Black Aphrodite (1977)
Directed by Pavlos Filippou
Starring Ajita Wilson, Harry Stevens
As the 1970’s drew to a close, Greek cinema was in love with both Eurospy films and bodacious sex goddess Ajita Wilson…so why not combine the two? BLACK APHRODITE is a mind-blowing swirl of sex, sleaze, knifing, bodies tossed from trains, nudity, axe murders and hairy Greek buttocks. If it sounds like fun – it is in it’s own way, if you don’t think about it too much. Despite having all the ingredients for a rip-roaring exploitation sleaze fest, BLACK APHRODITE has one fatal flaw: it doesn’t make any bloody sense!
A group of arms dealers, led by the statuesque Tamara, begin to suspect there is a traitor in their midst when a routine arms deal goes bust. Things grow increasingly more desperate as the culprit begins picking them off one-by-one in a shocking display of violence, rape and bloodshed.
Director Pavlos Filippou (using the bizarre pseudonym ‘Saul Filipstein’) seems to have brought to the set a written “to do” list on how to make a Eurocrime sex film…and the results are rather confusing. Characters appear simply to be dispatched minutes later, people who tried to kill each other a few scenes back are suddenly on the same team, our cast of heroes are rarely seen in close up and look so much alike we never really know who is who…you get the idea. Throw in several very long and clumsy sexual interludes, and you have something that might – under most circumstances – be rather interminable. However, that’s not the case here. BLACK APHRODITE has a certain charm and a secret ingredient that makes it hard to look away.
That secret ingredient is Ajita Wilson.
Ajita Wilson’s career is certainly baffling. She appeared in reasonably legit films, sex comedies, high-brow erotica, grimy women-in-prison dirges and bottom-of-the-barrel hardcore. Whether she just had a lousy agent, or was simply more concerned with working than in the quality of the project, we’ll never know. She did, however, have an uncanny knack of raising the bar in any scene she appeared in. When she is absent from the screen in BLACK APHRODITE, things seem to grind to a halt. The moment she re-appears, the film livens up again. Ajita can’t take all the credit, though.
Harry Stevens (aka Haris Tryfonas) is another bit of brilliant casting. Stevens is probably best known as rapist and assassin-for-hire in the film EMANUELLE, QUEEN OF SADOS. He really gives the role of Steve a lot of gusto. He’s tough, but obviously one of the good guys. He’s painted as a sort of Greek Steve McQueen type: roughing up guys by day and bedding the women by night. This is slightly undermined by his uncanny resemblance to John Stamos, but that’s hardly his fault. He’s an actor who is obviously not afraid of getting dirty or giving his hairy balls a bit of a cinematic airing.
The rest of the cast, alas, don’t add much to the proceedings. French beauty Annik Borel has turned up for her paycheck but is given absolutely nothing interesting to do (which is a pity as she is a pretty decent actress.) The other members of Tamara’s team are all fairly interchangeable (mostly because we don’t really get a good look at them) and double agent Ada Bartholomew (also of EMANUELLE, QUEEN OF SADOS and billed here as ‘Anta Bartolomy’) is on hand simply so the male cast has someone to alternately abuse/have sex with.
The sex scenes are frequent and have a sort of fumbling charm to them, but none look particularly real or generate much heat. Softcore sex on film isn’t real, but it should at least try to look that way.
The violence comes in a fairly steady stream, and some of the deaths are really quite graphic. A few actually made me feel a bit queasy. Unfortunately, their intended shock value is diminished by the fact that the director has failed to make us care about the characters very much. Or, perhaps I’m just getting desensitized in my old age.
Despite these flaws, the film is quite entertaining in a goofy sort of way. If Mike and the Bots could have gotten away with it, this film would be perfect fodder for Mystery Science Theater 3000. The dubbing is laughably bad and everyone takes themselves oh so very seriously – it’s really hard not to enjoy their (vain) efforts at competency! BLACK APHRODITE does have its merits. The cinematography by Mikhaili Stavrinakis is rather clever and Ajita Wilson is photographed quite beautifully. Her unique attributes require special care for their exquisite nature to be captured effectively. Stavrinakis does this expertly.
The main problem with BLACK APHRODITE is that there is simply too much going on. The film really could have been so much more fun if the crime aspects were made secondary to the sexual shenanigans (or vise versa.) Filippou has tried to unite two separate audiences and really should have aimed for one over the other.
BLACK APHRODITE is messy fun and for fans of Ajita Wilson it’s not a bad way to spend to spend 90 minutes or so.
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ARTICLE Enigma: Ajita Wilson