Color, 1976, 87 mins. 8 secs. Directed by Richard Franklin
Starring Uschi Digart, John Holmes, Rene Bond, William Margold, Candy Samples, Serena
FANTASM COMES AGAIN
Color, 1977, 98 mins. 46 secs. Directed by Colin Eggleston
Starring Uschi Digart, John Holmes, Cheryl Smith, Serena, Rick Cassidy Peekarama (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Synapse Films (US R0 NTSC), Umbrella (Australia R0 PAL) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)
Like its British cousins, Australian sex comedies are distinctive beasts; often more plot-oriented and jokey than their American and European counterparts, these films try to deliver T&A with a respectable veneer of above-par acting and some artistic polish. Only a few Aussie sex comedies managed to break through overseas (notably Alvin Purple, the Barry McKenzie series, and the best of the batch, Don's Party); notably rougher in content was Fantasm, which ran into censorship problems worldwide but earned a cult following thanks to an incredible cast of adult performers. Naturally a sequel was commissioned, and though it didn't ultimately fare as well at the box office, Fantasm Comes Again also became notorious for its all-star smut line-up.
Hosted by the middle-aged sex expert Professor Jurgen Notafreud (played by an unbilled John Bluthal, best known as dithering Frank on TV's The Vicar of Dibley), the film offers ten studies in female sexuality offering a wide range of styles and themes. In the first segment ("Beauty Parlour"), a session at the salon turns steamy when the hairdresser, pedicurist, and other attendees decide to shave the nether regions of their female client (Dee Dee Levitt). Then in "Card Game," a domestic game of poker between friends turns kinky as the participants use their clothes as stakes, then wind up in a human pile on the couch. A turned-on housewife (The Dicktator's Gretchen Gayle) catches her cross-dressing neighbor (A Scream in the Streets' Con Covert) stealing her underwear from a clothesline and repays him by straddling him with a strap-on in "Wearing the Pants." A young student (Rene Bond) pursued alone at night winds up in the clutches of boxer Al Williams who forces himself on her in the ring in "Nightmare Alley;" then Uschi Digart and Mara Lutra have a literally steamy lesbian encounter in the sauna ("You have beautiful breasts." "Sank you!" "I've always wanted to have bigger ones like yours!") in "The Girls." Maria Welton gets to know her banana intimately in "Fruit Salad" and goes borderline hardcore in a swimming pool with John Holmes; a gray-haired, busty mother (Candy Samples) welcomes her son home from the military with a warm bath in "Mother's Darling;" three men visit sultry Shayne's apartment and watch her perform a pretty dull strip routine in "Black Velvet;" pigtailed Roxanne Brewer (Female Chauvinists) enjoys some "After School" time with her weak-hearted teacher by flashing her goodies at the blackboard; and finally Serena is stripped and ravished during a "Blood Orgy" by devil worshipers in jockstraps, led by uncredited smut goofball Charles Orlando.
A prime softcore title more often discussed than seen (and even then rarely seen in anything resembling a watchable copy), Fantasm finally got the grade-A, uncut treatment on DVD in 2004 from Synapse Films. The anamorphic transfer begins with titles windowboxed at 1.33:1, then opens up to 1.66:1 for the duration of the feature. Image quality is very good considering the film's 16mm origins (it was blown up to 35mm for theatrical distribution), and the oft-scissored sex scenes are presented in their entirety. For some reason the opening monologue slips in and out of synch, apparently due to clumsy looping; much of the film unfolds without onscreen dialogue, probably for similar reasons. The biggest extra is the featurette "Penetrating Fantasm" (22m52s), with producer Antony I. Ginnane and silhouetted director "Richard Bruce" (actually Richard Franklin, future helmer of Road Games and Psycho II) in silhouette. They explain that most of the film was shot in Los Angeles since Aussie actresses balked at the strong content of the script; they also tell an amusing story about John Holmes and go through each segment, with a brief discussion of the sequel at the end. Much of the same material is covered in Ginnane's audio commentary, which breaks down the technical aspects of each sequence and talks about the film's publicity thanks to its constant censorship hassles. The disc wraps up with a raunchy theatrical trailer (complete with emphasis on Holmes' most famous asset) and includes some handy liner notes by Chris Poggiali. Note that the Australian edition features a shorter version of the documentary and bare-bones packaging.
