Love, sex and interminable pop-culture references

Soft Porn Sunday: Susan Hale & John St. James

Sometimes something just… appears to me. Usually in a moment of quiet. I’ll be happily doing nothing, but then I’m blindsided by a thought that gets pulled out of my mental Rolodex seemingly at random. Sometimes it’s pleasant; often it’s not. And occasionally it has special deep significance.

Which makes it curious, then, that I don’t think more about Platinum Blonde. I’ve certainly mentioned it a couple of times before. Look at the cast list and you’ll get a veritable Who’s Who of early-noughties softcore: Holly Sampson, Shannan Leigh, Micah Bradshaw, Susan Hale, Timothy Stempien, Mia Zottoli, Shauna O’Brien, Stella Porter, Tre Temptor… and it’s even directed by Cybil Richards, who did most of them. You’d think I’d love it.

And then there’s Susan Hale, whose real name is Darby Daniels (except I’ve never actually heard her being called that). I certainly like her. I even recognise John St. James from Emmanuelle 2000. All that. and I like softcore and I like sex and I like plot, and it’s a wonder that I haven’t even thought of doing this one for this here meme.

And yet I haven’t. Until now, I suppose. Why is this? Well…

Appearance: Platinum Blonde (2001)
Characters: Janice & Hank

In case you’re not familiar with the plot of Platinum Blonde, don’t worry: it’s not too difficult to grasp. Angela (Sampson) is an angel – the titular platinum blonde -whose task is to watch people having difficulties with their love lives, get them to have sex and then watch that… or, in other words, she’s a professional voyeur. Her charges are all unlucky in love, and/or sexually starved, and she intervenes, does something very simple and watches the resulting shag, then leaves.

Susan Hale and John St. James in "Platinum Blonde" (2001)
Not pictured: an angel of the Lord, appearing to Hank at this moment.

That’s it; that’s the entire plot. The piecemeal nature of the flick – since it contains multiple different vignettes, each one a different story – makes it perfect bite-sized viewing. You could come in at any point and it would still make sense. It could be a loop. In fact, given the nature of the setup, it could have been a series.

Anyway, Hank is having an affair.

I’ve never really seen the appeal of St. James. I mean, yes, he has a lot of sex in Emmanuelle 2000 including some with Emmanuelle herself, but why? His characters never really seem to have any redeeming qualities whatsoever and he’s not even conventionally attractive. Here he is playing an especially unfavourable character – a serial cheater on his other half, who somehow manages to have sex with the genuinely attractive Janice (Hale) and she… enjoys it? What is this, Bizarro World?

Andi Peters and Edd the Duck

I suppose what’s really different about this is that it takes place in a broom cupboard (or possibly a walk-in wardrobe). I do suppose that’s easy to film, given that you can put a couple of clothes racks in front of a sheet of white MDF and, bang, it’s a set. We also sort of start in medias res, as well, by which I mean they haven’t taken any clothes off yet, but they’re certainly about to.

Susan Hale and John St. James in "Platinum Blonde" (2001)
Fun fact: Susan Hale always wears the same nipple hoops. They show up in every film she’s in.

Except they kind of don’t. They dance around the issue a few times before actually doing anything. Janice is more interested in kissing Hank’s stomach and he’s more interested in making weird faces. About a minute in and we finally do get to see a bit of skin.

Susan Hale and John St. James in "Platinum Blonde" (2001)
Softcore cunnilingus is never realistic. But it’s usually more than this.

This wouldn’t be such an issue if it wasn’t at odds with the storyline. They are having an affair. They are meeting in a broom cupboard. You would think this would be quick and dirty sex, like, drop trousers, hitch up skirt and go at it. That would be more realistic, and more urgent making it maybe a little hotter. Here, they’re just pissing about before actually having any sex. What, do they want to get caught or something?

