Let's get one thing straight right up front: Fantasm is just not funny. No matter how hard it tries, no matter what it attempts, there is very little to laugh at in this film. Perhaps it thought its humor stemmed from the naughty naiveté that most people have toward nudity and sex. Indeed, it is easy to see ten year olds tittering like drunken dwarves at Fantasm in between visits to the bathroom for some "quiet" time. This movie is every adolescent male fantasy flustered by too much man ass and some very obvious full frontal self-esteem reducers. This is about as close to hardcore as one can get and still feel relatively shame and sin free. Within the 10 "fantasies" we witness, some very bold things occur for the mid-70s (or post-modern) mindset: men being raped by strap-on tools, inferences of incendiary incest and John Holmes' overly large log. Sure, Uschi Digart is here for the full-figured ride with Candy Samples, aka Mary Gavin traveling abreast of the Teutonic titan. Fan favorite Rene Bond gets ramrodded by a big black boxer, and Serena gives her "soul" – along with something else beginning with "s" – to the Devil. From a standard food-based free-for-all (Jeez, whip cream and cherries can be dull) to the most bizarre visit to the beauty parlor ever (where the old fashioned phrase "shave and a haircut" takes on a whole new connotation) Fantasm puts it all on the screen for us to drown and dwell in. And in between all the pork product, we get creepy, cold lectures on female sexuality from someone's idea of a continental quack.
Indeed, this Dr. Ruth before the sex change is one of the least interesting things about this movie. Actor John Bluthal, perhaps more famous as the blind beggar without a license for his "minkey" in the Return of the Pink Panther, tries his damnedest to enliven the far too subtle Jokes from the John diatribes he is given, looking all throughout the lines for any hint of wit. Though it may sound strange today, most of what his Dr. Jurgen Notafreud says sounds like advice given out nightly by Dr. Sue Johanson on Talk Sex. How something this dated can now become salient professional guidance seems so outright odd that as Bluthal makes his precognitive pontifications, a modern audience experiences some amazing moments of mental disconnect. Like looking through a crystal Ben Wa ball to see the future of friggin', and coming up with a few of the more outlandish ideas possible, Fantasm is like a repeat performance of The Second Sex for the raincoat crowd. So it is almost impossible to locate those ribald ribticklers that Playboy and Hustler made famous in the platitudes of this film. But Bluthal's acting is another issue altogether. There is a subtle slapstick approach to his performance, amazing little minor moments (a glass is dropped, he is caught playing the organ) that occasionally cause you to smile. And he has a daffy Professor Irwin Corey by way of the Berlin branch of Masters and Johnson persona which kind of works. But as our lame linking verb to all the arousing action here, Dr. Notafreud is notafun.
Frankly, no one will probably care that Bluthal is here at all, since there is a great deal of sizzle and sensuality in the actual 'scenes' featured in Fantasm. If you like your porno borderline audacious, with just a hint of hardcore and lots of loving camera angles, this is one flesh feast that will really gird your groin. Our first fantasy focuses on a trip to a hairdresser's salon, and is more cabaret than copulation. But our next insightful stopover is a swinging poker party where men bet their brides (and their accompanying wifely duties) on each hand. Before long, one poor sucker is seeing his spouse sharked by every dude dealt a card. We next witness a lonely housewife as she dreams of ass raping a cross-dressing weirdo. And if that wasn't bizarre enough, the sexual battery approach is broached again soon afterward. Those who enjoy Rene Bonds work will love her here. She is both aggressor and victim in this relatively sleazy scene. Our first half of humping ends on a decidedly "uplifting" experience as the Germanic glamour gal herself, the one and only (or should that be TWO and only) Uschi Digart gets down and Sappho in a sauna. Frankly, this is a VERY HOT scene, and not because of the steamy setting. Uschi is both forceful and frail here, allowing costar Maria Lutra to equally match and manipulate her. Though it is FAR too short (the scene cuts just as a certain numerical issue is being explored), it is sequences like these that make the affection for softcore so understandable.
