Jumping off with a rollicking, endearingly sloppy, soundalike cover of The Starlight Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight” which sounds as if it were recorded by a marginally talented pack of runaways who were discovered while getting high off scotch guard in the parking lot of a Bay Ridge skating rink (and were subsequently paid in more scotch guard for their efforts), Shaun Costello’s Afternoon Delights (credited to Warren Evans) is an omnibus of perversity that rises high above its loop carrier structure to deliver a fun and effective slice of adult entertainment.
The set up is simple: a group of five guys get together for a regular poker night at which the host (a bearded Eric Edwards who looks suspiciously like Jim Henson) springs a surprise on the gang. Instead of playing cards, they will privately jot down stories involving the clandestine sexual escapades of their respective ex-wives. Then they try and match the ex with the player at the table. “This sounds like something people do in prison” quips one of the participants in a line of dialogue that I quote whenever appropriate.
And so it goes as the audience is treated to five different scenarios in which the ex-wives (Merle Michaels, Veronica Hart, Vanessa Del Rio, Samantha Fox, and Serena) engage in ribald tales of wanton lust with construction workers, dentists, and other random strangers, all of which progressively rise in temperature as the film rolls closer to its surprisingly sweet-natured end.
Other than the employment of the title track which, when dropped onto the soundtrack, causes Afternoon Delights to gather strength like it were a friggin’ hurricane, the secret of the film’s success is that all of the things that happen in each one of the stories, however untoward they might be when compared to actual community standards and the mores of a polite society, are MOSTLY in the service of a woman’s pleasure. Mostly because, though played for laughs as it may be, the Hart/Bobby Astyr/Diana May dentist scenario is porn for those who have the same sexual predilections as Bill Cosby. But, like Alex De Renzy, Costello was a filmmaker who “got” porn and wasn’t averse to searching for the erotic in the transgressive and, for the sake of the scene, a game Veronica Hart plays it like the told tale that it is. But regardless of its merit and how it lands, everything in the film is quickly righted by the Vanessa Del Rio centerpiece which immediately follows in which she wanders into a porn theater in male drag and seduces a bunch of horny, leather-clad men.
Despite this film being utterly filthy (and to be sure, even though I’d have voted to make the big-ticket Vanessa Del Rio tale the finale, the fifth story featuring Serena is one upon which dreams are built) there lies a quaintness in its celebration of the hedonism on display. Costello captures the wild abandon and limitless imagination of the New York adult scene and plays it both raw and unbridled. Almost every performer figuratively or literally winks at the camera and absolutely nobody involved looks like they’re in search of a refund. And how sweet is it that Afternoon Delights lands on a downright wholesome note that feels both sex-positive and fully on the side of the women characters in each of the stories? It makes one want to stand up and cheer.
Shaun Costello… you rascal.
(C) Copyright 2022, Patrick Crain