It was quite a shock to hear of the passing of genre titan Wes Craven last week. While I’m not a fan of all of Craven’s work, I’m a gigantic Nightmare fan — Freddy is undoubtedly the horror icon of the 80s. I also have a particular soft spot for The Hills Have Eyes (1977) — one of the first horror films I ever watched — and Craven’s pre-Scream efforts. I really wanted to pay tribute to the man, but I couldn’t think of anything in Craven’s back catalogue appropriate to be featured on Mondo Exploito. But then I remember, Craven dabbled in porn!
THE FIREWORKS WOMAN
USA, 1975, Wes Craven
With its visceral and highly stylised approach, The Fireworks Woman is a mind-melting tale of incest, loss and desire. At the forefront of its incestuous journey is Angela (Jennifer Jordan). Angela’s first sexual experience is with her brother, Peter (Eric Edwards who starred alongside Linda Lovelace in the infamous Dog Fucker loop). Peter, also sexually naive, is guilt-ridden post-coitus and becomes a man of the cloth. Angela takes a different path.
Still possessed by the sex-charged memory of her brother, Angela finds herself desperately trying to fill the void he left behind with rampant sex. She is used and abused by a upper class woman (Erica Eaton) with a penchant for sadism. She’s raped by a mustachioed fisherman (Lefty Cooper). She begins a strange affair with sea-faring lady. It seems that every person she passes in the street wants a piece of her, yet all she can dream of is Peter.
Wes Craven appears as a mysterious guy who guides Angela in her path of debauchery. Craven’s performance is actually pretty good. He’s far less awkward than he’s been in other minor onscreen roles, and that includes playing himself in (the super underrated) New Nightmare (1994). Craven’s appearance also leads to this incredible, head-scratching moment…
I’ve read a few reviews that claim Craven phoned it in when directing this. The way he speaks of his porn days probably helps in promoting this. But I don’t buy it. The Fireworks Woman is reeks of youthful energy. It’s clearly directed by someone who is both invested and full of creativity.
For its opening ten minutes, and many of the minutes that follow, The Fireworks Woman is a bombardment of deranged sounds and wild visuals. Even the sex scenes are captured with manic glee as the bizarre ear-piercing score punctuates choice moments of blowjobs, fucking and orgasmic facial expressions. On the other end of the spectrum, the film’s softer moments have an oddly gentle touch, complimented with beautifully chosen (stolen?) music.
Robin Bougie of Cinema Sewer and Graphic Thrills fame makes a very apt comparison of the golden era of pornography to musicals of the 40s and 50s. As he tells us, in a great musical, you look forward to the songs as the music compliments character and narrative. It’s the same deal with porn… only replace characters singing with characters screwing. The Fireworks Woman‘s sex scenes certainly meet Bougie’s criteria. Never does it feel like they’re interrupting the story. Even the orgy that explodes onto the screen in the final act (which features the great Jamie Gillis in a non-speaking role) seems the only logical conclusion of the narrative. It’s almost deliriously satisfying.
The Fireworks Woman was a very pleasant surprise. I watched this purely for the Craven connection, but even with a famed and talented director was at the helm, I most certainly did not expect this to be a good porn film. I really, really dug this. In fact, I dug this much more than some of Craven’s mainstream efforts. I highly recommend this to both fans of Craven and those who enjoy quality classic porn.
There’s no legit DVD release for The Fireworks Woman and I kind of doubt there will ever be one. Sadly, a dodgy VHS rip streaming on the internet is likely your only option.