More than 30 years after the first “Sex World,” an Anthony Spinelli romp that mixed “Fantasy Island” with Plato’s Retreat, a bus, an airport, ten sets, and several dozen cast members, Lee Roy Myers remade it with a smaller budget and a lot less pubic hair.
“Had I remade the original—with the airport and the 30 extras—it would have cost $150,000,” Myers says.
Myers, who first watched “Sex World” as a teen in Canada, says it and “Debbie Does Dallas” are two of his favorite porn movies.
“But whereas ‘Debbie’ has this sweetness to it—and I hesitate to say ‘sweetness,’ but there you go—I think Spinelli thought he was going to make a message movie, like a porn version of ‘Westworld’ and got lost along the way.”
Indeed, “Sex World” is more like “Fantasy Island” than anything else, but it is very much its own thing.
The original “Sex World”—a Billy Thornberg Production of an Anthony Spinelli film—features a disco theme song that would not have been out of place in the Village People origin tale “Can’t Stop the Music,” released a little over a year later. The theme is interpreted by song stylist Toni McVey:
Sex World! – do what you will
Sex World! – you’ll have your fill
Give us your trust
Climb on our bus
Leave the loving to us
So great it will be
You’ll find your love
Below or above
At Sex World, my dove
You’ll turn to fire, we guarantee!
A busload of pilgrims convenes in San Francisco for the one-hour ride to Sex World, and we learn, through a series of flashbacks, why each traveler has come.
There’s the good-smellin’ painter, Joan, whose free-thinking and supportive husband encourages her to go to Sex World to find more models. There’s Ralph and Millie, whose marriage is suffering; she can’t fellate a guy who calls her “Mama” and who has no balls. And then there’s shame-filled Method phone sex actress Cyndi, who needs to come to terms with her guilt.
The pilgrims arrive at a country estate, where they are greeted, Mr. Rourke-style, by an urbane man who instructs them that at Sex World, “we are not here to judge you, but to pamper you.” To that end they can explore their fantasies of frottage, incest, even masturbation.
Meanwhile, in a control room, analysts decide how each client should be best served.
There is a complex system of rules at Sex World, including not discussing the adventures one has at Sex World with one’s mate. Instead, husbands and wives get their own, individual fantasies. There is also a clever rule that visitors can never come back.
This leads to much soul-searching.
“But,” Joan says after a romp with a model come to life, “When we get home, I don’t know if we have a marriage left.”
The utterly satisfying thing about the first “Sex World” is that there is some serious pornic ambiguity that is handled off-camera. One man wants to be dominated by another man. Another guy wants to fuck his sister. A woman also mentions incest. We don’t see any of these things, but today’s porn landscape wouldn’t allow such things to be mentioned.
Meanwhile Roger Forbes (the late John Leslie), a racist Alpha Male, is to be dominated, it is determined, by “someone he hates”: a black woman.
She appears in his room and Roger thinks she’s the maid.
Forbes snaps at the woman to clean up the place.
“Clean your wet cock when we’d done, Suh,” she says.
“Now look, Fat Lips,” he says. “You got the wrong room. At Thanksgiving, I wait for the white meat.”
She’s having none of it.
“This ass smells like ass,” she says, cryptically. “Go ahead; smell it.”
We watch the analysts in the control room making things happen as well as counselors gleaning from the clients what it is they most want.
The most poignant: a sad sack lady asking merely for “someone to be nice to me.”
There are a number of reasons movies like this aren’t made anymore. Budgets don’t exist for such fripperies as plot development (though Spinelli often started scenes in the middle, which is a pleasant change for a porn movie) or huge casts, and I guess market research must have shown at some point that, well, maybe you shouldn’t mention incest.
Lee Roy Myers’ 2011 update makes several nods to the original, including the reappearance of Ralph and Millie, the control room, and the counselors, but also sets the proceedings in the future, whereas the original “Sex World” was contemporary. This is not a problem with the remake. In fact, there is a nice scene where Ashli Orion’s hair is turned from red to black with a simple iPhone-style fingerswipe.
“But I couldn’t do the John Leslie/racist stuff,” Myers says, “although I thought that was some of the best acting in the original movie.”
And Myers makes Kimberly Kane the sad sack lady, a role she performs with wistfulness. It is such a joy to watch a sad Kimberly Kane being railed back to health.
Another nod to the source was the final scene, which Myers believes was the late Spinelli’s way of saying that the movie itself was the fantasy of one of the control room monitors.
“In a place where anything goes,” Myers says, “the weirdest fantasy is the one where she gets to control other people.”
I would like to see both these movies sold as a package, because both are great snapshots of what porn was and what it is.
For example, while the original had such classic beauties as Kay Parker, Leslie Bovee, and Annette Haven (especially Annette Haven), I realize that I, too, have become a product of my time: I can’t deal with hairy vaginas anymore. During one cunnilingus scene in the original, I thought I was looking at Sauron’s eye.
So, while Myers’ update is also limited to standard-issue porn bodies (it is odd how porn performers look more similar these days than they did then), we never have the Princess Leia concern of kissing a Wookie.
That said, Myers’ version lacks the emotional (and geographic) sweep of the original. In the first “Sex World,” we watched a bus travel over the Golden Gate Bridge. We saw O’Farrell Street and a trolley circa 1978. We saw the outside. We got the sense that the cast and crew were together for weeks. Not so the new one, shot over two days in different sections of the same room.
It may be too convenient a comparison, but it seems to me that the perfection of a more recent porn movie—cutting out the stuff that could really go wrong, like acting—takes away the soul of a movie. While the 1978 cast weren’t the best actors, they were really working at it. The 2011 cast weren’t trying to be actors but the best porn performers they could be.
- Buy the 1978 original “Sex World” here
- Buy the new “Sex World” here