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Madam Curtis

Studio: Digital Sin » Review by Disco Dirge » Review Date: 3/3/05

XCritic's Advice: Skip It

GENRE: Straight Feature
DIRECTOR: Mario Rossi
STARS: Wanda Curtis, Triana Michaels, Michelle B, Trinity, Samantha Ryan, Angelica Sin, Mandy Bright, Kurt Lockwood, John West, Mike Foster, Justin Magnum, Alex Saunders, Alex Rox, Nick Manning
LENGTH: 200 mins with bonus material

It's the stereotype of every actor. They love performing, but what they really want to do is direct especially if they are part of the porn industry. Indeed, the next big branch in the ball and socket circuit for much of the talent is to move your moneymaker from in front of the viewfinder, and make a few shark extravaganzas yourself. There are those actors who still want to leave the lensing to others, but with the advent of cheap camcorder technology and the infinite availability of willing participants, there's no need to be some manner of moviemaking savant. You know the part of the skin game that pays after all, so you should be able to load up the DAT and deliver the goodies.

Apparently, not everyone has the pornography parameters down pat. Some confuse personality with novelty and assume that, because they are a well-known adult film star, that aura will transpose itself onto the product they create. Others jump the smut shark altogether, moving from gonzo to soft or visa versa, hoping that a new naughty playground will be inspiration enough. There are a couple who stick to what they know best, and make the most of their amateur auteur status. And we even have a few who think they have the erotic chops to create the next classic carnal epic.

Mario Rossi is somewhere in the middle. Usually known for his meat puppet propensities, his first outing as a moviemaker, Madam Curtis, is a lovely looking bit of anti-arousal that fails to understand or expand on the fundamentals of the fuck film. Instead of being sexy and sultry, it's sketchy and slow. Anyone looking for excitement and stimulation from a hardcore feature needs to focus their fetlocks elsewhere. This movie is mundane and myopic in its approach to poon.

The DVD:
Who is Madam Curtis? Your guess will be as good as any. Writer/director Mario Rossi isn't telling, and there's not a single line of dialogue or insert title card to offer any insight. Wanda Curtis, who we assume is our 'madam' after all, the last name is kind of a hint spends an inordinate amount of time in a bathtub, drowning her delightful form in what appears to be really weak skim milk. As she primps and preens for the cabaret camera, Rossi ratchets up the ambient music and we get endless minutes of photo shoot pictorial pleasure. But that's all. No idea of what Wanda is supposed to symbolize, the reasons why she randomly appears in other scenes during this ersatz storyline, or why she needs to bathe so much. It's atmosphere for the sake of added running time, nothing more or less.

When we finally break into the bonk, there is no explanations there either. We just jump into the jousting without an appreciation for what is going on, who the performers are, and why we should care if they screw. Instead, this is like gonzo in great clothing, a combination of style and smut that just doesn't work. Viewed individually, it is easy to see where Rossi fails, and where he occasionally stumbles into something sizzling. We begin with:

Scene 1: Wanda Curtis, Triana Michaels, Kurt Lockwood
Acts Performed: Foreplay, Cabaret, Masturbation, Blow Job, Dueling Head, Fingering, Reverse Cowgirl, Finger V to M, Doggy, Anal Doggy, Straight Anal, Cunnilingus, Face Sitting, $hot on Vagina, Oral Cleanup by Other Female

This first scene between Wanda, Triana and Kurt is a perfectly example of everything that is wrong with Madam Curtis. First of all, we have to do a lot of assuming. Since director Rossi is offering no storyline, or no real set up for that matter, we have to determine the connection, if any, between Curtis (star of our linking bathtub footage), and the other actors. We then have to wonder what Wanda is actually DOING in the room. Rossi sometimes keeps her in frame. Other times, it's only Triana and Kurt he is interested in. Finally, the 'oh so fancy' facets of the filmmaking are obvious, and rather obnoxious here. Anyone who has seen Kurt before knows he is one tattoo-loving lunatic, covered pretty much from shoulder to wrist on each arm. Well, Mario will have none of that body art business, thank you, and requires the actor to fuck, suck and duck while wearing a fancy, froufrou long sleeve shirt. Nothing screams sizzling hardcore more than a half-undressed guy moving the tails of his top to make sure they don't get in the way of the shot. And massive sweat stains on clothing always scream sensuality, right?.

And what about the eros itself? Well, Rossi is a visual filmmaker at heart, in love with the way the camera can frame and compose a shot. He is constantly shifting his lens, moving it along a coupling or over a cocksucking to capture images that spark his imagination. Too bad he leaves all the errant exploration in, as well as the occasional glimpse of greatness. Such a haphazard approach to humping really doesn't do justice to what Triana and Kurt are trying to create. It keeps us, as a hardcore craving audience, far too distant and removed. Rossi does use close-ups, and also approaches the sex from a slow, pseudo-sensual fashion. But that does not equal heat or horniness. Throughout Madam Curtis, the aesthetic applied to the ass antics and pussy parameters will constantly undermine the sense of passion and power between the performers. Score: 4 out of 10.

