JOE D’AMATO WEEK: Two movies with George Eastman

EDITOR’S NOTE: While we just covered these movies on October 1, 2021 and October 31, 2021, you can’t do a week of Joe D’Amato without bringing up two of his most transgressive — and to be honest somewhat boring — movies. 

Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (1980): I work in my basement from when I wake up until when I go to bed, writing all sorts of words for people, from health care to highed education, parent-teacher groups and all manner of businesses large and small. There are times when all that writing and the way the world has been acting for the last 18 months which feel like 18 years when it just seems hopeless. Why am I doing this? Who am I doing it for? Why do I feel compelled to keep on writing and then in my spare time write some more about movies?

Because of movies like this.

Make no mistake, Le notti erotiche dei morti viventi is absolutely the sleaziest kind of movie there is, a film that combines all of the oatmealed faced zombies and gore of Italian cinema with the sexual congress of, well, Italian cinema. It’s as if someone said, “What if we saw people screw before we kill them horribly?” And that man, friends, was Joe D’Amato.

Now, the man himself said that this was an utter failure, telling Spaghetti Nightmares that the movie was”…a total fiasco. I had endeavored to mingle my two favorite genres, tending more toward the erotic side in this case, but the film was rejected by the public.”

Made at the same time as Porno Holocaust — another movie with the same cast, the same plot and the same mix of sex and death — just thinking of the plot of this movie makes me laugh like some kind of maniac.

It stars Mark Shannon, whose main career was working as a travel agency correspondent, but would take breaks to make adult films. He plays John Wilson, who has come to the Dominican Republic to build a hotel on Cat Island, a place with a voodoo curse so dangerous that it causes one of the two prostitutes who’ve recently serviced him to run in fear. Don’t worry. He was smart enough to finish their bedsheet gymnastics first.

As he chases her down the hall, he meets Fiona (Dirce Funari, who was one of the women in the infamous snuff sequence in D’Amato’s Emanuelle in America), who has just left an elderly lover at sea. After doing an oral inspection of Georgia O’Keefe’s inspiration, they become a couple of sorts for the rest of the film. I think we can all appreciate a meet cute in an Italian pornographic zombie film, right?

Meanwhile, Larry O’Hara (George Eastman, who wrote this) is either a sea captain or in an insane asylum. He starts the film off having wild frolicking sex with a nurse and ends it with the same woman in the same style as the film makes a Jacob’s Ladder cycle back to the mental ward, complete with another patient slack jawed and enjoying their coupling with a one-handed ovation.

There’s an absolutely mindbending scene where Eastman sits inside a darkened club that makes it appear that he’s smoking and drinking and bored and trapped in the infinite regions of space when Liz (Lucía Ramírez, Sex and Black Magic) appears to dance for him. Eastman makes no attempt to engage with her at all, even when she brings a champagne bottle on stage to, well, yeah. You know what happens. What you may not know is that she opens the bottle for him and does not use his hands and man, Joe D’Amato, you know how to rescue a man from abject depression.

Meanwhile, Laura Gemser shows up as a woman who bleeds green blood and can transform into a cat and has a blind grandfather who follows her and then she has sex with Eastman on the beach through his buttoned jeans.

Finally, everyone drinks J&B and we come — pun unintended — back to the start of the film as orderlies drag Eastman to his cell.

My favorite part of this movie was watching the absurd — D’Amato pun not intended — lengths to which some of the bigger star’s lovemaking scenes were created in very Cinemax After Dark style, which Shannon just went balls out. Literally.

Orgasmo nero II – Insel der Zombies (1981):

So yeah, in Germany, Porno Holocaust was actually considered a sequel to Joe D’Amato’s Orgasmo Nero (we just called it Sex and Black Magic here) and everyone had to be content to a title that isn’t as in your face. Don’t worry — this movie is still as repellant as it gets*.

Back in the 50s, governments used to regularly blast an island with nuclear bombs just to see how they blew up and to test the idea that perhaps these weapons would split reality into pieces. Well, all they did was create a place filled with mutant animals and a monster — a giant appendaged monster — that a bunch of stupid, stupid scientists are going to visit and all die.

That creature was once Antoine Domoduro and much like another D’Amato/George Eastman epic — Antropophagus — he was once a man with a family that all died in the atomic bomb blasts and now, all he has are two speeds: fuck and destroy.

D’Amato made Papaya, Love Goddess of the Cannibals and Tough to Kill in Santo Domingo and had such a good time that he returned to make Paradiso blu, Sesso nero, Orgasmo nero, Hard SensationErotic Nights of the Living Dead and this movie all in July of 1979. That’s right — five movies in one month.

The first mainstream hardcore film in Italy, this movie ends with Tom Selleck look-a-like — and travel writer when he wasn’t making porn — Mark Shannon surviving and making sweet love to Lucia Ramirez on a very small boat in the middle of the ocean, which is more astounding than anything else in this movie, as I wondered how D’Amato was able to get all of his camera equipment onto this boat, shoot this scene and not have anyone fall off.

Italian movie directing at its finest.

*Or maybe not. The German softcore version is Insel der Zombies. Seeing how a full third of this movie is hardcore penetration, I can only imagine how short that movie is.

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