November 26, 2014

Movie Review: Carnal Haven (1976) and Her Last Fling (1977)

Directed by Carlos Tobalina (as Troy Benny and Bruce Van Buren, respectively)

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

It's the Seventies – in San Francisco – and porno workhorse Carlos Tobalina has gathered the usual gang of idiots in order to make skin flicks! Tobalina is so proud in his part of this sexual revolution for profit that he hid behind not one, but two pseudonyms to rush these features to the Adults Only movie houses. Suddenly, the prospect of an evening of washing dishes and dusting bookshelves seems more enticing …

Under his nom de porn Troy Benny, Tobalina gives us Carnal Haven. In a lengthy introduction told in title cards, Benny/Tobalina says his negligible flesh feature will change our lives for the better! How, we don't know. We are introduced to some married couples in the Baghdad by the Bay, doing what married couples do best, i.e. kvetching about money. “Blacks tend to have larger families. Does this mean they are happier?” asks the voice-over narration. We are then introduced to sex therapists who tend to the couples' mounting sexual frustration with group orgies. “Shell,” the actress playing the female therapist does a fairly good job laying down a good pseudo-scientific line of patter on sexual positions, in spite of her filthy, disheveled hair. Ken Scudder, who played the lovable doofus hitchhiker in Curt McDowell's Thundercrack! (1975) doesn't quite cut it as the male half of the therapeutic duo. The film's raison d'arte is indifferently filmed orgy scenes, which gobble up (pun intended) the majority of the film's running time.

In conclusion, the suave and debonair male half of the film's token black couple is revealed to be a greasy pimp, and porno veteran Joey Silvera (here under the name of Civera) – he of the bad perm and even worse attitude, forgoes a life of crime to his improved relations with his old lady. “Sex is great at home and rotten in prison,” he admits. THE END.

Cancer? Leukemia? Ebola? AIDS? These morbid options swim through the viewer's mind in Her Last Fling. A doctor, embodying the worst hair and beard styles that the Seventies has to offer tells our horse-faced heroine Sandy Feldman that she has a terminal illness and there is nothing he can do for her! Taking it all in stride, she breaks into her nest egg to go to Las Vegas to gamble and orgy, orgy, orgy. The most interesting part of Her Last Fling is seeing the Vegas strip at its most vulgar worst, a City Without Style in a Decade of Even Less Style. The architecture combines “Star Trek” futurism with Ancient Rome decadence, making for a wild visual ride. It's better than the sex scenes, which in Tobalina fashion is out-of-focus, indifferently framed, with actors who wish they were somewhere else.

Due to her wanton hedonism, Sandy's mysterious terminal illness disappears. The doctor wants to know her secret … wink, wink, nudge nudge. FUCKING MAKES LIFE declares an end title. And then it's all over.

Vinegar Syndrome's double bill includes reel changes in lieu of chapter stops and both films' theatrical trailers. In my misspent youth, I clearly remember the film's romantic one-sheets (reproduced here on the DVD sleeve) at the time of their release and figured they were covering up shabby wares. Years later, I found this to be the case … fucking makes life.   

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