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Babylon Pink

Studio: Other » Review by Disco Dirge » Review Date: 1/24/06

XCritic's Advice: Highly Recommended

Since this title is rather unusual compared to most modern adult entertainment offerings - a straight feature from 1979 - the review format will be modified a bit to reflect that.

Director: Henri Pachard
Cast: Samantha Fox, Vanessa Del Rio, Arcadia Blue, Merle Michaels, Debbie Revenge, Georgette Sanders, Georgina Spelvin, Bobby Astyr, Richard Bolla, David Morris, David Ruby, Eric Edwards
Length: 77 mins
Production Date: 1979

The Product:
Whenever anyone wants to argue about the validity or viability of modern pornography, they immediately set their sights on the adult entertainment of the past, and wax nostalgic over its supposed superiority to what is being made today. Before video violated every mandate of the hardcore manufacturer, most flesh peddlers considered themselves filmmakers first, providers of quality XXX entertainment second. As much time and attention was paid to scripts as to snatch, occasionally choosing characterization and narrative over carnality and nookie. Individuals raised on the VHS variety of smut would probably start snoring at the unrushed level of eros expressed in these films, while people with a penchant for gonzo and other higher levels of gratuity would balk at how boring these titles could be. Somewhere in the middle between amazing and average is the legendary Babylon Pink. Featuring many of the superstars (Vanessa Del Rio, Georgina Spelvin, Samantha Fox) of the era and using their terrific talents in service of a fantasy-based plot, this is a very peculiar film. It's not quite an arousing tour de force, but it does contain some of the most sensuous suck and fuck this critic has ever come across.

The Plot:
As the Big Apple awakens to another metropolitan morning, a few of its more fetching residents are dialing up some daydreams. A busy businesswoman (Samantha Fox) fantasizes about fucking an underling (Bobby Astyr) while his spouse (Vanessa Del Rio) imagines doing the dude (David Ruby) from the corner store. Their daughter (Georgette Saunders) is a dirty slut who masturbates with the shower massage, while the horny executive's secretary (Merle Michaels) is secretly in love with her housemate (Arcadia Blue). When the roomie goes on a date with a dashing young man (Eric Edwards), our typewriter jockey envisions a steamy menage a trois. Meanwhile, at an upper class dinner party, the guests (Georgina Spelvin, Richard Bolla, and David Morris) all imagine getting it on with one of the present company (Debbie Savage). Our teen tease is also present, helping out at the gathering, and her barely legal presence gives one of the party people (Richard Bolla) some very bad ideas indeed.

The DVD:
Though it's title is total nonsense and the plot is nothing more than a clothesline upon which various sex scenes and erotic vignettes can be easily attached, Babylon Pink is a fairly powerful movie. As pornography, it balances balls-out fucking (courtesy of Ms. Del Rio and Ms. Savage) with full-blown fantasy and mixes it with more intimate moments (the wild and wet water job) and one-on-one wantonness. Writer/director Henri Pachard is out to prove that hardcore filmmaking can be more than just provocative. By incorporating reality with desire and forcing us to look inside the inner lusts of the ladies involved, Pachard places us in the awkward psychological position of voyeur and participant. We, as the camera, are right there alongside these hot-to-trot honeys as they imagine their dull lives instantly infiltrated by smoking hot cock. How they respond to it, how liberating and freeing it appears to these otherwise pent-up pussies is part of what makes Babylon Pink so special. However, in light of where the industry has ambled over the past 26 years, it's hardly the stuff of consistently exciting XXX action.

