Revenge, even when reaped upon straw men, is a satisfying feeling — almost as good as sex. With On Trial: In Defense of Savannah, we get both, and the results are ecstatic!
The story concerns a high level government prosecution of a porn star and her director (Savannah, Jon Dough), who have to "prove" to a predisposed jury exactly why their films have any redeeming value.
Under Thomas' masterful hand, what could have been a boring polemic (against the very real repression of free speech by our government) has been slyly twisted into a supremely entertaining and erotic masterwork. The aforementioned straw man is the prosecuting attorney, a crafty if obnoxious defender of "morality" and "tradition". In the clever pre-credit sequence, we only hear his voice as a montage of "suitable" jurors is selected; the kind who "can't define obscenity but I know it when I see it" type, prone to advocating castration as the penalty for making such hideous movies.
Britt Morgan brilliantly attacks the role of defense attorney, whose job it is to protect the bubble-headed starlet from incriminating herself. In addition, she's got a thing going on the side with the director, and when Morgan and Dough couple, I thought my TV was going to melt into slag! Even the judge (Henri Pachard, in an extended cameo) is smitten by Savannah's charms.
The witness for the prosecution turns out to be a disgruntled ex-porn queen (Christy Canyon), who gets ripped to shreds by Morgan. In a thinly disguised diatribe against all ofthe former actress/now turncoat crybabies from the real industry, Christy gets to bear the cross as she's cross-examined. A (new) clip from one of her films is shown to the court, and it's obvious that she was never enticed or forced to perform every lip-smacking, bun-busting moment with T.T. Boy.
Savannah fans may be disappointed to learn that the bodacious one only appears in a single sex scene ... but it's a honey, as Peter North does her standing up in a glass-enclosed, backlit stairway. Alas, Jeanna Fine simply puts in a token non-sexual appearance in a minor role, an oversight which will hopefully be corrected in Part 2. Yes, Virginia, On Trial is a cliffhanger, and I don't think anyone will be salivating for the sequel more than myself.
Which brings us to an important point: On Trial is a movie first, a porn movie second, and it works on both levels ... and that's what separates the wheat from the chaff. Starting with a smart script by Carl Esser, the film radiates with humor as well as passion; in fact, it's the characters' humanity which makes them so passionate. The dialogue is realistic and the courtroom banter razor-edged, though rightly (if obviously) slanted in favor of the defending pornmeisters.
Once again, Paul Thomas has fashioned a diamond that shines with brilliance. On Trial could defend itself against the bawdiest episode of L.A. Law, and no jury in the world would dispute it. A Must See/Must Own production.