“Fräulein Leather” (1970)

Like the men who attended his sex films, Nick Millard started soft and got hard. He crossed over just as pornography really took off. It was a burgeoning industry back then. Sure, it had been around since the early days of the medium. Wikipedia hosts a 4-minute video reliably dated to 1907 of a man dressed as the Devil 69ing and fucking a woman in the woods. After these “stag films” were “loops”. But, it wasn’t until about 1970 that full-length semi-narrative pornos were shown theatrically.

“What the change was, was an obscure film that came from either Denmark or Sweden called I am Curious Yellow.” Deep Throat director Gerard Damiano recalled during an interview with Ashley West of the Rialto Report. “It was a political film about the politics that were going on in Denmark or Sweden at the time. There was one scene where she went down and kissed his penis. And because of that scene it was banned in New York and they couldn’t play the film, but the owners of the film sued. They went to the Supreme Court. And when they looked at it, the Supreme Court Justice said there’s nothing wrong with this film. It has socially redeeming value, it has a message, and it has its artform. So, if it has any one of these things, in a free country, you have to allow it. And because of I Am Curious Yellow, all of a sudden, we said, whoa, it’s like being a little bit pregnant. You could kiss a penis just for a second, but if you could do it for a second, you could do it for an hour and a half, as long as you had socially redeeming value. The whole problem to me was, why did we need socially redeeming value in a free country?”

Excellent question, Mr. Damiano, one I don’t think we’ll ever have a satisfactory answer for. Wikipedia used to say Mona the Virgin Nymph was the first of these sexually explicit films to receive wide release. Now it’s pushing Andy Warhol’s Blue Movie. Whatever the case, Millard was there at the forefront with Fraulein Leather, Gunilla, Pleasure Spots, and more! Three, four years later, he quit the game and went straight, the births of his children and implications of Miller v. California, which redefined obscenity in broader terms, being possible reasons. Though he enjoyed making sex films, Millard stated later in life that he viewed them as stepping stones to bigger and better things. Ironically, they’re considered his best work, his legacy. I’m excited to learn more about the golden age of porn in a feature I’m calling “Sweatin’ to the Oldies”. This will be the inaugural post. Join me on my ill-conceived journey.

I found Fraulein Leather by searching Millard’s old movies, many bearing the names of their bisexual subjects, with Google and clicking the “videos” tab (to maximize your results, put the title in quotes, include the year, and add “porn” at the end). I half-expected a Nazi exploitation flick based on the title. At the very least, BDSM. What I pulled up was a ponderous carpet muncher about a married woman exploring her deepest desires. If you should decide to take things to the next level, remember, use protection. Antivirus.

In the Tootsie Roll font!

A quick title card transitions into a montage that would have been perfect for opening credits were it not for the fact that Millard chose to cut that expense. There was no upside to creating credits anyway. The legality of pornography was still very much in question. Screenings were frequently shut down. Film reels were confiscated. Distributors and even actors were prosecuted.

The camera zooms into the sun, then back out, then back in. We see a lamp, a suncatcher, and various objects positioned around Millard’s living room. Leather boots are shown against a shag rug. I’ve always loved 60s décor. A studded choker, strap-on dildo, and panties balance atop scratchy, yellow-orange pillows. A vibrator rests on a glass table. It looks like the same exact one from Millard’s other pornos. I don’t know what proper sex toy etiquette is, but sharing them with strangers seems gross. The juices would get all… mixed up. Do you throw them in the dishwasher, or use once and destroy? The communal vibrator moves to a pillow. Millard zooms all the way in. He really wants us to see the on/off switch. A hand flips through the Fall, 1970 issue of Cinema magazine for a minute straight.

Suzanne Rogers is brushing her teeth in Millard’s bathroom. Most of the scenes were shot in his home with the blinds drawn. Like a few early pornos I’ve seen, it’s silent, except for sibilant first-person narration and music. There’s not even moaning. It sounds like the main actress snacked on the microphone. All her Ss and Ts crackle. Her Ps pop. Lots of Ps poppin’ here, if you catch my drift. Suzanne tells us her husband flew to Denver for business and is due back that evening. He’s a junior executive type who she suspects is hiring hookers on his trips. She really despises and/or distrusts him. She reads philosophy in bed and smokes by the phone awaiting his call.

