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Cloak and Shag Her
To repeat the observations of a pair of previous reviews, the softcore sex film used to be a staple of late night cable TV, an easily obtainable alternative to a still very taboo XXX entertainment ideal. Back before adult material went meta, then mainstream, the only way to experience some hot horizontal hopscotch was to crank up Showtime or tune to Cinemax and wallow in a heaping helping of old school suggested sizzle. Sure, the actresses seemed a simple step away from a lifetime in the food service industry, and their partners were either portly or merely playacting, but they frequently delivered some basic bang for your pay television buck. For better or worse, the easy availability of porn (along with the social acceptability of rampant plastic surgery) changed everything, so much so that no one even bothers with the non-penetration brand of balling today. Seduction Cinema has been doing its best to change all that. Hoping there is still an audience for I Like the Girls Who Do style skin flicking, this DVD distributor has been putting out a long line of lewd-lite offerings. Their most recent is this goofy Austin Powers parody Cloak and Shag Her. Sadly, it's the weakest offering of the recently reviewed bunch.
When she learns that Dr. Mean has traveled to the future in an attempt to destroy the hippie movement, International Gal of Gratuity, April Flowers, decides to tag along. With the always horny Basil Shagalittle by her side, the spy violates the space time continuum and discovers the doc's evil plot. Using a scintillating stripper named Bitters, the mad scientist hopes to use a pro-poontang formula to turn all free lovers into emotionless yuppies. Thanks to her way with a gun and her prowess in the sack, Ms. Flowers hopes to stop the scheme, undermine Mean, and save the past from the future. Of course, the vile villainess has a few tricks up her lab coat sleeve, including a deadly "fingering" method. With it, she can destroy her bisexual nemesis once and for all. Afterward, there'll be nothing stopping her. The Peace Decade will be the Greed Decade 20 years sooner.
Over the last few months this critic had the pleasure of diving into a couple saucy bit of ludicrous gratuity known as Sex Hex. Overloaded with lesbianism and supplemented by the silliest of scripts, its delirious debauchery was enough to revive your faith in the softcore porn pic. On the other hand, there was the lampoon with lewdness known as SSI: Sexy Squad Investigation. Whereas Hex made with the Sappho slap and tickle earnestly and erotically, SSI was very sparse in the sharking. Now comes Cloak and Shag Her. Desperate to be a raunch laced look at swinging '60s sexiness, what we wind up with is something rather disjointed and antithetical to arousal. Helmed by prolific b-movie maven William Hellfire (his IMDb resume would put Fred Olen Ray's to shame) and functioning as a sequel of sorts to his 2003 effort April Flowers: International Girl of Sexy, this wannabe spoof hopes to merge the titillating with the satiric to serve up a randy bit of ridiculousness. Unfortunately, for reasons both out of and completely within his control, the director ends up with one dull fish fry. His actresses are unattractive, his script is sloppy, and aside from a couple of clever moments, the overall effect is rushed and redundant.
Looks are a big part of the problem here. Aside from AJ Khan, whose exotic allure is a welcome relief, the rest of the talent will try your pulchritude proclivities. Most of these gals come from the lack of shampoo school of beauty. Along with their stringy locks, there are numerous body issues to be dealt with as well. Lead Julian Wells may well be the best actress (her faux British accent isn't half bad - which means its half crap as well), but she's clearly cocktail waitress fodder. She may lez it up like a fool, but her darting tongue tendencies can't make up for a general aura of 'ugh'. Similarly, Darian Caine is Goth gone ghoulish, her pasty white façade clearly masking a general lack of visual va-va-va-voom. Her deadpan line delivery is hilarious, but in a totally unintentional, slightly irritating way. And then there's CJ Marsico. Playing the seductive stripper Bitters, one would expect a good deal of sin skin sizzle. Instead, she's as provocative as a naked Longshoreman, and about a third as enticing. And since she's supposed to be the catalyst leading to all the carnal chaos, our suspension of disbelief gets a good going over. Frankly, no ones cinematic skepticism is that solid.
Hellfire tries, though. He tosses in little asides, jokes about the movie being made and the clichés being explored. He does his best to recreate the pop art aura of the psychedelic summer of love. He does a fabulous job of employing stock footage, and his camera never looses the sense of silliness inherent in the narrative. But for the most part, Cloak and Shag Her is not very enticing. It just sort of sits there, taking up space while promising promiscuity it can't possibly deliver. Of course, men who thrive on this kind of same sex fantasy fodder won't be inhibited by the dive bar dynamic at play. The minute these gals get to grinding, there won't be a lax loin in the house. But for the more discerning members of the male species, for guys who enjoy both the flesh and the more fanciful aspects of the act, the casting here will definitely cause concern. While it may seem unfair to judge a film solely on how good looking the cast may or may not be, the success of a softcore sex romp hinges on how fetching we find the females. In both the humor and hotness department, Cloak and Shag Her is a flap jacked bust - literally and figuratively.
One thing Seduction Cinema can be counted on for - they deliver decent DVD packages. The crystal clear and colorful 1.33:1 full screen image does a good job of capturing the carnality, no matter how limited it is. There is some minor flaring and softness, but overall, this is a damn fine looking film.
With an original soundtrack including groovy tunes by Trigger Finger (offered on a separate CD as part of the digital presentation), the Dolby Digital Stereo mix is marvelous. Dialogue is easily discernible and the aural aspects are polished and professional. From a technical standpoint, this is a solid production.
Along with the aforementioned disc of music, we are treated to a massive collection of Seduction Cinema trailers, an interesting (if slightly self-serving) Behind the Scenes featurette, and a full length audio commentary featuring Hellfire, producer Michael Raso and Director of Photography John Fedele. They are very serious about what they've created, and you can't quite tell if their ribbing us or really being genuine. We do learn a few interesting tidbits, but overall, it a rather underwhelming affair.
This is real Rent It material, the kind of 'might work for some' sensuality that demands a wait and see attitude before adding it to one's collection. If you are a fan of Sex Hex, SSI: Sexy Squad Investigations, or any of Seduction Cinema's Misty Mundae titles, you'll be significantly dissatisfied with Cloak and Shag Her. This is a clear case where both the humor and the humping let us down. Long ago, when any glimpse of gratuity was enough to satisfy the underserved male libido, girls this gangly and unkept would have been easily embraced. But in today's post-modern plastic fantastic post-op ideal, beauty is a bargaining chip. Sadly, Cloak and Shag Her doesn't have a loveliness leg to stand on.
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