Long Ago and Oh So Far Away: Suzie Superstar (1983)

Dave dons some tight spandex and rocks out to the pumpin’ rhythms of Gary Graver’s impressive music-driven XXX’r.

“Goddamn it! You know how horny I get when I sing!”

Channelling the vibe of Eddie and the Cruisers (1983) and Streets of Fire (1984) yet pre-dating them both, SUZIE SUPERSTAR is arguably the finest collaboration between Gary Graver and producer Sam Norvell, who he partnered with consistently between the tennis-themed titillation of Hot Rackets (1979) and the noirish sleaze of Roots of Evil (1992).

In the role of the titular Suzie we find Shauna Grant (Summer Camp Girls (1983)), the tragic XXX-icon from the Midwest who’d die a year later from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the tender age of twenty. Suzie’s band is one of the hottest properties in Hollywood, but they feel somewhat held back by their golf-crazy manager, Z. W McCain (John Leslie at his cocksure best): a man seemingly more obsessed with lining his pockets than furthering their careers. Thankfully, Suzie is a fairly sharp cat and she hatches a plan to escape their watertight contract by playing McCain off against a powerful mob boss, Mr. Loducca (Ross Roberts), by using the mafioso’s seductress daughter Priscilla (Laura Lazare) as an unwitting pawn.

Grant (real name Colleen Applegate) was never better during her year-long dalliance in the porn industry than she is here, managing to juggle the intricacies of a film that demands intercourse, acting and musical performance. It’s the latter that’s the big surprise, as her three songs showcase a spark to the actress that was so rarely seen. The two stage numbers bounce off the screen with an infectious energy: Turn out the Lights for Me opens the show and lets us fawn over Suzie’s supergroup, which has Joey Silvera (Trinity Brown (1984)) on lead guitar, Jon Martin (Satisfactions (1983)) on bass, an uncredited Tygr (Peaches and Cream (1981)) on drums, and Graver’s good friend Jean Clark going mental on keys. I Wanna Make Love to You (Tonight) follows and underlines the spandex-clad swagger of the gig as Graver’s camera moves with the assured dynamism of a seasoned promo video director.

It’s the third track, Heartache in Disguise, though, that sees the mesmeric musical-drama hitting its peak. In a moving moment of intimacy, Martin’s character shares a track he’s written for Suzie and plays it for her acoustically as she gazes longingly into his eyes and, eventually, joins in. This impromptu duet is quite possibly the most tender and joyous passage in the history of adult cinema, not least because Grant, a notoriously awkward presence in many of her films, appears genuinely content and happy.

As well as the music, Tinsel Town itself forms a perfect backdrop to Suzie Superstar, right from the opening credits rolling over a star on the walk of fame before a gorgeous sweeping shot across Hollywood Boulevard. It’s a destination that Graver returns to repeatedly during Suzie Superstar, with neon-lit and no doubt guerrilla-captured sequences of the locale, before the film winds down at the infamous Frolic Room just east of Vine Street, where the last sighting of the Black Dahlia took place.

The longevity of any porno is partially reliant of you forgetting what you’re watching and being able to lose yourself in the drama. Suzie Superstar does that with ease. Upon release, it won three out of the five Adult Film Association of America awards it was nominated for, including a gong for the band who wrote the songs, Horizon, and one for Ron Jeremy (who plays McCain’s sex-obsessed lackey Raoul). In terms of physical media, the folks at Calvista gave Suzie Superstar a so-so DVD release in July 2008, but it’s crying out for a fresh restoration.

USA ● 1983 ● Adult, Music ● 87mins

Shauna Grant, Joey Silvera, Jon Martin, Laura Lazare, Ron Jeremy, Jean Clark ● Wri. Toni Jackson, Tom Van Vlisingen ● Dir. Gary Graver 

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