For me, that's when Zebedy Colt's work really starts to get interesting, since his pioneering attitude continued to apply when he made the career move of acting in straight porn, to finance his other work. I'm not entirely sure about how he made his transition to porn, though it took place around 1975; there's a story quoted in one of the interviews on QMH that it began when a "gay porn producer" asked him if he could use a couple of his songs in a film, then asked if he'd appear in the film in question. The article makes it sound like that film was The Story of Joanna
- a Gerard Damiano S&M film, loosely lifted from The Story of O
, in which Colt plays a bisexual butler (and gives head to Jamie Gillis!). The trouble is, if films are in fact listed in sequence, IMDB cites Colt as having acted in two pornos (The American Adventures of Surelick Holmes
and The Amazing Dr. Jekyll
) and even having directed one, Terri's Revenge
, a rape revenge porno thriller - by the time of The Story of Joanna
; it seems more likely that the film Colt is referring to is actually a piece of gay porn, not yet identified, and that The Story of Joanna
came a bit later that year, after he'd been established a bit. Suffice it to say that 1975 was a busy year for Mr. Marsh; in addition to his Broadway work, he appeared in five films identified on IMDB, nine as identified on IAFD
, and no doubt got started on making his second effort as writer/ director The Farmer's Daughters,
released in 1976 - the earliest film of his I've yet to see.
The Devil Inside Her
, the next of Colt's films I've been able to see, is a vast leap forward in terms of craft. As with The Farmer's Daughters
, it's all too sick and too conceptually overburdened to actually be arousing, unless you get off on the "idea" of transgression (Georges Bataille would have loved it, I suspect). But it has moments that bring to mind both Fellini and Ken Russell, albeit in a low budget, low craft fashion. The story goes like this: there are two daughters, Faith and Hope, being raised by a strict Protestant father (Colt again, in the role of male authority; there's quite an irony to his occasional casting of himself in the role of patriarchal authority figures in his films, in fact, since as director he spends much of his time subverting or complicating the Law of the Father). Both covet a buff farmhand (Dean Tait, pictured in "possessed" mode to the left, who has one of those physiques, like Francois Papillon, that immediately tip you to the likelihood that he did his share of gay porn as well - at least when he wasn't weightlifting). When the father finds out that Faith is in love with his employee, he has her strip and beats her cruelly. Hope - gamely played by Jody Maxwell
- is less innocent about her desires. Having watched her sister punished, she prays to God or Satan, whoever will listen, to deliver her man to her.
Satan is first on call. Played by Rod Dumont, he wears heavy makeup throughout, looking rather like a fifth member of KISS, and appearing with an odd strap around his scrotum - a body part which he had, I gather, worked hard to stretch over the years; to speak plainly, so long do his balls dangle that it's at times hard to keep track, when he's tugging on both, whether it's his penis in his hand or his balls and sac; both stretch about ten inches from his body and at one point, so frenzied do his ball-tuggings get, that I expected sperm to shoot out from the crack between the middle of his testicles, like he could ejaculate from both ends. I'm not sure exactly who would find this performance sexually arousing; it's kinky as, um, hell, but it's also somewhat vile, and more than the sheer grossness of his greasy-seeming body and makeup, there's the ideas he represents, which are both repugnant and hot at the same time, in a way clearly designed to get under the skin of of the viewer. He proceeds, at Hope's command - with a little help from a witch who makes Hope a love potion - to transform himself into the farmhand, who rapes Faith; then - well, it's a bit hard to keep track, but over the course of the narrative, Satan also transforms into Faith and sluttishly seduces the actual farmhand, who is very much an innocent; transforms himself into Hope and Faith's father, to fuck Hope; and at some point he transforms himself into their mother, too, who, if memory serves, seduces her own daughter, or starts to. Hope also has a big vegetable-sex scene, for no reason I recall, though I don't believe Satan is manifest in cucumber form or anything; it's a rather filthy scene, quite literally, with garden fresh dirt smearing Jody Maxwell's thighs as she works her veggies. Somewhere in there, she also has sex with a wood sprite, who appears to be able to shape-shift into a parrot, but thankfully that's as close to bestiality as we get (nice to know Colt had limits!). At the film's climax, Hope attends a witches' sabbath orgy, where Annie Sprinkle, as the most game attendee, gets peed on by a group of men who roughly manhandle her, and various odd sexual scenarios take place, including one that I believe is bisexual; Colt denies us a closeup, but there's a scene where three men are shown grouped around one girl in frenzied coitus, and unless I have a failed grasp on the laws of physics, the guy at the back must surely be penetrating the guy ahead of him, based on their body positions. It's kind of hidden-in-there, "slipped in," as it were, in the midst of a beast-with-four-backs scenario.
