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Plot: everything is not well in casa Gustafsson. Hilarity ensues!

In what is either Sweden’s biggest cult classic or the ultimate kalkonklassiker Rötmånad (or Dog Days, rated X and released in specialized blue-film grindhouses across North America as the more poetic What Are You Doing After the Orgy?) Christina Lindberg, the biggest domestic export and soon-to-be sexploitation queen, can be seen giving her best performance ever and often with very little in the way of clothes (although not always in that order necessarily) in what is her best offering by a wide margin. Rötmånad (Dog Days hereafter) is a comedy in tune with the times, and something that could’ve just as easily have been made in Great Britain, Germany, or Italy. There isn’t much worth recommending in the early Lindberg canon but Dog Days is the exception. Indicative of where la Lindberg’s career was heading, Dog Days is rife with the blackest of humour and there’s plenty of naked Christina for everybody to go around.

Christina Lindberg was a former archeology student that took to nude modelling, and was a Penthouse Pet (June, 1970). Like Leena Skoog before her Lindberg and her voluptuous figure were bound to attract the attention of producers, and she debuted in the inauspicious Dog Days in 1970. In 1973 she released her photo book This Is Christina Lindberg by her photographer and soon-to-be husband Bo Sehlberg. By the end of the decade Lindberg had to make a choice; stay employed and graduate into hardcore (the way Marie Forså and Marina Hedman did) or change careers. Christina chose the latter, retrained herself to become a journalist and now is the driving force behind the n° 1 aviation magazine in Sweden.

The men behind Dog Days were the duo of Bengt Forslund and Olle Nordemar. Forslund gave Lasse Hallström his first directorial features after his music video work with/for ABBA and Nordemar was a specialist in family/kids movies. In the late sixties he introduced Inger Nilsson and her iconic Pippi Longstocking to the world with a television series based on the Astrid Lindgren novels, followed almost immediately by a threatrical movie, and no less than three sequels. Forslund and Nordemar chose Jan Halldoff to direct as he had a knack for social realist comedies and dramas, often (but not always) involving youth culture of the day. Very much like Skoog in her Laila (17 år) (1969) reels there’s something very cinema verité the way Halldorf photograps Lindberg, and there didn’t seem to be much acting, or anything, involved. Even without the benefit of subtitling or English dubbing Dog Days is a pretty funny affair – and the title becomes crystal clear when its Darwinistic streak kicks in…

Somewhere in the rural environs of Sandhamn in Värmdö Municipality on the Stockholm Archipelago barber Assar Gustafsson (Carl-Gustaf Lindstedt) has been spending the summer with his 17-year old daughter Anna-Bella (Christina Lindberg) and family dog Ludde at their vacation home. They experience a rude awakening from their quiet, idyllic life in the country far away from civilization when Assar’s wife and Anna-Bella’s mother Sally (Ulla Sjöblom) – the town prostitute, believed missing (and presumed dead) for the last 5 years – makes a sudden and unexpected return. When Sally discovers that Anna-Bella has blossomed into beautiful young woman she promptly announces her plan to start a brothel out of the bathhouse. She immediately starts grooming the uninhibited Anna-Bella who’s prone to walking around the house semi-nude, so Sally arranges an assessing man (Curt L. Malmsten) and a photographer (Jan Blomberg) to make the most out of the situation. She uses Anna-Bella to attract customers to her cathouse and Assar is blackmailed into working as a waiter. The brothel becomes an overnight success thanks to Anna-Bella’s silent presence.

The brothel, and the coming and going of various guests (Gunnar 'Knas' Lindkvist and Christer Jonsson), and the naked shenanigans of the mostly mute Anna-Bella attract the attention not only of their neighbour Jansson (Ernst Günther), and a Finlander in a rowboat (Frej Lindqvist) but also that of Jan (Eddie Axberg). Almost immediately sparks fly between Jan and Anna-Bella. Having had enough Sally murders Jan in cold blood on the grounds that as a prostitute Anna-Bella can’t afford the luxury of emotions and that Jan was a nuisance. Assar is none too happy when he gets wind what Sally has done, and rigs her love-nest explode to ensure her permanent absence and a return to their quiet country life from before. Learning of Jan’s death Anna-Bella metes out retribution by killing her mother. One day a tortured Assar is installing a lightning rod Sally had continually bugged him about, and is electrocuted in doing so. Memorial arrangements are made with the priest (Carl-Axel Elfving), and the only way Anna-Bella knows how of repaying friendly mortician Ivar Frid (Bo Halldoff) is by offering her body. They retreat to Sally’s dynamite-rigged love-nest and everything explodes. In the aftermath of this series of unfortunate events only family dog Ludde remains….

