The Passions Of Carol

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From acclaimed cult filmmaker Shaun Costello comes the wildest, funniest and most outrageous Christmas movie you've never seen - An X- rated adaptation of Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol. Taking a leap of faith, Costello convinced two Greek brothers to finance his idea for a holiday-themed adult film to be played at the infamous Capri theater on New York's 42nd street. His plan was to have it shot in October in time for Christmas of 1974. After scheduling and budget delays pushed them into March of 1975, the film was finally completed and released to bewildered audiences who were not quite ready for this odd cross of sex and Christmas. Restored in High Definition from 35 mm elements previously thought to be lost, The Passions of Carol can be viewed in a way that it has not been for 35 years. Following the movie is a bonus featurette titled "The Deuce"; a nostalgiac look at the changing face of New York's notorious 42nd St.

Mary Stuart stars as Carol Scrooge, the curmudgeonly owner of Biva Maggazine (a sleazy skin publication) who insists that her employees work on Christmas. However, on Christmas Eve, Miss Scrooge is visited by three ghosts, each of whom shows her a different vision of Christmas. From Carol's lurid past of sexually manipulating her childhood friends to the meager Christmas celebration of her present day employee, Bob Hatchett, to a terrifying and sleazy vision of Christmas yet to come; each visit is infused with laughter and lessons learned about the importance of giving and holiday spirit.

The film was masterfully lensed by Bill Markle and features a host of adult film stars of the era, Kim Pope, Jamie Gillis, Mary Stuart, Alan Marlow, Day Jason and Sonny Landham, who went on to appear in the Eddie Murphy movie 48 Hours. The Passions of Carol offers everything a Christmas film should have: heart, humor, good spirits and a healthy dose of steamy sex. Passions is a stocking stuffer in more ways than one.
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Editor's Review

Although the video era would yield the occasional seasonal favorite such as Jim Enright's endearingly cheesy A LITTLE Christmas TAIL, such festive commemoration was totally unheard of during the halcyon days of theatrical titillation. This was precisely the proposition Shaun Costello came up with as 1974 drew to a close which had seen him producing close to three dozen one day wonders, all of which had returned their puny investments many times over at the box office. This financial feat was all but lost on the owners of the Capri Cinema, a motley bunch of mob-affiliated entrepreneurs known as "the Greeks." A seasonal adult offering proved a tough sell with Costello's backers. Unable to allay their anxieties, he would pull the trump card of mainstream crossover acceptance. A soon to become perennial porn favorite, assuring recurrent play dates and continuous monetary returns, based on a respected literary source (Charles Dickens' oft-filmed "A Christmas Carol") and, adding class, directed by an imaginary woman named "Amanda Barton!”

An intricate production the director had definitely underestimated, CAROL spent so much time and money that it only reached theaters by the Spring of 1975, bypassing its estimated release date by three months! Regardless of a warm reception by most men's magazines, the movie only managed an inkling of its intended business, dropping out of sight soon after only to re-surge with a vengeance through the advent of home video. Costello's Christmas folly was the result of inexperience with a project of such artistic ambition and sheer ampleness.

Erudite and eloquent, it stands to reason that Costello's dickin' with Dickens would stick close to the letter. Curmudgeonly old codger Ebenezer turns into sexy sourpuss Carol Scrooge (appropriately billed as "Merrie Holiday" for the occasion, gamine carnal comedienne Mary Stuart turns in a bona fide career performance) with hatred of Christmas and humanity in general left intact. Bah, humbug! As chief editor of Biva skin magazine, showcasing hunks for the female clientèle à la Playgirl, she terrorizes her overworked employees and model wannabes alike, ruling the roost with an iron fist in a spiked leather glove. Something of a gym bunny long before this became popular, a pumped up Sonny Landham fits the bill as a potential Biva Boy of the Month auditioning for the conniving Carol and her loyal secretary Gina (Day Jason). The resulting threesome, taking place among mirrored walls, remains one of the most artistic in adult up until that point. Semi-choreographed action (owing much of its effect to Costello's sublime editing, his regular DoP Bill Markle supplying superior raw material) reaches full boil as Sonny's hulking frame contrasts with two of the finest androgynous female forms of the early '70s, both with smallish breasts topping slender physiques.

That night, Scrooge receives a visit from the ghostly apparition of her erstwhile business partner Marley (played with touching perseverance by the late Marc Stevens, struggling gamely with Costello's literary dialog, hilariously ad-libbing to bridge the gaps), bearing the weight of his sins as heavy chains. Warning Carol about the error of her ways, he informs she will be visited by three spirits. The Ghost of Christmas Past (Costello character actor Arturo Millhouse, who played manager to JOE ROCK SUPERSTAR) takes her back to the innocence of childhood.

The Ghost of Christmas Present offers pudgy comedian Kevin André his greatest chance to shine in holly-green tunic and red tinsel boa with matching Yuletide afro, camping it up like an acid-tongued drag diva. Time for Carol to take a peek into the happy home life - the reason for which she cannot fathom ("They love each other and it's Christmas," the Ghost exasperates with grand dame gesturing) - of her harried photo editor Bob Hatchet (Jamie Gillis) and his kindly spouse Barbara, sensitively yet not cloyingly portrayed by sexploitation veteran Kim Pope. Then as now, Gillis had garnered a reputation as porn's resident bad boy, playing an assortment of attackers and rotter's, with this particular part a concerted effort to tweak the image by showing his softer side. Their marital lovemaking (the unseen Tiny Kim's crutches heartbreakingly displayed on the side) ranks among the most tender ever witnessed in adult.

Style shifting with each successive episode, the director has another trick up his sleeve, essaying the silent faceless part of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come guiding Carol to the possible inferno her future holds. Great footage of Times Square leads to a nearly unrecognizable Stuart, face caked white and sporting a grotesque Bozo the Clown wig, turning tricks with miserable married guys like Ashley Moore who claim they "normally never do this" in her dingy motel room, lit by Mario Bava-esque pools of green and red light from the neon outside and the light bulb swinging back and forth overhead. Tellingly, this harrowing scene plays out entirely without music, amplifying Carol's fake moaning as she cheerlessly sucks then mounts her equally unhappy John. This nightmare vision provides her with all the epiphany she needs and Stuart truly does a bang-up job of charting her character's evolution from bitterness to rediscovered humanity, rendering her closing soliloquy riveting rather than ridiculous as she wholeheartedly embraces the spirit of Christmas.

-Review courtesy of DirtyMovieDevotee

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