Scene 2: Michelle B., John West, Mike Foster

-- sponsored by --

Acts Performed: Blow Job, Doggy, Anal Doggy, Double Penetration in the Reverse Cowgirl Mode, Double Penetration in the Cowgirl Mode, Double Facial $hots

After another fancy dip into the milk bath montage arena, our first guys-on-gal scene is a baffling, boring experience. Mike and John seem totally disinterested in servicing Michelle's needs, and the languid way in which they wango their tango will bring the Sandman to visit long before Rosy Palm and her five sisters come calling. Both DPs feel staged and static one man shifting while the other one sits and Michelle is very mannered with her monkey noises. Rossi again ruins sequences, this time with an over emphasis on body part baffling close-ups, and the entire enterprise feels forced and ineffective. Score: 2 out of 10.

Scene 3: Trinity, Samantha Ryan, Justin Magnum
Acts Performed: Dueling Head, Doggy, Girl on Girl Cunnilingus, Reverse Cowgirl, Face Sitting, Alternate V to M, 69, Spooning, Pile Driver, Anal Doggy, $hot in Mouth, Snowballing, Oral Cleanup

For the next two scenes, the chemistry between the performers helps create a far more carnal experience, despite all of Rossi's best efforts to mess it up. Curtis stays in the background as Trinity, Samantha and Justin joust and jab each other. And while our male lead looks like he's trying out for the role of muscular hobo, the overall atmosphere is quite steamy. Both girls are very aggressive, reciprocating every man motion with equal ferocity, and when it comes to V/A to M, these ladies love to lick love sauce-laden log. Still, Rossi just can't escape his staged sensibilities. There is no real natural flow to the fucking, just one setup, followed by another angle, followed by another position. The overall effect is too jumbled and random to generate much arousal, but with the effort being given by the actors, you may feel a slight tingle or two in the proper practical places. Score: 4.5 out of 5.

Scene 4: Angelica Sin, Alex Saunders, Alex Rox
Acts Performed: Blow Job, Ass Fingering, Face Fucking, Doggy, Straight Anal, Gaping, Anal Reverse Cowgirl, A to M, Double Penetration in the Reverse Cowgirl Mode, $hot in Mouth and on Face x 2

In an AAA outing for Angelica, Alex and Alex, in case you're wondering we get what is, perhaps, the best scene of straight out rig friggin in the whole DVD. Both men mean business when it comes to balling Ms. Sin, and she's ready to take everything they have to give...and then some. In a rather claustrophobic bedroom setting, Rossi roams from one side of the mattress to the other, keeping the camera low and pointed upward. Sweat begins to build and everyone appears overheated and horny. Eventually, fluids fly and the men look spent and spoiled. While perspiration can occasionally undo a mode of safe, sensual sexuality, the bow to believability is welcome here. It helps take us out of Rossi's theatrical shenanigans, and provides proof that there is some XXX-cstacy locked within his luxuriant aims. Score: 5.5 out of 10.

Scene 5: Wanda Curtis, Mandy Bright, Nick Manning
Acts Performed: Blow Job, Cunnilingus, Dueling Head, Tit Play, Fingering, Cowgirl, Alternate V to M, Anal Fingering, Mish, Face Sitting, Doggy, Anal Doggy, Anal Reverse Cowgirl, $hot in Mouths, Snowballing, Oral Cleanup

Our last pole vaulting is a letdown, mostly because of the addition of Ms. Curtis. This is her "legitimate" scene, meaning she's not just sitting around in the back, touching and teasing herself. She fails to shine while in the spotlight. Nick is as teeth gnashing as ever, grimacing like the sex is either great or groin-pulling. Mandy makes the most of her moments in the spotlight, but Rossi's desire to build atmosphere renders her, and the entire scene for that matter, horribly underlit. Nighttime nookie can occasionally fall into far too many shadows, and that's exactly what happens here. Detail is diminished, and the sense of sensuality becomes a feeling of being lost without a flashlight. Still, when they get down to diddling, our trio of talent have a natural way with the wantonness. It allows there to be some chemistry, and just a pat of passion, to this sequence. Score: 4 out of 10.

When Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said that he couldn't define hardcore pornography but 'knew it when he saw it', he was actually developing a decent benchmark for the grading of XXX DVD product. Not in the definition of sexual content, since no adult company would be caught dead releasing softcore shite as gonzo gratuity. No, the quasi-direct application to something like Madam Curtis is clear: while it is almost impossible to explain why something is arousing or not, you sure know it or better yet, FEEL it when you see it. And it is not present in Madam Curtis. This is dull, derivative dicking without a single scintilla of scorching sexual banter. Every once in a while, a moment will begin to build, a true sense of electricity between the performers and the positions they prefer. But then Rossi ruins it with his busy, beautiful camera craft and we slam back down into limp noodle mode all over again.

