Monday, April 22, 2013

Beware: Bed Sins (Mario O'Hara, 1985) now online - a continuation of the weeklong O'Hara retrospective

Now online, Mario O'Hara's Beware: Bed Sins (1985); sadly, without subtitles

O'Hara's entry into the '80s softcore porn sweepstakes isn't quite the bare-bones classic that, say, Peque Gallaga's Scorpio Nights is; possibly one might make the case that less story and not more improves an erotic film's chances at actually working, the heaving breasts and pumping behinds speak speaking louder and more eloquently than any mere screenplay (written in O'Hara's case by the usually excellent Frank Rivera). Gallaga far as I can see had at most a scenario (housewife and student have an affair, behind the bodyguard husband's back) with the barest whiff of dialogue, and the minimalism turned his work into a sexual allegory about defiance in the face of of fascism (in this case, the Marcos administration).

Possibly there are other reasons: the producers at Seiko Films interfered with the production, to the extent of inserting explicit genital shots into the lovemaking--a practice O'Hara vehemently condemned; the budget was so small (especially for zombie makeup), O'Hara's actors look more afflicted with a debilitating case of eczema than any mere voodoo curse.

That said, the film does have the sensuality, the dark sensibility of true noir. Carla (Sarsi Emmanuelle, arguably loveliest of the era's 'softdrink beauties,' and one of the most talented), a high-class prostitute, has many clients--some mere jerks, some out-and-out psychopaths; one is out to kill her. Simple enough premise (though not as simple as some, as we've noted), O'Hara complicates matters with a series of flashbacks, flash forwards, fantasy sequences and outright hallucinations that cause the narrative to be every bit as unreliable as the handful of suspects stalking Carla (Is it really happening? Has it already happened? Will it happen soon?). Sergio Lobo continues the noir camerawork he did for O'Hara previously (in Uhaw sa Pag-ibig) and gives us angled shadows, deep colors, a variety of skin tones; Jaime Fabregas manages, within limits of the synthesizer so often used for Filipino soundtrack music at this time, to give us a moody score with (thanks to a button that switches to 'pipe organ' mode) distinct Gothic flavors.

Sarsi almost isn't acting here--she hardly ever does. Her huge, lustrous eyes are as naked in their emotions as her body often is, and unclothed she has a frankness and unselfconsciousness about her that's breathtaking. She's ably matched by her co-stars--Joel Torre as a hotheaded lover, Rafael Roces as her detective protector, Liza Lorena as her fanatically religious friend, and even Fabregas himself as one of Carla's more eccentric clients. 

Not one of O'Hara's best, but give the film a chance and it's a fascinating head (and groin) trip. 



Ian | Going Places said...

I just watched this movie and its a one dizzy roadtrip to understand the story of the movie itself. Could you clarify why Carla wants to be killed by Liza Lorena's character and her relation to Al Tantay's character.

Noel Vera said...

It's tough going claritywise, but far as I remember she didn't want to be killed by Liza Lorena, and Al Tantay was simply her former lover. If you have an alternate take I'd be interested to hear it.