In any case, Janice is naked first before Hank gives her some incredibly unbelievable oral sex, before she magically grows her top back, pulls his baggy Y-fronts down and gives him some more unbelievable oral sex during which he makes a face which makes him look like Ernie from Sesame Street. They then go back to kissing and…oh, is this sex? I’m not sure.

is it can be seks time nau plz?

So, at this point – two minutes into the scene and less than one before it finishes – they finally get around to having sex…

Susan Hale and John St. James in "Platinum Blonde" (2001)
Of course the real star is the baseball cap (middle top). What an absolute G’.

…or, at least, that what I think they’re meant to be doing. The entire thing is standing up (incidentally, Susan Hale’s character in Virgins of Sherwood Forest also has sex standing up, so maybe it’s a thing). Some of it is standing scissors, some standing doggie (or maybe it’s rear entry. No, that’d be too hardcore-y). It is fairly standard (or it would be were they not standing in Harry Potter’s childhood home), but they’re actually doing the seks and Susan Hale is pretty and she has great hair and it is overall fairly entertaining.

I could get used to this.

Except it then sort of finishes. It peters out a bit – they break apart, have another kiss, and then there’s a fade to black (a real one, not a scene transition). It just seems like it’s… well, it’s time to finish, I suppose. There’s no particularly discernible point of orgasm or interruption by anything or anyone. It just ends.

Because of course it does.

This is the voice of the Mysterons

Susan Hale and John St. James in "Platinum Blonde" (2001)
I can’t quite get past the fact that Hank is looking at something he found on the shelf… a rare collectable, perhaps?

I could look at this scene for what it is and enjoy it. It doesn’t quite deliver on every level, but it’s quick and there’s sex and it has Susan Hale in it and at least it’s original in its own way. You know, I could get behind that. Put this in the general rotation and I’m sure I could come to it. I’ve probably done so at least once.

However, what I’m not okay with – and this is a big thing – is whatever the fuck is going on in the background. The scene is overlaid by a loud, intrusive synthesized piece of electro-rock, which would also be okay were it not for the fact they appear to have decided to add vocals.

And so, during the sexiest bits of the scene, we get thrown back to reality unexpectedly by a very deep voice making noises through a vocoder. There don’t even appear to be any actual words. It’s just random utterances with the distortion jacked up to “fuckin’ intense”.

She’s probably a bottle blonde, actually

Which is maybe the reason that I’m not always raving about Platinum Blonde. It has a tendency to promise more than it delivers, although maybe that’s not fair. There are some great sex scenes in it. There are offerings with Mia Zottoli and Shannan Leigh which genuinely work. This one doesn’t, because of the confused setting, the puppetry on St. James’ face and the genuinely threatening alien transmission.

And the worst thing is that there is absolutely no chemistry between those two characters. They’re meant to be lovers, but they appear to be in no way interested in each other. Hank could just as well be having sex with a hatstand.

Do yourself a favour, if you will, and don’t go looking for this scene. See the whole thing instead. This one isn’t really representative of the movie in general – as you may recall, with the number of names in this ensemble cast. It offers more and delivers, just not here.

That, and Susan Hale deserves better. If only to see those nipple hoops again.


  1. Stephen

    This is John St James and not Timothy Stempien.

    • Innocent Loverboy

      Now you mention it, you’re right, it is! (If only it was easier to recognise male soft porn actors. Most of them blend into one in my head.)

      I’ll have to edit this one, which I’ll do later (my internet is being slow right now), with credit to you.

      • Stephen

        No problem. Glad to help. John St James is also called John McCafferty. Timothy Stempien also appears in Platinum Blonde.

        • Innocent Loverboy

          Yup. In fact, the first thing I saw St. James / McCafferty in was an episode of Bedtime Stories. My wife is very amused by the fact that he also appeared in Days of our Lives.

          Both Stempien and St. James also appeared in the Emmanuelle series, so I didn’t even need to change that bit! Ah, the soft porn regular.

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