There's a few reasons why Lialeh is mostly remembered today. One, that it was the first hardcore porno that featured a mostly African-American cast (Not quite the "All-Black" cast that certain advertisements like to dish out) and two, the musical involvement of prolific drummer/singer/songwriter, Bernard Purdie (Who even makes a cameo in the film jamming his wonderful title track tune).
But that's almost about it as far as the praise tends to go when further discussing this movie. Don't get me wrong, it's not terribly bad. But it does have it's share of problems. The biggest one I had was with the story. Yeah, Yeah. I'm sure you're saying, "It's a porno! It doesn't need a story!" But this was the early days of hardcore. When there often was a story to go along with the certain "Arousing" acts. As far as a storyline goes, what I can make out is that a smooth, New York music-club/sex-show operator named Arlo (Lawrence Pertillar) is looking for the next big thing to showcase in his upcoming, sexy musical act. Enter Lialeh (Jennifer Leigh) who blows him (literally) during her audition. Ah, but don't worry. This isn't extremely politically incorrect because Lialeh does indeed get to show off some singing chops to get the job. That's about it as far as the story goes. It's all about getting the big show made and the unforgettable night it will provide.
My first detractor is that Lialeh really isn't the star of the movie. She even vanishes during the final 15 minutes, causing the viewer to wonder why this movie was even named after her. And I don't mean to be cruel here, but Jennifer Leigh is definitely the least attractive woman in the entire movie. But then again, these were the times when actresses were picked for the special "talents". Looks didn't quite matter yet.
So, with the bad stuff out of the way, what is there to like? Well, I did actually like Pertillar's performance. Perhaps giving an indication that he certainly could have held his own in mainstream blaxploitation films of this time. It was also a surprise to see the wide variety of sex acts on display. You have to remember that hardcore porn was still near it's infancy by 1974, so I have to hand it to the filmmakers by not making the sex scenes repetitive (ala softcore films). Such acts include fellatio, masturbation, a foursome and... fun with a hot dog.
Other highlights include an appearance by Andrea True as a phone operator who participates in a lesbian scene. Andrea would later gain success for penning (and singing) the disco hit, "More, More, More". But wait, there's more! Cinematographer Paul Goldsmith would soon be involved in gaining an Oscar for the award-winning documentary, When We Were Kings. But one crew member who didn't need to rely on future popularity was Bernard Purdie. His musical contribution is terrific. In my opinion, this soundtrack is right up there with the sounds of Shaft and Superfly. So, even if this is far from the best that you're likely to see concerning old school porn, the historical value and the excellent soundtrack should secure it's respected status in the annals of exploitation. It also certainly doesn't hurt to have the movie open and end with a shot of the too-cool-for-school character of Arlo cruising through 1970's Times Square.Reviewed by Laydback - 2/19/09