The music never stops and could be mistaken for one continuous jam. However, a careful listen reveals that it’s several pieces stitched together. The first of them is rather playful and flutey. Others are loungey and psychedelic.

Her recording her lines.

If the handles on that headboard are attached to doors that slide open, my mom had the same one.

The phone eventually rings. Suzanne answers. Her mouth moves. We can’t hear it. She and her husband exchange banalities, as she puts it, and hang up. She climbs back in bed. “That night, I had the most beautiful erotic dream.” Suzanne says. “For a number of years, I’ve been successful in concealing my lesbian tendencies from my husband. Occasionally, my subconscious would say to hell with him. This was one of those times.”

She drifts off to sleep and appears by the ocean wearing a dress with the biggest, goofiest shoulder pads ever designed. “I dreamt I was on a beach.” she continues. “A grey, sunless, cold beach. A symbol of the drab, unsatisfying life I lived.”

She spots a woman in the distance. It’s Fraulein Leather. She comes running, excitedly waving her arms in slow motion. There’s nothing overtly German about her. The only leather she has on is a coif and boots. The camera circles Suzanne. She angrily mouths unheard dialogue. I can make out “Get out of here.” Fraulein Leather just smiles and licks her lips.

“I put on a mask and immediately grew indignant.” Suzanne says. “Indignant as only an American virgin can be… I shouted ‘You pervert! You filthy, degenerate, dirty lesbian!'” Suzanne runs away in slow motion.

Although Millard was born in New Orleans and spent the majority of his life in the Western US, he uses “American” as a derogative. Again, he was heavily influenced by European cinema. He wanted to be seen as an intellectual, and tried hard to make this movie artistic and thought-provoking. He denounces close-mindedness, repression, and censorship through his dialogue, which serves as his socially redeeming value.

Discontentment and self-loathing are common themes in his early work. His tortured characters believe their urges are wrong, yet act on them all the same. They have holes in their hearts that need filling, but concentrate on the physical ones. Most if not all of them are attracted to leather footwear. They literally worship at the feet of their sexy female partners. Russ Meyer was a breast man. Nick Millard found that barking dogs seldom bite.

Suzanne answers a door butt naked. Fraulein Leather walks in, still licking her lips.

“I buried my troublesome American conscience under millions of war dead, under six million Jewish victims and thousands of slaughtered American Indians.” Suzanne declares.

What does that have to do with anything? It sounds so unnatural. Nobody talks like this. If I didn’t know any better, I’d guess Millard was raised in a bomb shelter beneath civilization. Some of the stuff he came up with here is quite clever, but most had me laughing out loud.

Suzanne reluctantly grabs her guest by the hand and leads her to a room overlooking Millard’s driveway. She kneels before Fraulein Leather, undoes her skirt, and starts eating her out. On my initial viewing, I still hadn’t realized this was a porno. I was very surprised to see Suzanne’s tongue come in contact with Ms. Leather’s fur pie. This is as graphic as it gets, folks. Objects are later inserted. One thing I like about these old films is the pubes. Real women have pubes. I’m pretty sure that’s a John Waters quote, too. One thing I dislike about them is the general lack of enthusiasm. The women rarely seem to enjoy themselves. They just close their eyes and leave their bodies. Maybe it was the drugs. Maybe they were only gay for pay.

“She was a saucy bitch, hot and fully ripe and sensuous.” Suzanne narrates. The actress’ husky, breathy voice is arousing, but it can’t save the ridiculous dialogue. Language evolves with each generation. Maybe this sounded more normal back then. I’ll ask my grandparents. The camera zooms all the way in as Suzanne goes to town on Ms. Leather’s clit. The real Suzanne smiles in her sleep. Ms. Leather rests a foot on a table and spreads her legs for easier access, granting us a better view.

Suzanne caresses her lover’s pussy. “My hot kisses made her vagina throb.” she purrs. She teases Ms. Leather with her tongue and her nipples. After a moment, she switches to licking her boots 😋

Suzanne’s lines are instant mood killers. This is a 12-year-old virgin’s idea of erotica. If a woman said this kind of stuff to me, I’d finish up cos I’m DTF, then never call her again. Ok, who am I kidding? I’d call. There are many long takes and stretches of narrative silence. Fraulein Leather is now lying down on the table. Suzanne mispronounces clitoris while orally pleasuring her. Millard provides more extreme gynecological close-ups.

