Thursday, July 30, 2009

Areola 51


Year: 2007

Director: Eddie Edwards

Format Viewed: Satellite Broadcast

Cast: Molinee Green, Nicole Oring, Valentine Snow, Deborah Wise, Jessica Sweet, et al.

Runtime: 74 min

Rating: TV-MA

Related URLs: Trailer (NSFW)

As astute readers will have already surmised Areola 51 is one of those low budget "late night" movies that cable channels like skinemax apparently have an endless supply of. Why review it? Partly because at the time I am writing this there is virtually no information to be found online and partly because, even though it is a late night T&A flick, it is technically SF and has some VFX that actually look better than the typical Sci-Fi; sorry, SyFylys Channel; original movie. I feel that makes it worth commenting on. The things I endure for the love of the genre and for this site.

* * * WARNING * * *

Don't continue reading BEYOND THIS POINT unless you're interested in hawt sci-fi babes. There may be NSFW content beyond this point. I do not guarantee there will be but there might and I don’t want you getting in trouble with your boss (or whoever).

* * * WARNING * * *

Premise: Alien space babes come to earth to research human sexuality, abduct a sexually frustrated secretary, and probe her for data.


The Reality: Threadbare plot is used as an excuse to film soft core vignettes.

The Story: Areola 51 is a UFO themed alien abduction spoof starring a bevy of bountiful buff babes. Some are porn starlets and actresses from late night erotic series like Co-ed Confidential. Thus some may be asking the question: Is a more explicit version of this movie available? The short answer is I do not know. So far as I can tell this has not been released to DVD. However given the fact Areola 51 is presented as a series of vignettes linked by a framing narrative device of a woman being interrogated by a shadowy man in black type. .


With the vignettes revealed as flashbacks. .

Sample of the VFX

And revealing quite a lot of naked skin (while adding nothing to the threadbare plot or narrative). .

Shower scene teaser pic

It's possible more was shot than made it into this cable version or that some scenes may have been recycled from previous adult features. (If you were involved with this production or know anything about this movie send me an e-mail or leave a comment and I'll update this review accordingly.) If how much naked skin is in a movie is what most interests you I suggest renting something else. Areola 51 attempts to do what so many similar softcore movies before it has, take the "adult" movie formula and meld it with drama; albeit with less than stellar results. But it's at least more interesting than the usual vacuous nonsense storylines found in these latenight skinemax flicks. An effort was made to make this SF. I wouldn't review it otherwise.

Assessment: This movie is deadly dull boring. The first time I tried to sit through it I was initially intrigued by the VFX. .

flying saucer

Which don't look all that impressive in a screen cap. .

VFX shot

For those asking: Is this really worth watching in the first place? I say. .

Verdict: There is a reason there's not many reviews to be found online for this. Aside from the mélange of soft core cut scenes Areola 51 is an epic snooze fest. Basically the producers took an idea better suited to a 30 minute Twilight Zone style episode and padded it out to near feature length. The easy out would be to say no one expects much of a late night skinemax movie. That's a steaming load. Upon a second viewing I found the movie to not only have moments of absurd hilarity but to have competent, if fleeting, VFX. Sadly Areola 51 never rises above being a limp DTV flick trapped within its formulaic late night T&A prison. If not for the fact I'd decided to record the movie and write a review of it before I'd ever seen it I may not have given Areola 51 a second look. Honesty compells me to note that, aside from an energetic piece of music used during the VFX laden title scroll and an abduction sequence with interesting visuals. .

Examining the abductee

The movie is deceptively blasé in it's approach to using it's SF thematic elements. Had their been any action to provide forward momentum it might have mitigated the tedium. Alas what Areola 51 attempts to do is take the Scherhazade approach to storytelling and turn it into a "let's tell repetitive stories to an captive audience" as the excuse to show simulated "sex scenes" in the usual clichéd softcore approach of opus filmmaking. The producers likely assumed all would be forgiven because of the gratuitous nudity. They were wrong.