If The Farmer's Daughters
is borderline incompetent on the level of craft, The Devil Inside Her
shows that Colt was a fast study; made only a short while later, it's vastly more artful, and at times quite impressive (when you consider that it's a low budget porno that is; it isn't ever going to be mistaken for a mainstream film). The climax is shot with red filters, Satanic sets, and scored with creepy-sounding soundtrack music (including a bit lifted from Kubrick's 2001
!); it's all quite unsettling, compelling, deeply sinful, and... well, I got to admit it, it's totally fascinating, as entertaining as hell, even if only for its sheer weird you-won't-believe-this-shit audacity
. At the end of the film, Faith is saved, but Hope is dead, and her soul accompanies Satan to the underworld. Having learned his lesson, the father repents of his past sternness, assenting finally to Faith marrying the farmhand she so loves...
The other must-see Zebedy Colt film I've encountered is controversial insofar as it is not clear that he actually directed it; most people - including horror movie expert and musician Stephen Thrower, in his book Nightmare USA
- seem to treat him as the film's author, and apparently Colt himself regarded himself as such, though that's not what it says in the credits. This is Sex Wish
- ostensibly a Death Wish
rip off, but so much weirder, so much more complicated. Colt plays "the Night Walker," a pervert armed with a briefcase of sex toys, who bursts in on couples and single women and forces them into bizarre sexual situations, toggling as he binds them and torments them between speaking in the voice of a strident, twisted child who wants to have fun and a cruel British governness (the "mother"). Then he murders them, in scenes that mercifully lack any of the convincing quality of what has gone before. One would be unsurprised if it turned out that David Lynch, for instance, was a fan of the film, before creating the character of Frank Booth ("Mommy! Baby wants to fuuuuck!"), since the Night Walker definitely brings Booth to mind. These scenes are played out at great length, and get more and more uncomfortable, with a truly grotesque analogue synth score enhancing the sickening effect. The Night Walker's first target is the wife of straight businessman Harry Reems; his second is a woman Reems knew, so it starts to seem like Reems might be the Night Walker's true target. Reems, hungry for revenge, ends up going on a vigilante hunt for the Night Walker in the gay bars the man is said to frequent; when he finds him, dressed in drag and playing piano, he chases him down and pulls out a gun. Just before Colt is shot, he cries out to Reems, "but I did it because I love you!" or words to that effect. Bang, he's dead. Writes Stephen Thrower (Nightmare USA
, page 498, where the film is given substantial discussion): "that this formula should produce anything other than a hateful homophobic exercise is testimony to the... commitment and energy of its bisexual star player, Mr. Zebedy Colt." Thrower also describes the film as Colt's "twisted revenge on heterosexual porn" and says "gay viewers of political sensitivity may find the film homophobic, despite its bisexual provenance... For a gay viewer not to be offended by the film, they must be able to enjoy the... extraordinary performance Colt contributes."
I'd go one further: I think, in fact, that despite his character arc, the main point of identification for the viewer is supposed
to be Colt; that he's a cipher for whatever ambivalences and resentments the lone broken weirdos of the world out there might feel for happy loving couples out there, and his crimes and the "pleasures" they afford (?) are vastly more important to the film than his ultimate fate. Reems, while giving a fine performance, is a bore, a more or less one-dimensional character who is simply no fun for the viewer to inhabit. The real star of the show is Zebedy Colt, and the film, I suspect, is vastly more hetero-hostile than homophobic, no matter what might be necessary for closure. Sex Wish
may be impossible to enjoy as sexual stimuli - let's hope! - but it's impossible not to find fascinating as a film; there's a really devious mind at work here - and a very talented actor; as others have observed, if it wasn't for the film belonging to a disreputable genre, this would be seen as a star performance, every bit as compelling and outlandish as Dennis Hopper's in Blue Velvet
- and perhaps even moreso.
I've only briefly skimmed through the other Zebedy Colt films I've managed to track down, such as Unwilling Lovers,
which, I gather, adds necrophilia to the buffet of perversions in his cinema (again, it is faked; no one gets harmed in the making of these films - though Jody Maxwell nearly had a fatal fall in making this one, we gather: Robin Bougie talked to her about it in 2005
). Colt plays a mentally challenged man being led into weird sexual scenarios by Rod Dumont again (Colt appears to have had a little repertory company in the porn scene that appear in his films again and again). It's going to have to wait for an opportunity for me to see it; since 75% of my film consumption these days is either with my Mom or my girlfriend. I think it's better all round if I don't try to share Zebedy Colt with them, don't you?