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.
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 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.
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
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!
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
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