get familiar with each other. Sally blows her beau, and then they explore the mish position. The possible poses continue as cowgirl and spooning are sandwiched in between shocked reaction shots of the weirded out work party. Finally, Fernando's dong goes from cunt to crack as anal spooning is researched. Having gotten more than he bargained for in this 'supposed to all be suggested' romp, Mr. F unleashes a puddle of prick plaster all over Sally's sweet snatch. The crew is spent and so is the audience. While not quite up to the level of lewdness in Scene 1 or 3,Savanna and Dale really drill up a sexy storm in this scene. Mr. DeBone may be a fine piece of man meat (that's COMPLETELY debatable in this critic's opinion) but he has the personality of a brine shrimp. He adds very little to the other animated dynamic in this film, and seems out of step with the rest of the cast. It's no matter, really, since he's in and out of the action before you can grow annoyed by his lack of presence. Score: 7.5 out of 10.
Oddly, that's the end of the sex, but not the scenarios. The movie has another good 20+ minutes before it finally wraps up all its divergent storylines. And another interesting note – the film began all frisky and light, but by the end, it has turned dark and disturbing, applying a level of moralizing missing from most of the narrative. Sally morphs into a bitch and people are dying left and right. Indeed, everyone seems to get his or her just desserts and we end on a decidedly downbeat note. Still, Bare Stage is a magnificent, manic movie filled with invention and irreverence. It takes a lot for performers to bite the hump hand that feeds them, but Bare Stage can't help but take pot shots at some of the adult industry's more extreme elements. Instead of utilizing an opulent mansion setting, our high school gymnasium backdrop is a brilliant commentary on the 'load up with luxury' mindset. The quasi-gay nature of group gropes is joked about and the shock registered by the sex acts is beautifully ironic. The script here actually contains characterization, wit, brilliantly repeatable lines and more laughs than many of the mainstream Hollywood sex farces befouling the suburban Cineplex. David Stanley is a dynamo, pushing the parameters of porn into places it only dared lightly tread before. He never undersells the stump shoving for a gag, and always treats the narrative with respect and reverence. This is a fully realized film, from the unique theatrical vision to the consistently engaging story. On a level of accomplishment with such Holy Grail gratuitousness as Eye of the Beholder or Misty Beethoven: The Musical, Bare Stage marks a turning point in smut. Stanley proves that you can successfully (or make that 99% successfully) match sex to satire, cock sucking to comedy and make both elements brilliant and brave. Fans of fucking will flock to this film, if only to see some fine pussy being pounded by professional pud. But others may actually enjoy the lampooning, realizing that there probably hasn't been a better acted, better written adult film in decades. You'll laugh as much as you lust after Bare Stage. This is a stunningly original fuck farce.
Utilizing a digital video to film technology (actually, the image is manipulated to make the camcorder look like Kodachrome) the 1.33:1 full screen transfer here is clean and crisp. The color correction is excellent, rendering the skin tones realistic and detailed. The switch to black and white is smooth and the overall atmosphere is one of Hollywood gone homemade. Stanley's visionary flair is apparent in every frame of Bare Stage, making this a magnificent looking, truly cinematic picture show.
Stanley continues his cut-up routine with his choices of musical scoring for his scenes. A sequence can start off with some subtle, sensual music and instantaneously move into an all out bump and grind. Jaunty jazz shifts into straight ahead techno and rock can roll over into orchestration in a downbeat. The Dolby Digital Stereo captures all this crazed cacophony very well, in addition to making sure the dialogue is crisp and clear. While there is very little mood enhancing ambience to the sonic horizons here (most of the spatial feeling it flat, not fully realized), Bare Stage still offers a hilarious amount of auditory artifice, rounding out the riotous nature of this production quite well.
Vivid is notorious for larding on the extras in the DVD offerings and Bare Stage is no exception. First up, every scene has an alternate angle option. Whenever the icon appears onscreen, you activate your remote control to witness fucking, sucking and cumming in different visual variations. Ms. Samson gets her own gallery, as does the film. There are trailers galore and the usual ads for everything from phone sex to penis enlargement. There is an interesting 10-minute Behind the Scenes featurette that showcases bloopers, outtakes and candid conversations with the cast. One just can't get enough of Evan Stone cracking wise to the camera or Nicole Sheridan mugging for the men. It's here where we witness Tony Tedeschi's terrible memorization skills (he calls for his lines several dozen times during each take) and the overall loosey goosey nature Stanley maintains on the set. But unlike a typical making-of, there is no real depth to the information on the production. This is not an eye-opening tell-all expose. It's more just a collection of flubs and foul ups.
