Filmmaker Bob Chinn is a true porn pioneer, but this latter-day effort seems to have been lost in the vast quantity of videos issued since his '70s salad days. It is worth seeking out as a noble, if ineffectual, attempt at making a "real" feature (rather than the usual string of endless sex scenes).
With Deborah Chinn as collaborator, video seems to copy the Kurosawa classic RASHOMON (or more accurately its unsuccessful Hollywood remake THE OUTRAGE) though its dramatic structure is more straightforward.
Opening scene has newlyweds Nina Hartley and James Bonn stopping off in a ghost town (looks like a standing set for shooting cheap Westerns), where suddenly a vagrant well-played by Tony Tedeschi gives them a hard time (without saying a word) and suddenly knocks Bonn unconscious.
At this point writer Deborah's story seemingly comes unglued as Nina without hardly any transition suddenly & unbelievably runs off in their sports car with Tony, leaving her new husband to lie (perhaps dying) in an alley. I couldn't buy this nonsense at all, but kept watching, since the sex scenes that are of course such a video's raison d'etre had not commenced yet.
Next scene has young couple Billy Glide and Shaena Steele arriving in time to see the runaway couple's car speeding off, and they help Bonn to safety after finding him in the alley. They also have time to hump in a nearby hay loft, in which Glide's big dick gets serviced in the video's best sex scene, recalling director Chinn's formative history making similarly-sized John Holmes' dick a star.
After a Tony/Nina sex scene at a motel in which she dons an unattractive black wig, scene shifts to the video's more interesting locale, Sheriff Mike Horner's office. Horner is much admired in the adult biz as an actor's actor, but I was taken aback by the superb performance he gives here. The crafty Southern sheriff is an utter cliché on screen, especially since the likes of Bo Hopkins and Michael Parks have run it into the ground in dozens of appearances. But Horner, in a non-sex role for a change, is utterly convincing and brings the video to life as he bonds with the viewer and makes solving the mystery of this assault/missing wife case Job One.
His deputy, Tina Tyler with exaggerated make-up that makes her role laughable, has considerable sex time with the suspects in the case. As former real-life wife to Tedeschi, she oddly enough does not share a single scene with him.
Despite the unconvincing set-up scenes, the mystery of Bad Penny Nina's decision to run off with a creep shortly after her marriage (sounds like a bad Julia Roberts movie) becomes interesting as Horner bears down on each witness in his monomaniacal quest to make sense of it all. I wish he had been cast in a real (mainstream) movie back in the day, because based on this performance he could carry an audience with him like nobody's business.
Another rather glaring drawback to this "coulda been a contender" video is the miscasting of Hartley, who despite her endearing Big Eyes plays way too old opposite Tedeschi, and is no Vivien Leigh in the acting department. The duo execute one great scene, right out of Golden Age TV's "Playhouse 90" of intense soul-searching, which is so dramatic and over-written that it seems vastly out of place in the middle of a hardcore porn exercise. One could make a case that like Horner's contribution, this scene is "too good" to be wasted on throwaway porn.
All told, one wishes that Chinn (and Deborah) would try harder and make a dramatic quality real movie, without the porn crutch. BAD PENNY just doesn't add up, its mix of sludge and quality proving too clashing to work.
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