The Straight To Video Films of Anna Nicole Smith
Skyscraper(1996)/To the Limit(1995) (Director Raymond Martino)
To the Limit(1995) is in its own way a kind of classic. A straight-to-VHS movie staring the late great Anna Nicole Smith, this film qualifies as a gold in the aesthetics of some weird terrible movie that you would see in a hotel room in the wee hours of morning on cable that you might watch half falling asleep, an aesthetic I hold in great reverence as one of the only cinematic aesthetics that still genuinely captivates me. Almost all the movies I’ve reviewed on here either belonged to the ghetto of the grindhouse film or the ghetto of the straight-to-VHS ghetto, so there you go.
Anna Nicole Smith is a legend beyond legend more so for her ultra-strange personal life and death the anything else. For a while her manager and sometimes boyfriend Howard K. Stern was facing charges in relation to her prescription drug use and death. For a lot of very detailed information about this, check out the blog of an acquaintance of mine,PI John J. Nazarian, at www.desperateexes.com. John J. Nazarian was Howard K. Stern’s investigator for a while, and if you had any question of the sophistication of the legal intrigue around her death, his blog will set that at ease. I know John Nazarian a little bit from working on the Pellicano trial. He’s usually pretty sharp although he made some substantial mistakes in writing about Pellicano co-defendants the Nicherie brothers Daniel and Abner (friends of a friend I may write about on here later). The extent of Anna Nicole Smith’s mental instability before her death can be surmised from the account of the generally perceptive John Nazarian on details concerning Anna Nicole Smith’s nanny and infant daughter- as Nazarian writes-
“One of Nadine’s recollections was the feeding of the baby, the issue was not too much formula, 2.5 v 3.0. The reason that was stated in court was that Anna wanted her baby ‘to be sexy.’ You could see the look of disgust on some of the jurors…it was an uncomfortable feeling and an even more uncomfortable thought.”
There’s a good chance you may find Nazarian’s writings on the case difficult to understand unless you are either a lawyer or private investigator who followed that case carefully. Be that as it may, his writing is actually more relevant to her understanding her film work then you might on the surface suppose. To call Anna Nicole Smith the worst actress I’ve ever seen in a film would be a gross understatement. This is a baffling plasticity, beyond anything one could expect. It would be hard to imagine anyone intentionally acting poorly being able to be a worse actress. She was, at the time of filming To the Limit, hotter then the blazes of hell physically, but that is seriously underscored by the fact that for a while she was way, way overweight. Then towards the end of her life she was incoherent from prescription drug use.
The “plotline” of the film involves a renegade CIA head versus the mafia as the good guys over something or other about the Vietnam War. When Anna Nicole Smith’s husband is killed by a car bomb. The bride and a number of guests at the wedding are slaughtered. Then it’s a war between the mob and this one renegade evil C.I.A agent. Anna Nicole Smith must race time to stop the evil renegade C.I.A agent, except when she has to stop to masturbate in the bath. That’s pretty much what it is, although I have to say, it has a real perverted little edge to it. When the villain, the evil C.I.A operative, stresses out, he tokes some opium and has a dominatrix whip him to get his good old opium and S&M kick. That’s an unforgettable sequence. Paradoxically that scene is both hilariously over the top and genuinely sick. I cracked up. It shows exactly what a bent, fetishistic area of the human psyche this film comes out of.
A lot of the film was shot in Las Vegas, of course which adds to the general vibe -brow thrills centered around large breasts which the film delivers in typical 90’s So-Cal straight-to-VHS style. There are a number of highly random soft-core sequences of Anna Nicole Smith in it that have exactly nothing to do with the plot whatsoever, including one with Anna Nicole Smith masturbating with a shower nozzle. Another scene that really grabbed my attention is when Ana Nicole Smith rams a helicopter with her car and lives through the explosion, a moment of utterly unrealistic violence surpassing any other in any action film I can think of off handedly.
The real winner though is the villain smoking the opium pipe and then having his dominatrix whip him to relive his stress at his criminal operation not going his way. That scene is depraved. It really shows the level of class of the film. I have to say I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It’s about as absurd and badly acted as the rest of the movie, but truly perverted, it strives to capture the disgusting depths of addiction and lechery. I couldn’t even believe what I was watching. It steals the film. I think To The Limit, things like that, straight-to-VHS bizarreness with ridiculous soft-core elements, that I can sort of fall asleep to, zone out to in a kind of bliss state. It may be less that they are deliberately and intentionally creating skillful art as that they are unexplainably bizarre and come out of the fantasies of a demented psyche. It is also that they are so absurd. That’s quite a combo. I’m a little a bit of a sketchy derelict and I like having a laugh at the expense of others, so those films are right up my alley.
Around the same time, there was another film with Anna Nicole Smith. Skyscraper, which is more or less the same plotline as the film Die Hard with a building being hijacked, but Anna Nicole Smith plays a helicopter pilot, which was hilarious because she appears to have been high on painkillers the entire time they shot the film.
New Contributor William Wheaton