Sunday, July 19, 2009

Movie Review: Crime and Punishment

Lupus Pictures (released in 2004)

Entire Story In Fewer Words Than Are In This Sentence:
Headmaster battles crime at his school

Victim Appeal:
From the single sentence synopsis I just gave, you could think that this is a remake of the James Belushi cult classic The Principal. But it's a Lupus video, so the action is set in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, not modern day California, and the headmaster chastises his unruly students with a cane, not with his fists. Which makes it all the more interesting, of course. Moreover, while Belushi is a cool guy (and a seriously underrated actor), he is not nearly as cool as Pavel Stastny. The protagonist of the From the Headmaster's Study series gives another superb performance here.

On the victim side, there is Niki Flynn in her second adventure with the werewolves, a couple of months after The Exchange Student was made. In my opinion, "Crime and Punishment" is among the best, probably the best, of her films. Not least because the other girls, three Czech models by the names of Klara Kopeckova, Kristyna Stankova and Katerina Flegrova, are all lovely to behold, too, and turn in some great scenes of their own. In terms of cast, it doesn't get much classier than this.

Gratuitous Sadism:
Lupus Pictures are among the tiny handful of spanking video producers who try to make actual, real films instead of mere wank fodder (not that there's anything wrong with wank fodder, mind you). "Crime and Punishment" has a proper storyline, period sets and costumes, over half a dozen supporting characters, and a slew of subtle comedic references. I'm not going to recount the whole thing here, you should just see it for yourself. Suffice to say that it is probably the only CP video in existence that opens with a full-blown gunfight and has an appearance by the young Dr. Sigmund Freud later on!

Like the other Headmaster's Study videos, this one is set around the turn of the 20th century, when Bohemia was part of the fading Habsburg Empire. In the latest turn of events, Headmaster Stastny discovers that some of his students have done nude pictures for an American photographer who preys on Czech girls. Needless to say, he decides to punish them severely for their "immoral blasphemy", the shame they brought on his school. One by one, he calls the three culprits into his office and orders them to strip down and reenact the poses they did - just to point out the indecency of their behaviour to them, you see, although I can't help but imagine that he is also having a bit of secret fun behind his stern, outraged exterior. One student shows him how she posed as the Greek goddess Diana with a bow, another how she played a clown, bending over and holding her head between her legs.

The girls are contrite and embarrassed. One of them confesses that it was Miss Czermak (Niki), a Czech-American student from the eighth class, who set them up to this. With her mixed family background and having only recently moved to Bohemia from the US, Miss Czermak was an ideal accomplice for the foreign photographer. She contacted the girls, arranged the shoots and brought them the money afterwards. Obviously, all four of them get soundly caned before the film is over. Strapped to the headmaster's wooden punishment bench, the three Czech girls receive 40 strokes each while Miss Czermak gets 50 (Niki's longest on-camera caning, as far as I know, and certainly one of the hardest).

The werewolves from the east are known for their no-nonsense approach and Pavel Stastny was one of their most severe tops. As one would expect, the CP action in "Crime and Punishment" is very, very vicious indeed, and what's more, it is delivered with Pavel's near-perfect style and accuracy (unlike some dommes from a rival Hungarian company I could mention). Truly a feast for the eyes and ears of sadistic viewers like me. All victims have beautiful bodies, all writhe and scream under the headmaster's cane until their asses are covered in gorgeous, vivid stripes. Even Niki, who is notoriously difficult to mark, ends up with rather nasty welts, some of them bleeding. History records that they lasted for well over a month.

Before Miss Czermak's ordeal is over, though, she receives yet another punishment, a forced haircut. Niki has wonderful, long dark curls here, and in their usual authenticity-obsessed manner, Lupus used antique scissors with blunt blades. It's probably one of the best forced haircuts ever filmed, a dream come true if you're into that kind of stuff. Even if you're not, the scene is interesting and a great finale to an already great title.

Best Reactions:
All four action scenes are good, but it is Niki's that really stands out. She plays the "villain", so her caning and subsequent haircut are scheduled as the main course, and that is exactly what they turn out to be. The dramatic buildup, when the headmaster questions an at first unsuspecting Miss Czermak in his office before bringing in the other girls and confronting her about the naughty pictures, is excellently done. Then there's the caning itself, 50 full-arm, full-force strokes from Pavel Stastny. I always love the Lupus punishment bench and how the girls' upper bodies jump up and struggle against the restraints. Niki is a particularly delicious sight in this regard.

In Miss Flynn's own words, this was the second-hardest caning of her life, to be surpassed only in 2007's "Red Reformatory: Old Friends". But the latter is an inferior scene for me and I consider this one here to be her best. The perfection of "Crime and Punishment", aside from the buildup and the chemistry, lies in the the fact that the beating is not just hard, but beautifully filmed as well. Great selection and editing of shots, showing the whole scene, facial reactions and closeups of that lovely bottom. Pavel's pace is exemplary as well - measured and deliberate, but not too slow, then speeding up at the end.

