Teenage Twins (1976)

Historically significant, this was shot in three days by the legendary Carter Stevens, and was the very first adult XXX feature film to star real life twin sisters (Brooke and Taylor Young). Somehow their college professor stepfather (played by Leo Lovemore) has come to find the Necronomicon in his possession, which he needs for his witchcraft class. Right. That’s the thing to do with the most powerful and valuable book of dark magic on Earth…play show-and-tell with some 20-year-old turdbrains in community college. Inviting a horny friend (Eric Edwards) to help him with translating the ancient tome, the two men decide to give the Necronomicon a test drive and perform a ritual that’s supposed to give eternal life—which of course goes all wrong.
—Robin Bougie, “Enter My Dark Passage The Seventies Occultist Porn Film” in
Cinema Sewer Volume Six (2017) 9

Teenage Twins (1976) was not the first time one of Lovecraft’s creations had made it to feature film, as there was a run of Lovecraftian films in the 1960s. However, in addition to being the first X-rated American film to feature genuine twin sisters, it was the first pornographic film to feature the Necronomicon. How that came to be, is a bit of an entertaining story in itself.

Carter Stevens (Michael Stevens Worob) had been trained as a photographer and worked in film processing and directing. In 1972 he found a distributor and began his career directing pornographic films with Collegiates (1973); he would also do a fair amount of work in front of the camera. This was during the “Golden Age of Porn,” when adult filmmaking had a certain cachet—the stag film of the first half of the 20th century had given way to films that focused on plot as well as spectacle, and often featured a certain degree of arthouse aesthetic mixed in with the literal grindhouse appeal. By the mid-to-late 70s, Stevens had achieved some measure of success along these lines with films like Rollerbabies (1976), a science fiction pornographic film. As Stevens would then put it:

We had just put Rollerbabies in the can and were cutting it, (and that was the longest, most expensive, most complicated film I had done to date) and we were pretty burned out when Annie Sprinkle introduced me to one of the twins at another porn shoot we were all on. The twins had both been stewardesses for a couple of rinkydink southern airlines and had been laid off.
—Joshua Axelrod interview with Carter Stevens in Cinema Sewer, Volume Two 65

“Taylor Young” (real name unknown) had begun acting in adult films with Fanny (1975), whose cast also include Annie Sprinkle and Leo Lovemore. A comparison of Stevens and Lovemore’s filmographies show that they worked on several films together before Teenage Twins, including Lickety Split (1974), Highway Hookers (1975), Hot Oven (1975), and Mount of Venus (1975); Eric Edwards had been in the last three films as well, and would be in Teenage Twins also; Tia von Davis, who would play the twins’ mother in Teenage Twins was also in Mount of Venus. While it wouldn’t quite be a repertory company, it was clear that Stevens had a few actors he’d worked with before and could trust to perform when the opportunity presented itself.

I met the sister [Brooke Young] and she said she might be interested. I called my distributor in Detroit and told him I needed money right away to make another film. He balked as I hadn’t finished Rollerbabies yet but when I said I have a set of twins his wallet dropped open faster than his mouth. It was a real challenge making Twins as neither girl knew crap about sex. I remember Mary Stuart siting in my kitchen with a dildo trying to teach the girls how to give head. And I swear I’m not kidding when I say up until then they thought the term “Blow Job” was literal. We cobbled together a script (yes my films had scripts) in no time and within 2 weeks we shot Teenage Twins.
—Joshua Axelrod interview with Carter Stevens in Cinema Sewer, Volume Two 65

Mary Stuart was an actress who had worked with Stevens on Lickety Split and Rollerbabies. Stevens’ distributor was Arthur Weisberg, president of Gail Film Distributors, who had backed him financially on The Collegiates, The Hot Oven, and Mount of Venus before Rollerbabies and Teenage Twins. As for the script…

The credits for Teenage Twins name “Al Hazard” as responsible for the script; this was the pen name of writer Richard Jaccoma, who also used it (or a variation on the name) for Vampire Lust (1975), Punk Rock (1977), Honeymoon Haven (1977), Pleasure Palace (1979), and various adult magazine articles; he would eventually edit Screw magazine. Jaccoma was a definite fan of pulp fiction, and the use of a variation of Abdul Alhazred as a penname is one of the Easter eggs for fans—and it is really his script which makes what would have been just another mid-70s pornographic film with a gimmick into something of interest to Mythos films today. His non-pornographic works include the Fu Manchu pastiche Yellow Peril— The Adventures of Sir John Weymouth-Smythe—one of the characters in the novel being a certain writer named Al Hazard.

