Friday, March 28, 2008

Movie Review: The Spanking Machine

Pain4Fem (released in 2008)

Entire Story In Fewer Words Than Are In This Sentence:
Surrender to the cane-wielding robot overlords!

Victim Appeal:
Two Eastern European women by the names of Nicol and Shannon get an automated thrashing in this interesting and rather unusual flick. One is a blonde, the other a brunette. They both have nice bodies and could be described as the attractive girl-next-door type. Neither of them says a single word during the movie or does any discernible acting, so there isn't really anything else to report. Whatever appeal they have is strictly superficial, but they are cute girls, so I can't complain. I suppose no acting is better than atrocious acting.

There isn't much of a story, either: it all takes place in the same room, where the girls are caned by the spanking machine while a supervisor and his assistant watch. The Pain4Fem website mentions that they receive the chastisement for "serious misdemeanors", but you wouldn't know it from watching the film - the first victim is lead in, tied to a padded scaffold and punished without further ado, followed by the second one. The girls wear handcuffs as they enter, which is the only hint that this is supposed to be some judicial scenario rather than a technical experiment or a test run for the device (maybe it is all of the above?). Given the novelty value of the spanking machine itself, the lack of story isn't really a drawback, but you shouldn't expect an intricate plot.

Gratuitous Sadism:
As Pain4Fem films go, this one is pretty severe, which makes it moderate bordering on hard in absolute terms. Each girl receives 40 cane strokes. After five relatively light ones, the machine is set to "intensity level 2" and rattles off the remaining number in a pretty vicious manner. From time to time, the supervisor interrupts the proceedings to fiddle with the device and adjust its position. On the whole, though, these are two pretty steady and quiet CP scenes without a lot of fuss. Both victims are nicely marked by the end of the ordeal, their bottoms fully covered in welts.

Best Reactions:
Both girls give vocal reactions without getting excessively loud. A lot of weak squirming, as much as the restraints allow, accompanied by "Ouch!" and "Ah!" and other short yelps of pain. Shannon is stoic and collected while Nicol seems a little more agitated, her eyes filling with tears while she gives some mildly desperate looks to the camera. Nicol also grimaces a lot, making her scene the more satisfying of the two.

Best Line:
There aren't any truly memorable lines as the dialogue is very technical and matter-of-fact. One that stuck with me nonetheless: "Intensity level 1, 40 strokes, time interval 5, on automatic." The future of judicial corporal punishment? Time will tell.

Nice Psychological Touch:
I was surprised by how well the spanking machine works - not just literally, but on a psychological level as well. To be honest, I hadn't really expected to like the film. Sure, it's an entertaining gimmick, but without a flesh-and-blood human wielding the cane, there didn't seem to be a lot of eroticism in the idea. However, things aren't quite that simple. While the action isn't exactly steaming hot, it is a lot more intriguing than I thought.

There is interaction between the supervisor (the "top") and the victims here, it's just more indirect and more abstract than in the usual CP scene. The machine functions as in intermediary - it is not a device holding the implement, it is the implement. The supervisor controls the machine, feeds it with the right commands, sets it up to go, then watches with polite curiosity while the chastisement he ordered is carried out. Actually, the female assistant does most of the "programming", typing away at her laptop which is connected to the mechanical device - adding yet another link to the chain.

The results are quite interesting to watch. They have a detached, impersonal, strange charm. Not for everyone's taste - but if you're into "lab rat" scenarios, you will like the kind of psychology that is at work here.

How Good Is It Really?
First off, the movie deserves praise for daring to be different. Even if you are skeptical about the "mechanistic" vibe, you'll probably enjoy the sheer inventiveness of it all. Spanking machines have been tried before, but Pain4Fem advertise theirs as the first "truly serious" one, and it is hard to argue with that. Halfhearted experiments are a thing of the past, this is a fully operational prototype. It's obvious that a lot of work and love of detail went into the device - it has a "safety pin", a Pain4Fem logo, electrically adjustable height and two different severity levels. Now all we need is a speech output module, spouting random lines like "This is for your own good, young lady!", and we can launch a serious marketing campaign.

