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THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

One of the freakier seventies porno features, a particularly odd and striking piece of cinematic dementia packed with dreams, fantasies and one of the screen’s most memorable depictions of Hell.

The Package
     This bizarre movie apparently received a fair amount of attention during its initial 1976 run, and was even released, successfully, in an R-rated version. An ambitious labor of love by co-writer/producer/director Jonas Middleton, THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS is unquestionably one of the most noteworthy porno movies of the era, prefiguring the work of eighties-era adult movie auteurs like Roger Watkins and Stephen Sayadian.

The Story
     The wealthy blond Catherine undergoes an elaborate (and creepy) facial procedure at a Beverly Hills salon. She’s then chauffeured back to her home, a gaudy mansion where she’s lived most of her life. Over dinner Catherine’s husband accuses her of harboring a lover due to the fact that she spends lengthy periods alone.
     We discover the real reason Catherine spends so much time by herself later that night, when she enters her ornately decorated attic and enthusiastically masturbates in front of a mirror. But then a scary personage emerges from the mirror and finger bangs Catherine--who naturally doesn’t seem to mind much at all!
     Catherine returns to the attic the following night, and this time is literally yanked into the mirror. In this surreal environ she’s ravished by another woman who speaks with a man’s voice and then witnesses an outdoor picnic that degenerates into a mass orgy; eventually Catherine is pulled headfirst into a fountain, and comes to in the attic.
     Suspecting a genuine supernatural intrusion is afoot in the house, Catherine grows determined to leave. But then a further fantasy/hallucination reveals the source of all the madness: Catherine’s father, who is the demon in the mirror, having molested her when she was younger. He returns for a final appearance in the mirror, through which he literally pulls Catherine into Hell.

The Direction
     Some have dubbed this film a “porno masterpiece,” and it’s easy to be seduced by the semi-competent filmmaking, fully rounded narrative, jazzy score (by Alon Ober and future FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH scorer Harry Manfredini), and decent (if not entirely “good”) performances. It’s one of the very few porno movies of the seventies (or indeed any period) that could conceivably play fine without the sex scenes.
     The film does, however, contain many problems endemic to porno movies, including stilted dialogue, flat visual compositions and a few too many repetitive fuck scenes. Yet there are nonetheless many unique (for the genre) elements, including the fact that the first sex scene doesn’t occur until 18 minutes into the film. Further stand-outs include an anatomic POV shot of fingers working their way into the heroine’s vagina and a curiously arousing colostomy bag masturbation. Plus, in a welcome departure from most seventies porn, the heroine, played by Catharine Burgess, is actually quite attractive, and much of the erotic content is indeed genuinely erotic.
     Best of all, director Jonas Middleton creates a genuinely odd and transfixing hallucinatory ambiance that’s appropriate to the dream-haunted proceedings. Then there’s the mind-roasting climax, set in a genuinely vivid and unique depiction of Hell: a desolate red-tinged mountainside packed with sex-crazed demons!

 
Vital Statistics

THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
Mastermind

Director: Jonas Middleton
Producer: Jonas Middleton
Screenplay: Ronald Wertheim, Jonas Middleton, David Maryla
Cinematography: “Harry Flecks” (Joao Fernandes)
Editing: James Macreading, Maurizio Zaubmann
Cast: Catharine Burgess, Jamie Gillis, Laura Nicholson, Marie Taylor, Douglas Wood, Kim Pope, Eve Every, Ultramax, Michael Jefferson, Suzan Swanson, Terri Hall, Jeffrey Hurst
 

     

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