The Black Room (1982)

Elly Kenner was born in Israel and went from working in the advertising industry and movies to creating documentaries about healing, channeling and mysticism.

Norman Thaddeus Vaine wrote the Herman’s Hermits film Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter, as well as Lola — which has a romance between a forty-something porn writing Charles Bronson and a teen-something Susan George in which seems like the most male fantasy movie of all time* — and directed Shadow of the Hawk and Frightmare.

Together, they would make The Black Room, a movie made at the very start of the AIDS crisis and the end of the free loving 70s. The world was about to get very different. And this movie is about to get very weird.

Larry (Jimmy Stathis) has decided that married life is dragging him down, so he rents a room somewhere in the Hollywood Hills from brother and sister Bridget (Cassandra Gava, who was the sorceress who made love to Arnold in Conan the Barbarian) and Jason (Stephen Knight, Necromancy).

Jason has a rare blood disorder which means that he must constantly get blood transfusions, but perhaps he’s something more than human. After all, he and his sister have been capturing Larry’s partners and using them for their blood. And oh yeah, they’re watching him couple with them, too.

Much like the need for blood, Larry has a need to be with other women. And he loves telling his wife Robin (Clara Perryman) his fantasies while they’re in bed together and she goes along with the game until she learns that this is more than a fantasy. And now, once she discovers the secret apartment that her husband has, she rents out her own place within the mansion.

Now, she’s not getting just the stories. She’s living them with Jason. Of course, when her husband discovers what’s happening, he’s enraged that she’s giving herself to others and demands that they both stop. But can you stop taking drugs and live a normal life when you’ve had the rush of kink and secrets?

But now, Jason and Bridget are exacting their own penalty on the couple by taking their children. And even if they can die, the twosome keep returning to the dead, because as Robin wonders, “Can people like that ever die?”

Is this a furniture movie? Just look at the black room itself: black velvet curtains, wax candles burning and that table that looks like it’s glowing? Sexy, right? Well, one thing is for sure: this is a section 3 video nasty, a movie that lingers on scenes of needles and track marks and blood.

The thing is, in the hopes of getting back to the sexual life they had before kids and suburbia, our protagonists must be unwilling accessories to the murders of prostitutes, all blood for the veins of someone whose own source has become contaminated. You know, I kind of would prefer this film if it never was supernatural and was just creepy, with a brother and sister who sleep with one another suddenly dating a married couple who they drag deeper and deeper into hell.

Two more reasons to love this: an impossibly. young Linnea Quigley as the couple’s babysitter and an incredibly youthful Christopher McDonald — yes, Shooter McGavin — as the college student who watches Larry take his woman while he writes about it for his doctoral thesis because, yes, the 70s.

The copy that I found is as dark and beat up as it gets. And you know, I might love that this is how I’m watching this instead of a pristine blu ray botique reissue because I’m seeing something that so many have watched over and over, battering the original until what ended up online was the last  media itself’s last gasp.

In Nightmare USA — thanks to Hidden Films for bringing this up — Vane revealed that The Black Room was based on his real life, as he cheated on his wife in his own black room with Penthouse centerfolds that he met while working at that publication. Wow, huh?

*It’s totally based on Vane’s life, as he married 16 year-old model Sarah Caldwell in the mid-1960s when he was 38.

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