Michael Zen – Falconhead (1976)
These days adult titles reflect the style of the companies releasing them rather than the directors making them. But look back into the 1970s and very early 1980s, before video opened the genre up to anyone with a video camera and a few thousand dollars, and you find some movies made by actual filmmakers, movies that were cinematic as well as erotic. Michael Zen’s “Falconhead” is a prime example, proof that porn and artistry are not mutually exclusive concepts. The movie is essentially a series of scenes loosely connected by an antique mirror of mysterious origin. Each man who comes into possession of the mirror is himself possessed, lost in a sexual fantasy so powerful that becomes real—or so it seems. The viewer is likely to become possessed as well by hardcore scenes that go from a seething sensuality to a raw raunchiness, made more erotic by the film’s Gothic sensibility. Some people may find trappings of the 1970s —blow-dried hair, mustaches and fake fur bedspreads—off-putting, but the action’s intensity has an impact that’s timeless (and I kind of like guys with mustaches, besides). Scenes of an overweight, middle-aged hippie with his eyes outlined in black interrupt the mood, even if he’s in a non-sexual role, and the titular Falconhead figure is borderline ridiculous. On the whole, though, “Falconhead” is an example of adult film as a viable form of artistic expression, and showcases Michael Zen—like peers Joe Gage and Wakefield Poole—as a one-time auteur. In 1984, Zen directed a sequel, “Falconhead II: The Maneaters.” Today, Zen has moved with the times, churning out slick pornographic titles that are indistinguishable from anything else produced by whatever company has hired him, be it Jet Set Men or straight titles for Vivid (Joe Gage has gone the same route, now working exclusively for Titan Media). While I enjoy the current adult offerings as much as the next guy, it’s older titles like “Falconhead” that have true staying power. It’s not for nothing that “Falconhead” is considered a classic in its genre.