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Released: Sep 07th, 2010
Running Time: 132 Min.
Director: Gary Orona
Company: Orona Stevens Productions
Distribution Companies: Zero Tolerance Entertainment
DVD Extras: Behind the Scenes, Bonus Scenes, Commentaries, Cumshot Recap, Interviews, Still Gallery(ies)
Cast: Ashley Roberts, Raylene, Tabitha Stevens, Others, Sarah Vandella, Nick Manning, James Deen, Francesca Lé, Kagney Linn Karter
Critical Rating: AAAA 1/2
Porn icon Tabitha Stevens embarks on a journey to recover her sanity after wrestling with the hypocrisy of the anti-porn crusaders who condemn her, discovering that these lawyers, politicians and priests are far more twisted than the sex business could ever be. Their wicked deeds send Tabitha on a personal vision quest fraught with sexual illusions and wildly erotic dream states that turn her into a sexual warrior. Armed with her new power, she’s ready to take down the establishment that drove her to the brink of insanity, and prove that there’s nothing evil about a beautiful woman who simply loves sex.
A dark, ambitious drama with a compelling message, Sanatorium is a piece de resistance of erotic filmmaking. Director Gary Orona has created a lush landscape filled with scalding hot sex, gripping performances and a script that conveys a powerful message about how we view those in power and those who wish to legislate their version of morality on society.
First things first, Sanatorium is a beautifully shot film. Orona, whose lengthy résumé includes TV and feature film work for HBO and Cinemax, not to mention mainstream TV pilots, music videos and commercials, shot the non-sex scenes in 35mm with the intent of making it a non-sex mainstream feature. Interestingly, the sex scenes were shot later in high-definition.
Sanatorium weaves the semi-autobiographical tale of porn legend Tabitha Stevens in what is no doubt the finest performance of her notable career. You can tell Stevens draws from her real-life experiences to play her part in this film. She is in supreme control of her emotions, her movement; a bravura performance to be sure.
Before we get in too deep, let’s set the stage of this morality play. Sen. Grimm (Nick Manning), a shady politician with a checkered past, introduces new legislation intended to regulate pornography. Fittingly, he’s a Republican. After leaving the press conference, he calls his wife right before watching Stevens and another escort engage in a Sapphic tryst.
“Porn stars are stigmatized automatically,” she tells the senator. “The irony is those who condemn us are often the ones with the darkest secrets.”
Stevens’ post-coitus confessional and subsequent flashbacks are used as the film’s framing device. Stevens tells the senator her story of marrying rich and leaving the money for sex, to perform on camera. The pressures of the industry to find the next, new young thing are too much for Stevens to bear. Forced to finish her contract by an evil porn producer (Teddy Zigzag), she breaks down and engages in a destructive lifestyle before meeting Nick (Orona), who helps to redeem her.
Within the context of the film, the sex is beautifully shot and all the more powerful because it packs a powerful message behind it. While the dialogue might seem a tad bit too heavy-handed at times, when it sticks to its core message that those who judge porn and sex are often the most wicked themselves, it commands the viewer’s attention and you can’t look away.
The big reveal at the end is the sex scene between Stevens and the senator, when it’s discovered that she videotaped the tryst in order to publicly expose his hypocrisy.
A great original score (how often do you hear that in porn?) perfectly complements the film. Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stevens, Static X’s Koichi Fukuda and Guns n’ Roses’ Teddy Andreadis all contribute mighty musical chops.
Sanatorium is that rare adult film that commands a poignant message. It’s the perfect thinking man’s porn film.