Note: This review is for the newly released HD DVD version of Curse Eternal: Collector's Set by Wicked Pictures. The movie itself has not been altered and unlike all previous HD DVD offerings, it was mastered in 1080p, not the lower resolution 720p that was a step up but not the best it could be. Most of the changes in the review reflect the technical aspects and the changes in extras this version provided, the double dip being worth a Highly Recommended to me largely because it showcased yet again why higher definition versions can add to the fun if you have a large TV or use a projector. If you're still watching an older TV and aren't hooked up to a decent home theatre, the upgrade will not make sense for you but most consumers seem to be making the leap forward so you might want to give this one a look. In the coming year, I expect to see titles like Pirates 2, Operation Desert Stormy, and other highly anticipated releases to blow these remasters away but until that time, this was a fine example of what is available to show the worthiness of porn on the high end so give it a look.
Cast: Kaylani Lei, Randy Spears, Jessica Drake, Eric Masterson, Chris Cannon, Keri Sable, Barrett Blade, Eva Angelina, Kelly Kline, Gia Jordan, Ice LaFox, Lezley Zen, Brad Armstrong, Kris Knight, Joey Ray, Tory Lane, Tiffany Taylor, Alyssa Knight; Chris Evans and Manuel Ferrara (in bonus scenes only though)
Non-sex roles: Tony the prop man, Charles Laumberger, Noah the camel, most uncredited
Length: 154.5 minutes
Date of Production: 1/11/2006 (box); 8/7/2005 (credits)
Extras: This single disc collector's set in HD DVD had some decent extras for fans. The first disc had the trailer and an audio commentary by director Brad Armstrong and the lovely Jessica Drake. Aside from their relationship in private life, the couple seemed to balance each other out in terms of their comments too. The technical matters were largely handled by Brad while Jessica straightened him out by focusing mainly on the people and sex. In all though, it was worth listening too for fans of feature porn and a shame that Kaylani wasn't able to join them (she has now moved on after her contract ended) but Jessica was especially fun to listen to (Brad claimed he deferred to her when the movie was showing sex acts) and to answer her question about what I like to hear from her in them is that I prefer her telling as much as she can about the movie and what she's feeling during the action.
The original release of Curse Eternal had a second disc was where the wealth of solid extras came into play. Starting out with bonus scenes from Sold, Perfect Life, and Erotik, the fun was much in evidence as the package of extras provided some extra fuck for the buck. The best extra for me on the second disc was the "Beyond the Tomb: The Making of Curse Eternal" feature by Mark Stone (he makes great behind the scenes features). Lasting 42.5 minutes, it showcased a great many aspects of making the movie, giving the cast a chance to talk, showing extra sex footage, and some of the problems of the porn production business. There was a Blooper Reel lasting over 4 minutes that also showed some funny goof ups, a 3.5 minute box cover shoot, 21 separate photogalleries (of the ladies and of the sex scenes as well as the general one for the movie as a whole), trailers to shows like Eternity, Camp Cuddly Pines, All About Keri, Sold, Perfect Life, and others, promo reels for the 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2006 AEE show in Las Vegas, various DVD ROM materials, a Wicked Pictures catalog, a 6 minute long interview with Brad Armstrong, and a cardboard protective sleeve for the double disc set. Wow!
Note: There is a cool T-Shirt for the movie floating around, compressed to the shape of an Egyptian sarcophagus, which is quickly becoming a major collectible item according to some fans.
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In this updated HD DVD version of the movie, the extras were pared down a bit but included two bonus scenes in newly remastered HD DVD versions; one from House Sitter starring Jessica Drake and Barrett Blade and the other from Julia Ann: Hardcore between Julia Ann and Manuel Ferrara (both described below). That they were remastered in 1080p also made it clear that Wicked Pictures has a lot of titles ready to be upgraded, I just hope they offer an exchange program, previous edition rebate, or other means by which to make for better values on the double dips. There were also four trailers replacing the initial batch, including Fuck, Manhunters, Camp Cuddly Pines Powertool Massacre, and The Visitors (though none of the newest titles released of late). The disc still had the BTS, box cover shoot, bloopers, director interview, and audio commentary though the standard extras were not remastered in HD DVD like the bonus scenes were. Offering fewer extras than the original release of the movie and nothing truly new for it was a bold move though as it forces fans to decide if the double dip is worth the additional price charged by retailers.
