Call me a bit of a romantic if you like, but I can't help feeling productions like "Mandingo Ass Blasters #17" didn’t quite deliver on the promise of porn's golden age. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, they put some time, money and effort into adult flicks like "The Opening Of Misty Beethoven", "Babylon Pink" and "The Devil In Miss Jones". And then there was (cheesy jazzfunk soundtrack screeches to a stop)… "Café Flesh" (1982).
(At this point I'd normally provide production credits, but in this case they're not helpful in sourcing the flick or would be spoilers for the rest of this GrogFlog. So read on gentle reader.)
To be fair, you couldn't really call Café Flesh a porn movie. Yes, there is some penetration and ejaculation but sexually arousing you is not the aim of the folks behind this bizarre V-movie. You'd spend more time pinching yourself than touching yourself inappropriately while watching this crazed little number.
Written pre-AIDS but set in a post atomic war future, Café Flesh sets the scene with title cards and a VO about how after the Nuclear Kiss, 99% of the survivors are sex negatives who can't do it anymore without getting really sick – while the 1% who are sex positives and can get off with nothing worse than le petit morte, have to perform for the sterile majority’s pleasure at Café Flesh. It’s a real eros/thantos dichotomy thang, complete with a coherent plot, symbolic caged songbird shit…and lashings of hair gel.
Café Flesh the venue is a strange, neon-splattered bunker of a nightclub, run by "Mum" with Mr Joy as a proto-Buscemi doorman sardonically tending a bank vault-like entrance - and presided over on stage by Max Melodramatic (Andrew Nichols), a mutant cross between Cabaret's Joel Grey and Lenny Bruce at his foulest.
In fact the whole flick is like Cabaret meets Liquid Sky with a soundtrack by Devo gone sleazo. Or this case, a soundtrack by Mitchell Froom, who went onto produce acts ranging from Los Lobos to Cibo Matto, become a de facto member of REM and marry Suzanne Vega. And the scriptwriter, "Herbert W. Day" is actually Jerry Stahl who also moved on write episodes of "Twin Peaks", "Northern Exposure", "ALF" and several other TV series before penning "Permanent Midnight" about how his smack habit fucked up his writing career (until he wrote a book about it though).
To cum to the point, Café Flesh is a seriously strange movie – partly because it's trying to be seriously strange on a small budget and big coke-addled hopes, and partly because the hardcore sequences are staged as seriously strange and very unerotic and twisted performance art numbers. Rat-nosed milkmen, back projected oil pumps, bone-wielding babies, nude babes with monocles and Hitler mustaches and finger clicking tuxedo arms sticking out of the floor take what prosaic porn plumbing there is in the flick well into some XXX Twilight Zone freakiness.
And throughout it all Max Melodramatic is taunting both the nightclub audience and you the viewer about why you like to watch. He's rubbing your nose in the fact he's getting off on the fact you need to watch the show to get off. But I defy anyone to get off, or even wood, while watching this very very very peculiar piece of Nu Wave polyester art anti-porn.
GrogFlog verdict: "Welcome to the carnal charnel house." 1 out of 10 if you're there for the sex. 7 out of 10 for the high weirdness.
Coming next: Oliver Reed gets irradiated, Don Johnson gets hoisted with his own petard, Lon Chaney Jr gets blown up and Jason Robards eats a sandwich.