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It needs to be said upfront for those who are interested - this is not an anal extravaganza. Not a single dame takes it in the dumper. Also, positions are not plentiful here. Since what Pachard is striving for is some manner of authenticity and pragmatism, these couples won't be copulating in all manner of weird and uncomfortable ways. Instead, what Babylon Pink offers is ripe, resonant sensuality. When Vanessa Del Rio gets fucked by her nebbish hubby in the film's first sex scene, it is an automatic and average adventure in arousal. But the minute this spicy Latina gets her imaginary groove on, it's so hot you'll need sunblock to prevent getting burned. Indeed, Ms. Del Rio is a sensational highlight here, so erotic you get stimulated just thinking about what she does in her scenes. She's thick and meaty, carnally capable and more than willing to fuck up a storm. When she beds Mr. Ruby, it's chaotic and passionate, sweat mixing with imagined musk to give the entire sequence an air of pure porn. As this hirsute couple (remember, this is the origins of hardcore, when hygiene and hairiness were not that important) generates some nuclear body heat, we hope the rest of the film is as racy. Sadly, it's not.

Not that it's bad, it's just no one can top our saucy senorita. Samantha Fox, another fan favorite, has a really weird scene where she has sex with Bobby Astyr, and every act, every position, is discussed and described out loud by the couple. As he fingers her clit, Mr. Astyr will growl "Now, I'm fingering your clit" and when he states that he will fuck her pussy, Ms. Fox sighs, "are you going to fuck my pussy?" It's as if the entire scene is waiting for a copy of Mad Magazine's "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" to show up and insult them. Similarly, the group grope featuring Debbie Savage and several of her closest, horniest friends, is so messy and misdirected that you really can't tell if the performers are going...or cummin'. The threesome featuring Merle Michaels, Eric Edwards and Arcadia Blue is decent, basically because Pachard takes his time to stage it in a very careful, creative way. It builds naturally, moving from masturbation to money shot with erotic ease. Both Georgina and Georgette gets solo scenes, but they're paired with paramours who don't really respond with their sexual 'A' game. Ms. Spelvin must suffer through a less than impressive porking by David Morris (her on screen act of urination feels like a kind of piss criticism of the action) while Richard "Cannibal Holocaust" Bolla is all bad touch creepy as the older man looking to deflower a fresh female.

So if Babylon Pink had to rely on everyone other than Vanessa and the threesome to deliver the decadent delights, this would be one anemic bit of arousal. Yet, thanks to those performers, and the unusual elements inherent in older hardcore films, this movie is mighty entertaining. First and foremost, the actors CAN ACT! That's right, they can actually deliver lines, register emotion, and make with the comedic comeback when necessary. They are not scared stiff reprobate looking to make a quick buck by brandishing their beaver at the screen - these are true adult performers, capable of rimming AND reams of dialogue. Secondly, Pachard is a filmmaker, not just a point and click cameraman. With the help of exploitation queen extraordinaire Roberta Findlay, the cinematography is stellar, filled with wonderful compositions and arresting visuals (both normal and naughty). Finally, the scripting creates a believable scenario upon which to build the sex. We don't get some Michael Ninn-style psychobabble bullshit or high concept crap here. Pachard places a group of interrelated people in the place of other like-minded humans and lets them be sexually adventurous and curious. He gives them desire and lust. He fleshes out fantasy as he pours on the poon.

And this is perhaps why Babylon Pink is considered a classic. Surely, some of the action is incredible, and a few of the scenes have an emotional as well as an erotic depth to them. Yes, there are very dated elements as well, along with a pretty sad collection of pseudo pop songs pumping constantly in the background. New York has a great gritty look, less the neon cosmos of its current incarnation and more of the bricks and mortar of a time gone past. It is easy to see why video killed this kind of cinematic star. This is not just some single camera shuck and jive - this is full on filmmaking from set up to pop shot. Unlike the easily available and dirt cheap dimensions of magnetic tape, celluloid was expensive. In addition, porno chic had just hit the mainstream, and people expected more from their adult entertainment than a selection of undernourished bimbos and their suitcase pimps balling for no good reason. When viewed in light of its era and its erotica, Babylon Pink is pretty potent. But when seen within this new billion dollar business climate, it's fairly tame. Anyone wanting to understand where their favorite film genre came from need look no further than this sunny sex time capsule. This is old school pornography, post-loops and pre-camcorder. Take it for what it is, because that's all it can be.