Scandinavia has always had a far more liberated, relaxed, and not nearly as repressed attitude towards nudity and sexuality compared to the rest of Europe and the North American continent. Denmark and Sweden were considered the Mecca of hedonism and both took an active role as a pioneer in the bridging the gap between soft – and hardcore pornography. They welcomed Joe Sarno when he was exiled from America in the late sixties and graced the world with the likes of Solveig Andersson, Marie Forså, Leena Skoog, Margareta Sjödin, Marina Hedman, and Marie Liljedahl. Canada had the maple syrup porn of Valérie (1968) (with Danielle Ouimet) and Sweden had Inga (1968) and the two Laila (17 år) (1969) one-reels. The rise of Christina Lindberg coincided with the halcyon days of the bawdy sex comedy in such places as France, Germany, Great Britain, and Italy. So, it’s no wonder that miss Lindberg ended up in one of the many Schoolgirl Report (1970) sequels years later. Denmark was one of the first countries to legalize hardcore pornography in 1969, but the sexploitation genre took a blow only when the rest of Europe followed suit about ten years later. There was a brief revival of the genre during the early-to-mid 1980s with the Cine-S in Spain and the Brazilian pornochanchada, but they were quickly made redundant with the wide availability of the harder format in the then-booming home video market.

And what other reason to seek out Dog Days than to see Christina Lindberg in her prime? Compared to her sometime colleague and contemporary Leena Skoog, Lindberg is something of a boorish bore. Whereas Skoog illuminated the two Laila (17 år) (1969) one-reels with her radiant sensuality, carefree uninhibitness, and considerable girlish charm Lindberg doesn’t generate so much as a pulse at the best of times. Skoog would go on to star in Britain’s first 3-D film Four Dimensions of Greta (1972) from Pete Walker whereas Lindberg would star in ugly and kinda nihilistic sexploitationers as Exponerad (1971), Maid In Sweden (1971), Thriller - A Cruel Picture (1973), Anita Swedish Nymphet (1973), and Wide Open (1974). The things Christina appeared in make you wish she found a footing in Germany, Great Britain, or Italy, who at least made their sex comedies lighthearted, full of slapstick and, well, fun. There’s more than plenty of naked Christina for anyone to go around in all of her movies, but none of them are particularly worth revisiting after an initial viewing. Gloria Guida also consistently made churlish sex comedies – but at least they were fun, and for every more melodramatic one there was a lighthearted romp with Lino Banfi in return. No such thing was the case with Lindberg’s career that went from bad to worse in the span of just a few years. No wonder Christina called it a day at the dawn of the eighties, alhough she would have found a home in Spain’s shortlived Cine-S circuit. Oh well, at least it’s good to see her get reappraised in recent years thanks to Quentin Tarantino.

It’s a question for the ages why Dog Days was released with an X rating in North America. Outside of Lindberg’s near-constant state of undress there’s nothing particularly explicit about it. Next to that, this wasn’t a case of The Devil’s Wedding Night (1973), Malabimba (1979), or Satan’s Baby Doll (1982) either where the presence of hardcore inserts would condemn it automatically to a universally fatal X-rating and thus to a release exclusively in the sex cinemas on 42nd street and practically no marketing campaign worthy of the name. Nor did it have to compete for attention on the home video market (as that was still a decade away) or see only limited threatrical release and distribution across the Atlantic as many Italian titles had to a decade later. Dog Days is an anomaly of sorts in the early Christina Lindberg canon and it was indicative of exactly in what type of movies she would make a name for herself. Which sorts of begs an additional question: what would have become of Christina had Tinto Brass discovered her at the dawn of the eighties? Would she have become the Swedish Serena Grandi, Luciana Ottoviani, or Debora Caprioglio? One thing is certain: Dog Days is Christina’s best film… and you should really see it, if you can.

Plot: retired assassin is targeted for extermination

For the last twenty or so years Nemesis 4: Cry Of Angels (Death Angel in some regions) was the lowest that anybody thunk that Albert Pyun's once-glorious Nemesis franchise could fall. Gone were days of Hong Kong bullet ballet action, of robust desert action, and hell, even the science fiction aspect was becoming negligible or strenuous at best. The law of diminishing returns struck hard and swift on Albert Pyun's once stylish but surprisingly watchable Nemesis series. That Olivier Gruner didn't reprise the role that made him famous for the first sequel should have been plenty indication. Sue Price made the best of what little she was given. The blame for Nemesis taking a turn for the worse lies squarely with director-writer Albert Pyun.