However I am willing to take into account that this appears to be the production company's first feature, at least this is it's first listed credit at IMDB. To the producers I would say Areola 51 would be interesting as an uncensored Twilight Zone episode but, as a feature, sadly lacks scope. I hate to say that because the technical execution showed promise. If the production company produces more SF movies and infuses them with a little more action, retains the gratuitous nudity (perhaps with a little more narrative justification for it's presence), while incorporating more VFX and music (there's just the one song) I'd definitely tune in to watch them. Heck I might even buy a few of their titles on DVD, assuming they ever get DVD releases.

So if you like hawt sci-fi babes then set your TiVO to record this! Otherwise I'd recommend it only for hardcore bad movie masochists and people too embarrassed to buy real porn.

# End of Line

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Monday, July 27, 2009

Have you heard the HK & Cult Film News?

Today Cosmic Cinema is continuing to look around the net and report on interesting review sites. Last week we showcased Weirded Beardo Reviews, or some such [wink], today it's HK & Cult Film News. If you're thinking that's a rather odd niche for a reviewer to choose and that such a site must be deathly dull boring to anyone not interested in Hong Kong movies you'd be. . . WRONG!

This site has actually reviewed quite a range of genre flicks. Apparently "cult" is broadly defined here. Which is good news for heroic fantasy fans as the DVD release of a relatively recent Sci-Fi channel original movie was recently reviewed. It was even praised as an "modest but well-crafted" movie that "manages to rise a bit above the mediocrity of the usual Sci-Fi Channel fare."

Which movie gets such praise? Why it's none other than MERLIN AND THE BOOK OF BEASTS. A movie that, sadly, I missed entirely. Wish I could say the same for KNIGHTS OF BLOODSTEEL, a similarly themed heroic fantasy syfylys flick which was so bad I actually steered clear of syfylys channel original movies for a while. The review is not exactly glowing but it's earnest and honest in it's critique.

Viz. "Production values remain modest but decent enough otherwise, although the most the filmmakers manage in the way of interiors are a few rooms in the Arkadian's palace and some tunnels. A small courtyard set with a couple dozen extras is all we see of Camelot's inhabitants. Overall, the production design and cinematography are good and the film, while sparsely populated, has an attractive look."

Sadly this title is currently on sale at Amazon dot com for about 18 bucks, marked down from 20, and I have to say that there isn't a syfylys movie made that's worth that kind of scratch. There's just so many ways to spend 20 bucks. Alas using it to buy a syfylys movie is a waste. I'd sooner take a 20, pour lighter fluid on it, and burn it. Maybe if syfylys weren't so greedy and priced these DVDs modestly, say around 15 dollars to begin with then moving them to the 5 dollar bargain bin, so unless it comes up in the syfylys schedule again I'm going to pass. But read the review and decide for yourself. Sounds like this one might not have been all that bad.

# End of Line

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Have you seen the Bearded Weirdo?

His reviews are actually pretty informative, for all that they give the entirety of the plot of most movies he's reviewing away. But then there's two kind of reviewers, those reviewing for people who have yet to see a movie (I count myself amongst this type) and those writing for people who've already seen the movie or who don't give a fig about spoilers. If this is you then you're going to love Bearded Weirdo Reviews. Just be advised this site is slightly NSFW. So if that discourages you from checking this site out read no further, because I'm about to talk about some grand fun reviews he's posted recently.

Still reading? Alrighty then get ready for the awesome!

In a recent review for The Warrior & The Sorceress the Bearded Weirdo had the following nuggets of wisdom to say about the sword-and-sorcery genre:

"Often, I find, uneducated video renters the world over use the terms 'sword-and-sorcery' and "fantasy" interchangeably. This is a tragic fallacy that must, must, must be corrected."

Mr. Weirdo goes on to explain, at length, the differences between high fantasy and heroic fantasy (the subset of fantasy to which sword-and-sorcery belongs). It's very interesting, even if the commentary gets a bit blue at times. My favorite nugget O'wisdom, at least what I can quote here, is the following:

"LORD OF THE RINGS is "high fantasy," not "sword-and-sorcery." Period. If a sword-and-sorcery hero ran into Frodo Baggins on some winding forest path in some faraway land of myth and mysticism... he'd beat the ever-loving sh!t out of that wimpy li'l hobbit bastard and steal his most cherished belongings. Then our unnamed savage ravager might go on an arson spree throughout all of The Shire, raping any hobbit ladyfolk he encountered along the way."

