Tower Of Power (1985): Suited and Booty’d

Dave gives Gary Graver’s cut of corporate carnality the once over.

“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good,” affirmed Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street (1987). Indeed, if Vietnam and civil unrest epitomised the USA in the ‘60s, and Watergate was the overriding memory of the ‘70s, ‘80s America can be characterised by relentless economic gluttony. Always keen to reflect the trends of the times and societal changes, the porn industry certainly wasn’t going to shun the chance to make a little white-collar coitus – so as the mid-point of the decade came to pass, a steady stream of big business bonk-fests went before the cameras. Thomas Paine’s impressive Corporate Assets (1985) remains one of the subgenre’s finest examples, but Gary Graver’s two forays into finance-based fucking are worth your time as well: Erotic City (1985) and its slightly superior original, TOWER OF POWER.

Fred Kingsley (Robert Kerman) is the high-powered CEO of a potent financial institution – but when he gets wind that one of his employees might be involved in corporate espionage, the quest to weed them out begins. “Someone in this room is guilty of treason,” he bellows. Thing is, they’re all guilty of so much more…

It starts at the top too. Fred himself is cheating on his wife, Stella (Janey Robbins), with his secretary, Annette (Melanie Scott). Then Fred’s second in command, Claudia (Annette Haven), who controls twenty percent of the stock in the company, is having issues with her boyfriend, Gabe (Herschel Savage). Gabe is Stella’s half-brother, but they don’t let that stop them (“We’re not kids anymore baby”). All the while Claudia’s ex, Hugh (John Leslie), is scheming a way to get himself further up the company ladder, as his new wife, Linda (Angel aka Jennifer James – her sole appearance in a Graver movie), tries her best to help him by seducing the people that can make it happen.

A ribald round-robin that does its utmost to pin the trading indiscretion on a whole host of suspects – but aside from the boardroom sequences that bookend the picture, Tower of Power‘s script (by ‘Mark Spelling’), which commences as a riff on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, strays too frequently. It’s a good film but it could have been a great one.

For those keeping track of Wellesian flourishes in Graver’s ‘Robert McCallum’ films, it seems fitting that, in the year Welles died, there’s a scene in Fred’s sumptuous abode where on a prominently placed book on Rembrandt lies on the coffee table. Rembrandt, of course, was the nickname the iconic auteur affectionately bestowed upon Graver, his loyal cinematographer.

Something that Welles would have no doubt appreciated is Graver and Cal-Vista’s continuing determination to shoot on 35mm despite the economical lure of videotape growing with every passing month. Considering the nouveau riche subjects at the centre of the film, it feels somewhat appropriate that Tower of Power‘s opulent sets and lavish locations are documented on a format that fellow pornographers were starting to consider a luxury medium.

By all accounts, Tower of Power‘s investors managed to claw a couple of quid back at the box office from what was, by then, a rapidly dwindling audience. Tower of Love began its nationwide theatrical tour in June 1985 at the Pussycat in Oakland before taking in Orlando and San Bernardino. Over a year after its debut, it was still playing seven shows from dawn ‘til late at the Lexington in Kentucky – although on 7th August 1986, the mid-western establishment, which once entertained two-hundred patrons a day, gave Graver’s film the melancholy honour of being the last X-rated movie to grace their big screen.

“I’m pretty sad about it,” remarked one of the Lexington’s regular customers to the Lexington Herald-Leader. “It means that if I want to see a porno movie, I’ll have to drive eighty miles to Louisville, or buy a VCR.” [1]

Welcome to the new normal, my friend…

USA ● 1985 ● Adult ● 80mins

Annette Haven, John Leslie, Harry Reems, Angel, Robert Kerman, Janey Robbins ● Dir. Gary Graver (as ‘Robert McCallum’) ● Wri. ‘Mark Spelling

[1] Lexington Theater’s Last X-Rated Show Goes Out Quietly by Don Edwards, Lexington Herald-Leader, 8th August 1986.

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