Released: Apr 01st, 1998
Running Time: 86
Director: Len Richmond
Company: Pursuit of Happiness Productions
Cast: Brian Cox, Michael York, Prunella Gee, Kay Parker, Tyffany Million, Nancy Fish, Troy Donahue, Kia
Critical Rating: Not Yet Rated
Human nature is what it is, and the human heart is no exception to this rule. And along with that thought, let's add that you cannot judge a book by its cover. Welcome to a truly offbeat little move about sex as love, sex as sin, and sex as a business.
Renowned British actor Michael York portrays Alex, a Russian immigrant arriving in America with scarcely two rubles to rub together. His goal is to make it big, and live the American Dream. When his plan to sell contraband Russian vodka is quelled by the discovery of alcohol in abundance from liquor stores on every corner, York trudges offsky to the job agensky for whatever he can getsky. And what he gets is a menial position in a sex toy factory, as a warehouse stocker. The owner, played by the wonderful character actress Nancy Fish, takes an immediate liking to him, weaving him into her close-knit extended family at the factory. Being an old-fashioned sort, York is shocked by the nature of the business, assuming all involved are perverts. But he realizes the opposite: that the majority of the workers are honest, hardworking immigrants like him. Real people. He learns to accept it, and grows close to his adopted Jewish mother, Fish.
Enter former James Bond-girl Prunella Gee, Fish's best friend who also happens to be a reigning porn star. Fish's previous attempts at playing Yenta the Matchmaker for Gee have failed miserably, due to Gee's extreme cynicism concerning the game of love. She espouses as her personal mantra the moniker of the Bond flick she appeared in: never say never... again. The good-natured Alex takes a liking to Gee, but is immediately given the cold shoulder. Yet he perseveres, wanting to be her comrade in arms - and legs.
Fish, recognizing that the humble, true-hearted York is just what her friend needs, decides to fix them up for dinner at her home. A last minute call from Gee entailing her being kept late on the set prompts Fish to send the innocent York, dressed up in a suit and bearing a bouquet of flowers, to meet up with Gee at the studio. You can imagine the shock when the too-naive York sees just what, exactly, Gee does for a living - flat on her back, legs splayed wide open. In a humorous turn, Beverly D'Angelo plays Gee's friend, a porn starlet with a terrible speech impediment, who relives York of Gee's flowers by insisting Gee wouldn't appreciate his gesture. Though the odds are seemingly against them, York and Gee manage to fall in love.
But business ain't so good back at the factory. Fish suffers a heart attack after being busted by the feds. her near-death experience causes her to sell the factory to York, whose funding comes from the Russian Mafia. Eventually, the Russky strong-arms come after him, demanding their money back while York's factory is simultaneously being shut down by an anti-porn government task force. He and Gee go on the run, to find, in Gee's words, "a nice warm place to live. Preferably Mexico."
While not a technical blockbuster, this film plays honestly and realistically. The viewer may find themselves growing misty-eyed over the travails of York and Gee, recognizing something all humans want deep down in their core: true love and happiness. Also cast are Tyfanny Million, Kay Parker and Kia, all playing themselves. Look for the long-missed Michael J. Pollard in a cameo as a staunch-conservative Senator campaigning against smut, and Troy Donahue as an FBI agent. Merchants of Venice equals a warm and oh-so-very fuzzy experience.
Contact Pursuit of Happiness Productions at (213) 656-9609 for ordering information.