That does paint a picture. And what does that have to do with the movie mentioned above? Well you'll just have to read the review (The Warrior & The Sorceress) to find out! But the aforementioned review is a dull whitewashed piece of flotsam in comparison to the review for Demonwarp. You know you're in for something special when a reviewer's opening paragraph is:

"Why the f#@k would you ever go hiking in a place called Demonwood Forest? Seriously. What good could come of that? How could anything else but violent death await you? Have you people not seen any g-dd@mn horror movie, like, ever?"

Lots of expletives in this particular review. But if you can stick with it it's a real experience. Sort of like getting hit in the head with a volley ball at the beach. You're just sitting there minding your business then, out of nowhere, WHAM!

Alas Bearded Weirdo has not reviewed a lot of sci-fi features. This saddens me. Then again the few he has reviewed are full of his high octane critical wit. Behold what the Weirdo had to say about Barb Wire:

"BARB WIRE is the kind of movie that doesn't have a lot of fans who are willing to mention it without using that magic phrase "guilty pleasure" in the same breath. Like I said, I don't get the whole "guilty pleasure" thing, and I don't like it. To me, it's just a cop-out, and it smacks of "denying Jesus three times."

Well, Peter may have denied Jesus three times, but you won't soon catch me denying Pam Anderson even once. Not with this kind o' brilliant badness on her resume'."

I've read reviews that compare Barb Wire and Pamela Anderson to a lot of things but I don't think I've ever seen, heard, or imagined either would ever be compared to the life and times of Jesus. To be perfectly honest Barb Wire is a movie I've been meaning to write a review for, one day. I say "one day" because I've never really known where to start with it. Which is funny considering Mr. Weirdo got his review going with a lengthy rant about the absurdity of "guilty pleasures" which led to the following insightful overview of the movie:

"Inspired by the comic book of the same title, the film is a post-apocalyptic whirligig of bullets, bleached blond hair extensions, and black leather. It opens, like many a Bad-with-a-capital-B futuristic action flick, with a lengthy pre-credits scroll of white text in front of a harsh-looking "scorched earth" landscape that explains that the year is 2017 and America is involved in a second Civil War. Every city in the nation has fallen under an iron-fisted super-authoritarian government rule. Every city, that is, except for Wire's hometown of Steel Harbor <...>"

Nice synopsis. I particularly love the careful and well thought placement of an illustrative pic right next to this paragraph. (You'll just have to take my word for it if clicking the above link to visit a NSFW sight frightens you.) I should point out that Bearded Weirdo Reviews doesn't have a lot of movies currently under review. But the select few movies that have been reviewed are thoroughly critiqued. A very unusual and interesting review site. You should check it out soon.

# End of Line

Monday, July 6, 2009

Gor, Lost in Adaptation or merely Lost? (Fini)

The Movies

Adapting novels into screenplays to adapt into movies is a lot like translating an ancient text written in a long dead language. The journey from hieroglyphs to contemporary English, French, or German is arduous. Subtle contexts of meaning often get lost in translation. No matter how fluent the translator may be there is no avoiding this. Witness the atrocious, often unintentionally funny, English dubbing of sword-and-sandal imports or the differences in word choice found in different Bible editions. Of course how well a translation retains the spirit and concepts of the original depends on how faithful the translator stays to the source. Good translations take time, witness the years of work that often go into translating classical works. No two translators present quite the same text for the works of Homer, Plato, or even the Bible.

A prime example of how a movie differs from the novels on which it is based can be found in the artwork of Gor. It may not be an entirely fair critique to judge a book (series) by it's cover(s) yet we can learn much from them. .


1. Assassin of Gor, artist Boris Valejo; notice one woman is bound in chains and the other is knelling in supplication to the dominant male. 2. Kajira of Gor, artist unknown; the full scene depicts a male fighting some outlandish Gorean beast as a bound female slave looks on. 3. Outlaw of Gor, artist ?; a female is staked out and bound in chains while two men fight over (her) their prize. 4. Now compare to an actual screen cap from the movie GOR, in which a woman is not only lacking bonds she's wielding a sword in defense of her village.