Command Video offers up a two disc special edition of Babylon Pink that places a wonderful emphasis on the technical specs of the release. The movie is not without its age issues - some occasional scratches and dirt, and a few awkward optical effects - but overall the 1.33:1 full screen image is immaculate. You can count every hair on Ms. Del Rio's derriere and stare in shocked dismay as gals grab their groins and wade through a veritable bush of beaver. The exterior scenes are expertly shot and the interiors are well lit and without problem. On the sound side, Command offers an unusual feature - the chance to hear the film in its original Mono mix, or in a brand new, remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 Stereo presentation. Opening up the sonic scenario is not really necessary in porn, since there are not a lot of atmospheric or ambient elements utilized. So, if you want to hear the horrid soundtrack in full rock-like rolling, or if the idea of listening to Vanessa Del Rio moan throughout all the channels really stirs your shorts, you may enjoy the audio upgrade.

One of the best parts about this DVD release is its wealth of extras. Treating the title more like a movie and less like some sex product, we get a couple of commentaries, a collection of outtakes, a series of interviews - even a look at the cable TV version of the film (sans 12 full minutes of smut). As a slice of softcore, Babylon Pink is still pretty provocative. Take away the penetration - and the entire teenager/older man scene - and you still have some pretty steamy stuff. Disc 2 offers the Q&As, with the highlight being a sit down with long out of view screen queen Roberta Findlay. Banishing all queries about working with her husband to a single sentence, she goes on to speak about her days as the only female cameraperson in pornography. She loved working on Babylon Pink, and has some interesting anecdotes about certain individuals in the New York scene. Writer/director Henri Pachard also offers his two cents worth, though it's very brief and definitely self-serving. Our last subject is actor Eric Edwards - not really a major player in the film since he had just one major scene - but his reminiscences about working in the adult industry are just priceless.

Disc 1 houses the commentary tracks. The first features producer Cecil Howard and is moderated by DVD Drive-In critic Casey Scott. While not a definitive discussion of the film by any means, Howard still has a great many things to say about his time as a maker of major hardcore features. He talks at length about the post-Deep Throat movement, and how video changed the entire business. The other narrative, featuring Henri Pachard, is a lot like his interview. Howard is damn proud of this movie and takes every opportunity he can to champion it. He loves Vanessa Del Rio and goes on at length about her elaborate preparation process before scenes. He also talks about his style of filmmaking and his approach to story. Add to these insightful conversations a full 45 minutes of outtakes, bloopers and various filmed ends. Offered sans sound, we get to see how big league adult movies were made, as several meticulous takes are utilized to create a single sensational scene. Along with some trailers and a nice still and poster art gallery, this is a quality digital presentation, and a nice way to preserve the history and heritage of this movie.

Disco Dirge Peter Meter Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (Highly Recommended)
Cohabitation Certification: Granted
So here's the bottom line. Porn pre-VHS was complex and well crafted, attention to cinematic detail all part of the demographic design. Once video, and the possibility of portability came along, individuals no longer needed to strive for filmic facets. Just get a couple of willing kids, a secured place to shoot and let them fuck their blitzed brains out. If you want to see what all the nostalgia and wistfulness is about, give Babylon Pink a try. It got the old Dirge going, earning a solid rating of Highly Recommended. The two disc set itself just misses the coveted DVD Talk Collector's Series by nothing more than a lack of context. The history of hardcore is full of marvelous and intriguing tales. Adding a few of these, perhaps in some manner of documentary, would have been the final piece of what is otherwise a perfect puzzle. This is tasteful, erotic XXX material, delivered with directorial flare and a true moviemaking mentality. Babylon Pink may not be a masterpiece in today's big gang bang business, but it does get the old groin going - and what more do you want from a 26 year old piece of smut.

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