The film is very heavy on procedure. Victim one is lead in, the handcuffs are removed, she undresses, she is tied to the scaffold (with eleven different straps, no less), the assistant rubs the girl's bottom with water, the caning is carried out, the restraints go off, the welts are treated with lotion and the victim gets her clothes back on. Then we get to see the whole thing again with the other girl. The languid pace fits with the "technical" scenario, but I can't imagine anyone watching the full movie for a second time without fast-forward. On the plus side, the action is competently filmed, with many different angles and close-ups. The victims, their faces and bottoms, and of course the machine itself get a lot of attention.

For now, the presence of the sinister new device is enough to hold the viewer's attention for most of the time, but if Pain4Fem decide to produce a sequel, they should put a little more story in. Maybe they could enhance the "personality" of the machine. What if the gizmo decides to dish out more punishment than it was programmed for, because it feels that the offenders deserve it? What if it runs amok and goes after the sexy female assistant? Ample opportunities...

What You Learned:
If the dehumanized way in which the US applies capital punishment is anything to go by (where someone presses a button to launch the sequence of lethal injections), this is how judicial CP will probably look if it is ever brought back. Raytheon and Lockheed Martin will fight over the government contract, as usual.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mark II: Dispositions and Triggers

(William Blake, "The Body of Abel Found by Adam and Eve", 1825)

In The Mark of Cain, I speculated that, while genetic makeup might explain in part why we spankos are different from vanillas, it is certainly not the only factor. I've always believed that certain "awakening experiences" during childhood have a huge part to play, and this is my next angle of approach.

Not all of us discover our kinky side at such an early age, but many do - and we "early birds" seem to be the most dedicated and obsessive CP enthusiasts later on. That is a pretty normal pattern, really: the sooner you discover your attraction to something, the younger and more impressionable you are, the more likely it is to develop into a full-fledged, lifelong passion. So childhood experiences, and the fact that they are powerful and early, are undoubtedly a major factor. Maybe the single biggest one.

They needn't be actual personal encounters with corporal punishment. In fact, most kinky people I know were never (or very rarely) spanked at home and had happy, sheltered family lives. I never subscribed to the simplistic theory that we are all "abused children" trying to "relive" our traumatized pasts. I certainly don't fall in that category, and when you come to think of it, the whole picture doesn't make sense: if anything, someone who was severely mistreated as a kid is extremely unlikely to grow up and eroticize pain or submission. Instead, what most of us seem to have in common is that we merely heard about CP, read about it in books or saw scenes in a movie. And for some inexplicable reason, it turned us on.

It poses the old chicken and egg question: did these scenes cause the excitement (out of nothing, as it were) and turn us into future spankos? Or did we get excited because, unlike other people, we already had the disposition? The second way of putting it seems to be a lot more plausible. So once again, just like straightforward genetics, childhood psychology doesn't give a real answer, because it doesn't explain where the disposition came from in the first place. What it tells us is this: the knack has to be there already, but it probably needs to be woken up and fed early on, by "external sources".

My own pet theory is that there are many people out there who probably had the right "genetic makeup". Consider that we all have endorphins which are released as a reaction to pain. We all seem to have what the psychologists call "sympathetic responses" when we watch another human being suffer (or imagine ourselves in that position). We all experience the buttocks as an erogenous zone. These are things we share, and maybe it takes only a slightly above average emphasis on any of the above to create a potential spanko.

But while the disposition could very well be there, it might never be triggered. Maybe someone simply doesn't read or hear about corporal punishment at an early age. Maybe the scenes they hear about are too few in number or not powerful enough, because there isn't any hidden erotic tension in them. Maybe the first "good" CP scene they watch comes "too late", when they have already fully internalized the prevailing judgment that flogging your servant maid is a very evil and repulsive thing. Maybe they are severely beaten by their parents, and as a natural consequence, they come to abhor all forms of spanking and punishment - they are no longer open to the idea that there could be consensual, arousing forms of these activities.

Maybe the general disposition is there, but some other important personality traits are missing. For instance, I find that virtually all spankos I meet are more adventurous and imaginative than the average individual, with high amounts of curiosity and empathy. Many of us love historical novels, horror stories, black comedy or all of the above. We enjoy slipping into another character's mind, even and especially if the experience scares or sickens us. We also create these scenarios ourselves - kinky people tend to be elaborate daydreamers, fantasizing not only about BDSM activities, but about all sorts of other stuff as well. Above average curiosity and a fascination with the macabre are two common traits in our community.

