After a couple of “nudie cuties” director Russ Meyer entered his so-called “Gothic period” with Lorna: an important movie for the bosom-obsessed director as he turned to actual movie making rather than creating a series of vignettes featuring some naughty nudity. Lorna is vastly different from any of the director’s previous movies, not only because it has an actual narrative story, but also because it lacks elements that made the previous movies so disposable: the silly humor, the gratuitous nudity, the silent movie approach with a narrator describing things. Meyer also chose to embrace the more gritty, down-to-earth story by shooting in black and white rather than color.
Lorna takes places in a small, quiet town. Here we meet two characters named Luther and Jonah. Both are not the brightest of the bunch especially the latter who comes across as being somewhat dimwitted. Luther has a mean streak to him as they run in with a young girl, walking home drunk. They follow her after which Luther forces himself first into her house, then onto her. She struggles and instead of raping her, he ends up beating the shit out of her all while Jonah is watching through the window. The title credits roll and next we meet Lorna and her husband Jim. They have been married for a year now, but Jim is unable to satisfy Lorna sexually. Their sex life is all “Wham, bam, thank you ma’am” as she states in a post-coital monologue when Jim is sound asleep and she’s staring out of the window longing for a man who could please her. The next day, the day of their wedding anniversary, Jim is picked up by his co-workers Luther and Jonah to work in the salt-mine while Lorna stays at home. Luther, with his vile attitude and all, is constantly picking on Jim about how Lorna might be unfaithful as she’s home alone all day. Luther actually couldn’t be more right as it just so happens that Lorna is attacked while enjoying a nice outdoors bath by a violent escaped convict. When he tries to rape her, Lorna stops struggling as she actually has her feelings of lust being satisfied by this stranger whom she takes home afterwards.
With Lorna Russ Meyer treads new territory and introduces elements that would later become his trademarks. There is a certain link made between violence and sex here, where Lorna doesn’t feel satisfied when her husband tries to make love to her tenderly, but rather bores the hell out of her. A good looking but violent convict who tries to rape her on the other hand is what gets her juices flowing. It’s a dated concept from an era long gone when it was somehow the general idea (or a typical male fantasy) that if a woman who didn’t want to have sex, would enjoy it eventually as long as you just penetrated her and start doing your thing. Meyer would include rapes in his movies until the end of his career and those rapes where either played for comedy and/or seemed to cause only a minor inconvenience for the victim.
Thematically Meyer could also have been light-years ahead by the way he handles rapes. One might argue that the way rapes are depicted in these movies are male fantasies about how rape is just nothing more than a bit of rough (fore-)play and how it doesn’t damage women. When you switch genders most men wouldn’t mind if this happened to them, making what they are depicting here a form of projection. It’s like when you’re lying in bed with your girlfriend and while she’s clearly not in the mood you start making thrust-movements against her butt hoping that her mind will associate this with the pleasurable thoughts of sex thus turning her on. Only because as a man, all you need is the mere suggestion of sex to wet your appetite, but it doesn’t work that way.
On the other hand Meyer might just as well be catering to women who actually have rape fantasies themselves, though a rape fantasy is nothing like the real thing. The whole idea of rape is that it happens against someone’s will, as soon as the raped-party enjoys and actually desires what is happening to her (or him) the whole rape-element is gone.
Bottom line: if they made the convict a charming bad boy who tingles Lorna’s lady-parts on mere sights and seduces her the regular way it would have been a much more logical conclusion for her to like him so much. Now she just takes a guy home who ravaged her
This is an example of how the movie lacks subtlety and save for Jim, the entire cast is instantly dislikeable. Luther is a disgusting pig with a mean streak; the kind of uncle you don’t let your kids around. His buddy Jonah borderline retarded and brings as knife to a fist fight. The convict is a violent murderous douche-bag and for some strange reason the object of affection for Lorna, because women like bad boys I guess. Lorna isn’t without faults herself. It’s probably the time and age, but if you have so little satisfaction from your sex-life, why not approach the subject by giving your clearly uneducated husband a quick course on the female anatomy? On the other hand we have Jim, who is quite annoyingly portrayed with his naive aw-shucks attitude. He’s good natured, but also very simple minded and his style of acting is that of a kid in a 50s movie. One might question if Russ Meyer looks with disdain at these countryside folk as none of them is quite bright.
Lorna is less gratuitous than previous Meyer movies. Lorna is the only woman in the movie to show nudity and a lot of it is shot with a certain restraint. When we first get a glimpse of her she’s covered in shadows. In fact there’s only one scene where she bares all clearly and that’s while taking a bath in outdoor lake, right before she gets raped. The rest of the movie there’s a lot of strategically placed sheets, even after having sex, something which is still annoying today. I know not all actresses want to show their goods to the world, but it feels so out of scene every time a woman (or man) goes to great length to cover up their privates while the only one around them is the person they just had sex with.
Meyer already had sex scenes in his previous two movies, Eve and the Handyman and Wild Gals of the Naked West, but those two movies had off-screen sex substituted by suggestive images. Think of a close-up of a cat, two train-compartments attaching to each-other or a working pumpjack. With the more serious Lorna he actually has two people on screen making love, but funnily enough these scenes are cut in such a way that you don’t see nudity, just close-ups of hands and faces.
Russ Meyer really upped the game for himself with Lorna and becomes a more professional movie maker, and though his love for big breasts is a major part of his success, it’s also the reason he never really got true mainstream success. His movies always had a certain amount of gratuitous nudity and/or featured actresses of whom their breast-size was more important than their ability to act. Therefor forever remaining associated with sexploitation.
Despite the clearly aged morals Lorna is an intriguing picture, mostly due to the magnetic screen presence of the well endowed Lorna Maitland. With it’s brisk 80 minutes running time, the inclusion of an actual narrative plot makes this movie much more better paced than its former “silent” predecessors.