Category Archives: Erotica

House on Straw Hill (1976)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10      

4-Word Review: Writer battles his secretary.

Paul (Udo Kier) is a writer who had success with his first novel and now working on his much anticipated second one. To help him get the manuscript done faster he hires a secretary (Linda Hayden) who comes to his isolated, countryside home to type it up, but the two don’t get along. Soon Paul becomes convinced that she is out to kill him and he just may be right.

This pseudo horror film has an enticing visual style.  I liked the close-up shots of the typewriter keys banging on the paper as well as the giant wheat field surrounding the home, which to a degree helps create an interesting atmosphere, but writer/director James Kenelm Clarke goes back to these things too often eventually making the film one-dimensional and monotonous.

The film is also loaded with a lot of explicit sex. If this were a porno then that would be great, but for an intended horror film it goes off the mark completely. We really don’t need to see Linda constantly masturbating. Having Paul find a dildo in her suitcase as he does would’ve been enough. Linda’s ultimate seduction of Paul’s girlfriend (Fiona Richmond) in a provocative lesbian sequence is completely pointless to the story and clearly just done to grab the crowd that’s into watching mindless sleaze.

The characters come off as weird, half-human caricatures whose motivations and actions are confusing. Both Paul and Linda needed to be better fleshed out for the viewer to have any compelling reason to care what happens to either one of them. The scene where Linda masturbates in the wheat field and is then attacked and raped by some locals only for her to turn-the-tables on them and kill them is particularly stupid because she is somehow able to immediately compose herself afterwards and come back to the house and act like it never happened when with anyone else it would’ve been an emotionally traumatic experience that would’ve taken months maybe even years to get over if even then.

The film’s twist ending is particularly weak and the film should’ve used flashbacks and other subtle clues to help the viewer figure it out for themselves the reasons for Linda’s motivations instead of having it all explained to them by her at the end. I also didn’t like the title as it is too reminiscent to Straw Dogs, which also took place in a remote home in the English countryside and dealt with a rape by some of the local thugs. This might’ve been intentional, but it was a big mistake because it just reminds the viewer of that movie, which was far better.

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My Rating: 3 out of 10

Alternate Titles: Trauma, Expose

Released: March 15, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 24Minutes

Rated X

Director: James Kenelm Clarke

Studio: Norfolk International Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

Private Lessons (1981)

private lessons

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Housekeeper seduces a minor.

Mallow (Sylvia Kristel) is an English nanny working for a rich client named Fillmore (Ron Foster) who gets involved in a scheme with the family’s chauffer Lester (Howard Hesseman) to seduce Fillmore’s 15-year-old son Philly (Eric Brown). The idea is for her to fake having a heart attack during their lovemaking and convince Philly that he has killed her and then Lester will blackmail him to take $10,000 out of the family’s safe and give it to him has hush money for not reporting it to the police, but Philly is smarter than they think and not only catches onto their scheme, but has a double-cross in store for them as well.

The idea of having an adult making love to a minor most likely wouldn’t have gotten the green light today. To me it reeked of being a major double-standard. If the genders had been reversed and it had been a 15-year-old girl seduced by an older man this thing would’ve been considered obscene and banned, but because it involves a teen boy with ‘raging hormones’ instead that somehow makes it ‘okay’ and is approached as being nothing more than an innocuous sexual ‘coming-of-age’ flick, which I found to be both annoying and aggravating.

The scene involving the young Brown getting naked and hopping into the tub with the equally naked Kristel where they then fondle and kiss each other seemed like child erotica and will most likely make viewers today who are now much more sensitive on this topic feel uncomfortable to watch. The ending in which the two go to bed together in a very drawn out sensual segment that is done under a romantic context is downright smarmy. Viewers wanting to watch this simply to catch Kristel naked will be disappointed to know that most of her nude scenes where done using a body double named Judy Helden.

