Honeypie (1975)

Taking a page out of Webster's Dictionary of Porno Parlance, a "loop" is a 10 to 20 minute reel of hardcore footage, spliced end to end and placed within a large circular contraption so it could be run indefinitely as well as automatically in peepshow booths without the need for time-robbing reel changes, rewinding or any disturbing human intervention at all while patrons were salivating over the flickering images projected onto the door of the cubicle. As for content, loops were basically identical to the "stag movies" or "smokers" shown in brothels and fraternity houses where the projector beam frequently had to cut through thick clouds of cigarette smoke, hence latter term.

Several theatrical adult films of the '70s and '80s qualify as so-called "loop-carriers", combining a series of self-contained sexy stories (sometimes initially shot for the 8mm market, prior to their assemblance as a feature, and presented with a music track instead of direct sound) with a minimal linking device like a narrator waxing lyrically over past sexual experiences. The late Chris Warfield a/k/a "Billy Thornberg" recycled many of his old loops for makeshift "features" such as Black Silk Stockings or Beyond Fulfilment. Grandmaster Alex De Renzy provided a more sophisticated version of the form with the likes of Wild Things 1 & 2 and Ballbusters. A "vignette" film on the other hand adds a bit more in the way of plot to the same basic concept by having the stories thematically linked. Certain characters will appear in more than one scene, giving the impression of narrative continuity.

Howard Ziehm, a stalwart director of photography who had collaborated with erstwhile Wunderkind Bill Osco on early groundbreaking work like Mona (The Virgin Nymph) and the troubled Flesh Gordon which brought about their irreparable professional as well as personal rift, turned filmmaker and soon became known throughout the adult industry as the uncrowned king of the loop-carrier, bringing heat, humor and solid production values to the table. Silly titles like Sexteen, Hot Cookies or Naughty Network barely conveyed the quality of these movies but fans in the know flocked to see them in droves anyway. Sweet Cakes proved perhaps the most lavish of the lot, but Honeypie remains the best.

Forgotten starlet Arlana Blue (who appeared in Beau Buchanan's Happy Days and Eduardo Cemano's The Healers) takes center stage in the framing footage as Lois, a hapless journalist at tabloid rag Metro, run by notorious Screw editor Al Goldstein, a man so shamelessly obnoxious he will offend whatever minority group at the slightest incitement. Though I'm referring to the character he's playing, this description fits the man playing him to a T, or at least his public persona. Faced with a deadline, Lois and her sidekick Nick (funnyman Bobby Astyr, frequently likened to Joe Pesci by latterday adult aficionados in spite of his obvious Borscht Belt background) try to come up with an idea for the latest issue, settling on sexy readers' letters that set up the four extremely effective episodes that make up the film.

Jennifer Welles made the leap from soft core simulation in Joe Sarno flicks like Confessions of a Young American Housewife and Abigail Lesley is Back in Town to hardcore stimulation with this movie, so you're watching history being made here. Ziehm added a stroke of genius by pairing this late newcomer to explicit erotica with a performer even less experienced than she was, the aptly named Sammy Teen (breathless narration would have him be "no older than 14" but he definitely looks of legal age), as the new kid in the building seduced with a master's hand by the mature minx in one of the finest older woman/younger man encounters ever. Another recent addition to the fuck film fold at the time was the soon to be sensational Serena ("presented" in the credits as a "Oui calendar girl" and it may for all intents and purposes indeed have been her maiden screen appearance) as a ballet student making beautiful music with teacher Sharon Thorpe (lonely Lisa from Sam Weston's stupendous Sex World and one of the industry's most talented if criminally underrated actresses) with the aid of a bottle of baby oil and a rather fearsome looking dildo. That's it for entrées !

The meat of the movie consists of the following two sequences that might provide even the most seasoned of dirty movie watchers a thing or two they haven't seen before. Terri Hall (Tanya the ballerina, a profession she had bid adieu to in real life as a former dancer for the Stuttgart Ballet, from Radley Metzger's The Opening of Misty Beethoven) does the lonely housewife routine by coming on to horny workmen Ashley Moore, a veteran stud who got the rare opportunity to strut his stuff as an actor of considerable range playing Veronica Hart's husband in Roberta Findlay's The Playgirl, and Rocky Millhouse (best remembered for taking the title role in Ron Wertheim's Little Orphan Sammy) in a very complete catalog of sexual variations - including the rarely attempted "double penetration" that finds two male members lodged within a single female orifice (as opposed to a "sandwich scene" which has one back and front, Webster time !) - that has been described by late genre critic and filmmaker Jim Holliday as almost a movie unto its own.

In my (not altogether) humble opinion, this is even topped by the next scene however, one of the few deadly serious S&M sessions in non-specialized adult fare with Mary Stuart, the unforgettable heroine from Shaun Costello's The Passions of Carol and yet another adult actress in dire need of rediscovery, put through her paces by Bree Anthony (quite a change from the forced submissive she played in Armand Weston's harrowing The Taking of Christina) and Mel White a/k/a "Mark Anthony" (his Costello alias on single day shoots Girl Scout Cookies and The Dark Side of Danielle as well as the much more lavish Midnight Desires), a professional "Master" in real life Ziehm wisely cast for the part. Mere words cannot convey the searing intensity of this incredible encounter (now sadly deleted from many prints, including VCA's otherwise fine DVD release) culminating with an extremely aroused Mary seemingly on the verge of passing out as she's being pummeled with whips, chains, nipple clamps and the like.

Ziehm almost ironically reserves the loop-style visual approach, brightly lit and studded with extreme close-ups, for the frantically farcical connecting footage, the actual loops having been shot in soft, hazy shades reminiscent of crossover "classy" skinflick Emmanuelle which was taking the world by storm at the time. An adult film that truly offers something for everyone, Honeypie continues to arouse and amaze in equal measures after more than three decades and deserves to be enshrined as the Magnum Opus of a too frequently casually dismissed filmmaker.

Directed, written, produced & photographed by Howard Ziehm. Starring Jennifer Welles (Cynthia Bolling), Terri Hall (as National Velvet) (Molly), Mary Stuart (Jessica), Serena (Dance Student), Sharon Thorpe (Dance Teacher), Bree Anthony (Lisa), Arlana Blue (as Victoria Pagan) (Lois), Bobby Astyr (Dick), Annie Sprinkle (Blow Job Annie), Ashley Moore (as Seymour Ashley) (Jeff), Rocky Millstone (as Erik von Strokhardt) (Clem), Sammy Teen (Kevin), Mel White (Master Mel), Jackie Saint James (Lloyd), Barry Christian (Phil), Al Goldstein (The Boss), Melba Bruce & Candida Royalle (Dance Students). Running time : 84 minutes. 

Paging carnal cult goddess Jennifer Welles...