Unlike someone like, say, Stormy, who remembered to keep the carnality caliente for her directorial debut, the decent One Night in Vegas, Rossi wants to cater to a certain sensibility, pander to those people who prefer their porn within the PPP parameters. He may be able to move beyond this conceit, to toss in some of the spark that makes funk spunk films truly tingle. But one fears he's been stuck on too many Michael Ninn sets to change his sparkly spots. Madam Curtis is not bad, it's just boring. And that's not a standard that a fuck film, no matter how fancy, should strive for...or achieve.

The Video:
Since it's been pointed out several times during this review, it's no surprise then that director Rossi's overly artistic eye results in a wonderfully colorful, evocative image. The 1.33:1 full screen transfer is rich in reds and warm earth tones, and the flesh facets are equally sound. Since he does experiment with dark and light, he gets some amazing shadow work and a lot of nice contrasts. The details are prevalent without revealing too much, and the overall visual atmosphere is luxuriant and lewd. Too bad none of it translates to the action onscreen.

The Audio:
Rossi relies heavily on music for most of his movie, and the Dolby Digital Stereo presentation sounds nice enough. The balance between bass and drum and balling is well maintained, even when the director turns down the underscoring to focus on the fucking. There are no problems with dialogue or conversation since there is none of either here, and the strange, near silent movie design of this film can be quite unnerving. You just wish someone would say something. Even in the most intense gonzo product, the cameraman/director usually engages in a little pre-scene Q&A with the talent involved. In the case of Madam Curtis, mums the word for everyone.

The Extras:
Part of the reason for Rossi's perverse attention to delicate detail can be seen all throughout the Behind the Scenes featurette included on the DVD. When he's not worrying about a shot and how it will look on film, he's complaining about light (or the lack thereof) or going over costume choices with the cast. Rossi is actually not the main focus of the Making-of material: indeed, Angelica Sin gets the vast majority of screen time, discussing her upcoming pairing with the Alexes. Every once in a while, the camera will catch Rossi discussing some subject, or making adjustments on set. While it's an interesting bit of backstage ballyhoo, there's not enough variety in the personalities presented to warrant much merit.

As for the rest of the disc, we get the usual galleries, weblinks, trailers, and extra footage in this case, two scene from Alex Braun's Double Teamed #3

: Bonus Scene 1: Avy Lee Roth, Chris Charming, Zenza Raggi
From Alex Braun's Double Teamed #3 (2004)
Directed by Alex Braun
Acts Performed: Blow Job, Doggy, Reverse Cowgirl, Double Penetration in the Reverse Cowgirl Mode, Double Penetration in the Cowgirl Mode, A to M, Anal Pile Driver, Double Dicking in the Vagina, Reverse Cowgirl Style, $hots on Face

Bonus Scene 2: Tyla Wynn Chris Charming, Ben English
From Alex Braun's Double Teamed #3 (2004)
Directed by Alex Braun
Acts Performed: Face Fucking, Fingering, Blow Job, Ass Slapping, Anal Fingering, Doggy, Reverse Cowgirl, Double Dicking in the Vagina, Reverse Cowgirl Style, Anal Doggy, Anal Spooning, Double Penetration in the Reverse Cowgirl Mode, V to M, A to M, Double Penetration in the Cowgirl Mode, $hots on Face and in Mouth

Since both scenes come from the same compilation, more or less contain the same sense of sex, and feature Braun's patented pussy pounding style, it is easiest to address the extra material in tandem. What's odd about the inclusion of these scenes is not the amount of eros to be found in each (which is significant, if also kind of skuzzy and sleazy), but how polar opposite they are to what Rossi was attempting with Madam Curtis. Where our feature director has designs on making pretty porn, all lace and high collars, silk suits and elegant lingerie, Alex wants to see some motherfucking fornication, and lots and lots of it. His style is simple women are orifices that men must fill as many times and in as many ways as possible before a scene is complete. As a result, we get nearly 50 minutes of aggressive, amplified A to V to M to A to V anarchy. Both of the ladies seem fine with the violating, but there is also minimal passion or power. These are marathons, attempts by actors to do as much dong dancing as possible before the cumshot. Individuals into gonzo will adore the dynamic here. But if you LOVED Madam Curtis, these bonus scenes will probably blow your little mind. Score for Both Scenes: 6 out of 10.

Final Thoughts:
While it is never easy or fun to slam a first time filmmaker for failing to deliver the goods, pornography seems to be the one arena where such a rush to judgment is entirely credible. Since sex films are gauged on their ability to arouse, and not on the beauty of their shot selection, if you don't gird the groin, you've lost the battle. Madam Curtis is such an asexual scenario. While director Mario Rossi earns a few cinematic brownie points for this lavish look and style, there is no sizzle in his scenarios. On the Disco Dirge Peter Meter, this underwhelming experience in erotica yields a flaccid 4.5 out of 10. Couples will enjoy the softer approach to smut, so while a Cohabitation Certification is awarded, it does not guarantee a good, gratuitous time. Fans of any of the featured performers would be best advised to skip this trip into haughty hardcore and be done with it. There is nothing here to satisfy your XXX needs, nor will you be willing to grant Rossi the debut diversion slack he probably deserves. Maybe he has a better film inside him. But if Madam Curtis is any indication, the chances of such a cinematic salvo are slim to none.

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