Anything That Moves (1992)

The second and most overlooked of only three 35mm films made by late legendary adult actor turned director John Leslie before he turned his back on plot-based porn altogether in favor of seemingly neverending but highly profitable "gonzo" series like Fresh Meat, Voyeur and Crack Her Jack. Nowhere near as lavish as the other two (Chameleons : Not the Sequel and Dog Walker), Anything That Moves does however boast the strongest narrative, again "borrowed" from the mainstream, in this case Alan Rudolph's underrated noir morality tale Mortal Thoughts which offered a surprisingly strong naturalistic performance from Demi Moore, effectively eschewing Hollywood glamour for the occasion. Arguably one of the most accomplished thespians the industry has ever known, Leslie elicits career turns from a pair of porn princesses not generally known for their acting prowess, sultry sex siren Selena Steele - goofy "Sister Song Title" from Jim Holliday and Michael Craig's original Sorority Sex Kittens - and leggy amazon Tracy Wynn, frequently forgettable as just one of the girls in babe-infested fluff feasts like Fred Lincoln's Lingerie Busters.

Both ladies shine as hard luck strippers yearning to become beauticians Lucky and Ronnie respectively, fast friends following an incident at a downmarket dive (involving legit stunt woman and body double to the stars Denise Lynne Roberts as a tough house dancer) that lands them on the bachelor night circuit. While Lucky takes care of the groom to be (Joel Lawrence, future award winner for his mesmerizing work in Antonio Passolini's excellent Raw, billed under his - presumably real ? - name "Joel Clupper" !), naive Ronnie's conned by best men Randy Spears and Nick Santiago (a fly by night stud who did a couple of Seymore Butts videos) into throwing them a freebie. This is par for the course for the luckless Ronnie who always seems to get stuck on the wrong guys, none of them more so than bastard of a boyfriend Joey, played to the hissable hilt by "Tim Lake" a/k/a porn producer Farrell Timlake who ran a number of profitable companies under the umbrella of his Xplor Media Group over the years with brother Moffitt. Not above screwing a fellow stripper (cute as a button Cassidy, who delivered a fair performance as the put upon spouse of Scott Irish in Craig's intriguing Cat & Mouse) in front of his longsuffering girlfriend, Joey will take a stab at any shady scheme likely to make a profit, including amateur porn with the aid of swinging couple Heidi Cat and Nick East, unforgettable as the son of Mike Horner sharing the charms of delectable Roxanne Blaze with dear old dad in Paul Thomas' superlative Justine : Nothing to Hide 2. A reliable second string strumpet in undemanding fornication fare like Paul Norman's Mating Game or Herschel Savage's Cape Lere, Cat was frequently and unfairly attacked in print by pseudonymous porno scribes (hey, I could rest my case right here !) for being unattractive and out of shape. Instead, she was a distinctive Latina type with sexual energy to spare. Leslie sets up a uniquely erotic encounter that has her provocatively doing East while Ronnie, who has fled the scene in horror, is trapped inside her car without the key, her initial shock gradually turning to liquid lust.

All of this high drama culminates in Ronnie's alleged killing of Joey, but are matters really as cut 'n' dried as they seem ? A pair of homicide detectives (Lee Chandler and Melody – not Melanie – Moore) try to put the pieces together, quizzing Lucky as to what really went down that fateful night. If you have seen the Rudolph flick, you already know the outcome, but neither film appears to have been intended as a murder mystery first and foremost. The real focus is genuine female friendship, a theme rare enough in mainstream but practically unheard of in adult, and I'm not talking about the bitchy sexual rivalry that has frequently passed for the screen's simulation thereof, everything from George Cukor's The Women up until Sex & the City. The final sex scene, which chronologically comes first, has Ronnie and Lucky celebrating their acquaintance by sharing the latter's toy boy for the evening (an extremely fortunate Steve Drake during his hairiest period, yum !) in the back of her car. Easily the most joyous sexual scenario here, it contrasts effectively with the intentional sleaziness that precedes it while eloquently underlining the unforced camaraderie that has helped them overcome whatever life throws at them. It's this surprise dimension that lifts Anything well above its clean yet humble production, with Leslie once again pulling rank as a jazz musician of considerable note – begging the question whether there was anything this guy couldn't do – to obtain the services of then budding renaissance blues band The Howling Diablos, supplementing another solid score from his friend and regular composer Bill Heid. 

Directed, written and edited by John Leslie. Produced by Ron Sullivan (as Henri Pachard) for VCA Pictures. Photographed by Arden Smith. Music by Bill Heid and The Howling Diablos. Starring Selena Steele (Lucky), Tracy Winn (Ronnie), Tim Lake (Joey Belgium), Joel Lawrence (as Joel Clupper) (Buddy), Heidi Cat (Amateur Porn Performer), Nick East (Amateur Porn Performer), Cassidy (Jessica), Lee Chandler (Lt. Silver), Melody Moore (Det. Kennedy), Denise Lynn Roberts (House Stripper), Steve Drake (Harold), Flame (Hooker), Tianna Taylor (Stripper), Teri Diver (Stripper), Tony Tedeschi, Randy Spears, Steve Hatcher (as Jake Williams) & Nick Santiago (Bachelor Party Buddies). Running time : 76 minutes.

The late (man, I'm tired of writing that...) John Leslie, pictured with Seka at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo 2007