Wakefield Poole’s Bible!

Wakefield Poole’s BIBLE on Amazon

Every now and then, you take a gamble on something that pays off. That is, actually, pretty much the mission statement of the crap cineaste, isn’t it? We keeping sifting through the silt, hoping for the occasional fleck of gold. It’s that rare strike that keeps us going, continuing through all the Italian zombie flicks, the hackwork rape revenge stories, the staid children’s films. That one true discovery. The movie that catches you unawares and reminds you why you even bother.

Surprisingly, I found Wakefield Poole’s Bible! to be such a movie.

I did go in with expectations fairly low. Vinegar Syndrome has been doing some truly astounding work on some of the most disposable movies of the last century: mainly adult movies like Vixens of Kung Fu, but also bizarre horror bottom dwellers like Dungeon of Harrow and Night Train to Terror. So I knew I was going to get a lovely image, at least.

What I didn’t expect was that Bible! would deserve it.

poole bibleWakefield Poole is a director primarily known for gay hardcore features. In 1973 or 74, he set out to do a “straight” feature, originally to be hardcore versions of Bible stories. He decided this was not a good thing to try in the death throes of the Nixon Administration (if, indeed, it could be said to be a good idea at any time), so he made a softcore movie, hoping for an “R” rating. As there is not MPAA rating on the film, box, or IMDb entry, I can only assume that the distributor never went to the expense of submitting it for a rating; therefore, it was assumed by the audience that it was another of Poole’s hardcore flicks, and thus was a miserable failure at the box office.

Poole has picked the saucier items from the Old Testament: Adam and Eve (of course), David and Bathsheba, and Samson and Delilah. Sex is an inextricable part of the last two, naked people the first. There are three things that set Bible! apart from other obvious analogs like oh, let’s say John Huston’s 1966 The Bible: In The Beginning, or other attempts to sexy-up existing literature like Alice in Wonderland. First the movie is silent (there is only one line of spoken dialogue) with a classical music soundtrack; second, Poole was determined to see if he could make “a beautiful movie”; and third, his varying approach to the stories.

Just to be different, Poole starts out Genesis with an atomic explosion, then footage of a fetus developing in a womb. Then Adam (Bo White) awakens in a cave, and climbs and swims his way out to a surprisingly beach-centric Eden. He is joined by Eve (Caprice Couselle), and they make love for the first time ever. In the Universe.

This is probably when the audiences starting walking out. Like I said, it’s softcore. There is no position changing, no money shot. The actors are young and pretty, the scenic photography is nice. So far, nothing truly special.

bible2bigThen we get to David and Bathsheba. Bathsheba (Georgina Spelvin) is presented as a neglected wife. Her husband Uriah (Robert Benes) is absorbed with military matters and the new slave girl (Nancy Wachter). The twist is Bathsheba realizes David (John Horn) is spying on her and decides to take her bath anyway – but the overriding twist is that Poole plays this all as a burlesque comedy sketch. Spelvin is a splendid comedian (she is also one of the few porn stars that could actually act, along with Jamie Gillis and Pia Snow/Michelle Bauer, so her skill at comedy shouldn’t be surprising). Spelvin also touchingly takes Bathsheba through a gamut of emotions before the frustrated wife finally decides to disrobe for her hidden admirer. A few more complications are tossed in before David suddenly barges in the front door and everything goes into fast-motion Keystone Kops chase territory (sadly, it is 1974, and Poole did not know to throw “Yakkity Sax” onto the soundtrack).

Forsaking the natural vistas of the Eden story for a studio, Poole’s crew has done a remarkable job on the set on a shoestring budget. There is no mistaking this for anything more than what you might find on a variety show comedy sketch, but it’s all perfectly serviceable, and the bath even has running water.

vlcsnap-00287Which brings us to Samson and Delilah, which is presented as a revenge tragedy. A blue-painted midget steals Samson’s knife, and Samson (Brahm van Zetten) kills him with his bare hands. The midget is apparently a servant of Delilah’s, though, and Delilah (Gloria Grant, a waitress who Poole cast on the spot) seduces and drugs Samson, so the midget’s mate can cut his hair while Delilah is on her knees, um, distracting him.

For this segment, Poole’s sets are composed of cloth blowing in a non-existent wind and two-by-fours leaning against each other, forming abstract shapes. The results are eerily beautiful, and with the bright colors of the costuming, the whole thing takes on the air and grace of a Fellini spectacle. I was not expecting this.

Poole gets a lot of use out of his variable-speed 16mm camera, that’s for sure.

poolewcameraIn an effort to end on a kind of an up note, the movie ends with a brief, abstract representation of the Immaculate Conception, which is a bit of a time shift, but worth it, I suppose, for that final irreverent image of a neon sign for the Bethlehem Hotel with a flashing NO VACANCY. I would probably not like Wakefield Poole’s Bible! as much as I do if he had gone ahead with his original vision – I find porn mind-numbingly boring. But going the softcore route, with an actual eye toward composition and effect provides many dividends, not the least of which is that I find Spelvin’s and Grant’s unveilings truly erotic, that frequently misused word. There is genuine emotion and some artistry involved here – enough that I think this is a genuine find and bravos are due to Vinegar Syndrome for bringing this back to the light of day.

4 Comments

  1. I went to add that to my Amazon list and put it in the cart instead. Oh well! *pushes check out*

    • 1. Get a few thousand people to do likewise
      2. ???
      3. Profit!

      Seriously, thanks for being my first ever Amazon Affiliate customer. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

      • Ah. No, er. I was using my app…

        Awkward.

      • (Puts away “Our 1000th Customer!” banner)


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