Suddenly, we’re looking at a couch half-submerged in a pool of water. Suzanne is once again on the beach in a messily styled wig. Fraulein Leather and two of her friends come running up from the distance. Suzanne serves them wine back at her place. The fantasy women are all wearing leather boots. They each extend a foot forward. Suzanne gets down on all fours and slobbers away. The second half of the film is their orgy. Overall, it’s majorly skippable.

Since there isn’t much going on besides the sex and the dialogue, I’ve combined them for you. The screenshots below are for purely educational purposes! Continue reading

I’m an Alcaholic

What I mean is I’m a fan of Nick Millard’s prison drama Alcatraz Breakout. Like any remaining clues to the fate of real-life escapees John Anglin, his brother Clarence, and Frank Morris, this movie is so far under the radar you have to use sonar to find it. It’s a truly obscure piece of media. The first mention I found of it was a listing in a copyright database in the mid-2010s. At the time, it was absent from IMDb. Millard later told me the film premiered at the St. Francis Theatre in San Francisco in 1979. I had it down as “lost” since I couldn’t confirm if it ever made it to home video. Now I’m seeing it did. It received a clamshell VHS release by World Video Pictures in 1980. The back cover reads:

Alcatraz, America’s most feared prison. The nation’s toughest gangsters, such men as Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, and Alvin Karpis, have been broken there, and no man has escaped from “The Rock”. Alcatraz and its impregnable walls, escape-proof, until inmate 1313-0 proved it wasn’t!

Credit: Amazon

A VHS rip was uploaded to YouTube in May of 2021, though I only noticed around Halloween of last year. I watched it, loved it, and ordered a copy from Amazon of all places for $15. I might display it in my office when it gets here, provided it’s not too banged up. I’m glad the movie is available to watch and buy all of a sudden. An IMDb page was finally created sometime after I published my “missing filmography” post and gives the year as 1975. It’s possible that it was filmed in ’75 and not released until ’79, however, I’m leaning toward it having been filmed in ’79 to capitalize on the success of the Clint Eastwood classic Escape From Alcatraz. Whereas that one recounts the infamous 1962 escape, this one follows the fictional character John Robert Grant.

As the movie begins, Grant (Marland Proctor as “Marland Stewart” on the box) is being ferried to Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary on what is obviously a tourist boat that reads “Harbor Tours”. The exteriors and a few of the interiors were shot on the actual island, which was a short drive from Millard’s Pacifica, California home, likely without permits or even a verbal agreement. Grant is briefly dressed down by the warden (Barrett Cooper, the cop from Satan’s Black Wedding), filling us in on his prior convictions. Ten years for bank robbery. Three years for escape. Five additional years for a second escape. He sends the warden this blank look. Emoting wasn’t Stewart’s strong suit.

We soon learn that Grant is a good man at heart who abstains from hurting people while carrying out his crimes. According to him, he only robbed the bank in the first place to pay for his family’s horse farm in Arizona, and did so with a roll of quarters pressed against his coat pocket instead of a gun. If family is so important to him, he should have downsized. He’d still be with them. Grant’s mugshot is taken by a fellow prisoner played by the detective from Butcher Knife AKA Dr. Bloodbath. His inmate number is 1313-0.

“Hey, you’re the bad luck man.” the photographer notes. “Double 13s. You got the worst number a man can get.”

Grant is taken to his cell by the default antagonist, Bill Hager. The inmates call Hager a sadist, but nothing he says or does is that awful. You’ll notice the characters barely interact with the prison. The bulk of the movie was made elsewhere. The cells were a set. Millard had them built to the same specifications as the real ones — 5 feet by 9 feet. We never see more than two at once, leading me to believe there were only two. The recreation yard is a plain cement wall. Half the shots are in close-up to conceal how small the sets were, giving the film an appropriately claustrophobic feel.

Grant’s neighbor George Frasier (Ray Myles, the vampire pastor from Satan’s Black Wedding) welcomes him. He’s another nonviolent criminal in for counterfeiting. Across from them is an inmate named Hill. The first time I watched this I thought it was Bill. I questioned why there were only ten or eleven speaking roles and two of them were named Bill. Grant is kept awake the first night by a fog horn. It’s just some kids ding-dong-ditching the Addams family.