Nemesis 4: Cry Of Angels (Nemesis 4 hereafter) abandons all pretense of even bothering with established continuity and has Pyun indulging some of the worst inclinations typical to trash directors under the double strain of non-existent budgets and compressed production schedules. Nemesis 4 was afforded a grand total of 5 production days while Pyun was engaged in re-shoots for Adrenalin: Fear the Rush (1996). Pyun was never a good writer to begin with, and even his best writing was marred by sketchy, paper-thin plotting and nearly non-existent characterization. Pyun, no cinematic wünderkind by any stretch of the imagination, usually is able to conjure up at least an interesting action set piece or two more than this unsightly monstrosity that supposedly is meant to give closure to the two or three, depending how you count them, Nemesis episodes. Fear not, however, as greater atrocities were yet to be visited upon the unsuspecting franchise.

Six years after the events of Nemesis 3: Time Lapse (1996) a truce has been reached between the warring factions of the humans and cyborgs. With the war ending operatives from each side now work as mercenaries for private contractors. In some unnamed East-European city Alex Sinclair (Sue Price), who has shed her Raine surname and enhanced herself with cybernetic components, works as an assassin and is haunted by visions of a mysterious Woman In Black (Blanka Copikova). Hired to kill Carlos Jr. (Juro Rasla) Sinclair dons the disguise of an escort and completes her contract. When it is revealed that the hit was a setup to have her eliminated by her handler Bernardo (Andrew Divoff) Alex pieces together that her intended target is Earl Typhoon (Nicholas Guest). To get to him, and find those behind the conspiracy to disgrace and sully her name, she sets her sights on Tokuda (Norbert Weisser) and finally Bernardo. Amidst this chaos she also has a run-in with Johnny Impact (Simon Poland), a descendant of Merle Kennedy’s Max Impact in the original, and vastly superior, Nemesis (1992).

That it would come to this should surprise no one as the prior two sequels offered some spectacular devolution in their own right. Nemesis 4 at long last returns the franchise to the bleak urban cityscapes of the original but without an ounce of coherence and style. The pyrotechnics and stuntwork are conspicuous only by their absence and what once passed for low-rent action has been reduced to a softcore skinflick with occasional bouts of action. Nemesis 4 is neither here nor there. Had it starred Melissa Moore, Samantha Phillips, Tina Cote, or Julie K. Smith than it least could have been passed off as a marginally tantalizing affair. Sue Price was an award-winning bodybuilder, and not some sex-crazed femme fatale. Nearly unrecognizable without her cornrows and military garb this is not the Alex Sinclair you remember. Hell, this is not even the Nemesis you might remember with some fondness. Nemesis 4 is reductionist to the point of writing itself out of existence.

It's telling enough that the only big names in much of the promo material are Sue Price and... Blanka Copikova. Copikova was a featured extra in Adrenalin: Fear the Rush (1996) where she played the demanding role of "additional cop". Sue Price, of course, had been the series figurehead in Gruner's sorely felt absence and for her to have to sink this low is beyond forgiving. To have the burnt-out urban hellscapes of Vukovar, Croatia and Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina serve as the locales for something as drab as this begs the question why this was even deemed a good, or feasible, idea. Nemesis (1992) was a modest hit on home video and sequels were both expected and probably demanded, but not even a low-key action series as this deserved to be dragged through the mud quite the way it did. Pyun and his cohorts clearly dropped the ball on this one, and it shows. Does it ever show. For a primarily style-driven director as Albert Pyun this one distinctly lacks in showmanship and, well, basic style and decent cinematography even.

To have Nemesis, once a mildly promising franchise that went off to a surprisingly solid initial outing, reduced to this waste of celluloid is in itself not surprising. The two prior sequels at least hinted at such a devolution, but nothing quite pointed at a regression this dire. That Pyun went from a stylish John Woo heroic bloodshed imitation, through two sequels worth of cheap post-apocalyptic Mad Max (1979) knockoffs, to this unconscionably horrid waste of celluloid is frankly unforgivable. Pyun made better movies, often on the same limited budgets and timetables, than this. Were it not for the technical polish and reasonable cinematography Nemesis 4 could easily be mistaken for any late night skinflick. If it wasn’t for the dystopian science-fiction background, and the insistence of being a sequel to an established franchise, Nemesis 4 has little to differentiate itself from anything you could find on Skinemax or late-night softcore erotic trash.