It's true that not all spankos like slasher films or historical novels - but I haven't met a single one who was utterly unimaginative. Usually, they are interested in at least one of these genres, or some other form of complex fantasy. It's also true that many vanillas like horror stories, too - but maybe they don't quite have the genetic disposition, and that is why they aren't kinky. Combine all of the factors I have mentioned, and you see where this is going.

So let's summarize and take a look at the construct. It's just a rough outline and some of it will probably be more than a little off. Nonetheless, it offers a good starting point for a more elaborate theory and shows a direction that seems to be more promising than some of the alternatives.

For starters, let's say that part of what distinguishes the kinky person from the vanilla person is, after all, purely genetic. Maybe we release more endorphins as a reaction to pain, or we have a stronger sympathetic response when we watch another human being suffer, or our brains are just "wired" a little differently in some other way. We also have certain personality traits that are above average, such as curiosity, imagination or empathy, a knack for exploring different states of mind, trying things out and experimenting. Such traits could also be genetic, or learned from the right sort of social environment, or both.

These are the dispositions, but they need to be triggered. This usually happens when we see, hear or read corporal punishment scenes at a young age. It needs to be a powerful scene that makes a lasting mark - maybe there is a hidden erotic current, or the description is very vivid and detailed, or we are just deeply impressed for some other reason. These awakening experiences shape and reinforce a connection that is, in a way, already waiting to happen. We know that many such connections and associations that accompany you throughout your later life are formed during childhood, and the earlier they arise, the stronger and more persistent they are.

In our case, as kinky people, we come to associate what we "experience" in these scenes (pain, suffering, dominance, submission, spankings, bondage, fear, horror, any or all of these) with sexual and emotional arousal. Fantasy breeds excitement, excitement breeds more fantasy, and a sort of circle is created. Maybe "spiral" is the better metaphor, because the fantasies and the arousal usually grow stronger. It repeats itself until the connection is frequent and totally natural - a new spanko is born.

For the time being, he (or she) is unsure where to place these feelings, and almost never talks about them to others. The closet stage. Now the only question that remains is, will this individual ever decide to live out the desires? That seems like a more difficult step for most of us.

Which brings my rambling speculation to a close and to a very important final observation. The best expression I can find for it is this quote: "All theory, dear friend, is grey, but the golden tree of life springs ever green." Goethe wasn't writing about BDSM, but the wisdom of his words applies to us as well. Chasing the big elusive answer to why we exist and how we came to be is all very well. I don't expect to ever find it, but the search is fascinating in its own right. Maybe you feel the same way (if you don't, why did you keep on reading?).

But the most important thing, beyond all theory, is to simply enjoy ourselves and our strange obsessions.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Penitentiam agite!

Easter is coming up, so I thought I'd write a little BDSM ode to the Church. Like most Bavarians, I was born Catholic. Well, not literally born, but baptised. I was never a churchgoer and I don't have any strong religious convictions. My parents don't, either. However, the Catholic faith is a part of the Bavarian culture and has shaped the mentality, in a very natural way. Perhaps that is why staunch Bavarian Catholics aren't nearly as annoying or obtrusive as those in some other parts of the world - they don't have anything to prove. I never had a problem with religious people as long as they don't try to force their views on non-believers every minute of the day.

As a historian, I have a certain interest in religion as a cultural phenomenon, and I also find it exciting that we have a German pope for the first time in about 500 years. Benedict XVI. is from Bavaria - he was once the Archbishop of Munich. I must admit that I have some admiration for the man. I disagree with him on many social issues such as birth control or the role of women in the church. But there is no denying that he is a brilliant intellect and writer who sticks to his principles and actually makes some interesting arguments for them. I respect that, because with all our politicians who flip-flop from one election to the next, consistency is all too rare these days.

As well as that, even critics must concede that the Catholic Church has come a long way since the days of the inquisition. Of course, that is where things get really interesting for kinky types like us. "Confessions" obtained by the infliction of severe pain. Monks using the whip for discipline and religious purification. Corporal punishment in strict Catholic schools. Atoning for your sins the good old-fashioned way. Passion plays ripe with scourgings and crucifictions. And don't forget all those sublimely erotic depictions of Christian martyrs, either.

