We Are Family: Unthinkable (1984)

Dave keeps it all in the family, and checks out Gary Graver’s first foray into the burgeoning XXX market for fauxcest.

It was the legendary nudie cutie director David F. Friedman who co-founded the Pussycat Theatre chain, that string of adult cinemas whose reputation for XXX exhibition is etched into the annals of grindhouse history. Such was the demand in this burgeoning market that, by 1968, Vince Miranda, the former busboy and son of a Portuguese immigrant, bought a fifty percent stake in the company and accelerated its growth, while adorning the interiors with velveteen fixtures, bevelled glass, murals, and chandeliers.

By June 1970, Miranda was onto his fourteenth establishment at 1442 2nd Street in Santa Monica [1], where he and co-owner Jay Fineberg had renovated an existing building at the cost of $150,000 in order to provide the setting for the 450-seat house – thus making it the largest adult theatre in the city. By the following January, the venue was boasting one-and-a-half thousand patrons a week, and contrary to the tired misnomer, it was a diverse audience that was packing the place out. “Women comprise almost half the theatre’s weekend attendance,” asserted Fineberg to the Los Angeles Times in January ’71. “And whenever we get a complaint that a show isn’t sexy enough, nine out of ten times it comes from a woman.” [2]

By the late ‘70s, Fineberg had made the inevitable leap into producing under the pseudonym ‘Mark Corby’, cranking out XXX classics like Tangerine (1979) and Peaches and Cream (1981) with his long-time friend Gary Graver [3]. However, those broad-minded punters of the early ‘70s might flinch had the duos incest-themed outing, UNTHINKABLE, played the packed Saturday night couples slot at the Pussycat.

Today, incest might be the fastest growing trend in pornography [4], but thirty years ago this forbidden kink was only just edging its way into the peccadillos of the adult movie crowd. Far removed from the sleaze-happy post-Millennium quickies that we know today was Kirdy Stevens’ Taboo (1980), a film that had both a female writer-producer (Helene Terrie), and a narrative that formed an allegory about the treatment of women in society. It was a trailblazer, spawning twenty-two sequels (no, really) and its success paved the way for the hardcore industry to mine every possible familial coupling [5].

Where Taboo leaves off, Unthinkable begins!” boasts its tagline, but Graver’s film is under no illusions in regard to its lack of depth and cultural nuance. Perhaps out of all the twenty movies he directed during the Golden Age of Pornography (1969 – 1984), Unthinkable is ironically the most conventional in terms of existing purely as a means of titillation.

Sandy (Bunny Bleu) and Skip (Scott Irish) are desperate to become intimate with one another, and they won’t let the fact they’re sister and brother get in their way. With their folks (Honey Wilder and Eric Edwards) away for the weekend, it’s a perfect opportunity for a little alone time, although their maid (Tamara Longley), older sister (Pamela Mann), her boyfriend Jerry (Jerry Davis), and a passing plumber (Mark Harris) are determined to muscle in on the action.

Graver’s pornos are renowned for their ability to mix sex with a storyline, so the dialogue free opening twenty minutes of Unthinkable are a patience tester for those expecting exposition. Once it does hit its stride, Geno Bellanca’s script is a little flat, and any conversation serves only as a means to hop to another scene of rumpy-pumpy. It could be argued that this is an X-rated Sirkian glimpse into what may lie behind the made to measure curtains of suburbia, but that would be giving it too much credit. Graver’s direction is predictably lean, and he hits a visual peak during an intricate five-some that serves as a high point in the film’s eroticism. But it needs more, and lines like “do you think it’s time we told the kids about the birds and the bees?” from Honey Wilder offer a belated reminder that, with some wit and self-awareness, Unthinkable could have been unmissable.

USA ● 1984 ● Adult ● 87mins

Tamara Longley, Bunny Bleu, Pamela Mann, Scott Irish, Honey Wilder, Eric Edwards ● Wri. Geno Bellanca ● Dir. Gary Graver (as ‘Robert McCallum’)

[1] Its marquee can be seen in Boogie Nights (1997), advertising a Dirk Diggler film.
[2] The Los Angeles Times, 31st January 1970, p.251
[3] Fineberg had a minor acting role in Graver’s exploitative classic The Hard Road (1970), and he produced one of the director’s finest films, Sandra: The Making of a Woman (1970).
[4] Incest is the Fastest Growing Trend in Porn by Luke O’Neil, esquire.com, 26th February 2018
[5] Ironically, Graver would go on to direct Taboo VI: The Obsession (1987)

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