Impulse Pictures // 1974 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // April 14th, 2013
She'll suck more than your blood!
Pop culture is mostly meant to be ephemeral, to be made and enjoyed and forgotten about quickly. For most of the 20th century, that was reflected in the material basis of media. Newspapers and comics have to be carefully preserved or they'll fall apart. Many of our silent films are lost because of the practice of recycling prints for silver, and even once that was no longer an issue, films weren't often preserved or screened regularly. The early days of television were also not preserved, unless it was for syndication.
Perhaps the most ephemeral of all pop culture artifacts are those which deal in sexuality. From "dirty" magazines to skin flicks, these are the things which appear most briefly and disappear most unexpectedly. It's almost miraculous we have any of the nudie-cuties that proliferated in the 1950s or those grindhouse classics of the '70s. Some films, however, are still lost and it's a cause for celebration when we recover even a little piece of cinematic history. Though more a curiosity than a film to be enjoyed, Sexcula will appeal to fans of '70s sexploitation and gonzo horror flicks of the period.
I won't claim there's much of a plot, but a buxom young lass takes her boyfriend to the family's crumbling mansion. There, they find a diary of an 18th century relative, and after reading it the story of a Frankenstein-like doctor emerges. This doctor attempted to create a love slave, but when it didn't work, he involved Countess Sexcula (Debbie Collins). There's some nonsense with a robot and a gorilla, but it's mainly an excuse to show lots of sex and nudity.
The story goes that Sexcula was produced in the wilds of Candia during the porn-boom of the 1970s. It screened once and then disappeared forever into the depths of obscurity. With a name like Sexcula, it couldn't stay buried forever, but is it really worth watching?
The first thing viewers have to understand is that the film is pretty hard-core. It's not all insertion shots and gynecological exams, but there are numerous scenes of obvious sexual activity and the anatomical features of both sexes are clearly visible. However, those looking for arousing material will probably want to look elsewhere. The scenes of sex are far from expertly shot, leaving much of the image indistinct or dark. More importantly, the whole setup of the story isn't particularly erotic. Though sex is all over the place, from the creation of a love slave to an amorous gorilla, it's generally too absurd or humorous to really be sexy.
Those looking for horror will be disappointed as well. Though Sexcula is made in the heart of the era that produced some of the most interesting erotic-horror crossovers (like the early work of Jean Rollin), the overall effect is to bring a cheap gothic atmosphere rather than any real horror. Unless, of course, you count the amorous gorilla.
Ultimately, Sexcula is for those who like weird cinema. It doesn't fit comfortably into any single genre, and the sheer weirdness of it all is what will likely to appeal to today's audience. The robot, the gorilla, the falling-down mansion, plus all the sex create an atmosphere of "anything can happen" and most of the fun is in seeing how surprised you are. The other appeal is historical curiosity. It's possible to watch Sexcula and marvel that it ever even got made. People were willing to shuck their clothes and perform sexual acts in a film as confused and mangled as this. There's also the curiosity that anyone ever found this erotic.
Impulse's DVD release does a fine job of presenting the film. For a 40-year old feature that hasn't seen the light of day since its initial theatrical presentation, the standard def 1.33:1 full frame transfer looks pretty good, like an older film shot on an older film stock, with muted colors and a bit of grain. Darker scenes look the worse, with a muddy tinge to the image, but overall the film looks as good as you can expect something called Sexcula to look. The Dolby 2.0 mono soundtrack has aged as well as the stock, which means it gets the job done but is far from perfect. Dialogue is audible, but sounds a bit muffled in places. The lone extra is the original theatrical trailer, which is a bit of a gem. There are also liner notes that include a short essay by Dimitrios Otis and a comic strip review of the film by Rick Trembles.
You pretty much know if Sexcula is a movie for you or not based on the title alone. The fact that it's a recently-rediscovered '70s porn flick from Canada should seal the deal one way or the other. If it's your kind of flick, you can buy or rent this disc with confidence, knowing there's a chance of another gem being unearthed from the vaults.
Campy, but not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Impulse Pictures
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 1974
MPAA Rating: Not Rated