Autumn Born – 1979/ Director: Lloyd A. Simandl

Anyone who has, er, come across any porn films made in the 1970s will immediately feel at home in this squalid, totally incompetent S&M Canadian oddity. Instead of starring John Holmes and Seka, and sans the Colour Climax intro, Autumn Born features Star 80 herself, Dorothy Stratten. The plot is little more than a framework to hand on numerous scenes of the Playmate in various stages of undress. This is certainly no bad thing. In the opening few minutes, we have a completely gratuitous scene of Stratten stripping to her underwear. Nowadays, she would probably be described as ‘curvy’, but her sturdy thighs look fantastic in suspenders. After purchasing a strangely specific-sounding $1900 worth of clothes, her seedy uncle flies into a rage of wooden acting. His anger is not solely fueled by the incestuous thoughts he must be having, but by the fact that his niece turns street legal soon, and will take over her dead father’s company, which the uncle is running. If she spends that much on clothes, she’s sure to wreck everything.

Uncle must have watched Pete Walker’s House of Whipcord, as he employs a dominatrix-type, Victoria, to tie Dorothy to a bed and whip her until she agrees to sign over the company to Uncle. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have used some questionable tactics in business, but even the guys who brought us the horrors of Windows Vista and the Newton wouldn’t stoop quite so low. The improbably-named Ihor Procak, who plays one of Stratten’s captors, must have thought it was all his birthdays rolled into one. He spends practically all of his screen time raping, beating or similarly abusing the scantily clad blonde sexpot. When he has some time off from the rough horseplay, he sports a white jacket with lapels which practically touch his shoulders. He may be a bastard, but he has got style.

Despite a perfunctory side plot concerning a friendly shop assistant’s quest to track down Stratten, the majority of the 74 minute running time features an uneasy blend of badly realised degradation and all too brief glimpses of lesbian love. The Sapphic scenes are badly done, but are surprisingly tender, but are followed by a good leathering of Stratten’s bare buttocks with a horsewhip. The acting is uniformly atrocious, but Stratten certainly showed promise in this and, especially, Galaxina. She may have been able to throw off the Playmate image and cross over into low-budget respectability.

Ultimately, Autumn Born is neither one thing nor the other. It’s too badly done and explicit to even reach TV movie standards of serious drama, but not dirty enough to be a true exploitation film. There is a fair amount of unconvincing violence and some nudity, but Stratten is mainly seen in her underwear, and there is only the most fleeting glimpse of a full-frontal. Given Stratten’s murder by her ex boyfriend, and her posthumous notoriety, if this film had starred anyone else, it would have been forgotten long ago. There is a certain ‘freak show’ feeling watching it, but there is a genuine laugh to be had at the sight of Uncle drooling at his now-reprogrammed niece. He really can’t take his eyes of her spectacular cleavage, and seems to have serious trouble in delivering his next line. Can’t say I blame him…