Obviously, having not read the novels, it's hard to judge whether women wielding swords and being heroic goes totally against the grain of Gor as written. Yet here's another typical quote from a fan site:

"You!" said the trainer, gesturing to another girl with his Whip. "To his feet! Beg for love!" This girl hurried forward and knelt before Drusus Rencius. "I beg for love, Master," she whispered. "You!" said the trainer, indicating another girl. She, too, hurried forward. She knelt before Drusus Rencius, her palms on the floor, her head to the very tiles. "I beg for love," she whispered. "I beg for love, Master."

-Kajira of Gor, pg 139

Most quotes posted on fan sites seem to be snapshots of slave-master relationships; with females predominantly in the submissive role. Even taken out of context they speak volumes. In the novels women are portrayed as submissive chattels whose role in Gorean society is essentially that of eager sex slave. A golden premise for exploitation filmmakers. Alas the opportunity to create a cult classic on par with The Perils of Gwendoline, The Story of O, Emmanuelle, or the infamous nazisploitation Ilsa trilogy was squandered. Like them or loathe them the Gor novels, and Gorean Fantasy, like the works of the Marquis de Sade, have an audience. Even literary purists who would place Gor novels into the nearest garbage receptacle will admit the movies weren't Gorean Fantasy. They may herald this as a good thing, but that's only because John Norman's books have such a polarizing effect; for some.

But so what if the novels aren't well known or well liked? They have spawned a sub-genre all their own. This strange, and often controversial, sub-genre of fantasy exists in a black hole nexus of moral ambiguity. Given the nature of the novels, a faithful adaptation, even sans the Tarns, would likely of had limited appeal. Studios are concerned solely with making money, which too often means pandering to "mainstream" audiences, which begs the question: Why buy the movie rights to such a controversial novel series in the first place? But, having purchased the rights, why then proceed to murder the author's vision and film a counterfeit version of Gor?

Now there's a loaded question. After all there really is nothing new under the sun. Every writer borrows ideas and, like a kitchen alchemist, mixes them together in what they hope will be a winning formulae. Should filmmakers really be held up to a higher standard than the writers themselves?

Yes. Because the filmmaker is not creating they are interpreting, or rather breathing life into the text; or such is the task they should be doing. Alas filmmakers have become like the authors of distant antiquity who borrowed the names of famous biblical or mythological figures to lend authenticity to their own writings. Filmmakers have taken to borrowing the name and title of an established author to pass off their own work, which in any other industry would be considered criminal fraudulence. Sadly filmmakers get away with this time and time again. They've produced counterfeit Bible stories, forgeries of historical events, and, Hollywood's most recent favorite, the remake dubbed a "re-envisioning", which are almost always bogus and patently fraudulent fabrications totally unrelated to the source material. Sometimes they work yet, too often, they do not.

Ingres - Grand Odalisque

But would the Gor movies really have been any better if the books had been adapted more faithfully? Perhaps. Then again the filmmakers were obviously clueless. As I mentioned in part one of this article I've never read the novels, yet I recognize them for what they are: an derivative blending of Edgar Rice Burroughs style of heroic fantasy laced with undertones of Arabian Fantasy. The scenes of slave girls so many find offensive are no different than the romanticized odalisque of Orientalist painters.

Moor Bath

Indeed there exists an entire sub-genre of erotica, which does not have the same stigma attached to it as Gorean Fantasy, that's very similar to it in many ways. It's full of slave girls, masters, and harems. And it has gotten better treatment in it's movie adaptations, why? Is it because Gor was published as genre fantasy rather than literature?

Harem Interior, Bath

This is the crux of the question about movie adaptations of genre fiction be they pulp planet stories, Harlequin romances, comic book fantasy, hard science fiction, horror, or crime dramas; be they set on distant alien worlds with strange sounding names like Barsoom, Arrakis, Gor, Pern, Amtor, or Middle-Earth. If filmmakers are not going to respect the author's written word and faithfully represent the source material what's the point? Liberties may be taken with narrative accounts of certain figures such as Genghis Khan, Caligula, Nero, or Cleopatra, as indeed the bulk of literary works about such personages is built upon speculation. Yet, even here, there are certain known and established facts about these historical figures that must be abided by.

