Almost anyone with a functioning libido cherishes a toe-curling cinematic sex scene, but those willing to brave the sticky seats at adult theaters or the scary cordoned-off porn section at the local video store are few and far between -- not to mention the fact that the vast majority of X-rated features are located somewhere on the continuum from stupid to nauseating. This week the Rafael Film Center presents a far more palatable (and high-minded) collection of provocative flicks at "Erotic Tales: The Complete Series," the final compilation put together by German producer Regina Ziegler, who's been gathering sexy shorts from directors like Hal Hartley, Nicolas Roeg, and Susan Seidelman since 2001.
In order to wave goodbye to the much-loved Ziegler series, the Rafael rescreens her first 24 choices along with premieres of her six final picks. The films run the gamut from amusing (the Czech Power focuses on a stage magician with, um, special talents) to seriously sensual (1994's Touch Me peeks in on a lesbian awakening). Several featured actors you've seen before: Catch gay porn superstar Jeff Stryker in the John Waters-inspired "cannibal comedy" Can I Be Your Bratwurst, Please?, Mira Sorvino as a love-struck art fan in Seidelman's Oscar-nominated The Dutch Master, and Theresa Russell as a hung-over bride-to-be who can't figure out why she has awakened handcuffed to a nude stranger (Vincent D'Onofrio) in Devilish Education. "Erotic Tales" begins Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St. (at A Street), San Rafael. Admission is $5.50-9; call 454-1222 or visit www.cafilm.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
"BudgetRock III: The Wrath of Quan" really packs in the fabulous rock 'n' rollers: the Woggles, Killer's Kiss, Harold Ray Live in Concert, and more. The Phantom Surfers are on the bill as well, featuring the titular honoree, everyone's favorite long-hair, Russell Quan. The garage-oriented festival's organizers hint broadly that a "mystery band" is scheduled, a group so amazing they can't tell us who it is. Criminal! Although musicians from far (Japan) and wide (Denver) plan to show up, the emphasis is on three-chord noise from the three-city area of San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Jose. Rock out starting at 8 p.m. Friday at Thee Parkside, 1600 17th St. (at Wisconsin), S.F. Admission is $10 per day or $25 for all three days; visit www.theeparkside.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Surprise! Felix Dennis is a literate lad.
If only Felix Dennis -- best known as the publisher of lad rags Maxim and Stuff -- had resisted the temptation to publish a poem about the average size of the erect human penis and to typeset said poem in a shape roughly resembling its subject. Of course, if he had, we writer types would have had little to giggle about when discussing his new book, A Glass Half Full. I'd love to have printed this item in the shape of a vagina, but alas, you'll have to take my word for it that Dennis is no pussy when it comes to writing smart verse. Statements like "surprisingly intelligent," "literate," and "holy shit, I find myself actually enjoying his work" do apply. The author reads and dispenses gratis booze during his "Did I Mention the Free Wine? Tour" at 6 p.m. at One Market, 1 Market (at Steuart), S.F. Admission is free; call 777-5577 or visit www.felixdennis.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
Happy happy band band
TUES 10/5You have to like snarling and screaming and noise to like the Muffs, but you also need to appreciate early Beatles bubblegum rock and the Ronettes' attitude-heavy harmonies. Singer/guitarist Kim Shattuck's howling growl is the stuff of legend, and it's usually laid down over perfectly sugarcoated pop.
The Muffs' new album was five years in the making, but Really Really Happy features the famously cranky Shattuck in a good mood. Bassist Ronnie Barnett and drummer Roy McDonald seem cheerful, too -- apparently the move from major label to indie self-production has been a joyful one. The group's trademark high energy is everywhere on the CD, on songs like "Don't Pick on Me" and the hilariously unfriendly title track. The Randies and Visqueen open at 9 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Missouri), S.F. Admission is $10-12; call 621-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Those Lusty Ladies are fun. Not content simply to peel and grind like more prosaic strippers, the unionized owner/performers take many opportunities to put on unusual shows (like the annual talent spectacle at which my old violin teacher often plays her instrument in the buff). Witness this week's "Pirate Booty," replete with prancing mermaids, seminaked sword-fighting, trussed-up madams walking the plank, saucy wenches, and libidinous dances featuring painted figureheads come to life. Bring pockets full of change -- watching the show from the private booths costs about 75 cents a minute -- and all the "Arrrr" you've got at 9 p.m. to the Lusty Lady, 1033 Kearny (at Columbus), S.F. Admission is free; call 391-3126.
-- Joyce Slaton