The next pentalogy to perversion begins with another certified smoker, as Hispanic honey Maria Welton gets good and lubed up for an imaginary date with super-shaft John Holmes. Allowing us several full frontal glimpses of his famous member, Holmes and Welton work overtime with the grease and the groceries (various fruits are violated) to really ratchet up the raunch. And boy do they succeed. By the time they take to the pool, you'll need to cool off as well. Lovers of oversized hooters, who thought Ms. Digart was more than a mouthful, will take one look at Candy Samples, a.k.a. Mary Gavin, and scream "Yes please!" (or in the alternate, a Henry Graham like "Please don't let them out!"). Under the sort-of sick setup of a mother 'greeting' her returning war veteran son, there is some weird-ass dialogue here (Sonny boy gets a 'Nam flashback just as Mommy is rubbing her soapy skin bags all over his back?!?) and not enough intimate interaction to really sell the situation. The next sequence is equally underdeveloped. Supposedly the story of a hooker, but mostly playing like a bad striptease routine, there is nothing really to recommend this uncharacteristic detour in the debauchery. Thankfully, the next scene more than makes up for the dumb dancer dung. Someone called Roxanne Brewer, sporting chest-nuts the size of an underdeveloped nation (and carrying the unsane ability to "bounce" them without her hands) gets a chance to display her powers for a teetering old teacher in the typical "Don't Stand So Close to Me" come-on. Roxanne's rack is very fetching. The rest of the scene is rote.
Our final installment of Fantasm fun is a Serena helmed hump-a-thon about Devil worship and sins of the flesh. The natural red head (one of the few performers here with matching cuffs and collar) is loud, brash and over the top as she takes a sticking and keeps on ticking. One of the reasons why this movie works so well is the fact that it utilizes professional porn stars, actors and actresses able to successfully sell onscreen sex with flair and gusto. Had producer Anthony Ginnane picked up some horny hillbillies off the street, or given some unknown upstarts their chance at corporeal immortality, Fantasm would be a flaccid failure. Thanks to the skill of such erotic experts, almost all the installments here are hardening. But bed basics alone do not make for powerful pandering. There needs to be someone at the helm who understands how to translate the passion and the proclivity over to the audience. Luckily, director Richard Franklin (better known for Patrick, Road Games and Psycho II) using the nom de plume of "Richard Bruce" had more than enough mainstream chops to keep this movie from looking like a low budget lark. There is big production value here, carefully crafted mood and atmosphere that really heightens the sensuality and realism of the randiness. All implied embarrassment aside (Franklin still pseudo-"disowns" this film and is never featured face-on discussing it. In the extras, he is in silhouette) the director has made one of the more fascinating and frisky R-rated softcore sensations of all time. While not all of it works, and there are times when the movie pushes the boundaries of acceptability (there is some incredibly minor fellatio shown) Fantasm is still a great bit of risqué business.
And perhaps, that's what's best about this time capsule throwback. It is unbelievably interesting to wallow in the standards of skin and sex appeal from almost thirty years ago and see how well it matches up to today's demented ideas. While Fantasm explores fetish, and envisions a few "unusual" elements, it is all done under the idea of safety and fantasy, not the camcorder clarity of the new millennial gonzo grotesque. From the horrible fashion statements made by the cast (someone should really sue the permanent industry for the toll it took on hairstyles during the Me Decade) to the then-new notions of what's naughty and what's nice, Fantasm will floor you with its perversion and its peculiarity. Certainly there are better examples of this type of movie in the exploitation genre (Something Weird Video puts out frolicsome flesh feasts like these in their sleep) and people who prefer the supermodel motifs of modern pornography (read: breast implants and lots of plastic surgery shape shifting) will view the warts and all individuals getting their groove on with a very jaundiced eye. Still, the attention to detail and the authenticity in the aardvarking is what makes this movie a must-see. The stupid sauerbraten crap comedy really never succeeds, and there is nothing really novel or new about the clip compilation approach taken. But Fantasm does deliver on the level of delightful diddling. And that's all anyone coming to a softcore sex film wants, anyway.
Equally charming is the "Fantasm Penetrated" featurette, a 20 minute look at the making of both films (sadly, the DVD of Fantasm Comes Again has no such 'Making-Of'). Franklin does make an appearance here - kind of - as he is featured in "witness protection program" shadows to discuss his participation. It is odd that he goes for the darkened profile approach, since he seems very happy and proud of the movie he made. Both men cover areas Ginnane discussed in his commentary, but it's nice to hear the anecdotes and reminiscences again. Along with a tantalizing trailer from the time, and a wonderfully energetic insert essay by Chris Poggiali, this is a nice little DVD presentation that fans of the film will really appreciate.