Blonde in Black Silk (1979)

Easily the most conventionally constructed carnal caper from Bill Milling's artistically ambitious "Philip (T.) Drexler (Jr.)" period, Blonde in Black Silk still scores as a splendid showcase for the sexual and thespian talents of superstar Serena, not as common an occurence as one might be led to believe.  While well-documented personal predilections towards submission and humiliation assured her prominence on the specialized borderline freakshow circuit with roughies like Richard Rank's awesome Abduction of Lorelei and even Fred Lincoln's S&M Cinderella saga Serena an Adult Fairytale, the intimate industry's more mainstream contingent seemed hellbent on keeping her a B girl on their A list, constricting her to supporting more crossover-friendly starlets as the progressively less lewd decade drew to a close.  Ultimately, the joke was on those of little faith as Serena could make a little go a long way, stealing scenes with a mischievous glance for an electrifying entrée to the smorgasbord of sensuality fans quickly caught on she had in store. 

Bluenoses begrudgingly acknowledged her heat, for it was impossible to ignore, but belittled her dramatic prowess.  It was up to adult's genuine class acts (as opposed to the biggest names acting as such perhaps...) to give the girl a break and cast her in proper parts to silence the naysayers who figured she could handle a roll of meat but not a meaty role.  Forever toiling in the trenches, modest budget maestro Carter Stevens confided her with the pivotal girl Friday character completing the triumvirate with Eric Edwards and Bob Bolla in his all time sleeper Pleasure Palace, a gamble that paid off in spades.  At the spectrum's other end, mogul Ted Paramore a/k/a "Harold Lime" entrusted her to make good on the eternal good girl/bad girl dichotomy by casting her as contrasting twins in his and Gary Graver's The Ecstasy Girls, cementing Serena's pole position in hardcore history. 

Blonde in Black Silk's captivating Contessa provides the actress with the rare opportunity to have it both ways, bringing a larger than life character to life with knowing humour that shines through her ever so slightly suggestive line readings and still fuck her way through an all star cast in five separate sex scenes with all the fervor fans have come to expect.  As the vaguely aristocratic doyenne of a Paris fashion empire now seeking to enter the stateside market, she's subject to investigation by Metropolitan Magazine's roving reporter Heather Shane (Merle Michaels) as ordered by the publication's as of yet mysterious new owner.  No prizes for guessing this is a publicity ploy by the Contessa to gain foothold in another continent by exposing her supposedly scandalous past.  The office scenes possess a breezy humour familiar from Milling's happy go lucky "Dexter Eagle" endeavors, thanks to Samantha Fox's spirited performance as an airbrained temp constantly confusing befuddled editor David Pierce, marking a 180 degree turn from their sleazy master and servant relationship in Roger Watkins's harrowing Her Name Was Lisa.  Perhaps Fox and Michaels switched parts at the start of the shoot.  While both have played their share of scatterbrained bimbos, it was relatively rare to find the petite Merle cast as a savvy professional of any kind, cracking wise with the best of them, while Sam may have decided the role too similar to the backbiting Lauren Falconetti character she memorably essayed in Milling's magnificent Satin Suite.

As the Contessa basically spells out her plans before opening credits to an otherwise occupied Parisian paramour, played by hunky Jerome Deeds in his only additional appearance to the male lead in Bob Chinn's ambitious Sadie (adapting Somerset Maugham's Rain with an unsung career performance by Cris Cassidy), I haven't spoiled much of a secret just there.  Unaware that she's being manipulated, Heather soon learns that her subject has established her entire empire on sex.  Shock horror !  As a lowly American girl, penniless but pining for a new frock, she caught on to the currency of cunt when uptight boutique owner Herschel Savage (whose blue collar machismo makes for peculiar casting) suggests she pay in kind for the dress she has swiped.  Ascending rapidly through the echelons of personal favorites among previously overlooked starlets as I revisit these NY classics, Patty Boyd ("Susan Bell" for the occasion) makes a welcome appearance as a Salvation Army officer assembling funds but winding up in a torrid threesome with Hersch and Serena instead.  Inventing a phoney pedigree, the "Contessa" subsequently clawed her way to the top of the fashion industry by supplying sexual favors from her ever expanding stable of strumpets to those in power. 

