Joseph Bardo – Deep Roots (1978)
Native American Billy leaves his reservation and heads off to Hollywood on his motorcycle to see how other people live. While in Hollywood Billy gets a swanky pad and meets an assortment of lovely young ladies: He enjoys a torrid fireplace tryst with Joan, makes sweet love to eager teenager Sue, and gets down to business with the virginal Rene in a bathtub.
Lost in the porno shuffle is an outstanding example of the hardcore form, Deep Roots. Something Weird dumped it on the market (first on VHS, later DVD) on one of its hundreds of miscellaneous Dragon Art Theatre twofer packages, but it deserves standalone recognition.
Based on a reported NYC theatrical booking IMDb dates it as a 1973 picture, though I would infer from viewing the DVD-R that it is actually of 1977 vintage, its title being a takeoff on the TV phenomenon “Roots”. The title also refers to hairdressing, but given the movie’s ethnic theme and so many other “Deep” title references during the porno chic era (e.g., Deep Jaws) I could be right. Alas, I never got around to doing my planned 1970s book on film releases to followup the indispensable (but unfortunately unsequelized) AFI Catalog Feature Films, 1961-1970, so the basic documentary materials have largely been discarded and lost from that era.
Deep Roots is almost unique in hardcore history for starring a Native American actor in a Native American role. (There have been several actresses, notably Janette Littledove and Hyapatia Lee, but other than Sonny Landham, who was not cast on-screen as an Indian, I can’t recall a starring part for a male.) Jesse Chacan performs admirably in the lead role as Billy, leaving his cute girlfriend behind and riding his immense chopper to L.A. for the good life off the reservation. Storyline is pretty conventional here, more an excuse for sex scenes and comic relief, leading to the inevitable and endless orgy scene at a party.
But along the way Deep Roots escapes from the porn category into genuinely erotic cinema. I have long advocated for IMDb to create a Genre category: “Erotica” that could encompass both softcore and hardcore sex films & videos, but beyond the textbook definition there are a few works that qualify as true eroticism. Filmmaker Joe Bardo, hiding here behind the pseudonym Lisa Barr, actually makes the effort to create something worthwhile (though obscurity was all the thanks this film got).
Besides Jesse’s sensitive sex scene with his girlfriend, which is quite arousing and far from the mechanical “going through the motions & positions” one gets from comparable films, one becomes aware that Deep Roots is a different breed of cat when Billy starts to make love to a beautiful young girl in L.A. after she is introduced in a sensuous shower sequence. Their foreplay begins and just as she is about to give him a blow job, extremely well photographed in closeup, she abruptly stops and she begs off, claiming to be a virgin. Billy leaves in a huff, and their consummation is delayed till film’s end. Even today, in such far afield offerings as the current hit pair of TV series Bones and Castle, this technique of building up a romantic involvement but tantalizingly delaying the payoff is a powerful dramatic technique, and it works like a charm here.
A very strong presence here is Anita Sands, a voluptuous, ultra-busty beauty covered with freckles and a peaches & cream freshness. She reminded me of the unsung mainstream character actress Lisa Blount (“An Officer and a Gentleman”) but her body is the closest we’ll ever get to seeing Christina Hendricks go hardcore. Sands, probably a pseudonym, is also very exciting co-starring opposite Rene Bond in “Do You Wanna Be Loved” and is a major discovery. Sands’ sex scenes from this film were reprised by Alpha Blue Archives in their DVD titled “XXX Bra Busters In The 70’s Volume 2”. Incidentally, Bardo uses his “Lisa Barr” monicker for a couple of credits on “Do You Wanna…”, nominally signed as directed by B.A. Smith, and that film could be of his authorship too.
Liz Renay, in a very self-conscious turn, is alluring and amusing in a support role. Overall this is a well-made porn film and highly recommended for both its sexual content and its unusual approach to the genre.