Monday, September 14, 2015
Gerard Damiano - Water Power aka The Enema Bandit (1976)
Three intervening decades have done nothing whatsoever to blunt the impact of this notorious roughie, ripped from then current headlines about one Michael Kenyon alias the Illinois Enema Bandit who raped and forcefully, er, cleansed at least two dozen women between 1965 and 1975. Charged with assault and battery, he served a mere six years behind bars, only to be paroled in 1981 after which he wisely faded into well-deserved obscurity. While a TV movie of the week (starring Cameron Mitchell perhaps, think TOOLBOX MURDERS) might've been a tantalizing proposition, the counterculture seemed a more likely candidate to process this peculiar court case. It served as inspiration for Frank Zappa's song "The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit" and, for better or worse, this interesting but still extremely hard to take adult film long attributed to Gerard Damiano of DEEP THROAT and DEVIL IN MISS JONES fame. Though his name has always been prominently displayed in both credits and all publicity material, Damiano has repeatedly gone on record claiming he was supposed to do it, but didn't. Most sources henceforth agree that it was our old friend Shaun Costello at the helm, a theory supported by the familiar soundtrack choices (Bernard Herrmann's VERTIGO soundtrack has once again been extensively plundered to set the mood) as well as the director's brief appearance as an extra in a police station sequence. If indeed so, this truly stands as his most disturbing effort since 1972's FORCED ENTRY and it's a far better produced work to boot.
Opening with an improvised New York street scene, stylistically likened to Martin Scorsese's MEAN STREETS by Jonathan Ross in his enjoyable if not always accurate INCREDIBLY STRANGE FILM BOOK (where he continually refers to the film as being titled THE ENEMA BANDIT and asserts that it sports no credits whatsoever while it actually has and fairly complete ones at that), the movie introduces its audience to an apparently average nameless guy played to absolute psychotic perfection by the inimitable Jamie Gillis. Surely, this part was instrumental in cementing the actor's longstanding reputation as porn's most fearsome nasty bastard and may even have hypothetically influenced the respectable likes of Harvey Keitel on Abel Ferrara's gut-wrenching BAD LIEUTENANT. A casual trip to a sleazy brothel named rather incongruously the Garden of Eden earns him a $ 10 blow job from friendly resident tart Sharon Mitchell and a lecture by madam Gloria Leonard (legendary former editor of skin magazine HIGH SOCIETY and one time chairwoman of the Adult Film Association of America) on the house specials. Her mention of high colonic captures his interest and, as luck would have it, one such session is just about to get underway with faux doctor Eric Edwards (yet again wiping the floor with his Mr. Sensitivity image) and ditto nurse Marlene Willoughby pumping a bagful of soapy water into the bowels of poor supine Pamela (Long Jean Silver from the jaw-dropping Alex deRenzy flick of the same name, though her claim to fame – one of her legs has been amputated following a car accident and she occasionally uses the stump for penetration of various partners of both sexes – is kept out of frame here). Having found his niche, Gillis sets about to ritualistically clean the "filthy whores" of Manhattan, his first victim being his across the street neighbor, a pretty stewardess he worshiped from afar until he realized she had a boyfriend (the ubiquitous chubby-cheeked David Joseph) whom she regularly performed sex acts with. The girl's eternal second stringer Clea Carson, billed as "Valerie Morgenstern", a pseudonym derived from mainstream actress Valerie Harper and her popular TV character Rhoda Morgenstern, more than a tad ironic considering this actress would go on to become a heavy hitter in the Women Against Pornography movement, sidling up to the likes of Linda Lovelace !
The nature of the crime alerts hard-bitten vice squad detective Irene Murray (an understated C.J. Laing who only seems to come to life when it's her turn to tussle with Gillis) who is forcibly teamed up with homicide cop Jack Gallagher (deftly sketched by the extremely hirsute John Buco) to crack the case. A pair of lesbian teenage sisters named Ginger and Candy (reliable supporting babe Susaye London and one shot wonder Barbara Belkin) find their fondling rudely interrupted by Gillis in the movie's most tasteless number, where it becomes painfully obvious that neither actress was given a chance to clean up before the forced irrigation action, a humiliating highlight clearly taken well beyond the ladies' comfort. Armed with the perpetrator's description and having narrowed down his territory, Irene agrees to act as decoy which very nearly leads to her being offed as the badge in her handbag inadvertently divulges her identity. The final frames show the maniac's face being lit up by the arriving cop car before he makes his way into the night.
It would be easy to ridicule WATERPOWER if it had been assembled with the slapdash, "make it up as you go along" attitude of Costello's customary "Russ Carlson" quickies of the same period. The immediately obvious fact that it doesn't pushes the film into a whole different territory however. Compellingly written and acted with utmost conviction for most part (making the rape scenes particularly queasy viewing), it has a power to disturb that very few other roughies can even begin to touch. Considerably more extreme than mainstream portraits of psychosis such as John McNaughton's admittedly excellent HENRY : PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, it once and for all dispels that old "less is more" adage by searing each grotesque violation into the mind's eye with unrelenting blowtorch intensity. Presumably impossible to love (unless maybe you're the lucky owner of a very sick mind), this is one film you will NEVER forget.
Language(s):Engliah and French