A Brief History of Sci-Fi Sex Cinema, Part 3: 2000–Present
Surrender Cinema’s first major competitor in the genre softcore home video space made its debut in 2000 by going back to a style that 1990s softcore had almost entirely neglected: the parody. Seduction Cinema released The Erotic Witch Project in February of 2000, less than a year after the wide theatrical release of The Blair Witch Project in July of 1999. The Erotic Witch Project 2: Book of Seduction was released in May 2000, and by the end of 2001 the company produced and/or distributed over a dozen genre softcore features and shorts on home video including a third “Erotic Witch” movie, Witchbabe: The Erotic Witch Project 3 (2001). The stage seemed to be set for major competition between Seduction Cinema and Surrender Cinema, but Surrender all but ceased production by the end of 2001. Surrender released one film in 2000 (The Exotic Time Machine 2: Forbidden Encounters), produced two more in 2002 (Castle Eros and Madame Hollywood), and has not produced any new films since.
While Surrender wound down production to focus on distribution — nearly all of their films are still available to this day on DVD through Full Moon’s web site — Seduction Cinema’s success with The Erotic Witch Project established them as the new dominant name in softcore genre cinema production. The increasing popular interest in science fiction and other “nerdy” intellectual properties in the 1990s continued into the 2000s, and soon became too big for the major Hollywood studios to ignore. In December of 2001 New Line released The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring to massive box-office success, driving a major nail into the coffin of the concept of “nerd culture.” The next one was not long after with the May 2002 release of Spider-Man. While there had certainly been comic book-based blockbusters before, Spider-Man (and The Fellowship of the Ring) signaled a new era of CGI-reliant blockbusters that put visuals on the screen that would have been virtually impossible before. It also paved the way for the coming of the Marvel Cinematic Universe launch in 2007’s Iron Man.
Seeing an opportunity to capitalize on the market for big-budget sci-fi and fantasy blockbusters, Seduction continued releasing new parodies throughout the 2000s. These included take-offs of major franchises like Mummy Raider (2002), SpiderBabe (2003), The Lord of the G-Strings: The Femaleship of the String (2003), and The Insatiable IronBabe (2008). They also continued to produce original non-parody features like Dr. Jekyll & Mistress Hyde (2003), Bikini Girls on Dinosaur Planet (2005) and a fourth “Erotic Witch” movie in 2005 (Lust in Space: The Erotic Witch Project IV). Alternative Cinema, Seduction’s parent company, launched the sister labels Retro-Seduction Cinema and Secret Key Motion Pictures to reissue older films on DVD such as 2069: A Sex Odyssey (1974) among many others. Meanwhile, the major studios whose work Seduction Cinema so gleefully and cannily built their name on have barely released anything in the way of erotic films in the last decade other than 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey. To date the last sci-fi sex-related film any of them have released was the direct-to-video Species: The Awakening in 2007 — following 2003’s Species 3, which was also released directly to video.
Alain Siritzky continued to produce multiple softcore series throughout the 2000s as well. At the start of the decade, he produced a new Emmanuelle series (Emmanuelle 2000, starring Holly Sampson in the title role) and a second set of Sex Files films in 2000. A few of these films including Alien Erotica 2 and Sexual Matrix were released on home video in the States in addition to airing on cable. The next Emmanuelle series, The Private Collection, was produced in in 2003 starring Natasja Vermeer. A third Sex Files series was produced in 2007–2009, retitled Alien Sex Files and directed entirely by one director (Milos Twilight) instead of Siritzky’s usual roster of directors. This series aired on cable in North America, but has not been released on home video. The Emmanuelle 2000 and The Private Collection films aired on cable as well, and similarly many of them remain unreleased on home video. Rolfe Kanefsky, who had written and directed for Siritzky before, recut one of his Emmanuelle 2000 films for a separate release on home video as Pretty Cool in 2006, and Fred Olen Ray’s Emmanuelle’s Sensual Pleasures from the Emmanuelle 2000 series was also released on DVD in the States.
