Pandora: Part 1, ‘The Dark Forest’
Produced, directed, re-animated, written and imported from Japan by Arthur Baker.
This languished under the TV for ages, under the mistaken assumption that it was a barbarian women film. However, that was eventually dispelled one Sunday evening, when I found out it was actually Japanime. This was a pleasant surprise, at least until the titles – seeing ‘Pandora – An Erotic Trilogy’, I got the feeling this was going to be dodgy anime.
And I was 110% right. Why it’s called ‘Pandora’, and what happened to the other two parts, I haven’t a clue. However, the first section is a cross between ‘The Exorcist’, ‘Dolls’ and, oh, any randomly selected Traci Lords movie. Those easily offended (or even those that are difficult to offend) might care to skip the rest of this, as should those with religious convictions [insert own joke here].
It starts innocently enough with a man, Paul, driving through a forest. Or at least, repeatedly through the same bit of forest – the animation is on the budget side. He comes across a trainee TV evangelist, Brother Robards, who was delivering a videocassette of Christian special-effects when his bike broke down. Paul, being a friendly sort, gives him a lift and tells him tales of the haunted forest they’re in, saying that it’s outside the realm of God. The van then hits a tree but fortunately, a passing coach, driven by someone who looks like The Master from Doctor Who, takes them to a castle. On arrival, the place is full of china dolls plus Maria, the mistress of the house and Beth, her maid-servant. Paul and the priest are shown to their separate rooms. Then things start to get decidedly dodgy.
Necessary digression. The Japanese have a severe taboo against depicting pubic hair – naughty bits are fine, just not hairy ones. Other anime tastefully blur the offending region (though on a 9th generation NTSC conversely, everything looks a bit fuzzy). ‘Pandora’ simply doesn’t let its characters have any pubic hair, as we discover when we see Maria playing with herself in front of a mirror. The lack of hair and the usual anime tricks of huge eyes, etc, make her look about ten: even though it’s relatively tastefully done – we see something that looks more like a crushed rose dripping nectar than anything gynaecologically accurate – it still makes uncomfortable viewing.
She then moves in to seduce Brother Robards (with no problem at all – he is a trainee TV evangelist!), starting by having him tongue her pussy and proceeding apace to the point where Maria is energetically astride the reverend, all shown in great detail. The truth is then revealed – she’s actually a demon (something of a relief compared to the alternative that this is just animated kiddie porn) who wants Brother Robards to father Satan’s child. Her demonic powers include the handy ability to change shape so that she can lick his dick while still sitting on top of him (leaning backwards through her own legs in a loop, should you be wondering). Brother Robards’ sperm proves too weak to make it up into Maria’s womb (?) so he gets his head torn off.
Paul, meanwhile, is canoodling in the kitchen with Beth. Maria surprises them and drags Beth away for punishment, shapechanging to become a well-endowed man. Not so much in quality as quantity, she’s in a 100% penis over-supply situation. We’ll draw a veil over the rest of this painful scene, pausing only to note that Beth doesn’t have any pubic hair either.
After a tasty meal of what’s left of Brother Robards, Maria tries Paul for size, despite his efforts to prevent her (the dialogue reaches new heights – lines like “Stop trying to force me to have an erection! I refuse to let it stand up, you whore of Satan!” would be bad as subtitles, as spoken dialogue, they’re hysterical). Their humping and licking is abruptly terminated by Beth delivering an axe between the shoulder-blades to Maria. She’s barely fazed by this and is soon chasing the couple through the castle, aided by her animated dolls. They end up in Brother Robards room and his Christian special effects video-tape suddenly attacks Maria and winds itself round her. Then the castle goes on fire. Why all this happens, I’ve no idea but Beth and Paul escape, pausing only to make passionate love in gratuitous close-up as the castle burns in the distance. Of course, there’s the obligatory surprise ending, which will not be a surprise to anyone who’s seen ‘Dance of the Vampires’.
The feeling this was a one-man operation is increased by the dubbing – whoever Mr.Baker got to do Beth’s voice delivers every line in the same monotone, whether it’s “Oh, I’m getting so excited” or “Please don’t hurt me any more. No, not your chamber”. Even “Please don’t double-dong me” is said in a voice reminiscent of a speaking clock. The translation has other interesting moments:
- “I’d never want anything to harm the beauty within you”
- “It’s not nice to fuck with Mother Nature”
- “I never thought having sex with a TV minister could be this hot”.
The problem with something like ‘Pandora’ is that it poses more questions than it can answer. Taken in isolation, it’s perverse and shocking but several things distinguish it from pornography. There can be no denying the effort, relatively speaking, that went into it – simple though the animation may be, it’s still more expensive and time-consuming than your average porn movie, shot over a weekend in a motel room.
It also has a story which shows significant amounts of imagination, even if this is mostly in the how-tasteless-can-we-get area: blasphemy and cannibalism are not features in hard-core sex films as far as I’m aware! It’s closer to ‘Hellraiser’ than ‘Deep Throat’, really, with it’s distaste for religion, demons from hell and hints of variant sexuality.
Though using terms like ‘variant’ may be wrong. We see ‘Pandora’ through a filter – someone not knowing about the pubic hair taboo might well be outraged by some of the images. It’s really an alien artefact – imagine the difficulty a Japanese person would have interpreting a video of a Test Match – and enforcing our own morals on it to condemn it will not work.
I don’t claim artistic merit for ‘Pandora’, but I do claim cultural merit; a society is defined by its extremes and this undoubtedly gives a better insight into Japanese culture than “Tora! Tora! Tora!”. Anyway, this agnostic finds it difficult to truly dislike any movie that has a TV evangelist 69-ing what looks like a prepubescent schoolgirl. I’ve always been keen on subtle religious satire…