Audio/Video Quality: Curse Eternal: Collector's Set HD DVD was presented in the usual 1.85:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen color as shot by director Brad Armstrong for Wicked Pictures. This version was remastered in 1080p using the VC-1 codec that makes it the first such release for a porno; previous HD DVD titles coming out in the lower resolution 720p instead. What this means for those of you with TV's smaller than about 50" is that it won't matter but if you have a larger set or even a projector, the quality of the picture truly shines by comparison. The SD version of the movie, when blown up to a 60" size on my new TV set, amplifies all the visual imperfections a lot, making me prefer to see it on an old fashioned TV instead. The HD DVD version had the expected increase in resolution, detail, and ability to handle the many darker scenes without looking like crud. While this was nothing compared to what a newly shot title should look like if properly handled in the new format, it was a nice leap forward and certainly the best looking HD title I've seen from a porno, surpassing even the recently remastered Camp Cuddly Pines Powertool Massacre HD DVD release by a decisive margin. The audio was presented with two choices, the primary one being a 5.1 Dolby Digital + English track that balanced the vocals and music nicely or a 2.0 Spanish language track with dubbing that wasn't exactly the best thing I've heard of late. The original Curse Eternal had several other audio options and I was saddened to see them not offered but I don't speak German (much to Katja Kassin's chagrin) and the balancing of the vocals, effects, and music were such that the additional tracks really wouldn't get used much. If Wicked Pictures ever starts paying significantly more attention to making true 5.1 tracks (instead of the channels remixed off of 2.0 vocals and music scores), I hope they show the rest of the industry how it's done to lead the way in advances yet again. This time, the vocals were clear, the special effects nicely synchronized up to the visuals, and the music a pleasant change of pace as it added to the atmosphere of the thriller.
Body of Review: Brad Armstrong is one of the most talented directors of feature porn working today, despite a handful of people who have personal issues with him. For me, the best judge of talent is the end result and having seen a great many of his works in the past, all I can say is that his professional detractors have provided far less appealing efforts over the years and his amateur detractors almost always seem more upset that he nails all the best women in porn or is a feature director. Regardless, Brad's latest epic release is Curse Eternal: Collector's Set; a story about a mummy that comes to life as played by Kaylani Lei and the archeologist (Jessica Drake) that gets caught up in her attempt to revive a past lover and rest in peace. If you've seen any of Brad's larger budget efforts in recent years, you'll know how good this one was without reading what I have to say but here's a breakdown of the scenes by cast and action for those interested:
Scene One: Kaylani Lei, the lead gal of the movie as seen on the center of the front DVD cover, was up first with Randy Spears, as she played the long dead Queen Neferkala to his archeologist in her dark, lit by flames, chamber. The oral was fun and her energetic grinding and bouncing showed her elevated passion for the action. The mood of the movie was instilled nicely in this scene, from the sexual energy to the story itself, and few would argue that the sex was only made for "couples" sex. It ended with a facial and her inhaling his essence right out of him.
Scene Two: Jessica Drake, playing Randy's daughter all grown up twenty years later, was up next wearing glasses as a brilliant archeologist herself on the couch with Eric Masterson. They pawed at one another to get in the mood and she was looking as fine as ever, even if the front cover of the DVD case put her in the back right hand side. She looked fitter and lovelier than ever as the two bumped uglies (those hers looked appealing as could be) after some heated oral by both of them. She even did some PTM and fingered her own ass (three fingers) before the facial that she appeared to greedily appreciate. I wish it lasted longer than it did but I'll take any Jessica footage I can get.
Scene Three: Kaylani Lei, in her skimpy outfit under the hot desert sun, was up next with Eric Masterson, also dressed in period costume. The blowjob was far too short but still managed to be satisfying and the sunlight enhanced her looks as she rode him hard and wet. I've never been a huge fan of Kaylani though her look here was enhanced to the point I could have become one, with her active sexuality making it a good scene too. It was a straightforward scene with the usual facial pop shot but like the other scenes of the movie, there was a lot of chemistry and replay value to the action.
Scene Four: Kaylani Lei, now in the present but still weaving her spell while dressed in her foxy outfit, snuck up on museum security guard Chris Cannon in order to satisfy her growing lust for life and all the wonders it offered her. His oral on her was sloppy so she returned the favor with some streamers and suction noises too. Her hand to gland action was promising too and this led to some solid vaginal boning. She wasn't as enthusiastic this time but she still managed to act like she was having fun
Scene Five: Keri Sable, a skinny former contract gal for Wicked Pictures, was up next as she blew Barrett Blade in the coed bathroom of the nightclub. It was far too short of a scene but set the next one up nicely.
