Blu-Ray Review: Summer Camp Girls (1983)

Graver for the Quim! Dave sits slack-jawed at the impeccable 2K restoration of a slight yet well-crafted XXX’r.

“You know, you take a typical girl that’s used to working at McDonald’s or at a shoe store, where she’s used to making a minimum wage, and suddenly she’s given the opportunity to get made up and be in front of people who tell her she’s beautiful, then make as much money in a day as she was making in three weeks and they change. They change. And that’s sad.”

Solemn words from the legendary Penthouse photographer Stephen Hicks, who spoke to PBS’ Frontline in 1987 for their episode Death of a Porn Queen. It focused on the tragic life of Shauna Grant – born Colleen Applegate – who, in March 1984, at the tender age of twenty, turned a .22 calibre rifle on herself and committed suicide. It was a tragic end for the girl from Farmington, Minnesota; a girl who had ran away from home to Los Angeles aged eighteen before taking the well-trodden path from modelling to hardcore pornography. Grant spent less than a year in the adult entertainment industry, but experienced a meteoric rise that, over the course of a thirty film stint, saw her pay increase from $300 a day to $1500. But by mid 1983, after contracting herpes and following an abortion, Grant had had enough – although she retained enough gravitas to be seated at Francis Ford Coppola’s table at the Adult Film Association Awards.

With her XXX dalliance compressed into the dying embers of the Golden Age of pornography, it’s no surprise that she crossed paths with Gary Graver, who directed her in the award-winning Suzie Superstar (1983) as well as the slight yet impeccably crafted SUMMER CAMP GIRLS. The former deserves its place at the pinnacle of Grant’s all-too-brief career, but a 2k restoration of the latter is a good opportunity for an admiring wink at her and Graver’s lesser-known hook-up.

Grant plays Angela Cortese, the rich daughter of a notorious mafioso (John Alderman sporting a clip-on ‘tache) sent to Camp Quim in an effort to shield her from the danger that shadows her father’s profession. However, unbeknownst to dear ol’ Dad, what’s traditionally a bevy of aerobics and arts is actually a hotbed of horndogs and hormones, and young Angela soon finds herself caught up in a web of carnality.

Unlike a lot of Graver’s porn output, the storyline here takes a backseat. In fact, it’s barely referred to, as we’re treated to the residents getting it on in a variety of sexy scenarios. Thankfully, like all Harold Lime Productions (incidentally, Lime himself pops up as a bartender), Summer Camp Girls boasts a virtual Adult Video News Hall-of-Fame among its cast.

Herschel Savage stands out, playing mean mofo J.D, complete with ‘Gimme Head ‘Til I’m Dead’ tee, and baiting his on-off lover Carla (Tara Aire) with “when I get mad, I get rough”. In much needed contrast is Paul Thomas at his most delightful. His counsellor character, Greg, is determined to spurn the advances of the gorgeous girls in camp, despite withstanding a barrage of wholly problematic flirtations. Fittingly, Greg’s co-worker, Marcy (Janey Robbins), is on hand to relieve his simmering sexual tension. Having then recently returned to the industry after a spell in the joint for smuggling cocaine, Thomas is the epitome of class here, and his relationship with Marcy adds depth and tenderness in the wake of Savage’s, erm, savagery. Ironically, both these actors went on share an AVN gong for the food orgy in John Seeman’s star-studded classic, Ten Little Maidens (1985).

In terms of artistry, the pool table sequence with Veronica (Kimberly Carson) and Marc Wallice (Buck) is what you could define as peak Graver. Seductively lit to within an inch of its life and captured with a constantly moving camera, it offers a nod of artistic respect to the performers. Moving fast and delivering what it promises, it’s perhaps the on-screen equivalent of the director’s storied career.

Released on DVD via Cabellero in April 2001, this film in any format is just about able to showcase the flair-soaked workmanship of its talented contributors. However, with Summer Camp Girls being only the second of Graver’s one-hundred and fourteen hardcore pictures to graduate to Blu-ray, it transforms a dimly-lit and washed out frolic into a colour-popping gangbang of deftly-directed debauchery. Vinegar Syndrome’s 2K scan is gorgeous and the disc is worth picking up for that alone – which is just as well really, since their release is sadly devoid of extras.

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