The script was written by Dan Greenburg, who also appears briefly as a seedy hotel owner and based on his 1969 novel ‘Philly’. He is a noted humorist who eight years earlier wrote the script to the film with the quirky title of I Could Never Have Sex with any Man Who has Such Little Respect for My Husband. For the most part this film is rather bland, but manages to pick up a bit during the second half when the story twist kicks in that at the very least makes it better than most other teen sex comedies, which are usually devoid of any discernable plot at all.

The script though is full of holes. For one thing it is highly doubtful that a rich parent would give their child a combination to a safe that has tons of money in it and there is never any explanation of what was put into the body bag that is hoisted into the ground and buried when Lester was still tricking Philly into believing it was the dead Mallow. Obviously it wasn’t her, so what was used to make it seem like a dead body? The film never says, but should’ve. Also, I found it hard to believe that Mallow and Philly could go out to a fancy restaurant and make out with each other openly in a booth and not have it create a stir and distraction with the other patrons especially when it was clearly involving an adult and a minor.

Brown whose only other claim to fame was playing Ken Berry’s son in the first two seasons of ‘Mama’s Family’ gives an engaging performance, but I couldn’t help but wonder what his parents where feeling and thinking during the love scenes. It’s also interesting to see Hesseman who wears a wig and has his mustache dyed brown in a rare turn as a heavy. Begley Jr. gets a few kudos in his attempt to play a ‘tough guy’ cop and Dan Barrows makes the most of his small role as the family’s gardener.

The film has a surprisingly great soundtrack that feature a lot of hits from the day which include: ‘Hot Legs’, ‘Tonight’s the Night’ and ‘You’re in My Heart’ by Rod Stewart as well as ‘Just When I Needed You the Most’ by Randy Van Warmer, ‘I Need a Lover’ by John Cougar, ‘Fantasy’ by Earth, Wind and Fire, ‘Next Time You See Her’ by Eric Clapton and ‘Lost in Love’ by Air Supply. How such a low budget movie was able to pay for the rights to these songs is a mystery, but it defiantly adds pizazz and helps give the film an extra point.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: August 28, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 27Minutes

Rated R

Director: Alan Myerson

Studio: Jensen Farley Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu

The Killing of Sister George (1968)

killing of sister george

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: TV character gets axed.

June Buckridge (Beryl Reid) is an aging actress playing the character of Sister George a scooter riding nun in a long running British TV soap opera. Her character no longer has the popularity that it once had and the producers have decided to kill her off by having her die in an ugly road crash with a truck. June is upset with this news as at her age parts are hard to come by and she takes her frustrations out on Childie (Susannah York) her much younger live-in lesbian lover, but she may lose her as well as one of the show’s producers Mercy (Coral Browne) has inklings to lure Childie away from June so she can have her all to herself.

After the immense box office success of The Dirty Dozen writer/director Robert Aldrich was given free rein to start up his own production company and he choose this as his first project. In many ways it is quite similar to his earlier and more well-known film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, but with sexual undertones. The film is based on the Frank Marcus play of the same name that ran for 205 performances and was nominated for the 1967 Tony Award. For its time this was considered quite controversial and groundbreaking especially the final scene that features a highly explicit sex scene between two women. It also is the first film to have a character utter the word ‘bullshit’ and one of the first to say the word ‘fuck’. Although the word itself gets drowned out by a car horn you can still clearly tell by reading Reid’s lips what she is saying.

The three female leads and their snarky exchanges with each other are the film’s chief asset especially Reid who recreates the same character that she played in the stage version that netted her a Tony. Her emotional, angry outbursts are entertaining and the scene where she forces Childie to eat and swallow the butt of her cigarette as ‘punishment’ is still quite edgy. Browne is equally good specifically during her provocative love scene with York, which was made all the more daring since she was 30 years older than York at the time.