Scene Six: Keri Sable, let down by Barrett when he popped off in her eye like a two pump chump, got the chance to have a lesbian scene with Kaylani Lei away from the toilets and over by the mirror in the bathroom. They rubbed and caressed one another with Kaylani fingering and going down on her partner as though born to orally satisfy pussy. This was another scene used to set up the story more than anything else but I was less enthusiastic since Keri was so passive sexually here.
Scene Seven: Eva Angelina, Kelly Kline, Gia Jordan, Ice LaFox, Lezley Zen, Jessica Drake, Brad Armstrong, Kris Knight, and Joey Ray, were up next in a kind of weird scene that combined two scenes in one. The idea was that Neferkala put a spell on everyone in the night club to have a big orgy in the darkened room to the droning beat of the music. This alternated with Ice, Jessica, Brad and Joey screwing by a well lit fountain as though it were thousands of years in the past. The majority of the scene was oral and vaginal sex but there was also anal taking place too. The editing was such that the two scenes converged fairly well most of the time although I'm still a fan of splitting up scenes like these even when they are representing something special to the theme. My biggest complaint of the scene was how little screen time Gia, Kelly, and Lezley got; all seeming to be on the short end of the stick. In all, I watched this one a few times already and there seemed to be new things found each time. Fans of cumswapping will get off on both sides of the scene though with Jessica getting featured throughout the action.
Scene Eight: Tory Lane, Tiffany Taylor, and Alyssa Knight, were up next in a floating barge set supposedly aimlessly carried down the Nile river. They sucked, rubbed, and fingered one another before pulling out some large dildos; even using them in a technical DP. Tory's ass is always welcome in a porno, and the amount of taste testing was off the charts compared to the other scenes, though it wasn't always easy to keep track of what was going on at a given time.
Scene Nine: Jessica Drake, Kaylani Lei, and Eric Masterson, were all up last as they walked to the opening of the temple. Kaylani got to suck him off first, with Jessica strutting her stuff immediately afterwards. Jessica got to bone him first though so the balance was restored in terms of which contract star was favored. It went back and forth between the gals until he popped off to their appreciative faces. The gals orally cleaned him off with flickering tongues and some post coital sucking, showing more of the energy and chemistry they had proven a part of the show far earlier.
Bonus Scene One: House Sitter: Jessica Drake, the hot contract gal on the front DVD cover, was up next after she invited Barrett Blade over to spend some quality time with her. Their clothes didn't last long but I found it slightly refreshing as to how the condom issue was raised (something the company might consider more frequently in the future in fact). He ate her out on the couch in the darkened room, leading to her fine hummer in return. She then actively rode his cock vaginally, increasing the tempo as she went along, until he popped out his load on her face. I'd suggest Wicked loses the need for a facial every time in keeping with the condoms or at least playing it differently from time to time but the scene was well done and as much as I wanted more, they projected some sparks here.
Bonus Scene Two: Julia Ann: Hardcore: Julia Ann, one of the legends of porn and a classy lady by most standards, was up in a scene with studly Manuel Ferrara. While Julia is perhaps best known as the Blondage hotty that embraced lesbian sex as well as anyone on the small screen has done in the past two decades, she has shown a lot of growth during her time as a Wicked Pictures contract performer. Her willingness to do interracial, anal, and other hardcore acts with a flair those flavor of the week types only wish they could muster. Pairing her with the stud of the year certainly didn't hurt her newfound reputation either since the oral and penetrative sex smoked with chemistry, heat, and passion.
Summary: Curse Eternal: Collector's Set had a lot of fuck for the buck, solid extras, and perfect casting to combine for a rating of Highly Recommended for anyone who likes feature porn. If you'd rather enjoy a disposable gonzo flick, there are many to pick from in any given week but Jessica Drake and Kaylani Lei were both superb as they provided some fine entertainment (sexual and as part of the story). I'm pretty sure that this will be one of the titles on everyone's short list for various awards later on in the year for all it had to offer, never skimping on the sex or story, allowing fans to see both or skip ahead if they so choose. Oh, and for Jessica, I can tell you that there are indeed a number of people that listen to the entire audio commentary (like me) and if you compare your commentaries to those of other performers (primarily at other companies), you should know you do a great job (a great job being the operative phrase for the entire production this time). To sum it up, Curse Eternal: Collector's Set was cursed with the high quality Wicked Pictures has long been known for, raising the bar yet again for others to try and surpass. As far as the movie serving nicely as a double dip upgrade, it was a nice combination of thriller, heated sex, and upgraded technical values that all made it another fine selection for your growing libraries of HD DVD titles.
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