While looking for a good time to be had in San Francisco once they reach port, a group of Navy swabs stumble across an ad in the back of Screw Magazine for Fantasyworld, a mysterious sex club that promises the sky but for which there is no address or phone number listed. Intrigued, they set off in search for the clandestine venue. Meanwhile, a trio of working-class gals from Dayton look to live it up while on a vacation from their jobs as switchboard operators. After a night of Mexican food, they go looking for some action and happen upon the same back-alley establishment and trepidatiously enter. Inside, both sailor and switchboard operator alike will get to experience their deepest and most unspeakable fantasy.
Bob Chinn’s Fantasyworld, his first production for Gail Palmer and Harry Mohney’s Caribbean Films, explores a darkly alluring idea of stepping over the line from window shopping one’s sexual fantasies to the full buy-in. It’s not a movie that’s trying to be too confrontational as it stays behind the glass instead of plunging the viewer into sexual chaos. The fantasies within the film are a catalog of pure, unleashed libido that, even if they are a little basic, do their best to guess the outermost boundaries of average folks who would be curious enough to find themselves in a place called Fantasyworld. There are certainly films that play out fantasies that are more sexually varied and exciting, including those that dare feature scenarios that are truly verboten, but Fantasyworld is a smorgasbord that works quite nicely as a well-made piece of starter equipment.
The quaintness in the film’s actual fantasies is a feature and not a bug as Fantastyworld is a pretty old-fashioned movie in its heart with individuals in both groups being pretty straightforward and uncomplicated. Loudmouth Ellen (Sharon Kane) is the girl who’s definitely going to be the first person at the party who’s going to slosh their drink outside the highball glass while making a very animated and possibly dramatic important point in the conversation; Chrissie (Laurien Dominique) is the quieter and prudish one of the group who really hoped nachos and drinks were as wild as the night was going to get; and Nancy (Jesie St. James) is the serious center balance of the three who is curious but, after six margaritas, isn’t afraid to admit that she’s both horny and game for an experience (as I suppose we all would be after SIX margaritas…goddamn, Nancy).
As for the men, Frank (Michael Morrison) is the blowhard who loves to tell everyone about his sexual prowess, his raw enthusiasm for exhibition, and his indifference to his wife’s feelings regarding all the side fucking he seems to do; mild-mannered Cal (Jon Martin) is the voice of reason who likes to have a great time but is ultimately looking to settle down into domesticity soon; and Sloan (Jesse Adams) is the amiable third wheel who is up or anything either one of his buddies wants to get into.
Before we see any of the principal cast members engaging in their own hidden and hedonistic desires within the club, we are treated to a stage-bound Garden of Eden scene as Eve (Liz Eldridge) masturbates with a snake before it materializes into James Price (who also plays the club’s emcee) and the two have sex. We then move to a six-person pyramid fuck that includes Lee LeMay and Marlene Munroe; Don Fernando and Lisa Loring; and Francesca Bates and Jeff Scott. Set up as another part of the live stage show within the club, its theatrical blocking and lighting enhance its effectiveness. If I paid anything less than $100 to get into the club and these were the cold openers before we even got to my own bullshit, I wouldn’t feel like I had been taken by crooks or anything. But of course, Frank is a wee bit indignant at having to pay and lets it be known with a confident, ersatz accent that sounds like he’s looking over the vastness of his acreage in Lake Charles. It’s almost regretful that Charles Haid played Mason Parrish in Ken Russell’s Altered States because a tweed-coated Michael Morrison, manically shouting while using this very same accent, could have totally owned that part and maybe snagged a Best Supporting Actor nomination in the process.
Of course, as the film goes along, each and every member of both parties has their deepest fantasy materialize with each one resulting in imaginative, hot, and visually varied scenarios. And even though the film really only gets close to the deeper side of the pool in terms of its fantasies with the three-man, disembodied blowjob orgy/ambulatory glory hole bonanza that Nancy wishcasts into existence (again… six margaritas will definitely put you in a place), the film does a great job keeping itself in check by making the experience feel true to its characters.
For example, Frank volunteers himself into a scenario with Serena (Brigit Olsen) but his fantasy ends up including his wife, Audrey (Valerie Darlyn). While the sex scene itself is effective and does what it sets out to do, it’s also a sweet character reveal given all of his Foghorn Leghorn-like bluster regarding his wife during his introduction. Likewise, when Chrissie is enticed away from her table upon hearing the sweet, sweet strains of Paul Thomas’s “If Wishes Were Horses”, she is Calgon’d right away into a scenario that is draped in white wherein Thomas plays his ballad on his upright piano before making love to her, all of which tracks what we know about her. And it’s also worth noting that Dominique never looked lovelier than she does here and her scene with Thomas works doubly so when compared to their previous pairings in Chinn’s Hard Soap, Hard Soap or Hot & Saucy Pizza Girls all of which reflect that these two pros could play it every which kind of way.
The remainder of the sexual match-ups include a kimonoed Asian girl (Starr Wood) giving Cal a massage despite Wood not being Asian nor, to my knowledge, a licensed masseuse; and Sloan and Ellen colliding in a light S&M potboiler set to Tangerine Dream’s music from William Friedkin’s Sorcerer. In both scenarios, Chinn shows a steady hand of slowly guiding the viewers through and out of the more romantic and sensual portions of the film (Dominique and Martin’s scenes) and into its wilder, orgiastic conclusion. And, in true fashion, Chinn sticks the landing with a delicious three-minute flesh pile including almost everyone in the cast. Established with an overhead shot that is phenomenal, it was only the second group sex scene captured in his career (the first being Candy Stripers) and it’s an incredible visual capper. Tightly composed and bustling with activity, it is as sexually and geometrically pleasing as Carlos Tobalina’s bird’s eye orgy shots reflect a fun but ultimately unstable and chaotic atmosphere.
Fantasyworld is one of Chinn’s dreamier works as it doesn’t follow a conventional plot; more mood piece than character study, regardless of the pleasant performances by or well-written script by Jeffery Fairbanks (credited as Jeffery Neal and, working in a friendly, mentor-mentee capacity with Chinn, earning himself a co-director credit). Cinematographer Ken Gibb captures everything with pizazz which shows him working the full spectrum of brightly lit setups all the way down to the gritty darkness of the stage show. Bill Wolf and Jon Ekworthy’s production design goes a long way in turning an Oakland warehouse into a plausible, make-believe world that includes the back-alley entrance and all of the film’s rich variety of interiors that make up the fantasies.
Thematically, Fantasyworld exists in a place somewhere in the middle between the deeper, personal dynamics found in Anthony Spinelli’s 1977 masterpiece SexWorld, and the blend of real life and artfully composed fantasy in The Mitchell Brothers’ pioneering 1973 Behind the Green Door. But like Charlie’s Angels getting a workover in Chinn’s The China Cat the previous year, Fantasyworld is really less like either one of those films and owes more to Fantasy Island as it runs on its own singular mixture of good clean fun with some benign, dark magic being put to work in its effort to concoct the kind of brew that articulates the allure of giving in to the unmentionable without having any of the real-life repercussions.
As Ellen says early in the film “You can’t worry about being scared. You just do it.” Even though she’s talking about what it must take to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, she might as well be giving the entire thesis of the film. For Fantasyworld, the location within the film and the film itself, is less a place to look for solutions for any of life’s problems and is more about letting go and allowing Paul Thomas or Starr Wood sweep you off your feet and letting that action take you wherever it may.
Bartender, gimme six margaritas.
(C) Copyright 2023, Patrick Crain