Novels, unlike distant historical events, are not open to speculation. The authors words are plainly recorded in black and white. Alas filmmakers continue to despoil literary works without repercussion. The Gor movies were low budget productions that wandered far from the source material, thus alienating the fan base. Nor did they provide much for mainstream audiences or genre fans to like. Their plots were a threadbare fabric of generic clichés woven around shallow and transparent characters. Had the eponymous Tarns not been written out and replaced with horses, had there been some attempt to include science fiction elements, had. . If only. . But there wasn't. The Gor movies will never be more than campy, cheesy, unintentionally funny nonsense; and remembered for being as far removed from their source material as an atheist is from an Orthodox patriarch. Perhaps they could have been more, alas we'll never know.

# End of Line

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Friday, July 3, 2009

Gor, Lost in Adaptation or merely Lost?

This article is an extension of last week's series, Reflections on Barsoom, wherein it was noted numerous attempts to bring Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom novel series to the big screen have failed. Also outlined were certain concerns about the current Disney/Pixar movie project. If recent news articles are accurate the project has moved out of development limbo and is being rushed into production. That's almost never a good sign for a movie, especially one being adapted from a novel.

Fans of novels that get translated into big screen movies are all too often disappointed by how Hollywood treats their favorite stories. The most notorious example being David Lynch's Dune. Yet despite Dune's perceived flaws it was far superior to the odd Sci-Fi channel spawned mini series. Alas it too often takes a poorly executed remake for audiences to appreciate these earlier adaptations. Conan the Barbarian was sniped at by fans of Howard's stories yet, compared to the Conan television series, the Conan movies were faithful adaptations. Which brings us back to the subject of our article.

Odds are you've probably never read the Gor novels though you may have heard about them. Having just read reviews for the movies it may come as a surprise to learn the novels have been described as everything from Barsoom with bondage to Taliban erotica. In this article we shall continue to examine the treatment of novel-to-movie adaptations by examining Barsoom's cousin fantasy world. .

Book 1

Gor, aka Counter-Earth, is the fantasy world of author John Norman as first introduced in the novel "Tarnsman of Gor" (1966). An series of some 20+ odd novels followed. .

Book 19

The Gor novels are often described as indulgent misogynistic 'adult' fantasy patterned loosely after Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter of Mars series. It is a world in which politically incorrect warriors ride around on gigantic birds; the eponymous Tarns of the first novel; while slave girls gyrate provocatively for their (male master's) pleasure. Dancing girls have been a staple of historical epics since the days of Cecil B. Demille. .

Cleopatra (1934)

Even when production budgets were sparse, such as in the old Italian sword-and-sandal epics, there were dancing girls. .

Hercules (1958)

However what made the Gor novels notorious were the themes espoused by the author, namely that it is woman's natural state to be subservient to men in all things. This led to the novels being criticized as gutter treatments of heroic fantasy using clichéd science fiction tropes as a crutch to prop up mediocre pseudo sword-and-sorcery. But are such criticisms valid? Here's a typical novel quote from a typical Gor fan site:

The dancing of the female before the male, that she be found pleasing and he be pleased, is one of the most profound lessons in all of human biology. Others are when she kneels before him, when she kisses his feet, when she performs obeisance, when she knows herself subject, truly, to his whip.

- Dancer of Gor, pg 193

But it's not merely the "philosophy" or politically incorrect views expressed by the author that has gotten this series into so much trouble. The terse writing style is off-putting:

He was a Gorean master. I was at his mercy. I wondered if I could have felt so much his, so completely surrendered, if he had not possessed this complete power over my life and body. I belonged to him. But I did not want him to whip me, or put me in the slave box. I wanted only, desperately, to please him. And I knew I must, for I was his slave.

-Captive of Gor, pg 343

Such is the tone of the Gor novels and the nature of the fantasy world. Yet, inexplicably, two movies were produced during the 1980s. It is these curious movies we shall return our attention to next.

