Euro trash exploitation turns out to be a languid dreamscape oozing queer sensibilities!
Don’t roll your eyes at me. I know. That title! But in my defense… well there is no defense. A couple of years ago my husband who’s a very talented artist, made my portrait from a collage of VHS covers ranging from The Exorcist to Salon Kitty to… well, Violation of the Bitch. Neither of us had seen it, but a title that lurid and offensive just had to be included in the collage as a token of his love for me. Isn’t that sweet?
So since then I’ve been trying to track it down, and strangely enough since I watched it last night I’ve discovered you can watch it on an array of porn sites across the sticky dirty internet. Thankfully I’d got hold of a copy before I had to watch it covered in pop-ups of Polish housewives flicking themselves off on their kitchen tables. Being the fevered shock-seeking bag of filth I am I sat down waiting to be appalled by a film that carried such a title, only to be pleasantly surprised.
First up, its original title is ‘The Coming of Sin’ and whatever image that invokes for you is probably closer to the film you get than the filth ‘Violation…’ conjures up. The plot is simple. Rich white artist Lorna (Patricia Granada) takes in a simple (yet seductive) gypsy girl called Triana (Lidia Zuazo) whilst her employers are off on a business trip in the UK. Triana is plagued by frightening yet erotic nightmares in which a naked man rides around on a stallion splashing through water. To this viewer that would obviously be more of a wet dream than a nightmare but for some reason Triana is horrified and wakes in terror each time. Almost inexplicably Triana starts to make romantic overtures towards Lorna and thus begins a psycho-sexual drama, complicated further when the naked dream man turns up in the real world, named Chico, and things start to get messy…
Director José Ramon Larraz, Barcelona-born auteur of high trash, was also a doctor of philosophy and fine artist. Not merely an old pervert churning out flesh flicks for the grubby 42nd Street crowd, he managed to score the official British Palme d’Or entry at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival with ‘Symptoms’. The same year his film Vampyres, a lurid tale of lesbian vampirism, was put out to the exploitation market and has since become revered as a cult classic.
‘The Coming of Sin’ was Larraz’s answer to the hugely successful Emmanuelle. Dreamy, languid and running over with arthouse erotic imagery, the film he made was not the film I expected. At one point Triana dreams she is trapped naked and bent double inside a Trojan Horse, with Chico coming up behind her on his stallion, ready to mount. Freud would have a field day, but most softcore porno fans would be left scratching their heads.
Coming at this film from a queer perspective its certainly rich with subversive storytelling. Chico – played by the stunning Rafael Machado – spends just as much, if not more, screen time naked than the female cast members. Astride a stallion splashing through water, green eyes shimmering in the sun, he’s a feast for the queer eye. Aside from that, the exploration of gender roles in this film proved intriguing. Lorna, when not swanning about the place in a fabulous tassled shawl, dons a pants suit and takes Triana out into the real world for an education. After a sashay around the local art gallery, she takes Triana to a flamenco club. Triana, dressed very much like the ‘lady’ of the two, flanks the masculine, suit-wearing Lorna as they watch the flamenco dance. And who should be up there onstage, one in the traditional male garb and the other in a more glamorous flamenco dress? Two ladies.
The men in this movie, for the first half at least, are sidelined, with the male and female roles being played out largely by women. But the threat is always there on the horizon. Chico is looming, balls out, atop his steed, ready to man up their world. Blurring the lines of dream and reality, Chico strides out into the real world and just as you’re thinking that this film might not actually live up to the gaudy ‘Violation’ title it was branded with… he tries to rape Triana.
He then turns up at Lorna’s front door, unfortunately – clothed -and rather than be turned away, shamed, chastised for his rapey ways, he’s invited in! Lorna treats him like her new dark-skinned savage toy, demoting Triana to the role of servant girl. “So what if he tried to rape you, go and make him a coffee!” Not actual dialogue, but not far from it. In fact she scolds Triana for not being so welcoming to her would-be rapist with the classic line, “The least you could do is thank him for returning your necklace!” Lost in translation on the dub? Sadly I doubt it.
After a quick talk on Salomé and John the Baptist – Lorna is determined to educate these lowly gyspsy types – a random three way ensues with Lorna tied to the bed and feasted upon by Chico and Triana at the same time.
But the nightmares continue for Triana – just what is she so scared of? Men? Sex? The film constantly keeps you questioning both the characters’ motives, and those of the director. It’s Spain, in the 70s, you’re not going to get the most forward-thinking, balanced view of sexuality by any means. But surprisingly, lesbianism in the first act isn’t seen as particularly subversive or perverse. Nobody questions it.
In fact Triana was left in the care of Lorna by her previous employers because she bewitched the wife and the husband got jealous. Before and after Chico comes on the scene Lorna is fully in control of her sexuality. She likes women. She likes men. Even when Chico gets aggressive, flips her over in bed and takes her from behind you’re left questioning whether she orchestrated that too. Nothing is simple or straight forward. For a softcore slow paced exploiter it does get your brain ticking over.
Thrown into the melting pot of sin and soft focus we get a hint at the supernatural. Triana’s fear of Chico is explained when she visits a local witch, who re-affirms what Triana has been told before. It’s in her palm, in her destiny, that if she has sexual relations with a man, then someone will die.
Inevitably it happens, with the sexually liberated Lorna falling at the barrels of Triana’s shotgun, blasted to death by the jealous gypsy girl, who then helps Chico bury the body before they ride off on horseback together having helped themselves to her fabulous jewellery collection.
“She was taking advantage of the two of us,” Chico reasons. “They’re all pigs!”
So in the end Lorna must be punished. But for what? For her sexual freedom, or for being the rich white woman who sees the local gypsies as subjects, play-things to dress, educate and manipulate?
Whichever way you look at it, ‘The Coming of Sin’ delivers on its promises. You want nudity? Check. You want dreamy, arty imagery? Check. It’s an exploitation movie from 70s Spain so I’m assuming you want dodgy dubbing? Check check check. In fact Triana appears to have been dubbed by a drunk cockney sparrow.
Type either of its titles into a search engine and you’ll find it. The version I watched, 84 minutes long, comes with cuts unfortunately, one of them being a slightly more explicit rape scene. You’ll fork out about £90 for a dodgy cut DVD on Amazon so I do recommend you seek it out online.
As always you can give me your feedback on twitter @jonnylarkin What did you think of the movie? Do you agree with my take on it? We’ll be sticking with the Spanish theme in a future podcast, looking at the video nasty ‘The Cannibal Man’, so be sure to listen out for that. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for naked swarthy men on horseback, sauntering through the tall grass…