“It was coming straight at me – I could see every detail of its swollen purple head,” says forty year old Bert Lummox, one of several audience members who fled a Soho cinema during the premiere of the new 3-D adult movie set in the world of illegal bare-knuckle fighting, Cold Cock. “It was so realistic that I thought the bloody thing was going to impale me! I don’t mind admitting that I was so scared I screamed!” Not since the Lumiere brothers’ film of a train entering a station sent Victorian cinema patrons fleeing in panic, has a motion picture elicited such a response from an audience. Despite threats of legal action from some of the shocked movie goers – who are claiming that they were severely traumatised by the sight of a huge penis thrusting at them from the screen – the film’s producer, Charles Frencher, is delighted with its reception. “When was the last time any skin flick got a reaction like that? The word of mouth will be fabulous,” he declares ecstatically, feeling that the extra expenditure on the 3-D process has been fully justified. “This is exactly the kind of boost the adult movie industry needs if our product is to survive in cinemas!” The application of 3-D is just the latest promotional gimmick to be employed by Frencher to try and sell his porn movies to an increasingly jaded public. “With porn so readily available to people these days – on the internet, on TV, even in adverts – you have to make your product really stand out,” he explains. “You have to offer the punters something startling different, something they can’t get through any other media, if you are going to get them to part with their money for a ticket to see your movie.” Perhaps his most infamous gimmick was ‘Vibrascope’, which he employed on his 1999 erotic thriller, Dead Shot. This involved a number of seats in each cinema showing the film being fitted with a concealed a vibrating device, which would be activated whenever any of the characters on screen started having sex. “The vibrations would induce involuntary erections in men and induce orgasms in female viewers,” he says. “Believe me, once you’ve got a few women shrieking in ecstasy and blokes straining their trousers, the whole audience starts to feel horny – and that’s what they go to a porno flick for, isn’t it?” Frencher claims he got the idea for ‘Vibrascope’ from his fourth wife. “As I watched her careering around the kitchen astride the washing machine as it hit its full spin cycle, screaming ‘Yes, yes, yes’, as she climaxed, I realised that I had the basis for the ultimate erotic cinema experience,” he recalls. “It almost made those three years of hell I was with her worthwhile.”
Not surprisingly, few cinemas were willing to install the expensive ‘Vibrascope’ equipment, and those that did quickly dropped it after threats of legal action, following the fatal heart attack suffered by one woman in a Salford movie house. “There was no evidence that the ‘Vibrascope’ process had anything to do with her death,” Frencher protests. “The post-mortem showed that she had a heart defect and she could have died at any time when she was engaged in sexual activity – she’d been playing Russian roulette with dicks and dildos for years!” For his next effort, 2000’s Double Barrelled Shoot, Frencher opted for a simpler gimmick – ‘Ejacto’, which involved the audience being sprayed with fake jism every time one of the film’s performers ejaculated. Inevitably, the gimmick proved problematic. “The stuff we used was perfectly harmless – it was porridge based, I believe – but we still got people claiming it had caused skin rashes,” he laments. “In the end, we agreed to pay the dry-cleaning bills, but even that cut into the film’s profits so badly that we barely broke even.” Other gimmicks followed, some complex, like the ‘Nudevision’ process employed in 2001’s rubber fetish fest The Jemima Suit, whereby audiences could opt to wear special glasses which rendered the entire cast naked; others simple, like the notorious ‘Wank Break’ in the 2003 psycho-thriller Hornycidal, during which patrons had two minutes to rush to a special booth at the back of the cinema and whack off. Whilst all generated a degree of notoriety for Frencher’s films, none was considered especially successful, with many of the movies barely making a profit. However, he believes that the application of 3-D to his latest movie will prove far more successful. “This is the closest the punters can get to actually experiencing the sex on screen,” he enthuses. “It puts them right into the middle of the humping – having breasts, buttocks and genitalia thrust in your face is the next best thing to actually having sex!” Frencher claims that his inspiration to adopt 3-D came from one of his father’s 1970s skin flicks, From Russia or Bust, which involved a sexy assassin smothering enemy secret agents with her ample breasts. “Every time she moved in for the kill, he’d zoom in on her knockers,” Frencher recalls. “Simultaneously, a pair of huge rubber breasts would fly toward the audience on a wire, making them duck for cover! It was brilliant! It put them right in the thick of the action!” The gimmick was dropped after a screening in Bristol, where several audience members were injured when the wire broke and they were crushed by the gigantic gazongas.
However, most critics are highly doubtful as to whether this latest gimmick will propel Cold Cock to box office success. “Having cocks and fannies hurled at you is hardly the kind of erotic experience most filmgoers are looking for,” opines Lionel Bumstadler of Furtive Films Monthly. “Audiences want something a bit more sophisticated these days, and the fact is that Frencher’s products are stuck in the 1970s – just crude hump-fests with lots of big dicks and arses. No number of gimmicks can disguise the fact that they are, at best, just mediocre films.” Indeed, many have questioned why Frencher persists in producing porn for cinematic release. “The reality is that since the late 1970s this stuff has been primarily produced for the home market – first on videotapes, now on DVDs,” Bumstadler points out. “Increasingly, it’s going straight onto the web for direct downloading by viewers. It’s so much more convenient for the customer, and far cheaper for producers. With cinema chains going for a mainstream, family, audience, distributors just don’t want to touch porno – it’s next to impossible to get bookings for the big chains, and most of the specialist cinemas and independents have gone out of business. Frencher really is a voice in the wilderness these days.” Frencher remains defiant in the face of such criticism, vowing to continue producing adult movies for the big screen. “DVD and online porn might well be cheaper to produce and distribute, but it’s taken the art out of erotic film-making,” he says. “These means of distribution have reduced the art form to five minute scenarios shot in someone’s living room on a camera phone! Where is the cinematography, the lighting, the plots and characterisations? It’s all just sex now, and no erotica! These aren’t films any more, they’re just masturbatory aids! Sex is something to be proud of – not hidden away and engaged in furtively! Believe me, nothing can compare to the shared experience of seeing sex on the big screen! There’s nothing so magnificent as the sight of an erection in cinemascope! ” Cold Cock opens in at least two cinemas nationwide from next Friday.