The Young and the Restless: Doll Face (1987)

Gary Graver had a habit of remaking some of his best films, but Dave believes few have reached the heights of their predecessor quite like this.

And When She Was Bad… (1973) was so good that Gary Graver remade it twice.

If you were to rank the filmmaker’s one-hundred-and-odd pictures, the original – an innovative spin on Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita – is a dead cert top ten. Spearheaded by John Alderman (one of the most eye-catching male leads in grindhouse cinema), And When She Was Bad… is a rough n’ ready cheapie that hints at Graver’s flourishing ability as a gifted and dynamic force behind the camera.

His second remake of the film, the Monique Gabrielle starring Angel Eyes (1993), leaned more towards psycho horror than the domestic dramatics of ’73. DOLL FACE, meanwhile – an overlooked XXX rebuild that appeared between the two – takes the same framework of And When She Was Bad… but eschews the grainy guerilla vibe, instead layering it with a distinctive ambiance of its own that positions it among the very best of Graver’s post-Golden Era projects.

After a handful of disappointments like Perfect Partners (1985) and Aroused (1985), it would be safe to assume that the forever hyphenated Graver would veer more towards three day quickies for his writer-cinematographer-director gigs in the porn biz. Theatrical distribution was becoming far less of a guarantee, and trade was shifting away from 35mm to the economically appealing videotape at pace.

Right from the immaculately composed first frame of the feature, it’s clear that Graver is completely invested in Doll Face, and it’s also apparent at just how close to And When She Was Bad… he wants to stay – from the location shoot at railway sidings, to dialogue being repeated verbatim. It’s less of an interpretation and more of an impersonation, albeit with hardcore sex.

Young Sharon (Sandy Summers) is drawn to eavesdropping at the bedroom door whenever her mother (Nina Hartley) and stepfather, Ken (Eric Edwards), make love – but following their separation, a few years go by before she feels compelled to reconnect with Ken once more. Moving in with him and his new girlfriend, Rita (Maggie Randall), was never going to be easy for either of them – and with Sharon’s burgeoning sexuality impossible to contain, it’s about to push their relationship to breaking point…

One thing that separates Doll Face from its predecessor is class. Alderman, with his bohemian appearance – long hair, nonchalantly smoking a fag in bed – seems more equipped to cope with the advances of teenage lust. Edwards, on the other hand, contends with a more affluent version of Ken, which, in turn, makes him a little more vulnerable within the oak panelled walls of his spacious San Francisco house.

Shout out to The Golden City too, which transposes the exteriors from the Po-No’s of Los Angeles to the sex clubs of Turk Street, and in doing so tweaks the sleaze to a more cabaret form of exhibitionism that perfectly harnesses Sharon’s latent curiosity. Indeed, Summers is excellent here. Hardly your archetypal porn star, Summers’ cropped cut and tomboy appearance serves as a marked contrast to the standard Lolitaism of Lyllah Torena and her prototype of the character. Edwards is typically brilliant, having grown in stature since his memorable debut for Graver in Amanda By Night (1981) – although this and Crazy with the Heat (1986) would sadly be the last opportunity for them to work together. It would also be the final time that Graver would partner with Calvista head honcho Sidney Niekerk on a porno, ending an eight year team-up that yielded some of the most iconic blue movies of the Golden Age. They did, however, reconnect in the early ‘90s for the riotous Evil Spirits (1990) and Roots of Evil (1992), a ‘mainstream’ rehash of Trinity Brown (1984).

Doll Face opened in New Jersey in the middle of January 1987 before embarking on a lengthy theatrical run that took in New York, Austin, and Philadelphia – the latter being where it featured on an amusing drive-in bill with family favourite Short Circuit (1986). It performed well at the AVN Awards that year as well. Edwards bagged a nomination for Best Lead Actor and Joey Silvera’s delightful cameo as a bible salesman who falls for Sharon’s seduction technique was also recognised.

USA ● 1987 ● Adult ● 82mins

Eric Edwards, Sandy Summers, Maggie Randall, Nina Hartley, Joey Silvera  ● Wr./Dir. Gary Graver

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