When I was 13 years old, nothing captured my imagination like provocative VHS artwork for 1970s and 1980s T&A films scattered among the racks at the local video store. One of the ones that stood out to me was the art for the 1977 R-rated version of Cinderella. I never actually got a chance to see it, but I suppose that might be why I pulled Serena: An Adult Fairytale from the DVDTalk screener pool. Of course, once one is not 13 and is therefore allowed to see these movies, the truth is that the VHS artwork is always better than the movie itself. Serena has some bizarre moments that threaten to give the film an actual personality, but it's no different.
Serena is named after Serena, the adult film star who plays the down-trodden protagonist, which is weird, because the character is actually named Cindy. Cindy lives in a Hollywood home with her three domineering step-sisters, who force her to do the chores, and also occasionally have sex with random strangers in the house. Obviously, being forced to have sex is terrible, but it's a strange torture because the only part of the experience she seems to dislike is the moment her sisters demand she participate (as if she would have sex with the same men, in the same order, at the same time of day of her own free will, but here it's torture because her sisters get to "tell" her to do so). A fairy godmother (China Leigh) watches over Serena, narrating the story and occasionally participating in it.
The most entertaining aspect of the film when trying to review it is how little the film seems to care about its fairy tale premise. I would think there'd be great opportunities to vamp it up by making the sisters really evil, but they don't seem to care when Serena stops doing her chores (which are not particularly awful) and watches one of them having sex. Early in the movie, Serena is writhing around on her bed in despair, so the Fairy Godmother warps her to wherever she is to have sex with her...then warps her back into her horrible slave home right after! Then again, I suppose Cinderella only has a limited amount of time before her coach turns into a pumpkin, so maybe that's more accurate than I'm giving it credit for. Since the filmmakers want Serena to look good and sexually confident throughout the movie, her only real transformation under the fairy godmother's magic is that she's wearing black. My favorite fairy tale touch, though, is a guy named Mr. Thomas (Jamie Gillis), who is wearing a pretty normal-looking shirt, vest, and jeans, but they've given him a Mad Hatter-style top hat, which he leaves on as he has sex.
Serena was directed by Fred J. Lincoln, who played "Weasel" in Wes Craven's Last House on the Left, and who was married to adult film star Tiffany Clark (who doesn't appear in this). Apparently, he directed a number of X-rated movies, some of which the internet claims are better than this one. Directorially, Serena is pretty stunningly lazy, with one three-way sex scene framed in a way that crops out the head of one of the participants. A blowjob is shot from several feet away. The camera basically gets placed and stays put during most of the sequences, although he does throw in some other memorable touches, like Serena rubbing her crotch on a wall to masturbate, the head stepsister (Natasha Raphael) forcing a guy to suck on her finger for several minutes, and another girl (Marlene Munroe) who sticks a cigar in her vagina before giving it to "Prince Charles" (Paul Thomas).
The box art for this one is sort of bland, and I wondered if one of those VHS masterpieces had been dumped, but I was surprised to discover via Google Images that Impulse's artwork for Serena is essentially a re-creation of the movie's original poster, right down to the font, although they've dropped a strip of cast photos and added a new background. My only complaint is that they also dropped the tagline, which gives even the most generic poster a little bit of flavor. The disc comes in a standard cheap DVD case, and there is no insert.
The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.33:1 full frame, Serena unsurprisingly looks pretty terrible. Vertical scratches run up and down the picture throughout, although they lessen by the end. Lots of nicks and scratches appear. Contrast is pretty poor, with the picture appearing dark and murky (as with so many low-budget movies from the 1970s). Compression appears fine, but this is the kind of image one expects to see on one of those 50-film public domain sets. Dolby Digital 2.0 is equally unremarkable, with muffled, fuzzy, scratchy audio that nonetheless conveys the dialogue (and moaning) without any issues. No subtitles or captions are provided.
Even at a fitting 69 minutes, Serena feels thin, failing to take advantage of its premise (well, other than the hat guy). Even the few memorably odd moments aren't enough justification for unearthing this lost X-rated spoof, especially if the same director made other, better adult fare. The movie fails to hold up as compelling porno, and it's even less engaging (if more funny) as a DVD reviewer. Skip it.
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