Site Status Update Feb 2010- Site is still active and updating every week. Cost of membership is 34.28 USD/24.95 EUR for 30 days access.
This is my tenth website critique, a jubilee of sorts, so I'm doing something a bit out of the ordinary. All the sites I've covered so far focused on original content. I usually don't review sites that simply offer a selection of some producer's movies, like Punished Girls (Calstar) or Spanking Vids (Strictly English). They are both good sites, but there is not much to say about them except: "Well, titles x, y, z are for download, and they all work fine!" I'd rather talk about standalone, full-length movies in the movie review section, where they belong.
However, I'm making an exception for Her First Punishment and their archive of Russian Slaves videos. First off, it's a jubilee today, secondly, this is an interesting producer, and I haven't reviewed any Russian videos at all so far. Third, and most important, is the fact that this is a near-complete collection. Normally, sites like these only have a rather small selection from a producer's catalogue. Not so with Her First Punishment: at the time of this writing, there are some 60 Russian Slaves titles in existence, and the website has 50 of them for download, in good technical quality. So it really is a must-see for fans. You probably won't find every last Russian Slaves movie you are looking for, but you'll find most of them.
As the name implies, it is all Russian stuff - Russian cast, Russian dialogue, and from what it looks like, all filmed in Russia (even though the producers, "Nettles Corporation", are officially based in New York!). You know that I'm a fan of Eastern European films, like Lupus Pictures from the Czech Republic or Mood Pictures from Hungary. Strictly speaking, though, "Eastern" is a misnomer in their case: geographically and culturally, these countries are a part of central (!) Europe. If it hadn't been for the Cold War, nobody would think of them as "Eastern". By contrast, Russia really is Eastern Europe, and the RS flicks have a unique vibe that sets them apart not only from English-language videos, but also from the Czech or Hungarian ones.
That said, the movies are typically "Eastern" CP films in terms of ferociousness. Hard canings, hard whippings, graphic welts. They aren't quite as bloody as latter-day Mood - the beatings tend to have fewer strokes, and they are a little less severe. However, the girl's reactions are even more harrowing. You won't find more real tears, more howls of anguish, more cries of "I can't stand this any longer!" in the work of any other producer. I have no doubt that the RS material is produced in a consensual manner. The relaxed behind-the-scenes interviews with the spankees are testimony to that, as is the fact that many of them come back to do more than one shoot (some even progressing to the domme side). Still, these videos push the envelope, and their appeal is mostly for hardcore sadists.
Another thing that will turn off some viewers is the technical side of the production, which, shall we say, lacks refinement. Actually, the editing is among the worst I've ever seen, and I'm including amateur clips I saw on Spankingtube. There are repetitions of shots, frequent glimpses of "abortive" shots between the "proper" shots, a few frames here, a second there... I even found one instance where the video is rewinding for a moment, while you watch it, before it starts moving forward again. And in some scenes, you hear the director talking on camera. But while there are quite a few glitches like that, the filming itself - the camerawork, the lighting - is okay. Also, it all gets better in the more recent videos. The oldest RS titles go back to 2001, and in fairness, one has to remember that even Lupus / Rigid East made some pretty shoddy stuff in those days!
With these caveats out of the way, let's get to the strong points. If you are a sick-minded severity freak like me, you're going to have a field day. This is the real deal. And many of the girls are gorgeous, too. I like these Russian models, and obviously, you can't see them anywhere else. But honestly, the main reason why I enjoy Nettles Corp. epics is that they really have a vibe and tone of their own. Like I said, they are different from anything else on the market. Beyond the fine sadistic beatings, beyond the eye candy, this stuff is also culturally interesting. The Russian language, the locations, the particular tops and bottoms who star in these videos, the mentality on display... It's a glimpse into another world, one that is even more exotic to our Western eyes than what the Czechs or the Hungarians do. And that, to me, is priceless. I'd even say that the lack of sophistication adds to the flair. If you wanted to be cliché about it, you could say that the movies are "Russian" all the way: a bit rough around the edges, but with sturdy, solid qualities and lots of character.
