Cecil Howard's Star Angel

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Cecil Howard's Star Angel, like all of his films, is a richly textured story with multi-faceted characters. Mr. Howard refers to it as "the most daring film I ever made" while an AVN review of the time said "[Star Angel] is a real film, with sex, definitely not just another adult feature."

Cecil Howard has a rare talent for bringing out the most riveting dramatic and sexual performances from the top performers of the day. Star Angel garnered Cecil Howard the 1987 AVN award for Best Director. It was his third Best Director award in 4 years.

Lola (Tigr), hot queen of rock'n'roll, is into sex. Her husband/manager Luke (Jerry Butler) has put her act together but she can't handle success. In a fit of despair, desperation and rage, Luke feeds Lola pills and whiskey inducing Lola to overdose.

Five years later, Luke is a successful rock promoter but he is constantly haunted by his past with Lola. Only his red haired lover Kate (Colleen Brennan) and his chauffeur Mario (Ron Jeremy) know that something is wrong with Luke. Kate is desperately in love with Luke in spite of his nightmares and questionable past. But, her devotion is tested when Luke brings home a deliciously lovely hitchhiker named Terry. What Terry and Kate don't know is that Luke sees a terrifying vision of Lola in Terry's smile. Luke believes that Terry is possessed by the ghost of Lola.

Terry is a vamp seducing Kate easily while Luke sleeps but also keeping her eye on Luke. Luke announces plans for a party. That evening, Luke goes into a dreamlike state where he sees his party guests all having sex with an insatiable Lola. Hot with horror, Luke takes Terry to his room where Terry and Lola merge into one being during a shocking and scoldingly erotic sequence which brings the film to its stunning conclusion. Penthouse Pet Angel, Colleen Brennan and Taija Rae all give career defining performances in this emotionally charged tale of love, possession and betrayal.

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Editor's Review

Possibly the most ambitious adult filmmaker of all time, yet thankfully possessing the creative clout to back up his lofty aspirations, Cecil Howard was according to popular myth likened by one harried hardcore performer to megalomaniac Hollywood mover 'n' shaker Cecil B. DeMille, a candid comparison he apparently appreciated to such an extent the moniker stuck and "Cecil Howard" saw the official light of day. His allegedly rambunctious on-set demeanor may also have been the reason that the controlling Cecil ended up naming his production and distribution company Command Cinema, exercising rigorous copyright protection in an industry where this was clearly the exception rather than the norm. Henceforth, his mostly magnificent movies are generally not as widely seen as indeed they should, longtime fans clamoring for DVD releases that have yet to materialize as of this writing, with the glorious exception of Media Blasters' R1 de luxe editions of his incomparable NEON NIGHTS and BABYLON PINK, the latter of which he only produced with the late great Henri Pachard directing.

Arriving at the tail end of an awesome career, as the industry was shifting its focus from lavish theatrical releases towards the considerably more frugal – and therefore more commercially viable at this stage – shot on video medium (that Howard had just attempted and characteristically made his own with his groundbreaking DANGEROUS STUFF), it might be tempting to view STAR ANGEL as something of a last gasp for both director and genre. Though Howard continued till decade's end with well-received video sagas such as the three part SINNERS and the four part The LAST X-RATED MOVIE, interspersed with the odd 35mm project released straight to VHS tape (his FIRESTORM sequels), a rapidly dwindling theatrical circuit made him seriously downscale his endeavors from now on. Truth be told, such can already be sensed in STAR ANGEL, with several recycled soundtrack selections (including an instrumental rendition of the FIRESTORM theme song) – commonplace among competitors but off limits to Howard until then – and, far more astonishingly, the use of a full sex scene between Ron Jeremy and already long gone fly by night starlet Tammy Lamb (best remembered for playing hulking Kevin James' diminutive girlfriend in Kirdy Stevens' TABOO II) from his prior SCOUNDRELS as flashback footage ! A limited number of sets, equally signaling the retraction of resources, separates the movie from the director's sprawling sexual epics like PLATINUM PARADISE, FOXTROT and FIRESTORM, placing it in a more seemingly subdued line-up with the likes of SCOUNDRELS and SNAKE EYES, cryptic carnality with profound psychological underpinnings courtesy of their excellent Anne Randall screenplays. She contributed extensively and with customary zeal to the STAR ANGEL script, her efforts streamlined by respected magazine writer R. Allen Leider, best known for his collaborations with Roberta Findlay on LIQUID A$$ET$, GLITTER and her low rent horror flick THE ORACLE. While operating on a more straightforward level than previous Howard/Randall joint endeavors, the engrossing narrative combines with almost uniformly stunning performances to craft what is indeed one of the indisputable zingers of a Golden Age grinding down to its twilight years.

Jerry Butler equals the intensity of his award-winning SNAKE EYES performance as Luke Frame, downtrodden manager to his spiraling out of control rock star girlfriend Lola Rain, portrayed with a hauntingly dead-eyed Jennifer Jason Leigh kind of self-destructiveness by Chelsea "Tigr" Manchester. Her gargantuan drug habit making her a risky proposition at best, Lola has come to manifest herself as the thorn in Luke's side, tearing him up between unconditional love and disgust. One fateful night, he plies her with downers and booze in a twisted attempt at release and redemption for them both. Desperate and tearful, he makes love to her one last time. When he comes, she's gone. Flash forward several years. Living the life of a successful music producer, Luke shares a loving relationship of sorts with understanding assistant Kate, another standout turn by former nudie starlet turned dirty movie doyenne Colleen Brennan. Though deeply infatuated, she can't keep him from obsessing over gone but far from forgotten Lola, a poisonous presence whose accusing image spooks him at every turn. Into this diseased menage comes unwitting interloper Terry, a teenage tease hitchhiker prone to playing provocative pranks. Though clearly out of her depth in an ensemble that includes several of the finest fornication film thespians, adorable Angel really does try to act and Howard draws a performance out of her superior to anything fellow filmmakers ever managed. The scene is set for tragedy as Luke's swanky New Jersey abode transforms into a hothouse of emotional sickness fueled by the unfulfilled yearnings of all reluctantly involved.

With a swift one hour and a quarter running time, Howard rarely allows narrative momentum to slip, largely restricting sexual content to the bare necessities that propel the plot forward. Exceptions would be the frothy subplot involving Luke's chauffeur Ron Jeremy and his carping fiancée Taija Rae, unnecessary comic relief though expertly executed, and an artistic group sex fantasy with buck-toothed beauty Marita Ekberg accommodating Latin hunk Frank Serrone as well as Belgian Jose Duval (do the Old Country proud, Jose !) in a self-conscious effort to emulate the celebrated "red scene" from FIRESTORM. Still, this provides a rare opportunity for minor New York DoP "Sandy Beach", who worked on such minor Joe Sarno flicks like A TASTE OF PINK and TIGHT DELIGHT, to shine, temporarily disrupting the stifling stronghold of the minimalist melodrama played out between four walls.

-Review courtesy of DirtyMovieDevotee

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