I've always had a special fascination with flagellantism, the practice amongst the more fervently religious to whip themselves (and each other). It can be traced back to ancient times, such as the Dionysian cults in Greece. But it wasn't until the 13th and 14th century that the past-time became really popular. Unlike the monastic orders, the flagellants were laymen who didn't do their penitence in private, but in the city streets and other public places - as a demonstration of piety. And we all know how much fun corporal punishment in front of an audience can be, right? Apparently, their processions and public rituals generated quite a bit of interest all over Europe.

(William-Adolphe Bouguereau, "The Flagellation of Our Lord Jesus Christ", 1880)

The whip was considered a particularly noble instrument because Christ himself was scourged before the crucifiction. It must be said that the ancient Roman idea of a proper whipping, with flayed skin and bones layed open, is a bit too severe even for my taste. Reportedly, many victims died from it. Watch Mel Gibson's Jesus Chainsaw Massacre for the most accurate depiction yet. The only wrong detail is that someone who really had the misfortune of going through the grinder of the Roman justice system would have been fully nude during the flogging. But you can't show that in a Hollywood film, can you?

The flagellants didn't quite kill themselves with the whip, but they applied it with considerable vigour. There must have been some genuinly kinky people among them. And among the ordained monks, too. For example, there was one Italian guy named Dominicus Loricatus, a very zealous Benedictine who was later declared a saint. Legend has it that, during the fasting season, he repeated the entire Psalter twenty times a week and accompanied each psalm with one hundred lashes to his back. The Book of Psalms contains 150 chants, so if my math is correct, that would be 300,000 lashes - in a week! I don't care how saintly you are, you just don't do that unless it turns you on.

I suspect that the public curiosity about flagellant displays had more than purely religious motives as well. For many spectators and members, it may have been closer to the kind of fascination which we in the BDSM scene know quite intimately. After tolerating the movement initially, the church became alarmed by its rapid growth and sometimes manic character. Eventually, flagellantism was outlawed as a form of heresy. Various groups found themselves persecuted by the holy inquisition - from self-torture to real torture, so to speak! Nonetheless, whipping continued to be an accepted form of penance within the church for centuries. Even today, you can see the occasional procession of hooded flagellants in Catholic countries like Spain, Italy or the Philippines.

So, my brothers and sisters, let us embrace religion. Especially the kind where the pious prove their faith in some rather interesting unorthodox ways. Until the church authorities come along and torment them some more. Let us be devoutly grateful for so much historical inspiration. Thank you father, for I have sinned.

On that note, I'd like to wish you all happy (and hopefully kinky) holidays.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Website Review: Whipped Women

Whipped Women is a sister site of Paingate and offers very similar content. They share the same models and the same types of scenarios. As the title implies, the whip is the main instrument of corporal punishment, in all shapes and sizes - floggers, single tails, bullwhips, you name it. Crops and canes are also used occasionally. A traditional spanking enthusiast who likes to see paddles, tawses and some good old-fashioned OTK action will probably complain about the lack of variety. But if you like whipping scenes (and I certainly do), you will find this one of the best sites on the net.

The team behind "Whipped Women" has been hard at work for almost ten years, and there is a huge amount of material. Unfortunately, only a small selection of it is online at any given time. They regularly produce new scenes and repost old ones, but with every update, some of the other content is taken down. Some 20 to 25 scenarios are available in the members section, with one or two additions /rotations per week. I can sympathise with the Quest for Less Server Spend, but it must be said that some other paysites offer a lot more in terms of quantity. If you are looking for a specific "Whipped Women" clip, it could be a while before you see it reposted.

That said, there is an adequate amount of content, and the good news is that the quality is very good. The layout is fairly straightforward. There is a "New Board" where the latest productions are added, and a "Main Board" that recycles old stuff. The movies are in .wmv format at a resolution of 360 x 288, most ranging from 10 to 20 minutes in length, and you also get a large gallery of high-res pictures for each scene. The photography and editing are crisp and nicely done, with a good variety of angles. I especially like the lighting in some of the indoor scenarios, which makes the models look truly gorgeous.

Even though 9 out of 10 sessions feature the whip (how could they not with a site of this name?), there is a fair bit of creative diversity. Settings range from straightforward "SM studio" to "prison", "military" and "historical costume". While there isn't a huge amount of acting or scripted dialogue, they make an effort to imbue their scenes with a sense of excitement and athmosphere. These aren't boring, mute beatings. Usually, there is plenty of communication during the corporal punishment, and most of the sessions sparkle with a quiet, erotic tension. You get the impression of watching real kinky people acting out their fantasies - sometimes playful, sometimes strict, always fun and in a festive mood. This "genuine" feel, beautifully filmed, is the main appeal for me.

