Monday, 30 November 2015

13 Erotic Ghosts (4 Stars)

This is the first film in the Medina Collection. In case anyone doesn't know what that is, it's a series of 32 erotic films directed by Fred Olen Ray using the pseudonym Nicholas Medina. He's used different names during his career, including Sherman Scott, Ed Raymond and Roger Collins. Generally he uses a different name for each genre of film he makes, so that it's easy to separate his action films, family dramas, science fiction films, etc. from one another. There are a few exceptions. He had used the name Nicholas Medina sporadically in the 1990's, but from 2002 onwards he reserved it for his erotic films.

The films in the Medina Collection were made to be shown on television. They were usually shown (and probably still are) on the cable television networks Showtime and Cinemax after midnight. In the past I've called these films soft porn films, but some people, especially the actors involved, object to this description. They don't want the word "porn" to be used at all. In a wordplay on one of the channel names they like to call them Skinemax films. I'll call them erotic films for now, even though I think that "soft porn" more accurately expresses what the films are about.

What's the definition of the word "pornography"? The word is commonly used, though many people don't know what it means. First used in 1769, it meant writing about sex, i.e. it described erotic literature. With the development of new technologies it was later applied to photos or films of sexual activities, so its meaning was broadened to the depiction of sex in any media. This means that nude photos cannot be described as pornographic unless they are involved in sexual activities such as masturbation. Since pornography is about the depiction of sex, it also means that sex itself is not pornographic, it's only pornographic to display the sex act to others. In films pornography is commonly divided into "hard porn" and "soft porn". In hard porn actual sex is filmed; in soft porn the sex is faked, for instance the actors are lying on top of one another, but the camera angle disguises the fact that no penetration is taking place.

Of course, there are faked portrayals of sex in many films today, either very brief (as in "Titanic") or longer in duration (as in "Basic Instinct"). Does that make those films pornographic? Technically speaking, the sex scenes themselves are pornography, even if very little of the act can be seen. In fact, even if the sex itself is off screen and we can only hear sounds it's still pornography, because sex is being represented audibly to the audience. But whether the films are pornographic as a result depends on the morals of the person judging. Like most liberal people who live in today's western society, I would only call a film pornographic if the intention of the film is to portray sex scenes rather than to tell a story. In that respect, "Basic Instinct" isn't a pornographic film, "13 Erotic Ghosts" is a pornographic film, and "Nymphomaniac" is a borderline case. Fundamental Christians would judge differently and call "Basic Instinct" pornographic. When "Titanic" was shown in Utah it was censored because the Mormon authorities considered certain scenes too sexually explicit.

Gordon Baer

Now to the film itself. "13 Erotic Ghosts" has a slightly different style to the following films in the collection. It seems that Fred Olen Ray was still finding his style. Or maybe he was still testing the water to see what the television companies wanted from him. The sex scenes in this film are all girl-girl action. In his later films the majority of the sex scenes are boy-girl.

The film begins over 100 years ago. Baroness Lucrezia owns a castle where she runs a finishing school for young ladies. Apart from the usual education, she forces them to have sex with her. Maybe "forces" is the wrong word, they certainly don't seem to be unwilling. When lightning strikes her metal dildo everyone is killed. In the present day a team of supernatural investigators visit the castle to examine rumours that it's haunted. Jay Richardson, who plays the reporter Ted Nightingale, is the actor responsible for most of the humour.

Jay Richardson

I suspect that most of the humour comes from Jay's own personality. The dialog wasn't scripted, it was left open for the actors to improvise. Julie Strain, who plays Baroness Lucrezia, defends this style.

Actually, there is no script. This is one of those adlib, fly by the skin of your pants, make it better than it would be if somebody had written shit lines that started with the word "Look". Otherwise you have these stupid lines that say, "Look at the sunset. Can you go get me the gun? We're going to blow up the spaceship". And that's what it kinda sounds like to me if it's too written and too contrived. It's bullshit.

Tell that to Steven Spielberg!

This is the only film that Julie Strain ever made with Fred Olen Ray. I had already been a fan of hers since the early 1990's. She has a very unique appearance. She's 6'1½" tall and very busty. In her films she usually towers over the male actors, especially when wearing high heels that make her more than 6'6" tall. During the 1990's she made over 100 films, but by 2002 she was winding down towards the end of her career.

Julie Strain

The film is also unique for featuring an appearance by Fred himself. The film is a sort of 3D film, and he appears on screen to explain how it works. There are 3D glasses in the DVD case, and he explains how to put them on. It's a different type of 3D to what we're used to in the cinema nowadays. It's a technology where the picture looks perfect without the glasses, but the 3D effects are only visible with the glasses. On my television the glasses don't make a difference, but I do see a small amount of depth if I use the glasses while watching the film on my computer. I think the reason is that the 3D effects are only visible when sitting close to the screen.

Incidentally, I don't think Fred can count. There are only six ghosts, the Baroness and five girls.

Fred Olen Ray


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