Moreover, I love Niki's reactions, and this isn't true of all her films. Sometimes, especially in her Lupus work, she simply gets too loud for my taste. I don't blame her, but that's the way it is. Here, she is basically screaming her head off, again - and somehow, I like it this time. The measured tempo prevents the scene from becoming too frenzied, and there's something in Niki's shrieks that is just really enjoyable. You can hear the agony and the growing desperation. My favourite moment comes around stroke 25, the halfway point exactly, when an already-battered Niki, perhaps realising how far she still has to go, starts wailing in both languages: "Please, please, pleeeaase...! Prosim!" Pavel's unmoved reply: "Cesty!" ("Fifty!")

Best Line:

As the video opens, the police break into the American porn photographer's studio. A gunfight erupts and they blow away both the photographer and a model who is there at the time, the latter by mistake. One of the policemen bends down, determines that the girl is dead, and glares reproachfully at his colleague: "It would seem someone has poor aim here!"

It would seem so, yes.

Nice Psychological Touch:
The scene with Sigmund Freud, of course. Before showing us the famous founder of psychoanalysis late in life in The Last Case of Dr. Freud, Lupus already had a "cameo" by a much younger doctor here (played hilariously by Jan Zacek). He explains to the headmaster: "I believe that all that naughtiness is actually caused by suppressed human sexuality. When the students at your school do something wrong, they know they'll be punished. And they want it! When you punish them, you actually... how should I put it... have sex with them." I'm not much of a Freudian myself, but as someone who believes that sadism is an expression of affection, I'd like to think that he has a point there!

How Good Is It Really?
In case you haven't noticed it by now from my lengthy, rave review: this is one of my all-time favourite spanking videos. Pavel Stastny at his magisterial best, Niki Flynn in her prime, a good supporting cast, wacky Lupus humour, ultra-severe canings and a forced haircut scene... What more can you really ask for?

We all have our own criteria and individual taste, but in my book at least, this is quite simply the best film of Niki's career. She has done others that were more interesting or unusual in terms of story and setting. She's done some that were just, or almost, as good in terms of CP action. But this is the one that, in my mind, achieves true excellence in both departments, and that is why I rate it as the best.

What You Learned:
Probably more than any other of his videos, "Crime and Punishment" is responsible for the PIC Syndrome (Pavel Inferiority Complex) I suffer from as a top.


Mr A said...

I have to agree, this is one of my all time favourite videos as it combines the chemistry of the participants very well with the plot compelling CP action. When I first viewed the trailer a few years ago, I subsequently looked at the stills and only then was I convinced that this was a consensual participation by the ladies. I then purchased and read the book Niki Flynn wrote; at the time, these scenes clearly pushing the envelope for her in her in a self exploration of intense films and scenes that perhaps contributed to making this a fine production. Once achieved, to continually safely challenge boundaries must be difficult and at the same time capture this exploration in a quality film production.


Can't remember if it was in her book or on her old yahoo group (could have been both) but I do remember Niki writing that the hair cutting scene was more painful than the caning. Although hair cutting punishments are not my thing it does make me want to see this film to see how bad the cropping scene was. That and it is a Lupus film with Niki Flynn in it, so it is all bound to be good if not great.


Ludwig said...

Prefect: In "Dances with Werewolves" (p. 52), Niki wrote: "In a way I think it [the forced haircut] was actually more painful than the caning." Before the scene, she had asked Pavel to tear really hard at her hair, to make sure people would see that it was real and not a wig. And he cut it with old, blunt scissors, so it felt more like he was tearing it out rather than cutting it.

It probably wasn't quite as physically painful as the caning, but the psychological pain was greater still - the feelings of helplessness and embarrassment, which Niki recounts vividly in the book. I don't have a haircut fetish myself, but it certainly is an interesting, powerful scene to watch.

Anonymous said...

A great review of a great video, Ludwig! This certainly my favourite among the films Niki has made so far with Lupus.

I don't speak Czech and often think I'm missing some subtle humour in some of the films. For instance, in one film there is a character called "Benesova" - feminine form of the surname Benes - a famous Czech politician of the interwar period, and I wonder if I'm missing a political joke.

Small grammatical note: I notice you say PS "was" a great dom. Has he retired?

Ludwig said...

Anonymous: "I notice you say PS 'was' a great dom. Has he retired?"

Yes, he has. I hadn't seen Pavel in a new film in a while and asked Thomas Marco about it during my own recent shoot with Lupus. He said that Pavel isn't interested in making CP films anymore. It seems unlikely that he'll come out of retirement anytime soon, or ever. I understand he is very busy, and happy, with other, non-kinky hobbies nowadays (but that is private, and I obviously can't give away any details).