Kanefsky’s involvement in the Emmanuelle franchise goes back to the 1990s, and in 2012 Alain Siritzky put Kanefsky at the helm of the most recent series. Emmanuelle in Time cast adult actress Allie Haze as Emmanuelle, this time putting her in a wide array of adventures drawing inspiration from all manner of pop culture. Sexy Bite brings vampires back into the series (after The Private Collection’s Emmanuelle vs. Dracula), and Willy Wonka gets the Emmanuelle treatment in Sex, Chocolate, & Emmanuelle. Kanefsky brought a character created for the Click series back for a crossover in Rod Steele 0014 & Naked Agent 0069, and Emmanuelle in Wonderland was patterned after 1970s adult “fairy tale” movies like Michael Pataki’s The Other Cinderella (1977). As he did with Pretty Cool, Kanefsky also re-edited Emmanuelle in Wonderland for a separate home video release as Adventures into the Woods (2015). Following the completion of this series and the death of Alain Siritzky in 2014, Kanefsky has suggested that he is now retired from softcore.
Fred Olen Ray has been working in “b-movies” since the 1980s with films like the “women in prison”/sci-fi hybrid Star Slammer (aka Prison Ship, 1986) and campy horror films like Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988). In 2001 Ray launched Retromedia Entertainment, a home video label and production company. The company distributes older titles like Don Dohler’s The Alien Factor as well as newer films like Ray’s Teenage Cave Girl (2004). Under the Retromedia name, Ray produced a series of softcore spy spoofs beginning with The Girl from B.I.K.I.N.I. in 2007 (followed by The Girl With Sex Ray Eyes the same year, Bikini Royale in 2008, and Bikini Royale 2 in 2010). The success of these films seemed to indicate the market for this type of film was still around, even if it was considerably smaller than in the genre’s heyday. Retromedia would come to play a much larger role in sci-fi softcore in the 2010s, and their success with licensing their productions for airing on cable television is probably the main factor that allows them to thrive. The company has released over a dozen genre softcore movies on DVD since 2010 — with titles like Dirty Blondes from Beyond (2012) and Lolita from Interstellar Space (2014) — that first played on cable television. The company’s most recent productions, Cyborg Hookers and Vixens from Venus, were released in 2016.
Another veteran who continued to direct genre-based softcore films into the 2000s is Jim Wynorski, who began his career in the 1980s directing productions for Roger Corman. Wynorski created a competitor to Seduction Cinema’s Erotic Witch Project with The Bare Wench Project in 2000. There were four Bare Wench Project films in total, and Wynorski made another softcore parody of a popular “found footage” film in 2009 with Cleavagefield. Throughout the 2000s he directed a series of movies that played on the names of mainstream films, including The Witches of Breastwick (2005), The Da Vinci Coed (2007), The House on Hooter Hill (2009), The Devil Wears Nada (2009), and The Hills Have Thighs (2010). Since 2010 he has directed a few other softcore sci-fi and horror films such as Hypnotika (2013), Sexually Bugged! (2014), Scared Topless (2015), and Shark Babes (2015). In addition to genre softcore films Wynorski continues to direct films for Corman’s New Horizons Pictures that are screened on the Syfy cable network and released on home video, including Piranhaconda (2012) and CobraGator (2016).
One other director who also made his name in the 80s and 90s and continues to work in low-budget productions is David DeCoteau. DeCoteau directed a number of softcore genre films for Surrender Cinema and Full Moon in the 1990s, but moving into the 2000s he started to work on a different approach. In films like The Brotherhood series (with six entries beginning in 2001) and the 1313 series (13 films, beginning in 2011), DeCoteau focuses on something usually considered secondary in softcore sex films: beefcake. These films feature lengthy scenes of fit young men in their underwear, although there is rarely any direct acknowledgment of the films’ homosexual subtext. DeCoteau specializes in this very specific type of genre film that is clearly meant to titillate but never feature much in the way of actual sex. Other than Sean Abley’s overtly homoerotic Socket (2007), DeCoteau has virtually had the gay softcore sci-fi market to himself. Like Wynorski, though, DeCoteau also directs different types of films including Lifetime Original movies like The Wrong Roommate (2016) and children’s films like A Talking Cat!?! (2013) and produces them all through his company Rapid Heart Pictures.
