Forbidden Passions/Lurid Tales: The Castle Queen
R0 - America - MVD Visual
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (3rd June 2024).
The Film

"Double the fun with these two steamy flicks starring Debra Beatty and Kim Dawson in this sexy 'SkinMax' Double Feature!

Forbidden Passions: VR software developer Mara (Caged Heat 3000's Debra K. Beatty) is devastated when her boyfriend and colleague Stephen (The Slumber Party Massacre's David Millbern) decides to love her and leave her, accepting a job at a rival software company across the country and not wanting to be smothered by her any longer. Mara hooks herself up into her program "Dreamworlds" but finds herself in a completely unfamiliar environment where Jana (As the World Turns' Lesli Kay) – not "the" god but "a" god – reveals that Mara has died in an accidental fire. Since Mara was hooked up to her VR program during her death, Jana allows her to use the game's challenge of solving four puzzles involving people who are using virtual reality to escape their real-life problems in order to learn her own life lesson before moving on to the afterlife. First up, Mara decides to inspire a frustrated artist (Daniel Namath) to try "live" models in order to get out of his own head and his oppressively self-imposed solitude; however, she is once again devastated when he no longer needs her.

After that, she helps a "nerdy" computer hacker (Soulkeeper's Kevin Patrick Walls) acquire sexual experience on the virtual plane in order to drum up the courage to approach high school crush Sandy (Personals II:'s Shayna Lee) who he has only heretofore interacted in the form of a virtual likeness. He too unplugs her once she has helped him. She gets the same results when she helps a lesbian dancer (Different Strokes's Landon Hall) get over her stage fright with a virtual training program and a very real massage. With one last chance to learn her lesson when she discovers that unrequited high school crush Bobby (Days of Our Lives' Marshall Hilliard) has been living out his own unrealized career dreams in the virtual world, Mara might find her soulmate but can only have him on the virtual plane. When she discovers, however, that Stephen has stolen her project and passed it off as his own, her desire for revenge from beyond the grave may derail any chance she has at finding happiness.

Also known as "Cyberella: Forbidden Passions", Forbidden Passions is a relatively engaging work even in its obviously-curtailed R-rated form thanks to a few competent and even charming performances, particularly lead Beatty who has to do the emotional heavy-lifting, along with Hilliard and Walls whose claim to fame was the misfortune of being Drew Barrymore's boyfriend in the opening sequence of Scream. Virtual reality was big in the nineties, even in the softcore erotic genre with films like Virtual Encounters and its sequel for Full Moon's erotica label Torchlight/Surrender Cinema as well as this film which takes place in a series of low-lit rooms and bare sound stages with the help of some simplistic computer graphics – considerably lesser than the somewhat more ambitious but primitive graphics created for Full Moon's more mainstream Arcade – and the reuse of some background plates of miniatures created for the flying sequences of Full Moon's Shrunken Heads to give a sense of Mara's astral travel more so than through the phone lines. Mara's treacherous boyfriend does get his comeuppance, but the film's ending is oddly low-key when it comes to where Mara ends up. Credited director Jackie Garth may be a pseudonym since their only other credit is the similar-looking Dream Master: The Erotic Invader while screenwriter Randall Fontana also penned the indie mainstream thriller Bitter Harvest, the DTV softcore Femalien, and this disc's co-feature:

Lurid Tales: The Castle Queen: College student Thomas Dunsmore (Prehysteria! 3's Shannon Dow Smith) is stressing himself out over a paper about the economic conditions during the reign of Charles I. Waitress/classmate Amy (Night of the Demons 2's Cristi Harris) suggests he take a break at the newly-opened arcade next door; however, Thomas discovers that this is no more video game palace as comely proprietor Thyrene (Perkins' 14's Mihaela Mihut) coaxes him into a medieval chair with a VR headset hookup, informing him that his journey is powered by his body and fueled by his imagination.

It makes sense then that Thomas wakes up in medieval England on the lands of Lady Dorset (The Big Hustle's Kim Dawson) whose husband was killed in battle when the Puritans defeated Charles I. As the widow of a traitor, Lady Dorset welcomes "Lord Thomas" as a pleasant distraction, taking him into her bed after which he discovers that she has been using her charms to put off attempts by Puritan officials to evict her from her lands. When her younger sisters Miranda (Petticoat Planet's Betsy Lynn George) and Maggie (Harris in a dual role) decide they want to help, Lady Dorset asks Thomas to instruct them in the ways of lovemaking. As the chambermaids get involved in the fun too, and Thomas handles the accounting, Dorset Castle may be able to offer a "valuable service" to the Puritans… that is, until Miranda tires of the hypocrisy.