Not only do most of the performers appear natural and as if they're enjoying themselves, they are also very pleasant to look at. Truly, "Whipped Women" offers some rather stunning eye candy. The victims section is replete with imaginative stories about Stockholm, Teheran and South Africa, but if my accent detection capabilities are anything to go by, I'd say that the girls are all German. I've seen some of them at Girls Boarding School, and judging by their English, the famous "bullwhip duelling twins" are straight out of rural Bavaria (or maybe Austria?). Too bad that I'm a city slicker from Munich. I have to take more drives to the countryside, it seems.

There is M/F and F/F action, with many of the sessions involving several tops and / or bottoms. I was also impressed by the large amount of outdoors scenes. Add to that a whole lot of different punishment positions and kinky devices (shackles, crosses, benches, pillories...), and you get great variety for a "single theme" whipping site. The severity is middle of the road - some of the action is light, some is fairly vicious, and most of it falls somewhere in between. What matters is that the floggings always produce nice marks and reactions, both of which is important for me.

In summary, "Whipped Women" is an excellent site and well worth checking out. My only gripe is that they don't showcase more of their vast back catalogue, but even so, there is enough to reward a visit. Good technical quality, gorgeous German girls (excuse me, South African...), diverse settings and gratuitous amounts of well-striped skin. You can't really ask for much more.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Words and Attitudes

Take a look at the picture. It is from a Bars and Stripes episode named "Silence is Broken", but I call it "Girls With An Attitude". We have Leia-Ann Woods with her usual bitchy snarl, Niki Flynn giving us her best "I'm appalled!" look, and Adele Haze as the overburdened peacemaker. What is all the fuss about? Well, from what I understand, it starts with Leia making a pass at Adele - the usual cinema verite stuff. So this displeases Niki, and Leia calls her a nutter. Imagine that! Niki, of all people... Anyway, after this insult, violent mayhem ensues.

Such is the power of words. If you read my Non-BDSM Guide to BDSM Terms, you know that I am keenly interested in the subject. Most philosophers are - words are just fascinating little things.

In role-playing and corporal punishment, words can be a powerful turn-on. A kinky friend of mine thoroughly enjoys being called a "whore" or "slut" during a scene. Is that because she just happens to like these expressions, per se? I don't think so. Imagine that someone were to write her an email saying: "You should be ashamed of yourself, indulging in this BDSM filth that promotes violence against women! You are a disgusting whore!" Knowing my friend, I doubt she could rise to the dignity of feeling bothered by such a slur from an obvious simpleton. But I am sure that she wouldn't enjoy the word from that kind of source, either.

So where's the difference? Needless to say, it's in the context - an "in character" BDSM scene is totally different from someone sending you hate mail. It's not really the literal meaning of a word that makes us feel a certain way, it's the context - the intention and the attitude of the speaker, for one thing. The words themselves are quite harmless. They are mere tools - what matters is how you apply them.

Not even the worst insults are "bad words" in themselves. Take, for example, the word "nigger". That one is (rightfully) considered extremely offensive. Literally, it means "black", derived from the Latin word "niger". Which isn't all that horrible, is it? But the point here is that the word has a very bad history - which is just another term for "context". For centuries, it has been used by white people as a slur against those with darker skins. We avoid the term because, in most contexts, it implies racism.

Note that we don't mind if Eddie Murphy uses the word. Quentin Tarantino movies are full of it, too, but no one in his right mind believes that Tarantino is a racist - for one thing, he regularly casts African-American actors. On the other hand, if some moron from a white supremacist group were to use the very same term, we would be alarmed. Again, it's all about the context. We should be concerned about the speaker and his attitude, not about the mere language he uses. There are no "bad words" as such, and you are not going to eliminate bigotry simply by outlawing a list of certain terms.

Still, some people argue that words themselves are dangerous, and they promote their little taboo lists. Politicians, religious fundamentalists, lobby groups and plain old "concerned citizens" all have certain words they don't want you to say. They will pretend that it is all for your own good (usually "protection of the family", the all-time favourite excuse for censorship). The real motivation is to gain and uphold power. Controlling language is the best way to control thought.

