Michael Raven has struck a goldmine translating classic literary material into porno terms. Following VIRTUOSO (plundering Shaw's "Pygmalion") and BEAST (a highly personal revision of "Beauty and the Beast" as a S&M love story), he turns to Greek mythology with this updated rendition of the sad tale of Orpheus and Eurydice.
Following the self-inflicted deaths of his wife D.C. Vegas (Ava Vincent, formerly known as "Jewel Valmont") and his father Apollo Greenspan (adult film veteran Mike Horner), rock star Orpheus (very well-played by Dillion Day) takes a cab (as you do...) down to the underworld run by his uncle Pluto Hades (a scene-stealing non-sex performance by Herschel Savage), hellbent on retrieving his lady love. Let's just say he's in for a less than pleasant surprise.
What impressed me most about this top of the line adult film (and, yes, it was indeed shot on 35mm film) is not the uniformly high quality of the production (sparkling cinematography by industry vet Jack Remy, imaginative editing, awesome soundtrack) but how closely the screenplay penned by Raven and David Aaron Clark actually sticks to the original material. Particularly clever is the variation these writers have spun on the bit of Orpheus not being allowed to look back at his beloved on their way out of the underworld and how his failure to adhere leads to their undoing. I also loved the offhanded remark Pluto makes about his (absent) wife Persephone that will go straight over the heads of those unfamiliar with the story.
Acting is pretty good throughout. In addition to those already mentioned, there are solid turns from the ever alluring Asia Carrera as a fortune teller, former cable cutie (just LOVE the career change !) Taylor St. Claire as a disillusioned denizen of the netherworld and the always reliable Ron Jeremy as cab driver Hermie, and even relative newcomers to mythology should be able to figure that one out.
With all this praise out of the way, I cannot help but concede that the sex does suffer a bit. Just five scenes to go round. The first one with the harpies is interesting if way more stylish than hot. The orgy scene at the Underworld Bar arrives too early in the movie, keeping the story proper from building momentum. Luckily, the A-Ladies (that's Ava and Asia for you mere mortals) save the day with the most plot-related boinking of the piece. It is this occasional lack of integration between sex and story and Raven's usual favoring of style over heat that just barely keep UNDERWORLD from being the knockout sucker punch that was BEAST, still his undisputed masterpiece to date.
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