Saturday, December 8, 2007

#27: Def by Temptation (James Bond III, 1990)

Like Christmas Evil, Def by Temptation is the second Troma-distributed film on this list. Also like Christmas Evil, Def by Temptation bears little resemblance to the usual Troma schlock, other than its low budget. (I use the word "schlock" affectionately here. By the way, Troma boss Lloyd Kaufman is in Austin this weekend, premiering Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead at the Alamo Drafthouse Lake Creek.) Def by Temptation combines the vampire and demon succubus mythologies, an all-black cast, and some solid performances from Bill Nunn, Cynthia Bond, Kadeem "Dwayne Wayne" Hardison, and, in a tiny role given prominent placement on the DVD cover, Samuel L. Jackson.

The seams of the film's tiny budget and bargain-basement special effects show, but Def by Temptation is effective and fun and benefits greatly from Spike Lee cinematographer Ernest Dickerson's direction of photography. Writer/producer/director/star James Bond III has been heavily criticized for his performance in the lead, notably by African-American cultural critic and co-producer of the film Nelson George, who called Bond's performance an artistic failure and a misguided attempt to be a new Spike Lee, but I don't see what everyone is bitching about. He's a little rough, but he fits the role, and his shy divinity student character is charming.
Def by Temptation's story concerns a female vampire/succubus, Cynthia Bond, who hangs out in a New York bar, picking up men. After taking them back to her Gothic brownstone for sex, she kills them. Bill Nunn, "Radio Raheem" in Do the Right Thing, as one of the bar's regulars, constantly and unsuccessfully hits on women, but he's afraid of the vampire/succubus, for reasons unclear to him. (His best line, when he's hitting on two women simultaneously and gets his stories crossed about whether he's a doctor or a kung fu movie producer: "I'm a kung fu doctor. I operate on people who have been injured doing kung and fu.") Kadeem Hardison plays an up-and-coming B-movie actor who narrowly avoids a sexy demise when he has to pass on a one-night stand with the succubus to prepare for the arrival of his old North Carolina buddy, James Bond III, a divinity student testing his faith in the Big Apple. The succubus drops her focus on Kadeem and hooks up with Bond, after she tells her pet snake that he is the last of the line. What line? Apparently, in a flashback sequence, the succubus is responsible for the death of Bond's preacher father, Samuel L. Jackson. Can he withstand the temptation? Can the power of Jesus overcome the power of a sex vampire?
The film's original title, Temptation, was nonsensically punched up by Troma with some misused 1990 hip-hop slang. There's nothing "def" or "stupid dope" or "stupid fresh" about getting murdered by a vampire demon succubus, but what can you do? Bond III, a former child actor, appears to have been scarred by his sole directorial effort. Though the movie made a small profit, Bond has neither acted in nor directed any film since. If the Internet Movie Database can be believed, he currently works as a CEO for a film and music video production company in Colorado Springs.
My favorite line in the movie comes courtesy of the film's first victim of the succubus, a bartender who fancies himself a Don Juan: "You can tell a lot about a woman by the bed she sleeps in. This freaky bed tells me that you are one hot-natured freakazoid who can't wait to jump my bones." No Academy Award nomination for best screenplay? No wonder Bond retired from filmmaking.