The film’s overall staginess is a drawback. Many scenes are too talky and should’ve been trimmed while York and Reid’s Laurel and Hardy routine could’ve been cut out completely. Flashbacks showing how they first met would’ve helped and there needed to be an explanation to the weird child-like manner of York’s character, which quite possibly was based on an age-old gay stereotype. I also didn’t like the foreboding quality of the music that gets played just before Browne and York have their lesbian love scene, which seemed to suggest that something ‘creepy’ and ‘unnatural’ was about to take place and convinced me that despite the daring and ahead-of-its-time nature of the subject that the filmmakers themselves still had some very dated ideas about gays much like the majority of people from that era.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: December 12, 1968

Runtime: 2Hours 18Minutes

Rated X (Reissued as R)

Director: Robert Aldrich

Studio: Cinerama Releasing Corporation

Available: DVD

Crimes of Passion (1984)

crimes of passion

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Moonlighting as a hooker.

Bobby (John Laughlin) is suffering from marital problems at home while also having trouble keeping up with his kid’s expenses, so he looks for a part-time job and gets hired by Lou Bateman (Norman Burton) an owner of a fashion clothing studio to work as a private investigator by following around one of his designer’s named Joanna (Kathleen Turner) who he is convinced is selling his patents to a competitor. What Bobby finds instead is that Joanna is actually working as a hooker in the seedy red light district and using the name of China Blue, which gets Bobby more infatuated with her. Soon they are locked into a passionate affair, but unaware that China/Joanna is also being stalked by a crazy street preacher named Peter Shayne (Anthony Perkins) who is suffering from demons of his own while also harboring strange ideas on how to ‘save her’.

The film, which is directed by Ken Russell who can sometimes be brilliant and other times horribly self-indulgent, is annoying from the beginning. The recreation of a therapy group is wooden and artificial and the sex scenes are over-the-top with characters that are one-dimensional and poorly fleshed out. The gaudy color schemes and flashing lights used to recreate the seedy hotel look quickly become repetitive and irritating. It’s hard to tell whether Russell is trying to be serious or campy, but it’s a mad mixture that ends up being a pointless mess. Rick Wakeman’s obnoxious electronic music score and the cliché ridden Psycho-like finale simply add insult to injury.

The script by Barry Sandler is shallow and filled with plot devices that make no sense. Rarely do prostitutes ever fall in love with one of their clients and many create a defense to keep that part of their lives separate from their personal one and vice-versa, so the fact that Joanna and Bobby get into a relationship so quickly and seamlessly while failing to explain why she would find Bobby so ‘special’ out of all the other men she had already had indiscriminate sex with makes this dumb movie even more absurd. It’s also hard to believe that Joanna would be such a great employee as she is described to be by her boss when she is going out every night having sex with strange men at all hours. I would think at some point she’d become exhausted and her productivity at her day job would be effected. I also thought it was a bit goofy why someone would hire Bobby as a private investigator to begin with when he had no experience in that area.

Annie Potts gives the film’s all-around best performance particularly during a strong scene involving her character in bed with Bobby and her roundabout way of admitting that he no longer satisfies her. Laughlin is okay, but bland and the segment where he dresses up as a giant penis having an erection is downright embarrassing. Perkins is fun as the flamboyantly weird reverend and I got a kick out of his singing as well as his bag full of sex toys, but in the end it’s just a bad rendition of Norman Bates that typecasts him while discrediting his earlier more serious efforts.

The scene where China visits an old man who has only a few months to live is the movie’s one and only interesting moment. Had there been more of a history shown to Joanna’s character and why this seemingly intelligent woman did what she did I might’ve have been able to get into it more instead of being completely bored with it. The sexual imagery was considered quite ‘shocking’ and explicit for 1984 standards, but now comes off as benign and hooky especially since one can find far more graphic stuff simply by casually surfing any one of the thousands of porn sites on the internet today.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: October 19, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 47Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ken Russell

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD

The Fourth Man (1983)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: She kills her husbands.

