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DVD_MOCKUP

Regular readers of Third Eye are well aware of my longstanding affection and appreciation for the efforts of Vinegar Syndrome.  A startup that funded its earliest releases by means of a kickstarter campaign, they have rapidly grown into one of the most important of the still-extant “boutique” labels, delivering a solid mix of horror/exploitation oddities balanced by an equally strong sideline in XXX sexploitation.

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While there have been one or two releases along the way that left me scratching my head, the label has generally shown excellent taste, with a strong eye towards saving some completely unheard of obscurities and long-lost holy grails of drive-in and grindhouse cinema, further restoring each of these to a truly pristine condition, to a level practically unparalleled even in these days of “hi-def” Blu-ray obsessives.

One pattern that’s become established over the past year is that while a given director may or may not get two of his or her releases paired on a double feature, that’s all she wrote.  Even such worthies as Anthony Spinelli only received one lone pairing of films to date (as much as some of us may wish it otherwise).

Thus it is that this month’s releases came as a bit of a shock.

After last time I was more than a little trepidatious to find yet another pairing of the heretofore unknown porn director Kemal Horulu.  After all, that double feature was one of the two aforementioned head scratchers of an offering in Vinegar Syndrome’s otherwise unimpeachable release history.  And HE’S the guy that gets a double dip?

Well…I’ll tell ya.  I think they released the wrong double bill first.

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To start off today’s viewing, we get a man who probably could have made a career for himself outside of the adult film industry, one of the few porn stars who can actually act in a proper sense, the one and only Eric Edwards (any doubters out there, check out his numerous mainstream softcore films with Joe Sarno for the evidence).  Now, he’s clearly camping it up quite a bit here, tongue implanted audibly in cheek at having to deliver Horulu’s ridiculous lines – but it’s still Edwards, so despite some deliberately goofy line readings, expect several steps above the competition here.

Apparently Edwards is a closet queen, who dreams of dressing up in drag and making out with a mannequin.  But it’s not just a dream – because he actually did go in drag to a party where only he and one other person appear to be the guests!

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Thankfully, the other party in this “party” is one Lisa (Nancy Marshall, billed in the credits as “first love”), a fetching Fran Drescher type whose sex scene comes with some campy overdubbing.  “She dressed like a man,” Edwards intones faux-dreamily, though wearing a droog-like bowler hat doesn’t exactly scream George Sand to me.  Oh, well, at least she’s cute.

After relating this sordid tale where nothing much occurs, Edwards leaves and we get treated to a “four way” that quickly turns into a menage a trois between “Mr. 10 1/2” Marc Stevens and two hippie types – the brunette’s not bad, but the moon-faced blonde is pretty skanky (and watch out for that chin, she’ll poke your eye out).

GAH!!

GAH!!

A rather obnoxious, hairy-assed “porn star” (one “Jonathan John”) is the common denominator between that scene and the earlier office setting, because he’s not only the first to finish and split, but the main squeeze of reasonably cute receptionist Julie (Leah Marlon).  What the hell she sees in this low class would-be lothario with a bizarre little boy’s soupbowl haircut is beyond anyone but Horulu, but it’s an excuse for another boffing sequence.

Edwards works as an editor, which allows Horulu to slip in a particularly egregious “film within a film” called “Two Women”, featuring Horulu’s favorite starlet, Jennifer Welles in (you guessed it from Wendy’s Palace) yet another boring lesbo sequence with a butt-ugly 70’s feminist type (zzzzzzz).  Edward’s head shaking, ‘I’ve got a headache’ reaction at the end of this little mini masterwork was pretty close to my own…did I mention we get two installments of this celluloid Oscar winner?

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The reason Edwards is going to a shrink?  Well, not only is he a cross dresser (who seems to only own one cheesy kimonoesque house dress, mind), but he’s got a weird thing for mannequins, which he dresses like Marshall and seem to have a way of “coming to life” to do the nasty with him (played by a different actress every time).

He’s also got a thing going with Marlon, who wears a nice pair of hoop earrings and sash with maxi combo (albeit one that comes in garish rainbow colors that make her look like Lookee from She-Ra) for a row around Central Park.