It was shot in one long 3 day weekend. We saved money by renting the camera equipment for a Friday and it didn’t have to be returned till Monday morning all for one day’s rental fee, so we shot most of our films in 3 day (pardon the expression) spurts. The kitchen and dining room shots were done in my real kitchen and dining room. The rest was shot in my studio on sets.
—Joshua Axelrod interview with Carter Stevens in Cinema Sewer, Volume Two 65

The hurried production probably accounts for some of the roughness of the film, and little errors in the editing. There was no budget for special effects, but the script and directing is clever in how it works to try and suggest it. The twins, for example, are supposed to have a psychic bond so that each feels what the other feels; a sex scene with one could thus alternate in cuts with how the other twin is handling their empathic arousal—which notably includes one scene where the promiuscious twin Hope is with her boyfriend and the virginal twin Prudence relieves herself by masturbating with a Bible—which scene was cut from some releases of the film so as not to offend audiences. The soundtrack, however, is fantastically funky.

The overall low budget and rush of the filmmaking is probably most notable with the ending. The film culminates with a ritualistic orgy, guided by the professor reading from the Necronomicon—but ends with notable abruptness at the final line. Whether or not they simply ran out of film, it sure feels like that.

In fact we all called them the Quaalude twins. Sexually they were rather unschooled. They did not fool around with each other off screen, it was strictly my idea to pair them up on screen as I had never heard of it done in any movie before that. […] When I found the male twins for Double Your Pleasure I had to dly down to Florida to get one of the female twins out of jail where she had been doing time for passing bad checks. In turth I think she had just gotten so stoned and ust kept writing checks long after the bank had closed the account.
—Joshua Axelrod interview with Carter Stevens in Cinema Sewer, Volume Two 65

The actors in Teenage Twins would go on with their careers; Carter Stevens would direct them both again in Double Your Pleasure (1978), which would be almost their last film—it isn’t uncommon for actors to leave the industry after only a few years, to put their screen names behind them and move on with their lives without the stigma. It is a pity there are no interviews that give Brooke and Taylor’s perspective on the filming of Teenage Twins, or their brief careers.

Stevens claimed that Teenage Twins was his most profitable film, and with the low production costs and the number of times it has been packaged and re-packaged, that wouldn’t be surprising.  While the “teenage” part was always spurious (no birthdates are given for Brooke and Taylor, but they look to have been in their mid-20s), incest was and is still a taboo subject, and taboo always has a marketing draw…as evidenced by films like Hammer Studio’s Twins of Evil (1971) which included a brief (non-explicit) lesbian scene, or by the Sexxxtons Mother/Daughter duo in the 2010s, although in that case the two women made sure to never make sexual contact with one another. Whether Teenage Twins could be legally made today would probably require a careful analysis of the incest laws of whatever state it was filmed in (Stevens is quoted as saying “As far as I know, there’s no crime called ‘conspiracy to aid and abet the commission of incest.'” Teenage Twins Collection booklet 6).

Yet for Mythos fans, the most interesting part of the film is the Necronomicon itself.

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Although mentioned in the film’s opening, the Necronomicon itself doesn’t appear until well over half the film’s runtime, and no good shots have appeared of the prop itself. Pulp fans might be interested to know that the incantation read out of the book is “Ka nama kaa lajerama”—the incantation from Robert E. Howard’s “The Shadow Kingdom” (Weird Tales Aug 1929), the film thus marks the adult film debut of Howard’s literary creations as well.