The next day in the recreation yard, Grant asks Frasier how high the wall is. He’s already plotting his third escape. Frasier doesn’t want him getting his hopes up. “Twenty feet.” he responds. “When they built the wall, before the cement on top had dried, they took hundreds of broken bottles and embedded the jagged edges into the cement. So, if the wire doesn’t tear you to shreds, the broken glass will.” I don’t think that’s true, but it paints a cool picture in my head. I was hurried through the Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee by my kids, so I’m practically an expert on the subject. “There’s no way out…” Frasier adds. “Put your mind at rest and do your time.”

Grant takes that as a challenge. He says nothing will separate him from his wife and daughter. Cut to Nick Millard’s wife Irmgard and one of his daughters getting off a Greyhound bus. They walk to a hotel as haunting piano music from Satan’s Black Wedding plays. Recycling stuff from previous movies was a trademark of Millard’s. Irmgard calls the prison to set up visitation with Grant.

Meanwhile, the alpha male of our species, Albert Eskinazi, pushes a cart full of books down the corridor. It’s weird seeing him this young. “You’re entitled to check out books from the prison library.” he says to Grant. “Anything in particular you want?”

Grant requests a book on structural engineering and tunneling. Why would that even be allowed? Eskinazi tells him he’ll put him on the waiting list. Frasier springs up from his cot to inform Grant that Eskinazi is “Shotgun” Roy Harding. Grant reacts like he’s heard of him. I get the impression he’s a dangerous loose cannon.

Afterward, Grant is summoned by the warden. Hager escorts Grant past the two cells twice to give the illusion of four cells. The warden has an awkward conversation with Grant about cacti. Millard often lingered on the mundane to fill time, resulting in many funny moments. This is one of them. The warden tells Grant because of his experience owning a ranch in Arizona, he’s been chosen to plant a cactus garden on the west side of the island. Grant turns his head quizzically. The warden explains how he wants to beautify the island for sightseers, and cacti are hardy. Grant nods along. He looks like he’s trying to stay awake in some shots, not cough in others. This is such a dumb way to get him outside. I love it.

The warden goes on. “Saguaro, ocotillo, barrel, cholla.” He’s never seen a cactus firsthand, but can recite all the different varieties. His knowledge of prickly plant life is second only to Grant’s. I find it hard to believe that he never laid eyes on a cactus at a friend’s house or a store.

I asked a buddy in Palo Alto — coincidentally, where my copy is shipping from — if it’s possible to live there without chancing upon the occasional succulent and this was his reply: “Depends on where you are. Around me, basically none — just the cactus garden on Stanford campus. Travel a bit south, though, and it is basically a desert, so you’ll see some there.”

Any more Californians care to weigh in? I clipped the scene for your viewing pleasure. Let me know if I’m tripping, or if it’s hilarious.

Hager brings Grant to a sloped area — the same hillside Gordon Mortley buries his victims on in Death Nurse, I’ll bet — and says what we’re all thinking. “This is the craziest goddamn thing I’ve ever heard of.” While jotting down notes, Grant notices two soldiers surveying the land for a laundromat (?). Frasier tells him the soldiers arrive on a shuttle that runs every hour. Grant formulates a plan and does a lot of smoking in preparation of his escape.

On the big day, Grant purposely nicks himself with a hoe he was given to hack at weeds. While getting bandaged up by a doctor who’s only shown from behind and sounds like Millard, he palms a bottle of chloroform. Back on the hill, his bandage unwinds. He douses it with the anesthetic. Then, he lures Hager over by saying the bleeding has resumed. Once Hager is within striking distance, Grant holds the cloth to his face, knocking him out. He rolls Hager over and ties his hands to his rifle behind his back. Instead of grabbing the gun, he grabs the hoe, shoves it into a soldier’s back, and pretends it’s a gun. He knocks them both out as well. Finally, he puts on one of their uniforms and boards the tour boat from earlier.

