Call it the Lust Boat: video's erotic-thriller genre, where a strange assemblage of performers consort in a trashy spectacle that's a decidedly '90s version of The Love Boat. Now several years old and mature, in a manner of speaking, this soft-core category has developed its very own kinds of stars. There are (a) the fallen stars of other genres, like bad hipster Shannen Doherty and the once-dreamy Brat Packer Judd Nelson; (b) crossover stars from other, even weirder spheres, such as former Olympic gold-medal gymnast Mitch Gaylord; and (c) actors who have made so many erotic thrillers that they've become the genre's very own homegrown stars.
Let us now take a brief tour of the ship and meet the crew. Before her role as the bitchy Brenda on Beverly Hills, 90210 dried up, Doherty went through that bad-girl stage, which included posing for Playboy and starring in Blindfold: Acts of Obsession with sometime boyfriend Nelson. A steamy, reedited version joins the tamer movie that was originally shown on cable; the unrated tape includes Doherty baring it all in slo-mo sex scenes. The plot: A bored housewife (Doherty) tries to put the spice back into her marriage with sexual cat-and-mouse games suggested by her creepy shrink and lover (Nelson). Looking like he hasn't slept since New Jack City, Nelson is no rookie to this league (1993's Entangled). But Doherty seems a natural here her sassy line delivery, which seems so hammy in TV's hip zip, somehow works perfectly in this setting.
At the height of his squeaky-clean Olympic fame, Mitch Gaylord made his acting debut in the Rocky-formula gymnastics flick American Anthem. Not much of a movie, but it was enough to get him started in an acting career that has recently brought him into the erotic-thriller realm. His latest: Sexual Outlaws and with a name like that, how can you lose, right? Well, to begin with, this grainy, low-budget ''thriller'' is packaged in a slick box that has almost nothing in common with the cheesy tape inside other than its promise of Olympian Gaylord. The tumbler looks a bit like a low-rent Johnny Depp, playing a mute drifter who teams up with an editor of a sex-fantasies magazine (Erika West) to solve a murder. Produced by soft-porn auteur Gregory Hippolyte, Sexual Outlaws fails to qualify either as erotic or as a thriller; it should be retitled Caveat Emptor.
The stars of both Blindfold and Outlaws could learn a thing or two from the veteran erotic-thriller actress Shannon Tweed. In her latest tape, Hard Vice, Tweed solidifies her rep as the Harvey Keitel of the genre (she seems to be in just about every erotic thriller ever released on tape, and she strips without giving it a second thought). Here, she plays a Las Vegas vice detective who's paired with a macho cop played by Sam Jones (Flash Gordon) to catch a killer prostitute. Hard Vice combines some good acting, a few clever plot twists, a couple of funny lines, and, of course, a lot of sex. Get ready for a shocker though: Tweed, who's used to baring it all in such tapes, keeps her clothes on for most of Hard Vice but I'm not sure if it's because she's getting older, or because she's actually becoming a good enough actress that she doesn't have to get naked anymore. Either way, on this steamer, she's the highly decorated Captain Stubing, while Gaylord, Nelson, and Doherty are Gopher, Isaac, and Julie, respectively.Sexual Outlaws: D-