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REEL LIFE / FILMS & VIDEOS : Pornography Can Be a Target of Video Vandals : A store owner says renters sometimes tape over erotic material with mundane television fare. He calls it a guerrilla tactic.


Many of you may not have been paying attention Saturday when Assembly Bill 538 entered into force. The law makes it a misdemeanor to rent a video and record pornographic footage over it to shock unsuspecting viewers.

While videos may be booby-trapped in other parts of the state, the practice appears to be relatively rare in Ventura County. Ernie Martel has owned Video Depot in Westlake and Video 4 You in Thousand Oaks for more than a decade, and he knows of no such incidents.

"What does happen," Martel said, "is people rent adult titles and return them with television or something else taped over it."

Martel suspects the vandalism is a guerrilla tactic perpetrated by people opposed to pornography. None of the other genres his store carries are ever tampered with, and other video store owners Martel has talked with report similar incidents.

"It's not a regular thing," he said. "It comes in cycles, and we can never find out who's doing it."

The tapes, which cost as much as $50, are usually destroyed after they are vandalized. In addition to losing the tape, Martel loses the income he would have generated with the copy and perhaps even the customers who are miffed when they expect "Debbie Does Dallas" but get Debbie Reynolds instead.


"Orlando," the 1993 art house hit adapted from Virginia Woolf's 1928 novel, proves that gender benders Michael Jackson and Madonna were way late.

The film begins during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and develops over the next 400 years, during which time the title character, played by actress Tilda Swinton, wakes up to find he is a she.

That's not the only androgyny that goes on in "Orlando." Quentin Crisp, the octogenarian icon of the gay community who described himself as "England's stateliest homo," is cast as the Virgin Queen.

You may also recognize Crisp in Jonathan Demme's "Philadelphia," which debuted in Ventura County late last year and is now in general release. He was the Oscar Wilde look-alike in a party scene.

Reviewers called "Orlando" visually impressive and gave the film nearly universal praise. Those who dissented said director Sally Potter's reiterations about the arbitrariness of sexual roles made the film repetitive.

It is screening at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Ojai Playhouse, 145 E. Ojai Ave. Admission is $6.

Pancho Doll compiles Reel Life each week for Ventura County Life. If you have information on local film, television or video events or personalities, write to him at 5200 Valentine Road, Suite 140, Ventura 93003, or send faxes to 658-5576.

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