Jonas Middleton, 1976
Starring: Catherine Erhardt aka Catherine Burgess, Jamie Gillis, Laura Nicholson
I initially watched Through the Looking Glass with the expectation that it was a loose sequel to Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Comedy (1976), because Through the Looking-Glass was Lewis Carroll’s follow up to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. That could not be farther from the truth. Where Alice is a silly, sexploitation musical comedy about Alice’s sexual awakening and does not take itself seriously in the least, Through the Looking Glass is a surreal, horror-porn with ghosts, demons, incest, sexual trauma, and images of hell.
A beautiful woman, Catherine, is dissatisfied with her seemingly perfect life. She becomes obsessed with an attic room in her family’s mansion and coldly ignores her husband and teenage daughter to retreat to the attic, where she masturbates in front of a floor length mirror. Her masturbatory practices are soon interrupted by a ghost, who aggressively fingers her. This ghost later turns into a three-dimensional female demon that she has sex with, and eventually into her father. It is revealed that he sexually abused her when she was a teenager, though she is excited by these encounters. When the demon tries to entice her to enter the mirror in the attic room, she begs her husband to take her away, but he won’t believe her. Unable to resist, she enters the mirror and is trapped in a desert-like hell dimension with other beings who endlessly engage in wanton sexual acts.
This somewhat experimental sex film is incredibly jarring, particularly if you were expecting a light-hearted, sex-positive ‘70s porn romp, as I was. This is likely one of the few hardcore films from this era that deals with sexual assault (at one point the demon rapes Catherine from behind) and incest. Both taboo and somewhat tasteless, Catherine fears the demon's attempts to draw her into the mirror, but craves sexual encounters with her father. Through the Looking Glass has several flashback and fantasy sequences, including one Buñuelian scene of a garden lunch party that turns into an orgy, and another that recounts Catherine’s sexual awakening at the hands of her father. Catherine later begins to exhibit the same treatment towards her teenage daughter, fondling her and telling her that she is almost a woman.
The beautiful Catherine Erhardt (aka Burgess) has some very ‘80s hair going on for much of the time, but is otherwise perfect in a difficult, uncomfortable role. She is better known for her starring role in Al Adamson’s enjoyable cheesy Cinderella 2000. Porn star Jamie Gillis (The Opening of Misty Beethoven, The Story of Joanna and many, many more) is excellent as the father/demon character, bringing a mix of menace and eroticism. Keep an eye out for appearances by porn actresses Ultramax (no, I did not make that up) and Terri Hall, both of whom appear in other sex films from the period, including Alice in Wonderland. Weirdly, the score was composed by Harry Manfredini, later responsible for scoring most of the Friday the 13th series and several other ‘80s and ‘90s horror films.
I’m not sure if I can recommend this disturbing and utterly bizarre film. It is somewhat slow moving and there are some lengthy scenes between sex acts. Many viewers are also likely to be disturbed by Catherine’s main fantasy: being fucked by her father. I would say this is more of an arty, psychological horror film with sex and less an outright hardcore film, though there are a fairly wide range of sexual scenes. Catherine masturbates frequently and graphically, including one scene where the camera (standing in for the ghost) penetrates her, allowing viewers to see up into her vagina canal. A little too medical for me. There is lesbian and heterosexual sex, lots of oral sex, and only one scene that is non-fantastic or non-supernatural, where a jealous maid deep throats the chauffeur so that he stops fantasizing about Catherine. Though the sex scenes are convincing and well shot, it would be fair to classify nearly all of them as anti-erotic, due to the subject matter.
Though it had a relatively high budget, Through the Looking Glass looks a lot like a made-for-TV movie from the early ‘80s, despite the beautiful mansion and some imaginative sets. Hopefully this gets the attention of a company like Image, because a restoration would probably go a long way. I really can’t decide whether or not to recommend Through the Looking Glass, but it is worth seeing for anyone who likes bizarre or uncomfortable sex films and it would make a very interesting double feature with The Devil in Miss Jones (for example, both films have scenes where someone gets fucked with a banana). As with other sex films from this period, there are both hardcore and softcore versions available, though if you're going to watch it, go with the uncut version, which is available on DVD from the wonderful Distribpix.