That character can be disturbing. Some videos are about kidnappings ("The Abduction"), others show scenes of rape and sadistic abuse ("The Cruel Plumber", "In Sadist's Hands"). Also on the menu, we have police brutality ("Prostitute in Hands of Police Gang") and domestic brother-and-sister stuff ("Punishment in Russian Family"). Not to mention a whole series of films featuring a "Mr. Beria" character, obviously based on the lovely chap who was chief of the Soviet secret police under Stalin. One wonders, if officials from the tourist board of Slovakia were outraged enough by "Hostel" to launch an official protest, what would their Russian colleagues say about this stuff? Ah well. Let's not forget, it's just a movie.
It certainly works in terms of dark, gritty spanko entertainment, and it works well. The props and costumes may not be up to lofty Lupus standards, but with the severity of the CP action, the cultural background, the whole "Russian style" thing, it really doesn't matter - these are memorable videos in their own right, for their own reasons. And some of the tops really get into their job. There is this one young, buff, body builder type, for instance, who is just frigging insane. I mean, insane! He doesn't have the intimidating majesty of a Pavel Stastny, but he projects a raw, savage aggressiveness that is even more frightening in its way. Think of him as Buffalo Bill compared to Pavel's Dr. Lecter. And at the same time, he does show a certain, underlying tenderness towards the girls he works with. It really is quite fascinating to watch.
Not all videos are from the "totally dark" category. RS also do the obligatory schoolgirl scenarios, which are quite different from their English-language counterparts as well. Instead of cheerleaders and headmasters, we get "Girl Gangs in Russian Schools", "Sports School in Moscow", "Sports School in the Country", "Angry Coach"... Now that I think of it, they must really like the sports theme. They also like priests and naughty nuns, with a whole series devoted to "Life in a Russian Convent". The body builder type plays an Orthodox cleric, and believe it or not, he's quite good in the role.
Moreover, the RS films feature an above average number of outdoor scenes, where the spankees are tied to trees or wooden benches. Benches and the "lying on the belly" position are used a lot, indoors as well. On the implement side, there is pretty much everything. The hand, the cane, the wooden paddle, the belt... Also some more exotic items: the sports coach whips his students with what I believe is a rubber jump rope, and in good traditional Russian fashion, there are many floggings with birches and tree twigs.
Last but not least, I should mention the subtitles. They are a major hoot, rambling on in a parody of English. Take the "family" film for example, where the older brother catches his two sisters (or his sister and a friend, or whatever...) in an act of lesbian play, using a vibrator. The following monologue ensues: "Fuck! What's going on? Whores, why they engage in this here? Lesbian love! You, creature, give me this!" She hands him the vibrator, he goes on: "Such a bitch! Thousand hungry mans around. What, it's not enough man for you? Must you stuff in pussy all sorts of rubbish? Whore! You violate healthy social atmosphere!"
In all the videos, there is a lot of "whores" this and "bitches" that, especially when our body builder friend is screaming his head off like a madman, again. But it really is too silly and funny to be offensive. I mean, how can you not like these lines? "Now, get undress up to underpants!" I think it's fucking brilliant, pardon my Russian. Another flaw that is really a blessing in disguise.
With all their flaws and blessings, I enjoy the RS videos a lot, I really do. Beautiful girls, harsh whippings, scenarios that are delightfully cheesy and delightfully disturbing at the same time, a little socio-political satire, crazy subtitles... It reminds me of early Rigid East, mixed with Mood Pictures, and a distinctly Russian charm on top. Some people won't like it, but good-natured sadists certainly will. You know who you are.
For fans, Her First Punishment is a perfect deal. Fifty full-length movies and counting, hours and hours of material. The technical quality is good - old titles in .rm format at 650 kb/s, newer ones as .wmv's with a resolution of 720 x 576 pixels. The downloads are available as single files or split into shorter clips. Neat site layout, basically just a list of movies that goes over several pages, with a couple of preview pictures for each one. Pretty much like the preview section. In addition to the video downloads, most of the titles also have a gallery of stills.