And of course, there are the bonus scenes. Savanna Samson is featured in three wanton workouts, with other performers from the Bare Stage cast rounding out Scenes 4 and 5. Each sequence is special in its own right, so let's look at them separately. We begin with:
Bonus Scene 1: Savanna Samson, Stephen St. Croix
From: The Fetish Underground (2003)
Director: Anita Rinaldi
Savanna and St. Croix threaten to incinerate a rural setting in this barnburner of a scene. Moving gracefully from oral to doggy, condom encased V to M to pooch pile driver, their sexual chemistry is smoking. By the time Ms. Samson is sampling her own ass candy, Steve is ready to plow that pooper. The resulting anal pop is the piece de resistance to this super supplemental scene. Score: 8 out of 10.
Bonus Scene 2: Savanna Samson, Mario Rossi
From: Savanna Takes Control (2003)
Director: David Stanley
Our old pal Dave is here to helm another hot helping of horn dogging, this time featuring Mr. Rossi's ramrod. Savanna feasts on his foot long with feverish desire, and Mario responds with some substantial salad tossing. Making sure to hit the pussy as well, Sav is ready to rumble when the Italian scallion puts his meat to the heat. The couple completes straight, anal spooning and anal cowgirl before ball broth bastes Savanna's stomach. While Mario cannot match Steve's stellar sex moves, this is still a very erotic combo platter of poon. Score: 7 out of 10.
Bonus Scene 3: Savanna Samson, Toni Tedeschi
From: Scene Study (2003)
Director: Bo Edwards
In this intense exchange of fluids between Savanna and Tony, ferocity is the phrase of the day. Beginning with a lap dance and ending on a strong session of reverse range riding, our pair pork with power in this evocative Bo Edwards scene. There is oral and rimming, mish and doggy, with just a little pussy eating and regular cowgirl to season the sex. Tony drops his dick dime on Savanna's stomach, putting an end to a perfectly serviceable sequence. Score: 6 out of 10
Bonus Scene 4: Nicole Sheridan, Voodoo, Mario Rossi
From: Another Woman's Eyes (2003)
Director: Chi Chi LaRue
Hot DAMN but does Nicole Sheridan love cock. She slurps on Voodoo's hefty hog with a relish reserved only for the finest frozen custard, and she treats Mario to the kind of tongue bath you'd expect from a Singapore sex club. The result is the kind of full out fuck free for all that's hard to forget. In the span of this overheated helping of hardcore, we see kissing, tit play, salad tossing, cunnilingus, blowjobs, jousting, ball sucking, tea bagging, face fucking, mish, pile driver and some blistering DP. Nicole takes the tool taunting in sensational stride, making this an incredibly erotic scene (the double pops on the vagina and anus don't hurt, either). Score: 8 out of 10.
Bonus Scene 5: Lezley Zen, Julian
From: Loveless (2004)
Director: David Stanley
Lezley and Julian bat cleanup on the bonus menu maneuvers, and their sensual scene is decent enough. Julian is kind of a lox, letting his prick do most of the performance. Sure, he eats Lezley out and manages to make it through the positions with passing grades, but he lacks the pizzazz of other male porn stars. Throughout the oral, the ball play, the doggy pile driver, the scissors, the mish, the cowgirl and the V to M, he is almost inert. Lezley at least lights up the screen with her corneous persona, keeping us from falling asleep until the full facial pop occurs. Score: 5 out of 10.
While it saddens the Dirge to say it, Bare Stage misses the coveted DVD Talk Collector's Series tag by the merest mention of scene incompatibility. Had the sex been better incorporated into the comedy, this disc would easily warrant the top prize. The fornication is energizing and fiery, with a plot that is strong and playful. Even the actual acting is flawless. On the Disco Dirge Peter Meter, this film deserves a 9.5 out of 10 and cannot be recommended too highly. Couples crave titles like this – pornography that is both entertaining and erotic. If a Cohabitation Certification had not been awarded, the merit of the classification would have been irreversibly sullied. David Stanley is a skin savant, a man in touch with both wit and wantonness. Bare Stage is his hilarious homage to the hopes and dreams of all wannabe stars. While the smut is a powerful selling point, this is also an exceptionally risible film – especially for individuals who know by heart the performers appearing. When Little Girl, Big City takes its curtain call, it is not hard to imagine the audience leaping from their seats, adjusting their flies and giving the theatrical troupe a standing ovation. You'll want to do the same for this sensational skin satire, and its certifiable genre genius David Stanley. Bare Stage is one of the best adult films ever.