GODDESS OF LOVE. (2015) A SEXY-AS-HELL HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

goddess of love venus

GODDESS OF LOVE. (2015) WRITTEN AND PRODUCED BY ALEXIS KENDRA AND JON KNAUTZ. DIRECTED BY JON KNAUTZ. STARRING ALEXIS KENDRA, WOODY NAISMITH AND ELIZABETH SANDY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I absolutely loved, loved, loved this one, a kind of FATAL ATTRACTION or PLAY MISTY FOR ME for the modern era, with its themes of love, obsession and bloody revenge and the intriguing tagline of: Her Love Will Never Die. I only bought it by accident, too, which is what makes it all the more amazing.

A sweet old dear in a charity shop pointed out to me, when I was buying a DVD from their Halloween movie section, that for one extra euro I could get another DVD. So back I dutifully trot to the DVDs and I pick out GODDESS OF LOVE, only half expecting it to be any good. When it turned out to be one of my films of the year, I was thrilled with myself.

It was written and produced by the lead actress, and the reason it’s so good is that She. Knows. Women. She has clearly been through bad break-ups in her time (haven’t we all, lol) and known other women who have too, and she’s drawn on her knowledge and life experiences to make a devastatingly true-to-life film that most women will identify with.

Venus (hence the title) is an American stripper. That’s her real name in the film, by the way, even though her clients might doubt it. She’s a beautiful young woman who can make a fair few bob a night with her pole-dancing, her stripping and her lap-dancing, and she has a gorgeous flat with a balcony view but, as is probably the case with a lot of women who work in the sex industry, she isn’t a happy camper underneath the sexy exterior.

She drinks too much, she takes drugs and she also sees things. She has full-on visions, hallucinations of things that aren’t happening or aren’t there. Whether this is as a result of the drugs or a full-blown mental illness, we don’t know.

And there could be other underlying reasons why this happens. Sexual or other kinds of abuse in childhood, maybe. There could be many reasons why poor Venus is as messed-up as she is.

A lot of women who are abused in childhood end up working in the sex industry. To them, sex maybe equals love, and if they can get love this way, well, then, they will. And who could blame them, or judge them? Very few of us are morally fit to throw that first stone.

Anyway, one night at work Venus meets a punter called Brian, the guy whom all of us women are secretly dying to nab for ourselves. He’s tall, dark, bearded, handsome, rich, he drives a huge glossy SUV, he’s a successful photographer and… get this… he’s a widow to boot! His wife committed suicide and he’s very messed-up because of it. He’s hurt, grieving, wounded, sad… and gagging for sex. The perfect man, lol.

Venus, who can’t believe her luck, takes him home and makes love to him. They start a relationship, in which Venus immediately pulls out all the stops in order to make Brian’s life sweet, easy, loving and meaningful again. She completely forgets about her own life, needs and personality in order to make Brian’s life better and whole again.

I’ve done this many times myself in the past so I know how she feels and why she’s doing it. I got exhausted watching her do all the things I used to do with certain guys. Concentrating on her appearance to the point where she’s worn out, never able to just relax in her pyjamas in case he calls over for sex.

Cooking for him, keeping her flat exhaustively clean and tidy for him, dressing up in her hooker clothes to have sex with him, working hard to keep him amused, satisfied and interested in the bedroom and forgetting her own needs entirely.

There’s one really uncomfortable scene in which she’s all strippered up, doing a lap-dance for a bored and snoozy Brian, who says all he wants to do is sleep. How is it nice and relaxing for her to have sex with him, when she feels obliged to treat him like a punter who must always get his money’s worth? She feels like she has to put on a performance, a great big spectacular show, for him every time. It’s awful to watch, but it’s her own fault.

Clearly, like many of us, she feels like her own looks and personality aren’t enough to keep him. She has to become a complete and utter doormat for him as well. It’s so sad to watch, and yet we women do this for men all the time.

The only reason I’m not doing it myself for some guy right this very minute is because I took my frozen heart out of circulation for a bit so that I’d have time to write my romantic fiction novel, which I did. At least I did that. Maybe it was something of a self-protection thing too.

I pride myself on having learned from my previous mistakes, but probably all it’d take for me to be back living for some bloke twenty-four-seven would be for ‘some bloke’ to crawl out of the woodwork claiming he loved me too. That’s how easy it is to steal away a woman’s heart.

Anyway, even more embarrassing to watch is when Venus presents Brian with a beautifully wrapped package containing a statuette of the famous Venus De Milo after which Venus was named, the Goddess of Love with the arms lopped off at the elbows.

Not only does Brian, supposedly a photographer and connoisseur of beauty, not know who this iconic creature is, but he hasn’t a clue why Venus is giving him such a thoughtfully chosen gift. The cretinous philistine. Who doesn’t know who the Venus De Milo is, and what kind of photographer worth his salt hasn’t heard of it?

The work in the relationship is all being done by Venus. She sends the little loving ‘miss you’ texts, she arranges all the dates and the nights out, she puts her own life completely and utterly on hold while she waits for Brian to phone.