Retromedia and Rapid Heart are the two major players left standing in genre-based softcore in 2016. Surrender Cinema hasn’t produced a new film in over a decade although they have kept their films in print on DVD and occasionally give “lost” movies a DVD upgrade. As of this writing, the only Surrender Cinema-produced feature not released on DVD is 2002’s Castle Eros. Surrender’s parent company Full Moon just released Virgin Hunters 2 on their streaming video service, so it seems at least possible that there may be more of this type of film on the way from them. After taking over Surrender’s place in the market, Seduction Cinema also eventually wound down production following Lustful Illusions in 2011. Before that, the Seduction Cinema name had not been seen since 2009’s BatBabe: The Dark Nightie. Seduction Cinema’s films are still available on DVD through Alternative Cinema’s web site, and like Surrender out-of-print titles are occasionally reissued. Other than the established names, there have been a few outliers making new softcore sci-fi films since 2010. Steve Goldenberg, a producer on a number of Wynorski’s films, directed Serena the Sexplorer in 2013. Kenneth D. Barker threw his hat in the “bikini” ring dominated by Fred Olen Ray with Bikini Girls Vs. Dinosaurs in 2014. Interestingly, Peter Daskaloff may be the only person in the genre who has directly remade his own film with 2015’s Sex and the Single Alien; the original was released in 1993 under the same title.
Hardcore Sci-Fi Since 2000
As with softcore, hardcore sci-fi production dropped off in the 2000s. Virtual reality and the internet remained popular subjects of adult genre movies like Cyborgasm (2000), Virtual Love (2000), Blue Matrix (2001), Virtual Reality 69 (2001). Private followed their Uranus Experiment series in 1999 with the post-apocalyptic adventures of a sex android named Virtualia in six films released in 2001 and 2002. After his 1990s successes with Latex, Shock, and others, Michael Ninn continued making genre-based hardcore features like Acid Dreams (2003) and dozens of less narrative and more sex-focused films that retain his distinctive visual style. Director Michael Raven, whose Millenium was released in 1999, directed Evolution (which takes place in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future) in 2001 and tackled alien abduction with The Visitors in 2006. Jonathan Morgan, whose Double Feature was a hit in 1999, made a pair of sci-fi hardcore features in 2012: Busty Invaders from Mars and Ideal Companion: A Frankensteinian Love Story. Paul Thomas returned to sci-fi with Twins Do Science in 2008, and veteran performer and director Joey Silvera made a series of Alien Ass Party videos starting in 2014.
The increasing popularity of post-apocalyptic (PA) stories in both mainstream and independent genre cinema led to the production of a few odd hybrids between PA and hardcore. Beyond Fucked: A Zombie Odyssey (2013) takes place in a post-zombie apocalypse world and doesn’t skimp on the gore. Less gruesome is Apocalypse X (2014), another take on a Mad Max-style PA world (hot, sandy, grimy) with the requisite lengthy sex scenes. More recently, “lesbian porn” site Girlsway produced genre-based web series playing on horror and sci-fi tropes with The Turning (“a deliciously evil fantasy about the days leading up to the lesbian apocalypse”), its sequel Project Pandora, and AI: Artificial Intelligence (which has more in common with Weird Science than the Spielberg film whose title it borrows). “All-girl” sci-fi has traditionally been rare in hardcore. Before Girlsway’s series, one of the few notable lesbian adult films post-2000 was 2001’s Sugar High Glitter City, which takes place in a dystopian future where sugar is outlawed and women turn to prostitution to get it.
While much genre porn found inspiration in the type of stories found in popular mainstream film and television, one strain of hardcore took its cue from technology. Like the amateur videos that started popping up in the heyday of the camcorder, hardcore animated films became an established style in the 2000s as access to cheaper and simpler animation tools became more widespread. In 2001, comic artist Joe Phillips created the animated web series The House of Morecock. This series of gay hardcore shorts follows hero Jonas Morecock as he stumbles into a series of supernatural adventures. Inspired by Saturday morning cartoons and The X-Files, The House of Morecock was the first hardcore animation of the 2000s. While it was animated with computers, however, The House of Morecock was drawn in a traditional 2D style. In 2002, Michael Ninn directed 2funky4u, a feature-length 3D CG-animated hardcore feature released by Private Productions — the same company that had produced The Uranus Project in 1999. Whatever else could be said for Private, no one could fault them for lack of ambition.
