Rolls Royce Baby (1975) Rolls Royce Baby (1975) -**

     One doesn’t normally consider lending out one’s muse, so I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised at the first approximation of never that Lina Romay shows up in movies without Jesus Franco’s name (or at least one of his many known aliases) in the credits. Still, even Divine made Lust in the Dust, and with as many films as Romay has on her resumé, you’d think she must have done something without Franco at some point. And in fact she did— well, sort of. Although it has recently come to light that old Jess was involved in some uncredited behind-the-scenes capacity even here, Rolls Royce Baby was primarily the work of a different Euroschlock titan, Swiss producer-director Erwin C. Dietrich. Franco directed a slew of movies for Dietrich in the mid-to-late 70’s, including a few career highlights like Jack the Ripper and Barbed Wire Dolls. (Obviously “career highlight” has to mean something slightly different when we’re talking about Jesus Franco.) Romay appeared in quite a few of those, starting with the very first of the bunch, a smutty noir pastiche called Downtown. Dietrich evidently liked what he saw, and immediately after Downtown wrapped, he tried his hand at directing Romay himself. But whereas Romay’s Franco-helmed films are generally unclassifiable mishmashes of erotica, horror, crime, genre satire, black comedy, and whatever else happened to bubble out of Franco’s open-pit subconscious that day, Rolls Royce Baby is just flat-out porn of the almost exclusively European type that I like to think of as “tumescentcore.” That is, it isn’t quite hardcore, because it features no closeup footage of actual penetration, but most of the sex is almost certainly unsimulated, and the overall level of explicitness greatly exceeds what the term “softcore” usually indicates.

     Rolls Royce Baby also differs from most of its era’s soft smut in being almost totally innocent of plot. Lina Romay (from Lorna the Exorcist and Mansion of the Living Dead) plays Lisa Romay, erotic photographer’s model and pornographic actress. In what might equally well be an absurd bit of wish-fulfillment or an extremely deadpan joke, she’s successful enough to live in a palatial country mansion surrounded by mile after endless square mile of picturesque tidewater marsh, and to drive herself around in an immaculately maintained and/or restored 1930’s Rolls-Royce limousine. Although she’s having a very enthusiastic affair with Fred (Kurt Meinicke, of Seductress Report and The Sensuous Housewife), one of her most reliable modeling clients, Lisa lives all alone, and mostly seems to like it that way. After all, no one man could imaginably satisfy the demands of her nymphomania, so best to remain unattached, and to take her cock a la carte.

     But one day she finds herself at what I take to be the world’s least popular gymnasium, watching a guy named Erik (Eric Falk, from Caged Women and Greta the Mad Butcher) practice his karate moves (Incidentally, is there a rank lower than white belt? Because this guy needs one.), and feels drawn to him in a way evidently unusual for her. Lisa brings Erik home; they fuck; she shows him her “yoga” routine (which is to say, her routine of striking uncomfortable-looking poses while sitting nude on her bed); they fuck again; and she tells him a story about her days as a struggling beginner, involving a pair of long-haul truckers who picked her up hitchhiking, but left her stranded naked by the roadside in the middle of nowhere when her sexual stamina proved to be embarrassingly too much for the both of them combined. Suddenly, Lisa has an idea. Wouldn’t it be fun, now that she’s rich and famous, to flip the script on her experience with the truckers? On the spot, she hires Erik to become her chauffeur, and starts riding all over the countryside in the back of her Rolls, picking up hitchhikers, banging them ’til they can’t walk straight, and dropping them off without actually taking them anywhere. That goes on for some unspecified span of time until a certain afternoon when she picks up a girl (Ursula Maria Schaefer, of Varsity Playthings and Girls Who Play Alone) by mistake. (Because it’s the 70’s, and who can tell what sex these scrawny, long-haired, denim-clad kids are until you’re practically— or in Lisa’s case, literally— on top of them, right?) Lisa likes her well enough to move her into the chateau for a while, but in the end, the only long-term relationship suited to her restless loins is the triangular one linking her, Erik, and her limo.

     Structurally speaking, Rolls Royce Baby bears a surprising resemblance to American hardcore pornography from the following decade. If we define a sex scene broadly enough to encompass Lisa masturbating (she does a lot of that), then this movie is something like 70% sex scenes— and half of the other 30% is devoted to Lisa posing salaciously for Fred in his studio! Meanwhile, the film routinely goes on for four to six minutes at a stretch with absolutely no dialogue apart from Lisa’s ecstatic moaning. That is not, in my estimation, a good thing, because the number-one reason why I usually prefer my porno movies sub-hardcore and European is because I need a story in order to stay engaged for an hour and a half. Rolls Royce Baby is jarringly chintzy-looking, too, for a movie that includes both a mansion and a vintage luxury car among its primary settings. A few scenes in, it becomes glaringly obvious that Dietrich never had access to the inside of the house, and that Fred’s studio, Lisa’s bed-sitting room, and her bathroom full of incongruous potted trees (with no fixtures of any kind apart from the tub itself!) were all built on the same cramped stage. Nor does it help that Rolls Royce Baby suffers from an extremely severe case of the “but the men!” syndrome that so often afflicts these films. Lina Romay has never been lovelier, but I’ve seldom seen a more lamentable assembly of trolls, CHUDs, and cheese golems than her male partners here. On the other hand, I do have to give Dietrich— and perhaps more importantly, cinematographer Andreas Demmer— credit for how much variety they were able to squeeze out of such a limiting scenario with such limited resources. To be sure, some of that variety is silly, not least whenever Dietrich tries to convince us that Lisa is deriving direct sexual pleasure from something like shaving her crotch or drizzling sand on her clitoris. The point stands, though, that they’re trying to keep things interesting, even if they’ve left themselves precious little room to succeed.

     Rolls Royce Baby even has just a few genuinely effective little character moments, and a handful of what seem to be exceedingly subtle inside jokes for the experienced Eurosmut fan. As an example of the former, consider the scene in which Lisa has Erik stop for what we’re supposed to interpret as a teenaged boy (although the actor playing him doesn’t look significantly younger than most of her other pick-ups). Rather than doing him in the back seat of the limo, Lisa leads the kid out into the rushes— but just barely has she started riding him when she stops abruptly, walks back to the car without a word, and asks Erik for his handkerchief. As they drive off, Lisa wipes the kid’s prematurely-shot load off of her thighs with a sour look on her face, and then has Erik take her out again after she’s had a nice bath to soothe her irritation. And for the latter, check out Lisa’s first photo session with Fred, when he announces that he wants to try “something that’s never been done before,” then immediately poses her exactly like Sylvia Kristel, in a wicker chair exactly like the one from the Emmanuelle ads. Rolls Royce Baby is still pretty negligible all in all, but it isn’t quite as useless as it appears at first glance. And besides, there’s a certain amount of interest to be extracted simply from seeing what somebody other than Jesus Franco could do with Lina Romay.



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