Posted September 22, 2005
The history of smut has as many unbelievably odd characters as it has movies, and it seems one who takes an active interest in this sordid cinema is always uncovering a quirky previously unknown filmmaker or performer worth obsessing over. The cool thing is that it’s nearly always someone who has flown under everyone else’s radar, and you get that raw discovery high usually reserved for treasure hunters and palaeontologists. Classic porn is — even today with a new resurgence of interest — the most under appreciated and under documented genre of film history. In that vein, may I introduce you to a weird little pornographer named Ted Roter.
Ted Roter was one nutty Belgian cheese log. M’man was a sex industry pioneer who got his start co-directing the infamous Ray Dennis Steckler atrocity LEMON GROVE KIDS MEET THE MONSTERS in 1965. His next film, the softcore/drama classic NORMA (1970), about a woman’s shattered sex life had the memorable campaign proclaiming “Norma… she’s not quite normal.” Neither was Ted.
In the mid seventies, Roter decided to go blue and came into his own as a hardcore director who often starred in his own films, proving to be very competent wearing both hats. In fact he once aptly proclaimed himself the John Cassevettes of porn, and under the nom-de-fuck Peter Balakoff, he created a series of unique L.A. hardcore movies released under the banner of Belladonna Films. Much longer than the usual 70 minute skin flick of the mid ’70s, his output was sometimes maddening, oddly tasteful, and yet totally and wonderfully unconventional.
ALL THE DEVIL’S ANGELS (1979) is one of Ted’s better movies, and one of the few thankfully available on video thanks to Alpha Blue Archives and Something Weird Video. The plot is dangerously schizo, with the storyline constantly leaving you in an engrossed state of bewilderment. The fractured and dreamlike story line is not so unlike the legendary cut-ups created by William Burroughs and Bryan Gysin and popularised by David Bowie and others. Just when you think you’ve got the plot figured out, you suddenly get the sense that the copy you’re watching has been accidentally edited out of sequence, and your mind races to try to put the pieces back into place. One section of the film has Ted playing a Belgian shrink who specializes in patients who believe themselves to be possessed by the devil. He lectures at schools, and also runs his nuthouse filled with perverts, horny girls and nurses. Ted’s usual blonde leading lady, Gena Lee, plays Jean, a Nancy Drew-esque undercover mystery girl who infiltrates his freaky scene and constantly seems to be retracing her character arc instead of forwarding it. This connects us to the film’s other plot, which has Ted as a hooded sex shaman who gathers his followers to fuck and suck each other while praying to Satan. In other words: WTF?
The casting is surprisingly excellent, but not always of the highest caliber when it comes to thespianism. Ted himself is fucking great and easily believable as the older and wiser psychiatrist, and the dozen or so girls cast are cute in an plain everyday manner — and don’t look at all like todays gaudy, jaded, porn stars. In fact, nearly all of them had never stepped in front of a movie camera before or since — in porn or otherwise.
In terms of humpy-pumpy, this is jam-packed with somewhat uninspired ham-slamming indicative of the era, and yet Ted executes the filming of it with the lyricism of a Euro art wanker. There’s a wide degree of kink here as well, with the audience coyly introduced to a female dominated underground society that Ted somehow manipulates for his own pleasure. The “good doctor” seems to constantly be engrossed in some ego laden conversation while having some glassy eyed negligee-clad young patient down between his legs gobbling his knob while he creepily coos “Good girl. Gooood girl…” These entertaining scenes aren’t the only “little girl games” on display. A bunch of the snotty teen inmates sneak into a young dimwitted patient’s room, and make him kiss their dirty feet. Later, wearing hot pants — they taunt him (like girls at summer camp) into flashing his skin flute, and then laugh at him.
Ted Roter is a vastly overlooked and very special porn auteur who passed away 6 years ago at the age of 70 while living in New York, and ALL THE DEVIL’S ANGELS is a remarkable, almost unheard of, and nearly indecipherable glob of fuck-art-trash.