The Necronomicon in Teenage Twins acts as a catalyst as much as it does a grimoire; supposedly the very presence of the book inspires some of the sexual escapades, such as when Gerald has a threesome with his step-daughter Hope alongside Professor Robert. It is an interesting angle, but as with many pornographic films, the plot is mainly there to set up the scenes and the pairings. Yet if Jaccoma hadn’t written the Necronomicon into the script—and Stevens hadn’t rolled with it—who would remember Teenage Twins today as more than a mid-70s effort to capitalize off of gay-for-pay twin actors?

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There are several versions of Teenage Twins out there in the marketplace, including on VHS and DVD, and it has been marketed as Teenage Tarts and The Young Twins. The Teenage Twins Collection includes commentary on the making of the film with director Carter Stevens, as well as great little details like:

Ads for production assistants and actors appeared in the Village Voice on December 1, 1975 and shooting commenced days later on December 5. […] A $65 receipt from Chicken Galore for fried chicken, ribs and twenty paper plates gives some indication of the cost of feeding cast and crew on a tiny budget.
—Michael J. Bowen, Teenage Twins Collection booklet 5

I was once told that at an early WorldCon a cut of Teenage Twins was shown which excised the hardcore sexuality and left intact the plot; it was supposedly screened under the tongue-in-cheek title At the Mons of Madness. I’ve never been able to find any confirmation to this, but Stevens was a known science fiction fan, and a con reporter in the fanzines Drift #3 and Event Horizon #349 confirms that he attended MidAmericaCon (the 34th WorldCon) in 1976, and apparently held private screenings of some of his films…so I consider it at least possible that the film was shown.


Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard and Others and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos.

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Cthulhu (2007)

What the story reminded me of, more than anything else, was friends of mine who are gay, who come from these backwoods towns and then escape to the city to make an adult life. And then, fifteen or twenty years later, they’re in their thirties, and a parent dies, or the sister has a child, or whatever, and they have to go back and engage with that family and that place. One of Lovecraft’s major themes, and I think “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” expresses this best, is the horror of heredity. So I was writing from that feeling of threat, but also the issues of heredity, of anxiety about having children, and I decided to merge the two things.
—Grant Cogswell, “Interview: Dan Gildark & Grant Cogswell of Cthulhu” by Kent M. Beeson

The 2007 horror film Cthulhu was written by Grant Cogswell & Daniel Gildark, directed by Gildark, and stars Jason Cottle as Russell Marsh, a homosexual history professor at Cascadia University that has to return to the small town he escaped from when his mother dies. The 100 minute long film that follows is largely inspired by Lovecraft’s “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” but is almost a cinematic adaptation of Robert M. Price’s essay “Homosexual Panic in ‘The Outsider'” (1982).

Cthulhu had an odd production; from interviews and the commentary track on the DVD, it seems like the idea for the script was born in 2003, actual shooting happened in 2005, and it finally premiered at the 2007 Seattle International Film Festival, with limited theatrical release in 2008 followed swiftly by a DVD release. The film was shot in the Pacific Northwest and had an estimated budget of $1 million dollars, a chunk of which ($175,000) was personally financed by Cogswell, who was left homeless when the film failed to recoup costs (Subject of Seattle film talks about the movie that almost destroyed him). Gildark and Cogswell are very forthright in the DVD track about the cinematic shortcomings of the film and their own inexperience in filmmaking, but the film that they made is worth considering on its own merits:

The genre films I’m most interested in are the ones that are indescribable, that move back and forth across genres. They aren’t true horror in the traditional sense; they kind of skirt the edges. To call our film a gay film is misleading, but to call it a straight horror film is misleading as well, so it really is kind of a bastard version of those genres, which I’m totally comfortable with. It makes it hard to market, but anything interesting takes from different fields and doesn’t try to be a purist art form.
—Dan Gildark, “Interview: Dan Gildark & Grant Cogswell of Cthulhu” by Kent M. Beeson

In Lovecraft’s “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” from a plot perspective the sexuality of the main character is largely moot. There are no real potential love-interests, and romance and sexual attraction are not on the menu. Homosexual (or transsexual) readings of the story focus on the nameless protagonist as an outsider who enters a community of outsiders, scared and frightened by what they uncover, and who discovers too late that they are what they had sought to escape—and finally come to embrace that, and the community that they at first had rejected.

