Thursday, October 20, 2016

1976: The Destroying Angel

Released in October, 1976

Director Peter DeRome delivers what many consider to be a prime example of how the late-1970's gay urban world moved, in stark contrast to how gently that same decade had begun.

Billed as the first gay porn horror flick, “The Destroying Angel” is as groundbreaking and controversial as it is bizarre. If you agree with the premise of the movie, by the end of the 1970's, drugs were the norm, as were multiple orgasms with many partners in dark environments, and raucous orgies happened where men were treated as nothing more than receptacles for the dicks and semen and piss of more masculine guys. To some, the movie represented the future in a strangely prophetic way, as it prefigures the AIDS epidemic, as sickly Caswell (the main character) languishes and sweats in his room, dying from a mistake made in his lifestyle. To others, it's just a freaky movie filled with ruff sex and weird fantasies/hallucinations.

Taking nearly a year to complete, "The Destroying Angel" has twenty-two scenes which were shot over the course of sixteen days in nineteen locations, including Montauk Point, Christopher Street, and even an 18th-century cemetery. With its high production values and complex storyline, complemented by a cutting-edge for the time electronic score, the film cemented director's De Rome’s reputation as an auteur among pornographers.

PLOT: We meet handsome young seminarian, Caswell, who is wrestling with a deep conflict: he's being torn between the call to his religion and it's values, and to his own repressed sexual desires for sex with other men. During a three month sabbatical from the order, he picks up a callous macho stud at a bar (played by Bill Eld) who he takes home. Eld gives Caswell a brutally animalistic fucking... and Caswell loves every minute of the primal screwing. Reportedly, Bill Eld would later comment that he enjoyed the film's artistic qualities and that he found himself completely engaged in the honest harshness of the sex scene, which was filmed with very low lights. Afterwards, Bill Eld makes no bones about expressing his disappointment with the quality of the sex, and when he leaves Caswell decides to try one of the red-headed mushrooms left behind.

After a single bite, Caswell witnesses a sexual adventure unlike anything he has ever known, and his world opens up to infinite erotic (and dark) possibilities. Taunted by glimpses of his horny alter-ego who gives into desires of the flesh, Caswell is taunted into a world of supernatural sex where men use him (including his alter ego).

This movie's sex is intense, with one of his partners cramming a baseball bat, a courgette and a banana inside of Caswell's butt. Yes, you see the baseball bat (blue) fucking him forcefully, managed by his sex partner. Finally exhausted from being a sex slut, he looks up mushroom lore in a book, and finds out that he has ingested a deadly Amanita mushroom, also known as the "Destroying Angel" because of its extreme and lethal toxicity.

Caswell learns that he is dying, and is sent into the grave by the laughing voice of his double. There's a final scene, with Caswell in black robes masturbating on his own newly filled-in grave.

As you can see, "The Destroying Angel" isn't your usual smut. It's hallucinatory montages and driven narrative create an avant-garde nightmare. Right or wrong, the director clearly wanted to express himself.

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