“We’re the same guy,” he says, “But Tommy might have hit a rough patch and he needed to die.”
Made for $7,000, “The Gruesome Death of Tommy Pistol,” then, is an autobiographical snuff film.
Studio: Baby Yetti Productions
Director: Aramis Sartorio
Starring: Aramis Sartorio, Mia Tyler, Caleb Emerson, John Karyus, Kimberly Kane, Vincent Cusimano, Daisy Sparks, Karen Sartorio, Camilla Lim, Eon McKai
Fans of porn performer/director Tommy Pistol can rest assured that his parts have not exploded in a bloody Troma/John Waters mishap, or that he killed Arnold Schwarzenegger, but “The Gruesome Death of Tommy Pistol” is still autobiographical.
In the early 2000s, a New Yorker named Aramis Sartorio took the less romantic name of Tommy Pistol and began a celebrated, if not particularly lucrative, career in porn, appearing in early work by Burning Angel (“Repenetrator”) and Eon McKai (“Neu Wave Hookers”).
Sartorio, a fearless improviser and horror film fan, branched out with the short film “Attack of the Staph Spider,” a hilarious gross-out movie about porn-set hygiene starring himself, the fearless Daisy Sparks, and Eon McKai in the performance of a lifetime.
But few can raise families on porn incomes. Sartorio, married and a new father, struggled to make ends meet pursuing Hollywood work. Push came to shove at home, and he made the decision to kill Tommy Pistol.
We watch what we can only assume is a true-to-life saga unfolding: late for an audition as a $50 extra, dodging calls from creditors, fired from his job at a comic book store, Sartorio’s wife (played by Karen Sartorio) takes the kid (the adorable Cash Sartorio) and leaves for her mother’s.
“I can imagine that will hit home with a lot of actors,” Sartorio told us.
It is then that Sartorio’s character has a psychotic break and we follow him through three trippy interludes, each stranger than the last, culminating in “Staph Spider,” now incorporated into the new film.
Sartorio in “Tommy Pistol” is brimming with the sadness, self-delusion, and hysteria common to any creative type stuck in a place he/she doesn’t want to be.
“It was at a time I just thought Tommy Pistol needed to be killed off,” says Sartorio. “And for a while, he was.”
But Tommy Pistol can still be seen in porn movies, even as Sartorio is realizing his own dream of Hollywood production work.
“It’s all work,” Sartorio says. “The checks go to the same place. We’re the same guy, and it’s hard to kill him off.”
“The Gruesome Death of Tommy Pistol,” made for “a lot of favors,” also stars Kimberly Kane in a scream queen-worthy performance as well as a few very recognizable SAG actors working under assumed names (though Arnold Schwarzenegger is not one of them, Karen Sartorio unwittingly channels Maria Shriver throughout the movie).
“Tommy Pistol” is a flight of fancy anchored to some real grief in a way that would be recognizable to Terry Gilliam fans, and it’s fascinating to watch.