This is not the story that Cogswell & Gildark tell. The homosexuality of Russell Marsh is a key component of character and a driver for many of the conflicts and relationships in the film, but he is openly aware of that fact—and it blinds him to some of what is going on, viewing some of the conflict with his family as a reflection of his sexuality instead of the much darker reality. Yet at the same time, his sexuality very much is a key aspect to this story, because the Innsmouth story is a generational one—and it’s hard to get biological grandkids from a gay prodigal son. Brian Johnson in “Paranoia, Panic, and the Queer Weird” elegantly describes this as “the monstrous forces of a cultic paternal heteronormativity” (New Directions in Supernatural Horror Literature 257).

That’s compelling, at the level of personal horror. Russell Marsh thinks himself an outsider because of his homosexuality, but the reality is far weirder. There are things he still doesn’t know about himself—but during the course of this film, he finds out. That revelation, filtered through a much more different perspective than Lovecraft ever intended as it may be, still works. Getting there, however…that doesn’t work so well.

Jason Cottle, who plays Russell Marsh, is also credited with some additional writing, and it’s more or less his performance that carries most of the film. His ability to convey irritation, outrage, disgust, and quiet longing is what will appeal to the audience’s sympathies, if anything. Richard Garfield’s performance as Zadok is fun, and Scott Patrick Green’s performance as Marsh’s homosexual friend Mike also stand out as they get basically scenes to themselves, talking while Cottle’s Marsh listens. The other characters have fewer lines and less development, and it’s Cottle who has to be the focus of the film, and he is.

Like the ill-fitting wig Cottle wears early on in the film, however, it’s not enough. Sometimes passion and vision can only take you so far, and unlike Dagon (2001), another film adapted from “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” there really isn’t that strong, almost campy and arresting visual style, fast pacing, and effects work which can take a clunky script and still produce an effective horror film. There are also some beautiful cinematography in Cthulhu, and the production really did their best to make use of the local scenery. The breadth and majesty of the Pacific rolling up in some scenes is excellent, until the CGI Deep Ones come marching in.

It wasn’t long ago that a horror film with gay content would have had no hope of landing a major U.S. distributor, but in today’s niche-driven industry, the sexuality of Cthulhu‘s main character may well prove a savvy marketing move. On the one hand, gay and lesbian film festivals have cultivated an audience that’s been proven hungry for movies with gay themes, regardless of hype or production values.
“Oh, the Horror: The Making of ‘Cthulhu'” by Annie Wagner

Cthulhu wasn’t really marketed or distributed as a gay or queer film, but it has been adopted by some critics as queer cinema. Russell Marsh is certain homosexual; the first protagonist in a Mythos film to be openly played as homosexual. His homosexuality is crucial to the conflicts in the story. But Russell Marsh himself isn’t really conflicted about his homosexuality. Russell starts the film at peace with himself, agitated only by confronting those that he feels see him as the monstrous other. Yet Gildark wouldn’t call it a gay or straight horror film…and maybe with good reason.

Consider the argument that:

[…] monstrous figures in American cinema were and are informed by their given era’s social understanding of homosexuality, or more broadly queerness.
—Harry M. Benshoff, “‘Way Too Gay to Be Ignored’: The Production and Reception of Queer Horror Cinema in the Twenty-First Century” in Speaking of Monsters: A Teratological Anthology 131)

Homosexuality and transsexuality have made tremendous strides in mainstream acceptance and legal recognition in the last few decades, but this is still the cultural era of incels and TERFs. It is the heterosexual characters in this film that appear to be the real monsters—but Russell Marsh isn’t exactly heroic or normal by contrast either. As estranged from his family as he might be, he is still a Marsh…and in his own way he is a monster too. The inevitability in that, the way Marsh discovers that he cannot escape the essential kinship with these characters that he opposes, the ties that bind—is very Lovecraftian. Yet the ending is ambiguous; Marsh lashes out, but the audience never sees at who. The blow fails to fall.