She even spies on him, sitting on the cold damp ground by the trees across from his fabulous gaff, for hours on end in the dark, to see if he’s doing what he said he’d be doing on nights when he can’t see her, ie, working away quietly at home by himself.

She has good reason to believe that he might be seeing another woman, a stunning-looking antiques shop owner called Christine LeGrande. Christine was his deceased wife’s best friend, she’s posed nude for his photography sessions and they had a ‘brief fling’ when Brian’s wife killed herself, because they each knew the kind of pain the other was going through.

I’d be 99.99% certain that Christine’s ‘pain’ on losing her friend was 100% assuaged by gaining the friend’s husband, whom I’ve already stated is the kind of man most women would kill for. And what an irony that is, given what happens in the second half of the film when poor, poor Venus goes round to Brian’s house one night and discovers the real truth about her snivelling, gutless and faithless so-called boyfriend…

I won’t tell you how the film ends because it’s just too good to spoil, but Venus’s descent into what the DVD box calls ‘the dark side of psycho-sexual insanity’ is fantastic to watch but we feel awful for Venus at the same time.

And the sad thing about it is that guys watching this film will just dismiss Venus as another mental-as-f*ck bunny-boiler, because doing that means that they won’t ever have to look at their own possibly faulty, irresponsible behaviour towards women. Guys never learn, and women continue to suffer.

That’s not to say that Venus is entirely blameless and put-upon in this whole mess. She doesn’t derive her self-esteem from herself (the clue’s in the name, apparently!), but has grown used to deriving it from the men in her life. As someone who’s done this their whole life, I can’t help but relate to this. At least I have the awareness about this now, but having the awareness is only half the battle, sadly. Lol…! Why can’t it ever be the whole battle?

Venus only feels good about herself when her relationships are going well; when they begin to unravel, so do her good feelings about herself. And then the downward spiral into drink, drugs and feeling shit about herself will begin to bubble over, and it’s never that far from the surface at any time anyway. Alexis Kendra is a film-maker whose work I’d love to see more of. I’ve said it earlier and I’ll finish on it. She knows women, and she knows the struggle too.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

 

SCARFACE, CARLITO’S WAY and SERPICO: A TRIPLE BILL OF AL PACINO GANGSTER-AND-COP MOVIE REVIEWS FROM SANDRA HARRIS. ©

scarface wedding

SCARFACE (1983); CARLITO’S WAY (1993); and SERPICO (1973); A TRIPLE REVIEW OF AL PACINO GANGSTER-AND-COP MOVIES BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Al Pacino was such a handsome guy in the ’70s, ’80s and even ’90s. In SCARFACE, he plays Tony Montana, one of the ‘Cuban boat people’ whom Fidel Castro let go from Cuba in the early ’80s. They went straight to America and made themselves comfortable there, or at least Tony Montana did, by selling drugs and being a part of what Michelle Pfeiffer as Elvira later on in the film refers to as ‘the Cuban crime wave.’

Tony Montana goes from being a humble dishwasher in Miami, Florida to being a guy who works for a druglord to being the druglord himself, living in a fabulous mansion with a real tiger prowling by the lake in his garden and a beautiful woman- Elvira, poached from Tony’s former boss Frank Lopez- by his side.

Of course, the bigger he becomes in the drug world himself, the bigger his enemies become (Alejandro Sosa and his silent assassin, The Skull, to name but two) and the bigger the downfall waiting for him at the end, by which time he’s ‘so high on his own supply’ that he hardly knows which way is up. Scarface’s downfall is surely one of the most magnificent in the history of cinema, and with the best music also, supplied by the King of Electronics, Giorgio Moroder.

Robert Loggia plays Tony’s first drugs boss, Frank Lopez, and F. Murray Abraham is Frank’s sleazy sidekick Omar Suarez, who enjoys a pleasant helicopter ride courtesy of Bolivian cocaine kingpin Alejandro Sosa halfway through the film. Frank is only small-time compared to what Tony eventually becomes. Frank’s humiliation is completed when Tony steals his glamorous mistress Elvira away from him.

(Here’s a wee snippet you might not know about Paul Shenar, who plays Alejandro Sosa, Tony’s main antagonist in the film. Apparently, he was in a relationship with British actor Jeremy Brett in the ’70s for several years. You’ll know Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes to Edward Hardwicke’s Dr. Watson in the Granada TV series. He made a fantastic Holmes and was second only to Basil Rathbone, in my humble opinion.)

Anyway, it might be some consolation to Frank Lopez to know that Tony’s relationship with Elvira becomes a toxic, poisoned thing almost immediately. Elvira is a desperately unhappy woman. She smokes, drinks and takes drugs, all to excess, she never eats and ‘her womb is so polluted from all the drugs she takes’ that she can’t give Tony a child. Oh dear. No amount of marriage counselling can save this marriage.

Tony has some kind of a sexual longing for his sister Gina (played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) too, a beautiful young struggling beautician whom, when he first sees her again near the start of the film, he hasn’t seen for several years and he’s deeply struck by the vibrant and vivacious beauty she’s become.