While fully animated, 2funky4u is a goof on blaxploitation and not science fiction or fantasy-based. 2005 saw the release of the short feature The Princess Has Come of Age from Black Widow Productions. Instead of using human CG characters, this film has its titular princess engage in sex acts with a series of fantasy/sci-fi creatures. Also in 2005, Cherry Boxxx released the first of its three Pornomation DVDs (the third was released in 2009). Like The Princess Has Come of Age, the Pornomation series takes advantage of the animated medium to depict sex acts between human and non-human characters. In 2007, Joe Phillips released his follow-up to The House of Morecock, a 3D animated gay superhero film called Stonewall & Riot: The Ultimate Orgasm. Other 3D CG features released in the late 2000s/early 2010s include Pinks (2007, about street racers who stake their girlfriends instead of their cars), Pleasure Island (2008, which includes tentacle sex), and Alice in Wonderland XXX (2011). The ready access to low-cost 3D animation software has made amateur sex machinima an established niche, with shorts often based on characters from popular video games.
Another style of hardcore entertainment that has changed post-2000 is interactive software. While there were the games based on Michael Ninn’s Latex and Shock in the 1990s, increasingly sophisticated home computer systems and the storage capabilities of DVD discs allowed the interactive video to become a major category of releases. Many of these videos are of the “virtual pornstar” type, which allow viewers to change viewing angles on the fly and select commands to watch the star of the video engaging in various sex acts. There is usually nothing in these related to science fiction, although there have been a few that incorporate genre tropes. Released by Pixis in 2000, Diva X: Kaoru features its titular star as “the end result of a half-century of research and development… programmed for pleasure by some of the finest minds available on the black market.” DVSX’s Sakura Interactive (2007) stars Miko Sinz as the “most sexually advanced BangBot” which can be displayed in different costumes: “Nasty Nurse, Girl Next Door, Anime Sex Kitten, Video Game Babe, or Sexy School Girl.” The description from the case of 2002’s The Dream Machine 2 is worth quoting in its entirety:
In the distant future, a tyrannical one-world government has outlawed sexual expression. The last bastion of sexual freedom on the Internet (‘The Dream Machine”) has been subverted by the government in the form computer viruses. These viruses are holding the women of the Dream Machine hostage. Kill the viruses and you get to have hardcore sex with a bevy of different hot women. This game can be played on all DVD players, X Box and Playstation #2 components. Only available on DVD.
These interactive videos feature scenes shot from a first-person POV to allow the viewer to feel like they’re in the scene, but until recently the idea of actual virtual reality porn has not been within the means of many viewers. Earlier this year, hugely popular video site Pornhub launched a free VR channel and celebrated by giving away Google Cardboard-style folding VR headsets with registration. While still quite a ways off from the virtual sex depicted in numerous softcore and hardcore sci-fi films, this technology is still a massive leap from the cumbersome VR technology of the 1990s. As of this writing there are no sci-fi themed videos on the channel, but its very existence was the stuff of science fiction not too long ago.
The Porn Parody Takeover
Relative to other genre hardcore productions, porn parodies actually decreased between 2000–2009 from 1990–1999. Planet of the Babes was released the same year as Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake, but most of the parodies produced before 2010 were takeoffs of TV and film properties from previous decades. There were multiple Get Smart parodies (Get Lucky in 2004, Get Luckier in 2005, and Get Smartass in 2008), Mork and Mandy in 2009, Re-Penetrator in 2004 (a porn short film version of 1985’s Re-Animator starring Tommy Pistol, who would later mix hardcore and gore again with Beyond Fucked), The Sexth Element in 2008 (parodying The Fifth Element from 1997), and Boob Science (a parody of 1985’s Weird Science) in 2009. In 2009, two other parodies of genre television series were released that were hugely successful and helped to precipitate a massive boom in porn parody production from 2010 to the present.