Once again pressed into oddball duty, Jake Teague adds another caricature (this time, a bowlered British tycoon) to an already impressive roster, timing the oral administrations of ravishing Kasey Rodgers (the alluring vampire chick from Gerard Damiano's People) to correspond with the duration of their - actual, adding immensely to Bill's trademark production value - helicopter flight !  Seldom seen Erica Richardson (the Dutch farm girl from Chuck Vincent's That Lucky Stiff, also featured to advantage in Shaun Costello's elusive Sunny) pays a hefty garage bill the oldfashioned way by getting down and messy with mechanics Bobby Astyr and one shot Eddie Mitchel.  Arcadia Lake twirls a tentative baton prior to twisting her ankle, confining her to the school bus, leading to her recruitment by the Contessa with a sweltering Sapphic seduction spied upon by an increasingly aroused Eric Edwards as her teacher, cornholing his contemporary lady love (who sadly O.D.'d in the early '90s) for an enticing encore.  Tension release from keeping up faux appearances comes in the form of a biker trio (ubiquitous Ron Jeremy plus floppy-fringed Bob Presley from Jim Buckley's Good Girls of Godiva High and Bobbie Burton, latter in a non-sex capacity as in Milling's A Scent of Heather) gingerly violating the Contessa in an orchestrated rape scenario amid the rubble of big city ruins.  Merle gets her moment to shine with George Payne as Serena's Soviet assistant in a romantic encounter while the Contessa fills the clueless Pierce in as to what he has unwittingly allowed to transpire.

Although the film primarily functions as a framework for a slew of creatively concocted carnal situations, it should not go amiss that Serena's Contessa character remains represented throughout as a successful selfmade career woman.  Even though she's not above the employment of subterfuge and the exploitation of other members of her gender, both of which suggested as being enforced by predominantly patriarchal society, she's still riding the wave's crest by fade-out rather than having to pay the price for her lofty ambitions to assure an antiquated status quo.  Nary a year earlier, Satin Suite's tyrannical Falconetti was brought down in time-honored All About Eve fashion by eager young upstart Heather Young, erratically emphasizing that a woman's sole way to success lay in the betrayal of her sisters.  So there's something of an evolution already apparent in Milling's sensibilities, an albeit mildly feminist streak further explored in Heather's unexpectedly sarcastic conclusion and the wishfulfilment fantasy Delicious, the eloquent Veronica Hart serving as the writer/director's mouthpiece in both cases.  In light of her public persona, Serena's unlikely empowerment packs perhaps even more of a punch however, precisely because it's so unexpected, elevating a deceptively run of the mill seeming skinflick to a whole new level of perception and interpretation.    

Directed by Bill Milling (as Philip Drexler Jr.). Written by Milling (as Bill Eagle). Produced by Milling (as Eagle) for Praexis Productions. Photographed by Craig Marshall. Music by Henry Craig. Edited by Lou Kleinman (as Luigi DiGaspari). Starring Serena (The Contessa), Merle Michaels (Heather Shane), Samantha Fox (Vicki Saperstein), David Pierce (as David Bellows) (Rupert McHugh), Arcadia Lake (Bridget), Eric Edwards (Mr. Dinkfield), Kasey Rodgers (Carol), Erica Richardson (as Erica Mathews) (Jacqueline), Jake Teague (Freddy Baker), Patty Boyd (as Susan Bell) (Salvation Army Officer), Herschel Savage (as Joel Kane) (Boutique Proprietor), Bobby Astyr (Anthony), George Payne (Dimitri), Jerome Deeds (Jean), Eddie Mitchel (Grease Monkey), Ron Jeremy, Bob Presley & Bobbie Burton (Biker Rapists). Running time : 87 minutes.

Serena schemes while Merle Michaels does her best Nancy Drew to try and get to the bottom of things (pun totally intended)