Movie Review: ‘Sexcula’

One of the few Canadian hardcore efforts to be made during the 1970s “porno chic” craze, the history of Sexcula is far more interesting than the film itself.

This article originally appeared on in March 2015

One of the few Canadian hardcore efforts to be made during the 1970s “porno chic” craze, the history of Sexcula is far more interesting than the film itself. While the “-cula” suffix suggests vampirism-a-plenty, the film actually has more in common with the Frankenstein tale.

A female mad scientist, Dr. Fallatingstein, creates a sex surrogate for herself named Frank. Unfortunately, while Frank seems like a nice guy and all, he is impotent. Fallatingstein sends for her cousin, Countess Sexcula, who is a specialist in these matters. When including Frank in a threeway and hypnosis don’t work, Sexcula decides he is suffering a lack of “sex cells,” which can be gathered from men’s penises through Sexcula’s bite. Strangely, we never once see Sexcula collect these “sex cells.” In fact, the only thing that hints at Sexcula’s vampirism is the cape she occasionally swooshes around.

I have to imagine that Sexcula was created during a week-long cocaine bender, because the film is barely a film. It feels like it started off as a softcore horror spoof, but when they came up short on footage (or interest), random hardcore sex scenes were spliced in. There is a needless framing device of a couple who inherit an old mansion and find an ancestor’s diary within, relating the antics of Fallatingstein and Sexcula. With many actors playing double roles, and technology like a telephone and wristwatches present in both the “modern day” story and the nineteenth century story, at some point you just give up on trying to follow the actual plot. 

The strangest segment is a porno shoot in the 1800s (!) during which a bride and groom get bored during their wedding ceremony and end up having an orgy with their best man and bridesmaid. The bride even cajoles the preacher into joining for a bit. This segment is easily the longest in the film, going on for a good thirty minutes or so, and culminating in Sexcula cutting the power so she can harvest sex cells. In the 1800s. But then you have a classic segment in which a woman performs a seductive striptease, then has sex with a man in a gorilla suit, all part of an effort to seduce Frank. It doesn’t work, but it is possible that this is the first furry porno. This one segment makes the whole trip worthwhile.

If possible, things get even weirder behind the scenes. For starters, Sexcula was made using Canadian tax shelter benefits that basically made the film funded by the Canadian government. Sexcula was only ever screened once, a private function for cast and crew and “industry insiders” in British Columbia. It wasn’t mentioned on the invitations that the film was hardcore pornography, leaving embarrassed and uncomfortable spectators staring at their shoes at the movie’s end.  It’s probably a good thing that no one knew it was hardcore since it would be another four years before it would be legal to exhibit pornography in B.C. The screening was meant to drum up interest amongst American buyers – clearly no one was interested, and it never screened again. Legend has it that director John Holbrook never even saw the final release print.

Director Jack Darcus was at that solitary screening, as was the grip from his last film, Wolfpen Principle. The grip played Frank in Sexcula, but it turns out that getting an erection on command – and while binging on blow – is harder than it sounds. He couldn’t get it up, and a “stunt penis” had to be brought in for all his close-ups. Darcus was so inspired by his friend’s tales from the set, he later incorporated them into his 1986 film, Overnight, about a couple who meet on the set of a vampire porno. Ironically, Overnight is another “lost” film.

Only two complete film prints of Sexcula have ever been discovered. One was in the National Archives of Canada; the other was in producer Clarence Neufeld’s home. He now lives in the house that served as one of the shooting locations, and he thought he had thrown the film out ten years prior. It’s a good thing he didn’t. As terrible as Sexcula is, it is an important part of Canada’s film history.

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