Books 1 + 2

In the meantime the curious can use any search engine to discover myriad articles ranging from harsh criticisms like Planet of the Complete Bloody Psychopaths to the slightly less harsh Some thoughts on the Gorean Scandal, apologist tracts In Defense Of Gor, fan favorite Slave Quotes, and sites dedicated to living the idealized 'Gorean lifestyle'. The latter often include illustrated articles showcasing "positions" for slave girls. The Kama Sutra these are not yet the illustrations are often just as gratuitous. Warning many are NSFW!

# To be concluded in part 2

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Outlaw of Gor

Year: 1989

Director: John 'Bud' Cardos

Cast: Urbano Barberini, Rebecca Ferratti, Jack Palance, et al.

Format Viewed: VHS

Run Time: 90 minutes

Recommended: Yes, but only if you haven't read the novels and are a fan of campy B-movies.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For fantasy violence and gratuitous hats.)

Gorean Fantasy: Despite assumptions based on the name this form of fantasy has very little- in fact it has next to nothing at all- to do with blood and gore. Rather this fantasy genre is about self-indulgent male oriented slave girl fantasy.

Premise: Tarl Cabot, like John Carter- the character Cabot is all too obviously based upon- is transported to a distant world where he has many fantastical adventures.

Tarl Cabot & Nimrod

The Movie: As the movie begins sad sack Tarl Cabot is drowning his sorrows in a bar with an nimrod friend when his ring starts to glow. Before you can say Holy Batsh*t a flashback of scenes from the first movie plays. As Mr. Morose was not having much fun getting drunk Cabot decides it's time for he and his chum to depart. After hopping into his car and experiencing some cheesy fake lightning effects Cabot and nimrod sidekick wake up in a desert; again with no car in evidence. Cabot is way too excited about waking up in a desert. Conversely his friend whines on and on for what seems like twenty minutes then, for no apparent logical reason, a group of desert nomads- wielding obviously store bought bows no less- appear over a dune and attack! Of course Cabot's nimrod sidekick is totally useless. .

Useless idiot!

After this ludicrous staged "fight"- in which a day actor can actually be seen dropping his bow from horseback as he starts to fall before Cabot lays a single hand on him- the pair of bumbling buffoons manage to get away and find a city. Actually it's supposed to be some sort of merchant tent-city but the illusion of the would be heroes walking in off the desert is ruined as a farming kibbutz (complete with freshly plowed furrows) can actually be seen in the top of one frame. .

Tent City

Someone asks them who they are, Cabot gives his name, which leads to a bunch of people yelling "Cabot!" as if they're Lou Costello. (If by some miracle you got that reference that's a example of how dated the gags in this movie are.) Outlaw of Gor tries so hard to be humorous there are times it'll leave you thinking someone had to be two sheets away from brain dead drunk when they filmed this. That any could have actually thought this nonsense was funny is proof drugs impair judgment.

By the way at this point we're actually only 11 minutes into the movie, though it feels more like 111 minutes, and there is only more excruciating lameness ahead. But if you can withstand the juvenile dialogue Outlaw of Gor does have dancing girls. Watching their swanlike display of rhythmic dancing and bold strutting will leave you wondering why these movies have been neglected by the DVD market. Sure the story is about as contrived as a loincloth clad barbarian swinging a bastard sword at a necromancer in a tropical jungle but the dancers are a feast for the eyes and worth the price of admission.

Dancing Girls!

Otherwise Outlaw's laughs derive from the vagaries of low budget filmmaking, such as incongruous costuming and dialogue so bad that, despite giving their best over the top performances, the actors look painfully embarrassed. In short this is a gem of low budget pseudo sword-and-sorcery schlock that makes the Deathstalker movies look like meaningful social commentary scripted by Aristophanes.

Bargain basement sorcery.

Analysis: What does a PG-13 rated Gor sequel get you? An shockingly milksop movie that's so absurd it's unintentionally funny. Yet, sadly, is no closer to being proper Gorean Fantasy than Fantasia. Though it does have a slave market. .

Slave Girls!

Lots of funny hats and shiny bikini tops. .

Smile if you're a happy slave girl!

And ridiculous dialogue. .

Tarl Cabot: Those Priest-Kings are very dangerous. They have . . unknown powers.

Verdict: See review of GOR.

Availability: Sadly Outlaw of Gor is only available on VHS

#End of Line

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan