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Orgazmo: Special Edition

When Trey Parker and Matt Stone were approached to create the breakthrough animated comedy series "South Park" for the cable network Comedy Central, they were in production on their second low-budget feature movie, the kung-fu-porno-Mormon-superhero epic Orgazmo (1997). Typically irreverent, the film stars writer/director Parker as Joe Young, a wide-eyed Mormon missionary fruitlessly proselytizing door-to-door in unwelcoming Los Angeles. Desperate to afford a lavish Temple wedding for his long-distance fianceé Lisa (Robyn Lynne Raab), Joe is easily persuaded to compromise his morals for a big paycheck performing an acting-and-kung fu-only role in a porno/action movie. But Joe's desire for anonymity is ruined when the movie becomes a crossover success, leading to showdowns with not only his confounded fianceé, but also his sleazy producer (Michael Dean Jacobs). Meanwhile, Joe's co-star, Ben "Choda Boy" Chapelski (Dian Bachar), an MIT-educated inventor who does porn to meet women, develops a ray gun that induces an instant orgasm in its targets, and he convinces Joe to join him in a real-life crime fighting team modeled on their porno superhero characters. Like much of Parker's later work, the convoluted Orgazmo revels in send-up of silly B-movie conventions and clichés, mixed with in-your-face shock humor (Bachar, for example, spends much of the movie with a rubber penis attached to his head). Also like most of Parker's work, the NC-17-rated Orgazmo's controversies mask unexpectedly wholesome themes. It is purposefully free of gratuitous nudity and its mockery of the corniness related to Mormonism is very tame — Joe and Lisa are the movie's most appealing characters, and their virtues are ultimately depicted as strengths. Orgazmo also shows vast technical improvement over Parker's rough, fun debut Cannibal: The Musical, but, disappointingly, the laughs aren't nearly as abundant or sharp as in later movies South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut and Team America. Orgazmo relies too heavily on the strength of its concept, which isn't enough to save it from a few dull stretches and some flat recurring gags. Parker makes an appealing leading man, and Bachar has an unusually funny style, but much of the rest of the cast (littered with porn veterans like Ron Jeremy and Julie Ashton) dull the edges with their comparatively clumsy performances. Nearly all of the movie's funniest moments are delivered by producer Matt Stone in a bit role as a clueless, mulleted grip.

*          *          *

One wonders if Universal's overloaded Orgazmo: Special Edition DVD is the result of Parker extending his satirical reach into lampooning DVD conventions. The feature is presented in two versions, the theatrically released NC-17 version (1:32:33) and an unrated version (1:34:50), but the differences are negligible (and why would an NC-17 necessitate cuts, anyway?) Both versions are presented in good anamorphic transfers (1.85:1) with Dolby 2.0 Surround audio mixes. The theatrical version is accompanied by three commentaries (of varying, often poor, sometimes unlistenable, sound quality, with only occasional flashes of value). Track One features Stone, Parker, Bachar, and cast/crew members Stan Sawicki, Andy Kemler and Jason McHugh; Track Two actors Maki San, David Dunn, Robyn Raab with Jason McHugh and Mattt Potter; Track Three features, briefly, "South Park" writers Pam Brady, Matt Pregger and Kyle McCulloch, followed by bits from Weird Al Yankovic, Dave Foley, Kevin Smith, Bob Odenkirk (the funniest by far, pretending to be John Huston and Akira Kurosawa), and David Zucker. If that isn't commemoration enough for this largely insignificant movie, the flip-side of the disc features another couple hours of bonus material, including over 40 minutes of deleted scenes; another 40 minutes of outtakes (yes, 40 minutes of actors laughing and flubbing lines; one has to imagine Parker laughing mischievously at the thought of anyone sitting through that); two behind-the-scenes featurettes, including the 40-minute "The Book of Orgazmo," and an EPK; a 30-minute fan convention interview with Parker (beset with audio troubles, but ultimately the best feature on this disc); trailers (including a pre-production trailer to lure investors); concept art; and some little Easter eggs. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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