In the meantime our annoying pal John shows up to get it on with Joyce (Olinka Podany), a pasty faced Polish blonde who seems quite stoned and can barely seem to master basic English.  Finally, Marlon figures out how to get things heated up with Edwards (by dressing up like the mannequin, which is itself a substitute for Marshall), and they even get a happy ending.

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Yet another impoverished Horulu production, the Virgin and the Lover is marred by both an absurdist “script” clearly written during a particularly drunken evening on a cocktail napkin and a dearth of sets.  Both “party room” and “bedroom” appear to be part of the same fly by night office suite occupied by his shrink (whose front office is decorated in a brilliant shade of dark blue – picture all the freakouts in that office!).

That being duly noted, the Virgin and the Lover is so far superior to the earlier Sexualist (not to mention the abominable Wendy’s Palace) as to seem like it came from a completely different filmmaker.  While the hallmarks and signifiers are there (from the cheapness to the odd comedic bits to the ubiquitous Jennifer Welles appearance), it’s clear that Horulu had, if not grown as a director, which would be stretching things quite a bit to assert, then at least gained a measure of competency to put him on par with the more standard fare of the day – hardly Metzger / Sarno / Spinelli / Pachard style ‘porno chic’, but at least what one might be likely encounter at a typical Times Square theater at the time (trust me, if they aired something like Wendy’s Palace, even the winos and hookers would riot and demand their money back).

seriously...THIS is my big screenshot?  REALLY?

seriously…THIS is my big screenshot? REALLY?

Next up, we get Lustful Feelings, whose poster reads as merely “Feelings”.  Starring the gorgeous Leslie Bovee (credited as “Bovel”) and such marquee names as Jamie Gillis, Terri Hall, Bobby Astyr and R. Bolla, this is probably as high end as you’re likely to get from a director as consistently low-rent as Horulu.  Speaking personally, I was amazed to see some proper sets (check out that wall sized mirror, red velour futon and fern setup from the opening scene, and you’ll already wonder whether this is really a Horulu picture).

Sadly, most of the screen captures out there are adults only, so I can’t really offer anything properly representative of the film, its aesthetic or the better part of its cast here (seriously – check out the rather random and dull ones I have to show you here…sigh).

Is that the director whistling for Jamie Gillis to come get his fix in the opening scenes?  And look, there’s Ras Kean from Radley “Henry Paris” Metzger’s impeccable Opening of Misty Beethoven, wearing what would be a nice Italian pinstripe suit if it didn’t come in a tacky shade of blue.  Boy, it’s swell of Gillis to pimp girlfriend Bovee out to pay off his drug debts…

oh, poor me...pimpin' and dealin' for a living is rough...

oh, poor me…pimpin’ and dealin’ for a living is rough…

Wearing quite an attractive pantsuit, Bovee (who looks a hell of a lot like Sandra Bullock, which makes her quite yummy indeed) heads off to meet the oddly accented Claudette (a nearly incomprehensible Eva Henderson – is that a German accent?  Dutch?  Some bastardized take on UK English?).  Wait, you mean she doesn’t MIND whoring for this guy?

Terri Hall, in another nice piece of lingerie, gets all worked up in an affected stage manner over the prospect of scoring some blow off Gillis, and we get what is probably the best lesbo scene Horulu ever recorded, merely by virtue of the fact that Hall is one of the participants (and again, nice pad…).

Gillis heads off to the “Aunt Peg” like Helen Madigan’s place to satisfy the MILF’ers out there – at least she’s got one hell of a spread, check out the shelving and wallpaper!  She’s also quite athletic for someone her age – c.f. the self examination that kicks off her sex scene with Gillis if you don’t believe it.

More nice lingerie (love those cranberry thigh highs and the African-style rope necklace) and another nice spread with a spiral staircase and even some uncharacteristically nice framing kick off another lesbi-scene (sigh…what is WITH this guy Horulu, anyway?) between Bovee and Henderson.  They get peeped on by john Richard “R. Bolla” Kernan (of Italian cannibal film and Debbie Does Dallas fame), then Horulu briefly fakes the viewer out with a minute or so of D&S before turning into a more standard menage a trois.