Hager comes to and alerts the warden before it can dock. The expression on his face is that of a child whose mother just yelled their full name. The warden phones the San Francisco FBI office. Grant looks around nervously as the boat slowly heads back to town. The scene is accompanied by a simple thumping, like the beating of a heart. Grant is apprehended as soon as the shuttle docks and is given nine months of solitary confinement. The nine months is a shot of him shedding a tear in the dark and flashbacks of him playing with his daughter, petting a horse, and being told to move the calves to the north pasture.

After he gets out, he’s visited by his wife. She tells him she wants to hire a lawyer. Grant says she needs to save all the money she can. He’s guilty, and that’s that. He’s on year four now. He immediately sets to work on his next plan.

One morning while getting out of bed, he steps in a puddle of blood. He follows the trail across the corridor to Hill’s cell and sees that he slashed his wrists with a razor blade. As usual, Millard brushed the actor with blood, but declined to apply any prosthetic effects. Another constant throughout his career. Grant asks Frasier how Hill got ahold of a razor. Frasier says the guards don’t bother “picking them up” because suicide is encouraged, without answering where they come from.

As nonchalantly as ripping off a hangnail, Grant lifts his cot and bashes himself in the mouth, loosening a tooth. I winced at this. Few sights make me do that. Grant wiggles the tooth free and uses it to saw at his cell. It takes him four teeth and a lot of hard work just to get through a single bar. Why not use one of the complimentary razors? Or Eskinazi’s chin? Or literally anything else?

Harding delivers the book on tunneling. Grant never uses it. “Checkhov’s gun” states that every detail in a story must serve a purpose, but all the book does is introduce Harding. Millard may have felt he had to address the obvious tunneling angle and included the book as a “false gun” to subvert expectation knowing he couldn’t pull that off. It would have been difficult to construct a tunnel on such a low budget. Or maybe Millard forgot about that part. Harding tells Grant he heard him chiseling and wants in. Grant has no intention of teaming with Harding.

He breaks the bar off one night, and slides out. Frasier helps him time the guard above them in the gun gallery. Grant brings the bar with him to incapacitate Hager. As he makes his way down the corridor, Harding asks him to “rack” (or open) his cell. When Grant refuses, Harding yells “Rack my cell, you son of a bitch!” alerting the guards, who sound the alarm.

Grant is placed in solitary again for God knows how long. His final plan is the worst and most desperate one yet. While attempting it, a memory of his daughter flashes before his eyes. The end.

The credits are full of European pseudonyms. Millard is “Jan Anders”. “Scénario” (the script) is credited to “Gunnel Kjellin”. I think Millard added this to sound French, as he loved foreign art movies. Maybe he thought Europeans would be taken more seriously.

I need to know if the warden ever planted his cactus garden.

Either I’m getting soft in my old age, or my standards are too low, or both, but the ending is sad and tugs at my heartstrings. I find myself wondering what I’d do in Grant’s situation. Probably the same thing, besides knocking my teeth out. I can’t imagine missing eighteen years of my daughter’s life. Even if I did escape and started over with her in a faraway country, as many theorize the Anglins did, I’d be looking over my shoulder every moment of every day, and that’s no way to live.

I dreamt that I killed people once. I didn’t see myself do it, just knew that I had at some point in my past. I turned on my TV and watched as police recovered my victims from the woods. I can’t describe the crushing anxiety it gave me. I awoke in a sweat, my pulse pounding. It took minutes for the feeling to dissipate.

My dream made me realize that I take my freedom for granted. The desire to be free is a powerful emotion and Millard taps into it here. This is the most ambitious and effective movie I’ve seen by him. Does that make it good? Does “Baker Street” have the grooviest saxophone riff? Is Bret Hart the best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be in the world of professional wrestling? A thousand times hell yes! I strongly disagree with the sole review on IMDb calling it “an absolute chore to sit through”. That was aloe move……… cactus.

But hey, decide for yourself.

RIP, big man! Thanks for the entertainment!

In Pursuit of Creative Fulfillment

Writing, for me, is a lot like performing an exorcism. I don’t know why I do it. It’s stressful and I’m just relieved when it’s over. My natural talent is drawing, specifically simple, offensive cartoons unbeholden to rules of perspective. A few years back, my favorite director released a documentary about Mike Diana, the first and thankfully only US artist ever convicted of obscenity, for selling self-published comics through the mail. I saw a bit of myself in Diana. Our styles are similar. It never occurred to me that parlaying my passion for doodling diseased cocks and machete-wielding elephants into a living was an option. I fell into a mild depression, wondering where I’d be if I truly applied myself. I stopped nurturing my talent because I lived in cramped apartments for years and never really had a good workspace. That’s what I tell myself anyway. It was easier to work from a laptop. I have an office and a huge finished basement now, and still haven’t picked it back up. That tells me I’m my own biggest obstacle. Seems I’ve gotten used to this “writing” thing, as frustrating as it is. I’m not a fountain of creativity. The words don’t just flow from my fingers. It’s something I have to work at.

Movies have always been my muse. I used to get disapproving comments from my saintly grandmother for drawing violent Friday the 13th comics with boobs in them. I also had a series called “Bug Killers” based on the puppets from Puppet Master. Each diminutive character had their own weapon or ability for combatting insects. After that, until about fourth grade, I stuck to drawing “good stuff” — mostly animals — so as not to concern the adults. It takes a special kind of movie to get the ol’ creative juices flowing. Once they’re pumping sufficiently fast through my body, I find the best approach is to get all my half-formed thoughts down in a big wall of text and revise it from there. If I can’t get the piece to take shape right away, I come back a day or two later with a fresh set of eyes. If I still can’t get it to read how I want, it slowly consumes me. I begin to question my grasp of the English language. I obsess over grammar and trivial word choices. I think why is it I can say something in conversation, be understood, even get a laugh, but when I write it down, it doesn’t sound right? I keep checking what I have, hoping it magically rearranged itself into Shakespeare. By this point, I’m stabbing my groin with religious objects. I ask my wife to read over my writing. She identifies any typos and tells me it’s fine. Hearing that is like hearing the hero of a bad horror movie yell “Fight it! I know you’re still in there! Don’t let it win!” I splash a little holy water on my keyboard and hit publish, ridding myself of the evil. I usually don’t watch the movie again for a long while. I move on with my life.

Me being tormented.
Credit: The Happiness of the Katakuris, Tubi TV

My wife.
Credit: The Exorcist III, Tubi TV

The truth is, I don’t consume many movies these days. I start plenty, but end up turning them off at the first sign of nudity. My kids are constantly running around, and the titles I pick out are often unsuitable. So, I just watch halves and thirds. When a title captures my interest, the first thing I do now is check the parents guide on IMDb for sexual content. Naturally, it tells me a woman shits on a dog’s erect penis or something equally heinous, limiting when I can watch said movie to past my children’s bedtimes. If there’s no advisory, I’m back to square one with my finger riding the home button. That’s a dangerous game.

Remarkably, I managed to post 61k words last year an average of just over twice a month, the most since my old blog. My goal for 2023 is to keep increasing those numbers. I’d love to get the engagement up too. I want to make WordPress the lively community I remember it being a decade ago. I went through a period of mourning when my favorite blogger stopped posting. I’m still healing, honestly. If you were around to see the comet that was Dr. Humpp’s Curious Collection streaking through the sky, count yourself lucky. I miss the camaraderie I had with him and others.

In between posts, I do my best to read, like, and comment on as much of my fellow bloggers’ work as I can. I spend a fair amount of time in the reader scrolling through the horror tag searching for similar sites. Lately, I’ve noticed an uptick in Fangoria wannabes spamming multiple news items an hour. I hate that shit. I hate this whole clickbait/podcast/streamer/content creation culture we’re in now. I may “monetize” my site in the future by adding one of those clichéd “buy me a coffee” donation buttons, but not today. I’m more apt to click on a site with a .wordpress.com domain than a .com domain because it shows me the author is in it for the love of the game. If I can offer some free advice, always acknowledge your visitors. Reply to comments. Nobody wants to go unheard. Also, I never like a post with the expectation of getting one in return, but after a point, it’s common courtesy to check out what your visitors have to offer. Unless someone’s writing is super witty or funny, I lose interest and unfollow after the tenth or twentieth unreciprocated like.

Shout out to Beau Montana of The Internet Ruined Everything, Bert, Billy Peppers of Space Rats From Outer Space, Kevin Hurtack of Gun Smoke & Ghouls, and Film Miasma for keeping the mice away! Stay possessed 🤮