In truth, words never harmed anyone - attitudes do. A supporter of censorship will always refuse to acknowledge this very significant distinction, and he will try to blur it with over-simplified arguments that ignore context.

Interestingly, most of these types (the self-appointed language policemen) also have a big problem with BDSM as an activity, and they use the same approach here. They will take what we do out of its context and look only at the surface - a domme spanking her sub is basically "the same action" as a husband hitting his wife or a mother hitting her child, so therefore, it is "abuse". When the censorious nitwits realize that the claim is just too damn stupid to be supportable, they will retreat to the weaker, but equally fallacious position that BDSM at least "encourages abuse".

All of this is nonsense for a very simple and, one would think, obvious reason: BDSM is consensual while abuse isn't. It is neither equivalent to nor does it encourage real violence. Again, it is the context of the action that makes all the difference. Like any word, the basic act of spanking someone is really "neutral" in itself - what matters is who the two individuals are and what intentions they have.

It is so clear that, on the face of it, the point doesn't even seem to be worth mentioning. But because what we do and the feelings we have are so powerful in their own way, we sometimes become fraught with doubt ourselves. Questions arise, such as: can I really be a submissive woman and a feminist at the same time? Or, can I honestly say that I oppose torture when I get turned on by images that look like torture?

Of course we can. But it's an insight that requires a lot of self-exploration and isn't always as "easy" as I've made it out to be. I had the same questions myself and I still wrestle with them sometimes, because the journey is never fully over. However, we should always keep in mind that it's not merely what we do, it's our attitudes that matter. We mustn't confuse ourselves (or let ourselves be confused) into believing that adult consensual BDSM is objectionable somehow. It is not, and moreover, we should not be afraid to let others who don't share our kink know why that is.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Kingdom of the Mind

The Brain -- is wider than the Sky --
For -- put them side by side --
The one the other will contain
With ease -- and You -- beside --


(Francisco Goya, "The Colossus", 1810)

As I wrote in my first post, the title of this blog ("palace") is a reference not only to the fantasy castles built by the real Ludwig, but also to the daydreams which we all construct in our minds. Every spanko does it, and for me, one of the main attractions of CP has always been to get inside another person's head - to discover what makes us tick. The variety and different shades of our inner kingdoms seem virtually limitless.

Wouldn't you love to be able to do it for real? To literally slip into another person, maybe with the help of some fancy futuristic device? See the world through their eyes, feel what they feel, live inside a different body than your own? I suppose it could be mighty interesting for the guys and girls to swap exteriors for a day or two, and not just for sex. Think of the joys of shaving or menstruation! But this, the physical level, would only be the beginning. Imagine the ability to explore another mind in any detail you wish. All their secrets, the hidden desires, fears and fantasies. Not just knowing about them, but experiencing them first-hand. What greater kind of intimacy could there possibly be?

Of course, these ideas are common science fiction themes. They have been explored in the novel Synthajoy by D.G. Compton and films like Brainstorm. One flawed, but interesting film that did it in recent years was The Cell. It's about a psychotherapist who can enter the minds of her patients with a revolutionary new treatment. The police ask her to help with a serial killer investigation. The perpetrator is under arrest, but comatose, and they want to find out where he has hidden his last kidnapped victim. You see, the victim is still alive, but she is automatically being drowned in a tank that slowly fills with water, and there is a certain urgency. So the therapist agrees to venture inside the killer's mind, and needless to say, it is not a pretty place.

"The Cell" is far from perfect. Like any other sci-fi / horror B-movie, it has its share of plot holes and cliches. The cast is okay, starring Vincent D'Onofrio as the killer and Jennifer Lopez in a surprisingly tolerable performance as the psychologist. But the "dream sequences" depicting the lunatic's mental landscape are truly impressive - it's as if Salvador Dali, Francisco Goya and Dante Alighieri had all worked on the film. We also get some fetish and bondage themes - and one wicked scene of torture that is male on male, but so disturbed that you'll enjoy it even as a hetero. In other words, recommended viewing for imaginative kinky people.