A visit to Kean’s pad, some sub-Jefferson Airplane music to accompany a really bad private dance and more nice outfits (Kean actually gets the proper grey pinstripe this time, Bovee in a black and red floral sun dress) kick off another boning sequence, where Bovee reminds one of perpetually drugged out but cute 80’s headliner Aja (even down to the belly chain, a sexy accoutrement that would never work in today’s muffin top world).  Again, love the digs…

No fooling around this time, we get a proper S&M sequence with Bovee looking quite fetching chained to the wall in leather (though the guy’s outfit is strictly Village People, and he’s REALLY camping things up…are you sure you want Bovee and not another guy, buddy?).  Well, OK, it’s not exactly The Image, but at least it evokes the right imagery and feel.

Holy crap, that’s a really nice top she’s got in that walk around the lake at Central Park…did I mention the aesthetics in this film are more in the realm of Metzger than everything else we’ve seen from Horulu?  Just seeing Bovee in hi-def is riveting, but tag in the endless stream of proper couture and gorgeous location settings, not to mention a lot of NYC street scenes, and you get something so astronomically distant from the other three Horulu films, one is forced to question the film’s parentage.

A straight sequence between Terri Hall and Gillis brings their excellent Story of Joanna to mind, though of course without any of the trappings of the earlier film.  Damn, Hall looks good with the longer hair, silly hoity-toity Marilyn Monroe vocal affectations be damned.

Finally, Bovee takes on good hearted funnyman Bobby Astyr (who spends his entire time onscreen talking jive) while two black guys look on bemusedly and a muzak version of “nights in white satin” plays.  Eventually everyone joins in, but things turn nasty when they score some dope and start snorting a few lines, leading to a rather unexpected right turn of an ending…

seriously, does this happy go lucky type look like he's about to turn the film ugly?

seriously, does this happy go lucky type look like he’s about to turn the film ugly?

Again, it’s hard to believe this is the same director we’re talking.  Sure, there’s some really bad shaky handheld camerawork in the outdoor scenes, but that’s a real nice place they’ve got there, and that’s some really eye pleasing lingerie, and this setup occurs over and over again with consistency and regularity.  For the time period this took place in, everyone seems to be dressed at least au courant, if not downright stylish.  The script is much, much better this time around.  Gillis, never a slouch, manages to out-act Eric Edwards (though admittedly, Edwards was really having a hard time saying such stupid lines there – Virgin and the Lover is hardly one of his primo acting performances).

Bovee is stunning, even if her naughty bits have been somewhat overutilized, shall we say (geez, don’t they do surgery for that?).  She can’t act worth a damn (check out that little discussion between her and Gillis about halfway through the running time…sheesh!), but she’s flexible, well dressed throughout and good Lord, but she’s smoking hot – like Kandi Barbour, she’s one of those rare starlets in the industry who you just can’t believe is doing this stuff on camera.

There’s an awful lot of onscreen drug use in this film, and given that we’re talking porn here, it’s very likely the real deal.  If you’ve got issues with that, you probably have issues with the industry in general, but it does bring a refreshing level of realism (however unintentional) to the proceedings – these are real people behaving more or less like they would in real life, and that adds a certain veneer of authenticity to the picture that glossier efforts tend to miss out on.

Despite its surprisingly dark denouement (which in a way actually adds to the picture’s numerous strengths), (Lustful) Feelings is one hell of an adult film, from any angle which you choose to approach it.  Unlike anything else we’ve seen from the director, it has a proper budget, big name, attractive stars and starlets, great locations and wardrobe, and even decent acting (from Gillis and Kean, at least) and an engaging script (!)  Honestly, what more can you ask for?  It’s almost enough to make me take back all the stuff I said about the other three Horulu efforts…well, in theory, anyway.

With more than a modicum of surprise, I have to give Vinegar Syndrome’s second double bill of obscure porn director Kemal Horulu’s Virgin and the Lover and particularly Lustful Feelings high marks.  Keep ’em coming, guys.

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