This movie is just about the ultimate in the femme fatale genre as it deals with a temptress (Renee Soutendijk) who marries men who all end up dying in freak accidents. Now she has seduced a fourth one, will he be next?

It is rare to say that you know it is going to be a good movie from the very moment it starts, but that is the case here. The film’s opening could very well be one of the most impressive of all-time as it begins with a startling view of a close-up of an actual spider trapping a fly on its web and then devouring it to the sound of a pounding electronic score that becomes the best part of the whole movie.

The rest of the film works pretty much on the same level with scenes that are provocatively lit and designed as well as a running sensuality that at times is both erotic and perverse. The flowing narrative jumps between reality and dreamy imagery that eventually blend into one and has an underlying subversive nature that keeps you riveted.

The characters are interesting because they work against their gender stereotypes and have a certain ongoing duel with each other. The woman has short hair and a square face and almost comes off looking like a man. She knows how to use her seductive powers and is always in complete control without ever showing any vulnerability. The man is weak and helpless while trying to mask it with an arrogant intellectual veneer.

The ending is the film’s only big letdown as it is too low-key and doesn’t match the energy of the rest of the film while also wrapping things up a little too nicely. A big showdown between the two main characters would have been much more satisfying.

The special effects are weak and help to expose the film’s low budget, but the film is still fun with a snazzy art house flair that became a breakout picture for director Paul Verhoeven.

The movie also contains a shocking scene involving a life-sized crucifix that some may consider blasphemous even though in the end the film’s message is actually spiritually affirming.

the fourth man

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: March 24, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 42Minutes

Rated NC-17

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Studio: International Spectrafilms

Available: VHS, DVD

Sweet Movie (1974)

sweet movie

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Every fetish is shown

Unfairly labeled as excessive and perverse, this film is really a fascinating and intricate study into the recesses of the sexual mind. It looks at sex in all its complexities and exposes it as a very primal need with a personality of its own.

The film starts off with an amusing satire on the media and how they have commercialized sex. It involves a game show were a rich millionaire must choose which female virgin he would like for a wife and even has a doctor on hand to examine them and make sure each one is genuine.

This becomes the ongoing theme, which is how society loves to ‘package’ sex and yet really can’t. Director Dusan Makavejev feels that the sexual instinct is too deep to be able to channel completely. The rest of the film goes off on wild tangents that may not make sense to some, but the intent is not to tap into the logical mind, but instead the sexual senses. In the process it tries to bring out the sexual side of the viewer by digging deeply into their own subconscious mind.

The final result is an almost non-stop barrage of unique, lasting visuals. Some are funny, stimulating and at times even grotesque. Yet sex has all these qualities so any movie realistically dealing with it should have it as well. Overall despite the controversial approach it becomes lyrical, compelling, and quite well-shot.

By not boxing sex into any type of ‘standard’ is what makes this different from just about any other erotic film out there. Most directors seem to feel that two sweating bodies between satin sheets are all you need to make a film ‘sexy’. Here you get something much more daring and expansive by showing sex in both its beauty and ugliness. Outside of bestiality and necrophilia just about every other fetish gets examined including interracial sex, sex with minors (never shown, but strongly implied), food sex, vomiting, scatology, water sports, and even violent sex. Sometimes it gets vulgar yet still remains provocative and fascinating to the more open-minded.

Star Carole Laure is incredibly beautiful and submits herself to her demanding role with a reckless abandon that is refreshing if not unprecedented and helps make the film impactful.

There’s some really amazing sequences including having Laure carted around in a suitcase with only her head sticking out. This is also one those rare films outside of Paul Morrissey’s Trash that features more shots of the male genitals than the females.

Obviously there will be those that will find the whole thing disgusting and offensive as it is very explicit even by today’s standards. This film could very well go beyond most people’s ‘comfort zones’ so I don’t want to suggest it to anyone unless they are fully prepared for what they are about to see, but for those who are game it could come off as a unique one-of-a-kind experience.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: June 12, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 38Mintues

Rated NC-17

Director: Dusan Makavejev

Studio: Maran Film

Available: DVD (The Criterion Collection)

The Night Porter (1974)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: A strange sadomasochistic relationship.

