Interestingly, for someone so apparently inept at it, Thorpe plays dominatrix in both films, sporting some rather nice black and red leather ensembles, complete with knee high boots and bullwhip. But her take is all tongue in cheek and more than a bit whiny, which detracts from the approach considerably. Even so, it’s aesthetically quite sexy, let’s give Thorpe and Colberg that much.
Unfortunately, aside from that, our first feature All Night Long doesn’t offer a whole hell of a lot to keep the viewer engaged…
Essentially, the film is little more than a speculative mockumentary of what would eventually become reality: namely, the AVN Awards (which came into being nearly a decade on in 1984). At the time, of course, the very idea was more of a punchline to a cheap joke, the concept of a porn film being taken with the level of seriousness if not pomposity as the Oscars, Emmys or Golden Globes being seen as something of an absurdity. Little did the filmmakers know…
Other than some typically vibrant Process Blue restoration, all Colberg gives to a modern audience herein is a few prurient sequences wherein a clean shaven John Holmes and regular Rene Bond pal Ric Lutze wind up in a feminist-driven contest wherein one or the other of them visit a faux (Chinese) geisha (Suzy Chung), a particularly horny black/Hispanic type (Desiree West), a pigtailed pseudo-underage one (Melba Bruce of Baby Rosemary), a sexy if unconvincing dominatrix (the aforementioned Thorpe), and a Bondian Bambi & Thumper duo (the cute Veronica Taylor and her brunette gal pal Joan Devlon) in turn.
There’s also a damn scary frizzy-fro’ed Camarillo Brillo hippie named “Lady Love” (one Toni Scott) who you’ll wish you hadn’t had to sit through. Think a far homelier take on Cher in one of her worst stage fright wigs, and you may get an idea of how truly terrifying a visual overload this sequence is…sheesh!*
*Vinegar Syndrome wisely refrained from offering any stills involving this particular scene. Good move.
That’s really all there is to say here. Some of the ladies are thankfully reasonably attractive, with Thorpe being far and away the standout of the bunch…which is certainly not something you’d expect to be saying after her dowdy Baby Rosemary! But that’s the entire picture, there’s really nothing more to discuss. The verdict? Fair, but nothing to write home about.
Thankfully, things improve dramatically from here.
In Tapestry of Passion, veteran director Bob Chinn gets credit, albeit likely more for his role as creator of the Johnny Wadd character and series than any actual input to the film in question. With the always stunning Leslie Bovee given a run for her money by the equally gorgeous Annette Haven, pretty Desiree West and even Thorpe’s Halloween dress-up domme providing sufficient aesthetic focus, the film is possessed of a more appropriate streetwise feel than the fairly iffy lead feature.
Suffused with mood lighting and 70’s cop show trope and feel, Colberg graduates from the more static VFW Hall and hotel room filming of All Night Long to a far more location heavy, clearly cinematographic and more highly budgeted affair playing into and lending sufficient weight to Wadd’s tracking down of “sex ritual murderer” the “Black Widow”.
With similar elements to other Wadd pictures such as the Jade Pussycat or the Danish Connection, Colberg directs the film in a nearly unrecognizably different fashion from the goofy (if peopled with numerous fairly attractive ladies) All Night Long. Unlike the earlier feature, this is primo porno chic, with lush, aesthetic locales and elegant decor – marble fireplaces, oriental rugs, beveled glass, ornately carved doorways, oak flooring, hanging plants and tapestries and a whole lot of plot to keep the audience going between the more prurient sequences.
Jean Osborne (Leslie Bovee) employs John Holmes‘ doofy Wadd to bring to justice the murderer of kinky brother Tom (John Leslie). Complicating matters is Leslie’s even more attractive (and quite fashionable) wife Pat (Annette Haven), who wants the matter dropped, and the wife of another victim, Cindy Benton (Desiree West again, looking even more appealing this time around) who wants no part of the investigation. And then there’s the matter of the kinky murderess herself…
But when Wadd’s on the case, all the ladies must submit, and he always manages to (ahem) come out on top, in the end (cough).
As with other Wadd films, there’s a strong focus on location footage and ostensible detective work, with only a complete absence of car chases and fistfights (and the obvious presence of hardcore elements) separating Holmes’ efforts from those of more mainstream private eye epics of the time. It’s damn good, and even holds up to some extent on a detective show level (well, so long as you retain tongue firmly in cheek, that is).
Top marks all around, and here’s hoping Vinegar Syndrome takes on more Wadd epics in the future. I could reiterate the name of one particular Linda Wong starring vehicle to start off with…