The Monkey's Mask (1999) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Imagine the usual film noir pastiche that begins with a missing person. The low-rent detective ends up trusting and being distracted by the dame that he should probably be investigating. The missing person turns up dead. The detective eventually has to rat out the woman he's sleeping with. End of story. This is that movie, with a twist - Humphrey Bogart is played by a woman. other than that, the harmony of the spheres is intact, and she ends up trusting and having a lesbian affair with the dame she should be investigating. Nothing wrong with that premise, to be sure, and Susie Porter is excellent in the lead role. It's also quite well photographed and acted, and has plenty of explicit lesbian nudity and sexy talk.

If that alone is what you're looking for, have at it, lads and lasses.

The film should have had some strong appeal across some different target audiences, but it hasn't been received too well. In fact, American voters at IMDb rate it 3.8, although it plays better with non-Americans at 6.1. It's basically an older woman movie, scoring over 7.0 from women 30 and older, bombing with many other groups. Why? Unfortunately, the script has some problems:

1. The mystery is completely uninteresting, and the pace is so sluggish that you will sometimes forget what she is supposed to be investigating.

2. The film is, in equal doses, about sexual obsession and bad poetry. I mean really bad poetry. The kind of poems your kid sister writes in her diary to Leonardo DiCaprio after coming home from Titanic. This does have its advantages. If you have the FF button handy, you can watch this 91 minute movie in about 50 minutes by skipping over the laughable recitations at the book signings and in the coffeehouses and poetry clubs.

There you go: good sex, good production values, bad mystery, bad poetry. Roll the dice if it's a combination you like. My recommendation: rent it, watch it with your remote in hand.

Tuna's comments in yellow:

The Monkey's Mask (2000) is a lesbian love story combined with a mystery. Susie Porter, private eye, is hired to find a missing person, a young poetry student. Her parents know her as practically a virgin, and Porter discovers she was anything but. The girl turns up strangled, and the parents hire her to find the killer. When Porter questions her poetry professor, Kelly McGillis, she learns little, but falls instantly in lust. The two women become friends, then lovers, with the approval of McGillis's husband.


see the main commentary
The murder mystery is third rate, but the sex between Porter and McGillis alone makes it worth the rental. There are several sex scenes featuring breasts and buns from both women, and Porter shows full frontal more than once. Two women also show breasts during a sex stage show. They are identified as Cassandra McGann and Amanda Herbert, but I have no idea which is which. McGillis played a rather self-serving, hedonistic character, and was not especially likable. Porter, on the other hand, was wonderful as a butch private eye, tough, but vulnerable on the inside. For mystery thriller fans, you will fast forward to the nudity, and not find much else of interest. For character driven drama fans, there is more to offer.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen 1.85:1


There is enough nudity and sex that some might consider it a soft-core. I have always thought the scene in Witness where McGillis washes and Harrison Hord watches her through a crack in the door was one of the most erotic moments in film. The sex in this film is as erotic, but for a different reason. Both women make it feel like honest lust and pleasure. With the substantial nudity, and due to the fact that it is something of a chick flick, you may or may not want to rent it.

The Critics Vote

  • BBC 3/5

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDB readers say 6.0/10
  • with their dollars ... nothing in the USA - $45,000 on a maximum of three screens
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. (Tuna). Scoop says: I don't know. Would be a completely unwatchable movie without the lesbian nude scenes, but I guess it has to be in the C's just because of those, given a genre of "erotic entertainment". As a film noir it is a D or E - excellent production values, good basic concept, but dreary, often unbearably tedious execution.

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