Following the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" formula, Fantasm Comes Again carries over the same formula as sex advice columnist Harold Hearne (Clive Hearn) - known to his readers as "Dear Collette" - turns over to reins to young Libby (Angela Menzies-Wills) by poring through some new letters involving various sexual shenanigans. In "Silence Please," A Touch of Sweden's Liz Woolfe wreaks havoc on studying library patrons (including a young Johnny Legend) and winds up coupling in the stacks. Lithe gymnast Michael Barton jumps around naked on a trampoline and has a bare "Workout" with gym coach Rick Cassidy before a mutual massage; Cheryl Smith won't join in on the rampant randiness at the drive-in (while watching Rene Bond in the first Fantasm) and gets raped in a van for her trouble in "Double Feature;" a stuck elevator leads to a threesome in "Going Up;" Uschi Digart enjoys another sapphic tryst, this time in the hay with Dee Dee Levitt, in "Straw Dolls;" a party for coworkers turns into gang banging and cross-dressing in "The Good Old Gang at the Office;" porn actor Bill Margold has a very graphic romp in the pool with two women while a clumsy butler (Ray Dennis Steckler regular Titus Moody) keeps dropping champagne in "The Kiss of Life;" Nancy Mann watches parents Candy Samples and Al Ward in bed and winds up joining in, all for the benefit of a fluffy stuffed dog, in "Family Reunion;" Jesse Adams is turned into a speed demon while girlfriend Christine de Schaffer services him in "Overdrive;" and Serena's trip to unload her sins at church gets her more than she bargained for in "True Confession."
Significantly longer than its predecessor, Fantasm Comes Again could have done with a little trimming but still boasts some memorable highlights. Obviously fans of Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith will be glad to see her here, though she could have done with more screen time; all the other pros acquit themselves well and offer a few good chuckles here and there. Not surprisingly, much of the material (in both films) seems very politically incorrect now, particularly the repeated insinuation that women who say "no" really mean "yes." However, men seem to get the tables turned on them at least as often if not more, and the rampant nudity could easily be termed equal opportunity; watch it as a fantasy and leave any expectations about proper sexual etiquette at the door. Best known for the creepy Long Weekend, director Colin Eggleston (billed as "Eric Ram") doesn't display as much of a flair as Franklin but knows his way around a joke or two.
The transfer here is also several miles above previous versions and features all of that bumping and grinding intact. Ginnane returns for another commentary, very similar to his turn for the first film; his much younger version also hosts the theatrical trailer and even pops up in the film as a monk. Once again Chris Poggiali supplies informative liner notes and shows a particular appreciation for Ms. Smith's contributions.
In 2001, Vinegar Syndrome's sexy brand Peekarama bowed both films on Blu-ray as a two-disc edition featuring new 2K scans cited as being from 16mm original negatives and other vault elements (which would probably account for why a few brief bits are a little grittier and less consistent). Here they've decided to present both films completely opened up at 1.33:1 throughout, which proves to be a wise call as the compositions fare better throughout while also providing extra saucy stuff in a few shots. It's also obvious the DVDs had some significant framing shifting going on throughout in an attempt to keep everything reasonably framed, which the second one mostly hacked off at the top with variable results. The SD predecessor was a good option at the time, but the Blu-rays easily make for a big upgrade. The commentaries are ported over here, and audio is presented in solid DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono with optional English SDH subtitles (and the unusual unlisted Dolby Digital option you can only get to with your remote's audio button). The first Fantasm disc just contains the feature film and commentary, while Fantasm Comes Again has all the video extras including the old "Fantasm Penetrated" featurette and both trailers. A very comprehensive and wonderful audio interview with Serena (99m58s) conducted by Casey Scott via phone is a snapshot of her entire life and cheerful persona (starting off with her lifelong dedication as an artist) in addition to her film work, which is covered in great depth with memories of her many films and costars. In "Polish it Up" (12m53s), editor Tony Paterson recalls the rather freeform, anything-goes type of environment at the time, with minimal crews allowing for a lot of leeway to play around. Then in "Blowing Up" (17m47s), cinematographer Vincent Monton covers the evolution of the film from its considerably different first screenplay and his memories of and friendship with Franklin as they got together to work together in Los Angeles. Finally you get some relevant interview excerpts from Mark Hartley's 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Weird, Untold Story of Ozploitaton! (61m34s), with Ginnane, writer Ross Dimsey, Margold, and Monton going further into the creation of the film from the early Tender Loving Mercies version to the mockumentary format we have now with lots of tales along the way about Aussie exploitation, the marketing around that time, the casting process, and the film's place in local box office history.