He’s pathologically jealous of the men she associates with and he becomes murderous when he suspects there might be something between Gina and Tony’s oldest friend and right-hand man, the good-looking Manny (Steven Bauer). Manny has an easy charm that Gina obviously finds attractive. Poor Scarface. He wanted to have it all, he thought he had it all coming to him, ‘the world and everything in it,’ but he winds up with surprisingly little in the end…

The chainsaw scene is fantastically nerve-wracking. Even Scarface is getting a little hot and sweaty under the collar. I love the way also that Tony’s Momma sticks to her guns- not a bad metaphor, that!- and won’t take a penny of her son’s drugs-and-blood money.

I also love the way though, quite conversely, that the young and impressionable Gina is more than happy to live the good life courtesy of her big brother. She’s from a different generation to her mother, a generation that wants money and a good time, dancing and drinking and romance and excitement, all under the disco glitterball.

Al Pacino might be ten years older and wiser in CARLITO’S WAY, but Carlito Brigante needs his head testing. Fresh out of prison after a five year stretch (drugs, of course), he should be planning a new crime-free life. And in fact he is.

He wants to go straight, he wants to earn enough money to retire to a sunshine island in the Bahamas and live out the rest of his days in peace. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? But of course there’s a fly in his ointment. It’s a film, after all. Gotta have flies, lol.

That fly takes the shape of Carlito’s coked-up lawyer, Sean Penn in brilliant form as David Kleinfeld. Carlito feels beholden to Kleinfeld because Kleinfeld gets him out of prison on a technicality after he’s done only five years out of a thirty year sentence.

Now that Carlito’s out of the nick, Kleinfeld gets him a job as the manager of his friend’s nightclub. Carlito’s all set up with a good job and plenty of money. No wonder Carlito feels like he’s under a compliment to Kleinfeld (that’s just an Irish way of saying ‘beholden’).

So, when Kleinfeld asks Carlito to do him one little teensy-weensy ‘favour’ that involves breaking a mob boss out of a prison barge stationed at Riker’s island, Carlito reluctantly agrees.

‘I’ll just do this one last job and then I’ll be outta the life for good,’ he assures his whingy dancer/stripper girlfriend Gail, played by Penelope Ann Miller. Well, we all know what happens to people who say they’re just doing this one last job and that’s it…

There’s a fantastic chase scene at the end where Carlito is being pursued through the train station by the mob, who are trying to prevent him from boarding a train with Gail and choo-choo-ing off into the horizon to realize his dreams of a happy retirement. The bit on the public escalator is the best bit, it’s just brilliant.

You might recognise one of the pursuers (Vincent Taglialucci) as Joseph Siravo who goes on to star as Tony Soprano’s alpha-male father, Johnny Boy Soprano, in HBO hit mob drama THE SOPRANOS. 

Viggo Mortensen (THE LORD OF THE RINGS) has a small part as a wheelchair-bound ex-con and John Leguizamo is ‘Benny Blanco from the Bronx.’ ‘Remember me…?’ Remember him? If Carlito didn’t before, he certainly will now…

There’s a funny bit at David Kleinfeld’s garden party when a coked-up Kleinfeld has a go at a party guest for getting a ‘hand-job’ in full view of the guests. Who would have thought that the host of a hookers-and-cocaine party should have turned out to be so all-fired moralistic and judgemental?

I love both SCARFACE and CARLITO’S WAY, each of which was directed by Brian De Palma. I’m not a big fan of Sidney Lumet’s based-on-a-true-story SERPICO, however. It’s still a good film, but I just hate the way that Al Pacino’s stunning good looks are all but obscured by the scruffy beard and awful hats and dreadful baggy clothes he wears as undercover cop Frank Serpico.

Frank Serpico was a real-life cop who all his life coveted the police officer’s gold shield and wanted nothing so much as to be a part of the thin blue line that protects the law-abiding citizen from the criminal fraternity.

As a plainclothes policeman who did undercover work, and quite successfully too, I believe, the thing he mostly seemed to uncover was a staggering amount of corruption in the police force. As an honest cop, he refused to take bribes, kick-backs, blood-money, protection-money, racket-money or any other kind of money that wasn’t his by rights.

The cops who did take unlawful monies were unbelievably pissed off by the big stink that Serpico made about it, to the point where some of his work colleagues hated his guts and his life was threatened. But he persevered with his attempts to take his story of rank corruption within the police force to the highest authorities and he didn’t stop till he got somewhere.

It’s hard to like Al Pacino’s portrayal of Serpico in the film because Serpico is a scruffy, shambling, mumbly-voiced single-minded bore who pisses off everyone he talks to with his abrasive hostility. I get it that he’s doing the right thing, but does he have to be such a total pill about it? Nobody likes a snitch, but a whingy, self-righteous snitch is even harder to stomach.

He adores animals and keeps several pets, which is good, but he treats them better than he treats his girlfriends, which is not so good. The girl from next door who moves in with him is shouted at constantly by Serpico because his mind is always on his work problems, and he only promises a commitment to her when she’s on the verge of leaving him.

Even then, as she quite rightly points out, once he gets her back he’ll never mention kids and marriage again. He’s a commitment-phobe and a big beardy loser. She can do better. And I think Al Pacino makes a nicer gangster than he does a cop…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor