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The Dancers (1981)



Jackie & The Dreams, a four man gang of male strippers, hit a sleepy small town in one of the late Sam Weston’s (a/k/a “Anthony Spinelli”) finest efforts, right on a par with the likes of SEX WORLD and NOTHING TO HIDE.
John Leslie, who might rightly be considered Weston’s muse both for the number of times they worked together and for the genre classics these cooperations spawned, heads the group as ringleader Jackie who seals the deals with his considerable charms, appeasing flirtatious nightclub owner Kay Parker (forever TABOO’s incestuous mom in fans’ minds) for the duration of the gig.
Stalwart Randy West (who still pops up – so to speak – occasionally in a performing capacity), the only cast member who was also a professional stripper, is self-assured love god Sebastian, callously charming his way into the pants of star-struck waitress Frances, played by superstar Vanessa Del Rio in a career-best performance.
Studious Jonathan, a boy next door type, is of course none other than that other Weston mainstay (and one of porn’s best pure actors ever) Richard Pacheco, who had the distinction of being voted Playgirl magazine’s Man of the Year under the name “Dewey Alexander”. Here he embarks on a surprisingly sensitive love affair with lonely spinster Katherine (Award-winning Georgina Spelvin) who implores him to give up life on the road for a teaching job.
Lastly, there’s Mr Bad (Joey Silvera, like West still very much an active participant within the adult industry), the love ’em and leave ’em guy with the bad temper who beds down with married Anna Turner (also in Jack Remy’s THE MISTRESS) before husband Aaron Stuart (particularly memorable as Jesie St. James’s shy other half in Weston’s much-lauded TALK DIRTY TO ME) arrives on the scene.
Will Jackie’s troupe split up over all these shenanigans ? Is the temptation of touring, with its absence of emotional ties, too hard to resist for these guys ? Watch this wonderful movie and find out !
Even during porn’s Golden Age (which roughly spans the ’70s and the first half of the ’80s), Weston stood out as a master craftsman who paid inordinate amounts of attention to every single aspect of production, making his movies feel even more like “real movies” than those of his contemporaries. Cinematography, editing and scoring are comparable to low budget, independent features, you know, the kind that wows people over at Sundance, only with the added attraction of some genuinely arousing sex scenes.
It should come as no surprise that genre legends such as Leslie, Spelvin and Del Rio perform very well in this respect. Their equally fine acting might pleasantly catch viewers unaware though. More experienced observers again might respond rather wearily to this last remark for most of the people making up this superstar cast have delivered commendable thespian work elsewhere with the industry awards to prove it.
I would like to single out the fiery Vanessa Del Rio however. A dependable sex performer who often supplied the hottest action of any movie she appeared in (DRACULA EXOTICA and PLAY ME AGAIN, VANESSA are all time personal favorites), she was rarely taken seriously as an actress, even though she frequently spoofed her own Latin bombshell image with great aplomb, something Weston rectified once and for all by giving her the part of Frances, the talent-barren waitress with Hollywood dreams, a role risking ridicule yet achieving a tremendous emotional sucker punch by the joint efforts of star and director.
I could wax lyrically over many little bits and pieces in this delightful film, like the bookend scenes with Silvera and the kid from the souvenir shop. Moments such as these add texture to the movie, enrich and enhance the whole experience, elevate it above the level of “mere” erotica. Directors like Weston (and Chuck Vincent, Ron Sullivan a/k/a “Henri Pachard”, Gary Graver a/k/a “Robert McCallum”, etc.) put the gold in the Golden Age. So do yourself a favor and keep going back to those wonderful flicks of yesteryear. You’ll come to realize that there really is no need to lower your expectations in dealing with adult. Truth will out…

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