As the title suggests this film deals with the darkness of the human mind, relationships, sex and society as a whole and has a Freaudian theme of exploring the weird sexual obsessions of those who on the outside may seem perfectly functional and ‘normal’.

The story focuses on a concentration camp survivor Lucia (Charlotte Rampling) who twelve years later, by chance, meets her former captor Maximilian (Dirk Bogarde). She is now married while he is working as a night porter at the hotel she is staying at. The twist here is that she decides to go back to him and continue the bizarre sex rituals they once had.

The film’s most interesting aspect is focusing on the long term psychological ramifications of those surviving traumatic experiences. It looks both at the victims and the captors who now must learn to ‘rationalize’ their guilty conscious and it questions whether anyone can truly function normally after surviving such severe circumstances or whether society has any ability to make someone ‘adjust’.

This is definitely complex material and director Liliana Cavani has a good grasp on it. The shot compositions are full of stark shadows with a definite emphasis on the surreal, which comes to play the most during the sadomasochistic fantasy segments.

The problem with the film lies in the fact that it doesn’t have the intended strong impact. There’s no momentum or discernible tension. The characters are complex, but not that interesting and we really don’t care particularly what happens to them.

The films strongest point is actually in its final sequence, which brings the whole thing together. Like in any great movie there’s the one shot that says it all and here it’s the final one where visually, without saying anything, it shows just how isolated these outsiders truly are. It also exposes how their personal demons have imprisoned them and how dysfunctional society is at handling them.

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My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: April 3, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 58Minutes

Rated R

Director: Liliana Cavani

Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Alucarda (1977)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Another Exorcist rip-off

Justine (Susana Kamini) arrives at a convent after the death of her parents. She meets up with a strange young woman named Alucarda (Tina Romero) who almost immediately professes her true love for Justine and the two make a weird pact. Alucarda then seems to become possessed and it rubs off on Justine sending the nuns and priest at the convent into a panicked frenzy to rid both girls and the place from the evil presence.

This bizarre, cheap Mexican production comes off like someone’s drug induced acid trip. Yet it has still managed to acquire a small cult following and even has one reviewer at IMDB calling it ‘brilliant’ even though I found it to be anything but and only reconfirms that there is somebody out there that will like anything. Juan Lopez Moctezuma’s direction is unfocused and undisciplined. The story borders on being almost incoherent with wild twists and story arches that occur at a breakneck pace. The special effects are tacky and there isn’t a single scare in the whole thing.

This supposedly takes place in the 18th century, but the priest wears a wardrobe that looks like he is from China even though the setting is Mexico and the outfits worn by the nuns defy any era and appear to be made by a costume designer who was drunk. The pounding rock-like score has a resemblance to music from Tangerine Dream, but a much weaker version and doesn’t connect with the time period that the story is in. It has elements that will remind you of Suspira and Ken Russell’s The Devils, but both of those films are far superior to this one and only make you wish you were watching those instead.

The acting is amateurish and over-the-top, but star Romero has an interesting look in her eyes and reminded me a bit of a young Genevieve Bujold. There is an abundance of nudity and low-grade eroticism that may make it appealing to some. I did get a kick out of the way the nuns and priest overact and wilt at simply the mention of the devil and Satanism, which I found to be unintentionally funny.

This is just another attempt to cash in on the success of The Exorcist and like the rest of them fails miserably. This isn’t entertaining even on a camp level and I would suggest avoiding it completely.

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My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: March 10, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 14Minutes

Rated R

Director: Juan Lopez Moctezuma

Studio: Yuma Films

Available: DVD

La Grande Bouffe (1973)

la grande bouffe 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: They stuff their faces.