The Sex Files: A Dark XXX Parody is exactly what it sounds like: A hardcore version of The X-Files, which ended its run seven years before this movie was released. It stars Kimberly Kane as Dana Scully and Anthony Rosano as Fox Mulder, and instead of the broad comedy typical to most porn parodies The Sex Files plays it fairly straight. This approach worked exceptionally well and The Sex Files became a hit, followed up with a sequel the following year. Taking a similar approach with a much different property was This Ain’t Star Trek XXX, which could have been just another Star Trek porn parody if it weren’t for its attention to detail and embrace of the campier aspects of the original 1960s television series. While both of these parodies of beloved genre TV series were successful, the latter was a major breakthrough for its director Axel Braun.
Son of porn director Lasse Braun, Axel Braun had directed hundreds of adult videos before This Ain’t Star Trek XXX. In the wake of that film’s success, Braun quickly began production on Star Trek XXX 2: The Butterfly Effect (again carefully maintaining the look and campy tone of the original series) and Batman XXX: A Porn Parody (2010). Instead of parodying Christopher Nolan’s contemporary “Dark Knight” films, Batman XXX is a parody of the 1960s Batman TV series starring Adam West. Like Braun’s Star Trek XXX movies, it was a big hit thanks to its canny replication of the look and tone of the original series. The huge success of these films in rapid succession catapulted Braun into the forefront of the porn parody business and turned him into the name most associated with what would soon become the dominant style of feature-length adult genre features.
There have been more genre-based porn parody feature films produced from 2010 to the present than in the previous four decades combined. This isn’t even counting non-genre parodies, which cover everything from prestige arthouse films like The Life of Pi (2013’s This Isn’t Life of Pi It’s a XXX Spoof!) to reality television series (which include at least two different Duck Dynasty parodies) and game shows (Axel Braun himself directed This Ain’t Jeopardy XXX in 2011). Part of this is due to the fact that digital video allows for much quicker and cheaper production now than ever before, but it is also due to the porn industry following trends in pop culture at large. Since This Ain’t Star Trek XXX in 2009, Axel Braun alone has directed almost 30 sci-fi porn parodies, most of them direct parodies of big-studio superhero blockbusters from Marvel and DC. These movies often feature many of the same characters seen in those films as well as other comic book characters who have yet to appear in the major studio versions of the Marvel and DC “cinematic universes,” creating a parallel cinematic universe in which the rules binding the mainstream films do not apply. For example, Marvel fans had to wait until 2016 for Spider-Man to show up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Captain America: Civil War. Braun didn’t just go cross-property but cross-universe with Superman vs. Spider-Man XXX in 2012.
Of course Braun isn’t the only filmmaker in the genre parody business, he’s just the most visible and prolific. There have been a number of other parodies since 2010 covering everything from classic TV to current blockbusters to video game franchises. Taking a similar approach to Braun’s Batman XXX, Tom Moore directed Batman & Robin: An All-Male XXX Parody in 2012. Sam Hain, director of The Sex Files movies, co-directed PRON: The XXX Parody (a parody of Tron: Legacy) with Lee Roy Myers in 2011. Myers directed The Human Sexipede (First Sequence: A Porn Parody) in 2010, Sailor Poon: A XXX Interactive Parody in 2012, and Dr. Whore in 2014. Dream Zone Entertainment has released a number of parodies including Mork & Mindy: A Dream Zone Parody (2011), Barb Wire XXX (2013), and E.T. XXX (also 2013), bringing the total number of E.T. porn parodies in film history to at least three more than there should ever have been.
Anastasia Pierce appears to be in competition with Axel Braun for the title of most prolific porn parodist. Pierce produces, directs, and stars in lesbian “fetish parody” videos for her web site and compiles these scenes for DVD releases. These have included Black Cat vs. Batwoman (2014), a series of four Scarlet Witch videos (2014-2016, co-starring Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman and others), Supergirl Powerless and Vampirella (both 2015), five Wonder Woman discs (2015–2016), and Batgirl Rises, The Great Zatanna, and Warcraft: Carnal Quest (all 2016). Pierce released two Star Wars-themed parodies in 2015: The Perils of Slave Leia and Slave Leia Strikes Back. 2016 also saw the release of another notable Star Wars parody in Star Wars: A Gay XXX Parody. The same year, Batman V Superman: A Gay XXX Parody was released, which is particularly notable in that two major mainstream franchises received all-male parodies in the same year.
In June 2016 Hustler Video released This Ain’t Fallout XXX, a porn parody of the post-apocalyptic role-playing franchise. In the same month Digital Playground released Sex Machina — a parody of 2015’s Ex Machina — which is so postmodern it’s difficult to even parse its existence. Axel Braun recently attempted to finance The Empire Strikes Back XXX through an Indiegogo campaign but fell well short of his $500,000 goal. Whether this is an indication of the beginning of a waning in the popularity of the porn parody or just another symptom of the same mindset that prevents so many people from paying for porn in the first place is unclear. As of this writing, Braun has just announced the imminent production of Justice League XXX to be released in 2017 alongside Warner Brothers’s Justice League film. Like its mainstream counterpart, the superhero porn parody does not appear to be going anywhere any time soon.
What remains to be seen is how technology will continue to mutate the form of the porn parody and sci-fi sex cinema in general. Pay porn sites have already resulted in the creation of a vast array of independent providers that serve niche content to paying audiences. We now live in a world where interested parties can watch Veronica Chaos having sex with a ventriloquist dummy and an array of other puppets in parody-themed videos and live cam shows that she produces and broadcasts herself covering everything from Beetlejuice to Sucker Punch to Star Wars. On a larger scale, the serialized features of Girlsway and the compilation releases of scenes by Anastasia Pierce are just two examples of how content can be released on different platforms to cater to those who still want to own physical copies of videos. There are any number of sites that do not currently have plans to release content on physical media, and many independent producers and performers probably see the expense of pressing DVDs or Blu-rays as a financial risk not worth taking. As the industry moves increasingly toward streaming of content, it will likely become exponentially more difficult to catalog and archive much of sci-fi sex cinema in the future.
Conversely, home video imprints like Vinegar Syndrome, Distribpix and Something Weird Video have been doing important work in preserving classic sci-fi sex cinema. Both Vinegar Syndrome and Distribpix have vast archives of adult films they have been working to restore, and Something Weird recently entered into a partnership with the American Genre Film Archive to restore and release films from their collection of prints in high-quality digital transfers. Given the breadth of the collections of these companies there is good reason to hope more lost gems of sci-fi sex cinema history may yet be uncovered. The focus of these companies is on celluloid, though, so most of their efforts focus on features made up through the late 1980s. Much adult cinema in particular in the 1990s onward was either shot and/or finished on video instead of film, so the only hope for preservation and release of those movies lies with the companies that originally made them. For example, Vivid Video has streaming versions of Michael Zen’s 1990s Stardust series, but only episodes one through nine are available as of this writing. Whether the remaining episodes will ever resurface in digital format is entirely up to Vivid, and it probably does not make much commercial sense to the company to put resources toward that kind of project.
If the internet has taught us anything it’s that there is some audience out there for everything. Golden Age adult cinema was a niche interest just a few years ago, but now thanks to companies treating the films themselves as historically important instead of just masturbation fodder, interested parties can order a 4K restoration of Sex World on Blu-ray from Amazon. Nostalgia for the 1990s in general is on the rise, so hopefully a revival of interest in the erotic cinema of that decade is not too far away. Science fiction often tells us much about the state of the world in the time in which it is produced, and sex films do the same. Film scholars have studied 1990s erotic thrillers in books like Linda Ruth Williams’s The Erotic Thriller in Contemporary Cinema (2005) and David Andrews’s Soft in the Middle: The Contemporary Softcore Feature in Its Contexts (2006). Hopefully more writers will take up this study as well, and expand their scope to include more genre-based sex cinema. Unearthing and studying the relatively recent history of sci-fi sex cinema may seem ridiculous now, but it wasn’t that long ago that cult and exploitation cinema in general was often scorned by academia. Where these cinematic archeologists begin their studies cinephiles tend to follow, even if it takes some time. So it may be a while before we get a Complete Stardust Collection boxed set, but by the time it happens we should have some solid writing on how and why those movies were made.
Huge thanks to Alpha Blue Archives, AVN, Charlie Jane Anders, Distribpix, Internet Adult Film Database, Rolfe Kanefsky, Mitch O’Connell, Simon Sheridan, Something Weird Video, Whit Strub, and Vinegar Syndrome for their work making these films available and for help both direct and indirect in compiling this list.