Le Fétichiste (1997)

Watching dozens of disappointing recent Marc Dorcel releases, many of them sub- contracted to British directors, I was pleasantly brought back to the French entrepreneur’s Golden Age with “The Panty Thief”, a miniature classic from the rich ’90s.

It’s not obvious what’s gone wrong with the Dorcel empire’s approach, but I suspect it is merely taking the easy way out. Gone are the days when quality was appreciated or rewarded, so Dorcel product of the past 3 years or so is glossy rubbish.

In contrast, this beautifully photographed video (looks infinitely better than the “new, improved” HD shoots of a decade hence) is simple but rich in characterization, due to casting top talent. Title role goes to Europe’s best porn character actor Roberto Malone who seemingly has retired. He lives in a wondrous château with his brother (Bruno Aissix, later credited with the screwy phonetic last name “SX”) and sister-in-law Anita Dark.

Roberto is gruff and mean-spirited, never willing to help bro run the family business and barely civil as they all get dressed up (formal wear) for nightly dinners. Gist of the story is that Roberto has a special room (oddly unheated, as you can see his breath when he speaks there) where he has built a shrine to his fetish: women’s underwear. They are displayed on various mannequins.

Film’s numerous sex scenes lead to sister-in-law Dark discovering the secret room and instead of reprimanding Roberto, who’s been stealing her panties regularly, she rewards him with some crypto-incest humping.

The sex, unlike current Dorcel efforts, is all bareback and the male protagonists are all leading talents including Mike Foster, Philippe Dean and Olivier Sanchez. The young Anita is truly beautiful, with an unmatchable figure and is amply supported by the late Karen Lancaume, including a quality lesbian tryst. Dolly Golden is effective as a prostitute who indulges several of Roberto’s fetishes.

The glamor and high style here, under Alain Payet’s direction, is up to current Dorcel levels but buttressed by characters who we care about. How the successful porn king forgot the lessons of his salad years is unfortunate, but somewhere along the line the heart went out of his enterprise and he’s now just grinding out sausage (that’s why they call them derogatorily “grinders”).

Alternate Titles
The Panty Thief 1999 USA