Cthulhu lives in that undefined, unknowable, unfilmed ground. Russell Marsh is confronted with who he is, who his family is; but we don’t see the choice he is forced to make, between his family and his friend-and-lover. Between the demands of tradition, culture, and (arguably) biology, versus friendship and sexuality. If he strikes down his lover, he has completed the Lovecraftian arc of “The Shadow over Innsmouth” and become that which he hated. If he strikes down his father, he affirms his sexuality and friendship over any ties of blood…even though it will probably cost them both their lives. Which is more horrific depends on the audience; either way, Russell Marsh will have to betray someone, and himself.

Cthulhu (2007) is available on DVD and some streaming services.


Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

Mystery of the Necronomicon (黒の断章, 1999)

Mystery of the Necronomicon (黒の断章, Kuro no Danshō) is a four-episode hentai (sexually explicit, adult-oriented) Original Video Animation (OAV) produced in Japan and released in 1999 and 2000 on DVD and laserdisc; it was dubbed and released into English-speaking markets in 2007 on VHS and DVD, with periodic re-releases on DVD since then, most recently the all-in-one 2014 DVD from Critical Mass.

It is difficult to put Mystery of the Necronomicon into its proper context because most of that context has never been translated into English. In 1995 the first of a computer game series “Suzusaki Detective Office File” (涼崎探偵事務所ファイル) was released by Avocado Powers (アボガドパワーズ, often Anglicized phonetically as “Abogado Powers”) for the PC-9800 personal computers; it was ported to the Sega Saturn in 1997, and to Windows in 2004. The game was an adult-oriented mystery/horror, and spawned a sequel in 1996; a third game was planned, but never came out due to financial difficulties at the company. Subsidiary materials include a 1997 strategy guide to the Sega Saturn game, which was praised for its art.

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Mystery of the Necronomicon is essentially the film version of the 1995 computer game. This wasn’t necessarily weird in the late ’90s; one of the more successful examples English audiences might be familiar with is Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (1994, dubbed English version released in 1995), and Japan had already released a 1994 computer game Necronomicon (ネクロノミコン) based on Lovecraft’s work. As the game itself has never been officially translated and released in English markets, it’s difficult to say how accurately the  4-episode OVA represents the plot and characterization. Both game and OVA appear to be trying the tricky job of producing an original Cthulhu Mythos horror/mystery with characters that are sexual beings—and that sexuality isn’t limited to consensual heterosexual relations without paraphilia; the OVA  contains graphic scenes of consensual female homosexuality, BDSM, and urophilia as well.

The explicit sexual content may be why the game producers partnered with production company Discovery, a Japanese company that had specialized in adult animation such as the slightly infamous Night Shift Nurses series. While there’s no scuttlebutt on the behind-the-scenes involved with bringing Mystery of the Necronomicon to English audiences, the North American distributor Anime 18 had also distributed Night Shift Nurses and other titles from Discovery, so it seems likely that this was a case of something in Discovery’s back-catalog of titles that they thought would appeal to the North American market…how well that worked out, it’s hard to say, but there must have been at least some commercial interest for the DVD to get multiple English releases.

MotN-VHS

It’s possible the “Book of the Dead” subtitle on some of the English releases drew some inspiration from Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993), an American/French/Japanese co-production, but it’s telling that the box art emphasized “From the director of Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend,” one of the famous tentacle erotica anime that derive from the work of Maeda Toshio (前田俊夫). The distributors were obviously trying to capitalize as much as possible on the explicit pornographic nature of Mystery of the Necronomicon—this was a product being marketed to a specific crowd—which bears a little bit of inquiry.

