|Brotherly love: Curt McDowell and Mark Ellinger (with Janey Sneed Ellinger) in Siamese Twin Pinheads.|
Curt McDowell’s sex films have an emotional rawness and an intimacy to them that feels unique both to hard-core pornographic cinema and underground film. He spent the other half of his career making camp films—comedies in the key of Kuchar. McDowell would end up blending the two modes to delirious effect in Thundercrack! (1975), a camp melodrama punctuated with scenes of hard-core sex, and to a lesser extent in Naughty Words (1974), a one-minute goof in which (between giggles) McDowell’s friends read off a list of sexual slang words over footage of pictures taken from dirty magazines. Camp, which always signifies the co-presence of sincerity and irony, became a way for McDowell to laugh at the sex that he would take seriously in films like Confessions (1972), Loads (1985), and Ronnie (1972).
Siamese Twin Pinheads (1973), for example, is a willfully tasteless gag film in which McDowell and friend Mark Ellinger appear as mentally retarded Siamese twins, joined at the head via a pair of stockings, who grunt and moan their way through a performance of “Jesus Loves Me” at a talent show presided over by a nun (whose habit consists of a black peacoat wrapped around her head). The film’s immature sense of humor takes a turn for the sexual when, midway through the twins’ rendition of “Jesus Loves The Little Children,” McDowell takes Ellinger’s penis out of his loincloth diaper and starts masturbating him. The moment is typical of the casualness with which McDowell treats sexuality in the comedies, and of his willingness to cross sexual borders with his actors, many of whom (like Ellinger) were friends and family members. (In Thundercrack! McDowell would go on to film a scene of unsimulated sex featuring his sister Melinda.)
|Ainslie Pryor regards a pair of underwear left on her doorstep by George Kuchar in Boggy Depot.|
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