This film will start an annual Thanksgiving Day theme of reviewing movies that have something to do with food and eating. This one may be the most notorious of them all and despite its offbeat plot and crude scenes won the Cannes Film Festival’s International Critics award as well as attaining a large cult following and be one of the highest grossing movies in the history of Italian cinema.

The story deals with four middle-aged men (Marcello Mastroianni, Ugo Tognazzi, Philippe Noiret, Michel Piccoli) who despite attaining affluence and wealth are bored with life and decide their only recourse is to get together for a weekend and commit group suicide by eating themselves to death.

At first the movie will make you hungry.  After an initial set-up the characters can be seen eating in just about every shot. The variety of foods and menu that is served is almost mouth-watering and features a wide array of exquisite dishes seen only in the most fanciest of restaurants. However, after visually seeing these people overeat I felt myself feeling as bloated as the characters and almost sick. The film also gets quite gross with several segments featuring loud sounds of flatulence and a scene where the toilet bursts and covers the men and room with feces that even drips down and gets into the kitchen.

Some may find this ‘hilarious’ while others will think it’s disgusting. For me despite the moments of over-the-top crudeness the strongest scene may actually be when the characters start dying and their dead bodies are carried into a freezer while the rest of them continue to make food and stuff their mouths like it is a compulsion.

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The four leads are old pros who couldn’t give a bad performance if they tried. I started to wonder though how they could eat so much and whether the scenes were all done in one take with no retake as eventually I think they would all start puking. Mastroianni’s death scene is a stand-out simply because it manages to keep his expression completely frozen and does not manage to blink for several minutes, which I found impressive. Tognazzi’s death moment is also fun although it’s Andrea Ferreol who starts out as a proper school teacher, but ends up becoming as decadent and hedonistic as all the men combined that steals it.

The film makes a strong if not impactful statement about gluttony and how a life of prestige and luxury may actually be more of a trap and curse. The more some people get of it the more they want until it is never enough and death may end up being their only true source of salvation and escape.

The idea is outrageous and clever and I loved the concept, but the execution is lacking. The direction is too loose with scenes going on longer than they should. Some tighter editing would have helped the pace and momentum.  I also don’t think it is possible for a person to stuff themselves with food and then die as I think instead they would just vomit it all out.

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My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: May 17, 1973

Runtime: 2Hours 4Minutes

Rated NC-17

Director: Marco Ferreri

Studio: Films 66

Available: VHS, DVD

Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (1976)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: One is not enough.

This is an oddly structured Brazilian film that became a world-wide hit due to its explicit, edgy storyline.  It details the account of a woman named Dona Flor (Sonia Braga) whose first husband Valdomiro (Jose Wilker), was a bit on the wild side. After gambling away all of their money he dies. She becomes determined not to make the same mistake twice, so she remarries another man who is a doctor (Mauro Mendonca) and a much more responsible mate, but also stiff and boring. Problems ensue when the first husband, who she misses because he was more erotic and exciting in bed, comes back in the form of a ghost who only she can see.

The movie on a whole is well made. The characters are all likable and the theme music, which is played throughout the film, is appealing. The on location shooting is also quite distinctive. It really gives you a genuine, rare flavor of a small Brazil village and the people who inhabit them.

My main complaint with the film is that it takes the entire first hour just too illustrate her marriage with her first husband and the second hour to show her mourning and eventual remarriage. It’s not until the FINAL FIFTEEN MINUTES that the scenario the whole film is based on actually happens. When it does it is lively and funny, but the majority of the movie is surprisingly low key and melodramatic. The highly touted sex scenes are overrated. They are too brief and spread out very thinly.

Braga does well in her star making vehicle. She is able to convey both a simple, sweet nature as well as a sultry, sensual one. She has a pretty face and really does look great naked.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: November 22, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated R

Director: Bruno Barreto

Studio: Embrafilme

Available: VHS, DVD (Director’s Cut)