The Films (1.5/5)
I really don’t understand the appeal of John Holmes. There’s his enormous penis, of course, and I don’t mean to shortchange it – it’s very impressive. If it weren’t for his schlong, however, there’s nothing about the guy that screams “porn star.” He doesn’t have a tenth of the charisma or likability of his contemporaries like Jamie Gillis or John Leslie, and in the several movies I’ve seen him in, he doesn’t even seem to be trying to find any sort of onscreen chemistry with his female leads. He’s actually the one male porn star I’ve seen in golden era adult movies who looks like he’d rather be somewhere else. I assume his appeal was less with women than with men, but if it really just is as simple as a male fantasy of having a giant dick, than the guy is arguably more objectified than any of his female contemporaries. I’d feel bad for John Holmes if he didn’t make it so difficult to like him – he’s less like a “porn star” than a guy who lives above his parents’ garage and whose primary interests are cocaine and benching.
I don’t mean to overanalyze John Holmes’ appeal, but my mind wandered a lot during The New Erotic Adventures of Casanova. This Casanova was released in 1977, a year after Fellini’s Casanova, and a porn parody of that raunchy, visually stunning adaptation of Casanova’s memoirs might have been a great deal of fun. Holmes’ Casanova, alas, isn’t a parody, although Donald Sutherland does make a brief appearance, alongside Gene Wilder, in location footage stolen from Start the Revolution Without Me. The blatant laziness of the theft should tip you off that this is a Carlos Tobalina production (Holmes is credited as the director, but he was the Christian Nyby to Tobalina’s Howard Hawks). And at first, it seems like Tobalina might be trying a little more than average – as Casanova, Holmes participates in a joust that is decently choreographed, and while nobody would mistake this for Barry Lyndon, the costumes and set designs are surprisingly detailed. While the sex scenes are as perfunctory as usual for a Tobalina production, the movie seems like it could turn out to be a decent porno swashbuckler.
And then, after less than half an hour, the movie abruptly cuts to Holmes waking up in 1977. Now he’s playing Casanova’s great-grandson (which makes no chronological sense), who discovers his great-grandpa’s aphrodisiac potion in the family home (???) and promptly puts it to use. And at this point, Casanova becomes your standard Tobalina production, spending a good portion of the remaining running time cross-cutting between listless sex scenes before ending with a non sequitur/gay panic joke. It’s almost admirable how transparent Tobalina is in shooting a couple of reels of a Casanova movie – enough to sell the movie as such – before switching gears to a cheaper, easier rehash of the same old shit. He may have been a tremendously lazy filmmaker, but at least he found creative ways to avoid putting in more than the minimum amount of effort.
I honestly have almost nothing to say about Casanova II, because it’s barely even its own movie. The thing approaches Silent Night, Deadly Night Part II levels of rehashing footage from its predecessor, and most of the rest is clearly cobbled together from outtakes of Casanova and other Tobalina productions. There’s clearly no new footage involving Holmes, with the main addition a sex scene featuring Bjorn Beck as Casanova’s son, Don Juan (???), but it’s pretty ho-hum. The ending is at least amusing, as Tobalina pushes his usual sex-positive message to a hilariously global scale, but I’m not sure it was worth suffering through the preceding 75 minutes to get there.
Back to Holmes’ penis and how he uses it. While my findings are by no means scientific, the conversations I’ve had with both lady friends and special lady friends on the subject suggest that, while bigger is generally better, there is a point at which more size becomes, more than anything, a bit impractical. Which might be all well and good if Holmes was indeed a lover worthy of Casanova, but based on the evidence in these two movies, he actually seems kind of bad at sex. His cunnilingus game is virtually non-existent, and once he wedges his semi-erect member into his scene partners, he pretty much sticks to what an ex of mine called “bunny-style.” And his money shots are always the same – he pulls out, drops his dong on the lady and doesn’t shoot as much as leak. He doesn’t seem to actually enjoy sex very much, and the most we ever do see him enjoy himself (as in Undulations) is when he does a bump of cocaine onscreen and extols its virtues to his costar. If I knew nothing about Wonderland or the rest of Holmes’ life, this scene would be enough to make me pity the schmuck.
Vinegar Syndrome’s 2K restorations of Casanova both look great. As these are Tobalina productions, flaws in the original elements (like, say, entire shots being out of focus) are to be expected, but both transfers have strong colors, skin tones and detail. Outside of the footage stolen from Start the Revolution Without Me, there’s only minimal occasional print damage. The 1.0 mono audio sound is clear throughout both films – again, the dialogue is occasionally muffled, but it’s clearly a flaw in the original recording.
Theatrical trailers for both films are included.
I can’t complain about Vinegar Syndrome’s presentation of Casanova and its sequel. As for the movies themselves, I’d recommend them only for hardcore fans of Holmes (or Gene Wilder completists).