‘You are listening to the voices of the star whores!’ From the title, this 1976 French picture sounds like a low-budget porn vampire spoof (cf: Suckula, Sexcula, Gayracula), but no – it’s a weird mix of art and sex, with the sort of bizarre adult comic book science fiction premise found also in the likes of Zeta One or Toomorrow.
The doomed planet Spermula (‘where no man has ever pentrated’) is populated by intelligent gas beings ruled by Big Mother, who gets to talk a lot and explain things you’d never get from what you see onscreen – a dark force is overwhelming the planet, and so some gas creatures turn into humanoid women to infiltrate the Earth, which the Spermulans intend to occupy after their expedition has rendered the entire male population impotent through vampiric fellatio leading to the extinction of humanity.
The invaders look like fashion models, dress in copies of gowns shown in a 1930s fashion magazine (we’re told Earthmen are so stupid they won’t notice the anachronism) and occupy a chic chateau in rural France to begin their campaign of mass seduction, but – as often in stories about incorporeal beings who take on human form (cf: that old Star Trek episode and grottier porn films like Diary of a Space Virgin) – the Spermulans start to enjoy their bodies too much, and even the leaderine Spermula (Dayle Haddon) eventually goes against Big Mother. Spermulan Werner (Udo Kier), who came out male – with tiny genitals that he complains about (‘try using tweezers’) – by mistake, and whines that he isn’t having any fun on the mission.
Writer-director Charles Matton (primarily a sculptor, and not a prolific filmmaker) stages a ton of pretty-pretty sex scenes in the David Hamilton-Just Jaeckin style, perhaps with a parodic edge – a horny servant pleasures a lady from behind while she’s bent over washing her hair in a vintage sink, and when another lady turns up and asks when it’s her turn she’s told there’s no more hot water; a cardinal flees from two naked girls and falls into a pond where his scarlet robes spread like a waterlily and the girls zoom under it like sharks to suck him off (this sequence, which is strangely beautiful, must tick off so many porn sub-categories that every censor in France would want to put a fatwa out on it); an energetic black shimmy-shimmy dancer (Radiah Frye) has a passionate affair with a dwarf (Alain Flick). Everyone in the region, including a sexless model plane enthusiast Mayor and his incipiently nymphomaniac wife, is about as strange as the aliens. It ends with an orgy, lots of solarised footage and the failure of the Spermulan mission – the whole planet explodes just before the end credits.
The French original is more surreal than campy, but the English dub is full of yock-yock lines that show no one was taking it seriously (‘to describe the erotic practices of these sex-ridden morons, at once lewd and ludicrous, would make even an incorporeal vapor lose its lunch’). The English-language version also loses some more explicit sex and gains a soundtrack full of lifts from Goblin albums; Matton’s cut is about 25m worth of extra footage, including sort-of hardcore glimpses, and a substantially different plot. Kier’s character, for instance, isn’t a Spermulan but a random human idiot, who gets to commit suicide by driving a Volkswagen into an empty swimming pool, and the lead alien/gas being/time-traveller/angel from the future/past is called Ingrid and there’s no apparent explanation for the title.
From the title (which is not that great, ‘Spunkula’ is better, surely), figured this was straightfoward porn but it looks beautiful (the 70s Sopht phocus look is due a revival any minute), and sounds funny and quite clever. And another Cult classic for Udo Kier! Incorporeal, omnipotent beings who fall prey to the pleasures and weaknesses of the flesh when taking mortal form, and the ultimate destruction this leads to … I fancy this is verily a sermon from the Cult Movie Sunday School …
Udo Kier tells a very funny story about how he was in Cannes one year and saw the poster for Spermula. He was appalled. And then he realised he was in it! That speaks volumes…
Christ on a bike. I’ve just typed the title into google images. Do not do the same.
The black dancer in the picture has incredible moves – her dwarf boyfriend is less charismatic, though he does have a nude scene which must have wowed the grindhouse crowd.
What was it called when Udo signed up to make it? And wasn’t he humiliated enough by all the dialogue he has about how tiny his genitalia are?
I’m sure you can find an online source for a grey-market DVD. The copy I saw was fuzzy-looking but good enough quality to suggest a pristine release might be gorgeous. I’m now mildly curious to see what the French version – with ten minutes more sex and philosophy – might be like. Perhaps one for Mondo Macabro?
I wish I could remember what he said it was called! It came out when Alan Jones interviewed him on stage at the ICA a few years back, so he may remember.