In my own private kingdom of the mind, I've rewritten "The Cell" as a spanking movie. It goes without saying that the sadistic madman wins in my version, while the therapist heroine gets trapped in a maze of insanity and loving submission.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Movie Review: Lady Vernon's Caning Heaven

(Picture courtesy of Punished Girls, where you can download the movie)

Calstar (released in 2000)

Entire Story In Fewer Words Than Are In This Sentence:
Reform school girls get in trouble

Victim Appeal:
Three British girls receive some jolly good spankings, and here is why: in the first segment of the story, two young lasses have escaped from their local reformatory and are hiking around the countryside. They grow hungry and decide to steal some apples. Lucky for us, they pick Lady Vernon's garden and are promptly caught in the act. The lady wastes little time before escorting the would-be-thieves to her house and punishing them with hand, paddle and cane. The second scene takes place at the reform school itself. When one of the pupils returns home too late, she is rewarded with an over-the-knee spanking and a caning from the boss.

None of the performers are identified by name, but I was able to track down the blonde from the first scene: Lisa Curtin. How I love to do a bit of cyber-detective snooping... Lisa is the main attraction for me, not only because she looks pretty and takes the hardest thrashing, but also because she seems rather intrigued by her ordeal. Time and again, she gets a half-grinning "This is different from my usual glamour shoots!" expression on her face. Out of character, but cute. By contrast, her companion is bored, indifferent and surrenders during the first stage of punishment - she might as well not be in the video at all. The final girl from the next segment is watchable again, a dark-haired lanky thing who has starred in other Calstar films.

Gratuitous Sadism:
This is a middle of the road movie - no outrageous severity, but enough to be appealing. To start things off, Lisa Curtin gets a 7 minute OTK hand spanking (first over the panties, then on the bare) that leaves her well reddened. After that, she is made to bend over Lady Vernon's sofa for an equally long encounter with the thin leather paddle. She remains in that position for the final caning. There are different angles and repetitions, so it's difficult to tell the number of strokes, but my estimate is around 12. They are all quite vicious and produce some handsome marks.

For some reason, the other girl goes straight to the cane, no other implements - and she gives up after two strokes! I beg your pardon? That doesn't even count as a "fizzle". Go back home, and don't you dare come near a CP film again. So, as a result, they had to slap on the other scene at the reform school to get a full video. I suppose it's good news, because the third girl is cuter, anyway. And far more resilient. We are treated to another hand spanking and a caning of some 15 strokes. Not as hard as Lady Vernon's, but enough to make the victim squirm and leave some welts.

Best Reactions:
Lisa Curtin all the way. With her teeth bared, she soldiers on through a corporal punishment session that, while not excessive in absolute terms, was probably a bit more uncomfortable than she expected. Tears start flowing as the leather paddle makes its mark, and predictably, things only get worse with the cane. But even as Lady Vernon fires off a dozen nasty strokes, Lisa never produces more than the faintest of sounds. She just gasps and snivels and grimaces most magnificently. Her relief at the end of it is genuine and palpable.

Best Line:
When the dark-haired lass comes home late, the headmaster is furious to find out that she has spent time with the boys in town. "I know what the local lads are like down there, when they can take advantage of you poor girls!" The beauty of it all lies in the fact that he has set the girl up in the best room of the reform school, with the largest bed - and he constantly reminds her of their "special relationship" and how grateful she is supposed to be!

Pot and kettle? Well, where would CP movies be without a nice old-fashioned set of double standards...

Nice Psychological Touch:
I can't really think of anything specific, unless you count the presence of Lady Vernon herself. She is not a great actress, but exudes an aura of intensity and dread that is quite captivating. Her segment of the video is clearly superior to the ending.

How Good Is It Really?
It's always hit and miss with Calstar videos. Some are excellent, some are forgettable, and most fall somewhere between the two extremes. "Lady Vernon's Caning Heaven" is one of their better titles. Alright, there are no sets or costumes worth the name (the reformatory looks conspicuously like someone's bedroom). The acting is average at best and the story is little more than an alibi. But the film has a certain rugged charm. Like Lady Vernon herself, a stately domme with wild red-brown curls and a cigarette-stained snarl of a voice. She has "cruel bitch" written all over her and clearly enjoys her work. Good technique, too. Together with Lisa, the brave tearful blonde, it's quite a lovely combination. I would have liked to see the two of them in a movie with better technical craftsmanship.

What You Learned:
Whether it's the Garden of Eden or Lady Vernon's front yard, apples are dangerous. Especially to young women.