There is a cost involved in translating every work. For those first writers who translated H. P. Lovecraft into Japanese after World War II, it was the cost of the translator’s time and expertise, then on top of that the normal publishing costs; the same applies for Japanese literature translated into English. For especially art-heavy works like the Monster Girl Encyclopedia II (2016) by Kenkou Cross (健康クロス), there are special considerations to make sure that the art is properly reproduced, and there are potential issues of censorship to deal with, but it’s still mostly an issue of translation costs. With an anime, there are added costs: for a dub, the script has to be translated, voice actors contracted, performances recorded, then new voice tracks have to be mastered and synchronized with the videoso it’s not a small process, there’s layers of work to be done, and that’s assuming that censorship issues aren’t involved. Japanese pornographic works, by statute, blur or hide genitalia and often cannot depict pubic hair and may involve characters under the legal age of consent in other countries—such issues may or may not be resolved as part of the translation process, and there’s an added cost involved with removing censoring, or changing the script so a character is at least 18 years old if it’s going to be sold on the North American market.

Because of this cost, only a fraction of the vast amount of media that Japan produces ever reaches English-language markets, and that fraction of stuff tends to get skewed toward specific markets where it is believed (or at least hoped) that it will sell. Sometimes this leads to big successes like the Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball, and One Piece series, or the Super Sentai series which were translated into Power Rangers—and sometimes this leads to abysmal flops, stuff that either for poor translation or distribution or whatever other reason fails to find its audience and sinks out of sight. Because of the cost involved, this means that companies tend to focus on those franchises and products which do sell, and if a given series is successful, they’ll try to bring over another similar work to sell to the same market.

Which is a long way to say: Mystery of the Necronomicon was not translated into English because there was a hardcore market of Japanese Cthulhu Mythos fans that were frothing at the bit to get their hands on any and all Japanese media related to Lovecraft’s creations. Instead, it looks a lot like Mystery of the Necronomicon was translated to fill a niche for sexually explicit anime for a market that was hungry for hentai. There is a bit of irony to the fact that with the rise of the internet, so many people have associated the tentacle erotica of hentai works by Maeda Toshio & the like with the relatively tentacle-heavy Cthulhu Mythos fiction of the 1990s and early 2000s, but so little of the stuff actually coming out of Japan in translation actually dealt with that.

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While there is sexually explicit content to Mystery of the Necronomicon, most of the four episodes are taken up with the eponymous mystery that the detectives are there to solveand anyone looking for gonzo masturbation material, porn without plot, might be surprised that it’s a fairly well-plotted story (albeit one with plenty of graphic sex scenes), with solid voice acting and some good visuals. The soundtrack and animation are workable; neither the best nor the worst of Japanese animation from the period, but many of the horror scenes are fairly effective. There are little Easter eggs for Mythos aficionados as well, such as the character Clark Ashton, and the final mystery takes a very interesting turn that showcases how well-versed the writers were in their Lovecraftian lore.

Lovecraft’s story “Herbert West—Reanimator” takes place in Arkham and at Miskatonic University, but largely predates the establishment of Lovecraft’s Mythos and doesn’t involve his eldritch entities or terrible tomes. Like “The Picture in the House,” it is only tangentially connected to the Mythos at large by virtue of being set in Lovecraft country. Some later media have tried to work around this by making the source of West’s reagent derived from studies of the Necronomiconthis was a plot point in many of Dynamite’s Reanimator comics, and Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Providenceand not to spoil things too much, in Mystery of the Necronomicon it is revealed that West has a connection with the book tooalthough as with many Japanese Mythos works, the physical appearance of the Necronomicon is inspired more strongly by the Necronomicon Ex Mortis from the Evil Dead films, as discussed in “Night Voices, Night Journeys” (2005) by Inoue Masahiko (井上雅彦).

Mystery of the Necronomicon is ultimately a good example of how Lovecraftian influence spreads outside of the sphere of English-language media, only to come back in somewhat weird and unusual form. The surprising thing isn’t that Lovecraftian erotica exists, or exists in Japanese, but that there was sufficient audience for something like that in the English-speaking world that people spent the time and effort to translate it back into English. It isn’t exactly Lovecraft seen “through a glass darkly”because there is nothing imperfect or distorted about the adaptation; it is simply something that is both oddly familiar and different from what English-speaking audiences have seen before.


Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).