One of the many softcore erotic films that made up the stable of Full Moon offshoot Torchlight Entertainment (later Twilight Entertainment and then Surrender Cinema) supervised (and sometimes directed) by Voodoo Academy's David DeCoteau under various pseudonyms like "Ellen Cabot" in this case, Lurid Tales: The Castle Queen benefits greatly from location shooting in Romania and the roster of technicians who worked in the Full Moon pictures lensed there starting with Subspecies. Production values including authentic castles – including the courtyard of one also used in Huntress: Spirit of the Night – sets that while modest would have been much more expensive to build in the U.S., the usual mix of period costumes and anachronistic underwear, and some slick photography by Viorel Sergovici who was quickly moved up from assistant camera and camera operator on earlier Full Moon Romanian productions to cinematographer within the space of two years (the film was shot in 1994-95 but not released until 1998).

Performances are good to decent including lead Smith, George, and the stunning Dawson – who sadly disappears from the second half of the film on a trip making George the titular "castle queen" – with most of the American actors hampered by having to deliver stilted dialogue full of thees and thous with English accents and the Romanian supporting players delivering their lines in phoenetic English for obvious dubbing. The sex scenes are listless-edited, with the editing switching back and forth between different angles of coverage without any sense of buildup or rhythm, abruptly "climaxing" in fade outs in both the rated and unrated versions in a similar approach to straight sex as DeCoteau brings to buff, waxed males showering in tighty-whities in films like 3 Scream Queens or Haunted Frat. Storywise, the slick look, slow motion sex, and synth scoring sometimes jar with the more absurd aspects of the plot; indeed, the story might have fared better tackled two decades before as a Harry Novak "period" erotic films like The Secret Sex Lives of Romeo and Juliet or The Exotic Dreams of Casanova.


Premiered on cable and apparently not released on VHS, Forbidden Passions was first released to DVD in 2003 by Artisan Entertainment as Cyberella; Forbidden Passions. We have not seen that version but it has an R-rating on the cover and a stated running time of eighty-three minutes. The film was released on DVD again in 2006 as as part of Hollywood DVD's "Silver Series" as Forbidden Passions. Although the cover stated the film was unrated, it was actually the seventy-eight minute R-rated version. MVD's Skinmax Double Feature DVD has an R-rating and a stated running time of eighty-three minutes; however, it too is the R-rated version at 78:15 compared to the unrated version at 86:43, extending all of the sex scenes by a few minutes each while the R-rated version not only trimmed them but also added video slow motion to some of the shots that remained. The 1.33:1 image is framed in a 16:9 window – presumably for the benefit of people whose DVD and Blu-ray players automatically stretch 4:3 material to 16:9 when hooked up to widescreen television – and the older video master looks as soft and hazy as it always has even during well-lit sequences while those treated with either gel lighting or video effects lose detail in the highlights while the blacks flatten out (a few softer shots within a scene suggest that the editors might have enlarged some shots after they had already been telecined to vary coverage). Since the movie was shot on film and finished on video, this is probably the best we can get unless someone finds the film material, rescans it, and redoes the digital effects (or approximates them since the software used back then is probably not compatible with modern systems and programs).

Lurid Tales: The Castle Queen was shot on film and finished on video – although even the video-finished Full Moon films were supposed to have had their negatives conformed and archived (although some appear to have gone missing entirely or in part given some of the compromises for the Blu-ray upgrades) – but only the R-rated version was released stateside on television, VHS, and DVD by Full Moon in 1997 and in 2013. The Kushner-Locke Company handled the title overseas and apparently had access to the unrated version which is what is provided here (82:14 versus 75:29). More professionally-lit and photographed, the finished-on-SD video image looks rather hazy throughout as much due to the photography as the limitations of the original nineties video out (this might be best watched on an older television). A remaster would do wonders for the film but it is no better or worse than was has been available. Once again, the 1.33:1 image is framed in a 16:9 window. The unrated version's opening titles were redone during the video era and the music starts mid-title sequence compared to the R-rated version's transfer which features the same content in the credits but in slightly more elegant font and with the music starting at the head of the credits.


Both films feature rather basic Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mixes, although Lurid Tales does a little more with atmosphere than Forbidden Passions (which may be appropriate given the more cloistered nature of that film's settings). Optional English SDH subtitles have been included with some transcription errors.


The only extras are original video trailers for some of the Skinmax titles including Forbidden Passions (2:16) and "Lurid Tales: The Castle Queen", all newly-branded with a fuzzy, interlaced version of Multicom's logo.


With this "Skinmax Double Feature" it's three time's a charm for Lurid Tales: The Castle Queen which finally gets a release for its lesser-seen unrated version but also the umpteenth iteration of the R-rated version of Forbidden Passions.


Rewind DVDCompare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to,,,,, and . As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.