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VS-046_mockup VS-049_mockup VS-047_mockup

It’s yet another unusual August where the expected oppressive heat and humidity are nowhere to be found, in favor of a cool, September style briskness.

Similarly, Vinegar Syndrome delivers a rather mixed bag of pristine prints of quite variable in value offerings from the height of hardcore’s moment in the mainstream – cool where they should be hot, more curious than carnal.  Three are actually pretty decent views…the other three, utter wastes of celluloid.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

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Kicking things off in fine style with a surreal pre credits sequence involving a small scale orgy played out over a rear projection of city foot traffic, our old pal Carlos Tobalina returns with yet another pair of mid-70s skin flicks.

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After that first bit (which is made all the sweeter by the presence of two Filipina cuties and none other than John Holmes), we get introduced to one of the most unlikeable couples in hardcore history, the bitchy Rose (Kristine Heller) and her mopey cabbie boyfriend Jim (Jeff Lyle).

Not only a boozehound but apparently frigid, she keeps putting him off when he wants a piece, going so far as to leave her erstwhile hubby sleeping on the couch.  Even when arriving at her arbitrarily designated time for nookie, the poor schlub can’t get lucky: after making overtures, she bizarrely runs her naked self off to throw on underwear and a bathrobe, then informs him she’s on the rag(!)

And why is this guy still putting up with this wonderful “relationship”?

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When Jim gives a ride to a desperate hippie type, he winds up in a whole mess of trouble.  Well, sorta.  Apparently his fare has been shot, and when Jim delivers the guy into the hands of the EMTs, he discovers a suitcase full of cash.

Finding himself fired for failing to report in to dispatch, what’s a guy to do?  How about head down to Vegas (where Redd Foxx is playing the graveyard shift and Johnny Carson works standup) and fuck the stunning hooker Annette Haven?  O-kay, not the first thing that came to my mind, but sure, I’m down with that plan…

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After informing Jim rather disingenuously that “I didn’t do this for the money”, Haven tries to rope the touch in for another $900(!) for a private live sex show with two other girls.  Meantime, Rose goes to see the highly credible and believable shrink Nina Fause, where she informs the audience that she has a
recurrent dream of screwing a certain famed costar.

“Have you ever heard of…John Holmes?”
“of couuurse. I know he’s a fa-mous porno star…I also fantasize a-bout him,” Fause responds, in her usual awkward singsong manner.

Having sat through at least 3 Fause features (all of which, none too coincidentally, seem to fall under Tobalina’s direction), I’m starting to wonder just how unfamiliar Fause was with the English language and standard speech patterns.  Was English her third language perhaps?  Or was she just that freakish, possibly an alien beaming in from outer space, baffled by the common behaviors and lingustic standards of the human race?

Who the hell knows, but it’s always quite distracting…

“Society has…almost all of us greatly confused. Some…a little more than others.”

From here on out, it’s one long therapy session for Heller, where she recounts one prior sex experience after another, while Jim gets that live sex show (with Haven, Candida Royalle and one of the Filipinas from the opening orgy).

“Nooow you will acquire the po-wer to re-sist ad-vertising. Especially those products that are HARM-ful to your health,” Fause clearly reads straight off the script just offscreen. “It should be il-leeegal to con-stantly bombard our citizens with adverti-sing of legal products. But our nat’nal an’ local gub’ments failed us once more.”

One particularly weird highlight from Heller’s therapy reminiscences involves her sitting in a brand new bathtub smack dab in the middle of a grungy old crackhouse while she blows a lineup of guys (including Jim and one of the Peruvian locals from Jungle Blue) and fakes bukkake by being pre-slathered with a curdled milk cum grout mix throughout the sequence.  Umm…yeah.

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Finally Paul Thomas appears, delivering the same anti-advertising message (including the bit about “the fucking politicians” that I’d assumed to be a Fausseism) to, of all people, Jim (who apparently decided to go to the same therapy session as Rose out of the blue, despite enjoying blowing through his found money like water in Vegas the whole time…continuity leap, anyone?), leaving the film ending on yet another of Tobalina’s vaguely protest oriented notes.  Wow.

the 70's? (from The Ultimate Pleasure)

the 70’s? (from The Ultimate Pleasure)

or the 80's? (from Cathouse Fever)

or the 80’s? (from Cathouse Fever)

As ever, Tobalina loves the tourist bits, with some well shot travelogue sequences enlivening the more prurient business.  The Process Blue restoration is stellar as always, and for the most part, the girls are much easier on the eyes than usual.  Interestingly, Sharon Thorpe, who does not appear onscreen, is credited as both production manager and music editor (!), so she’s the one to thank for the film’s rather groovy score (and it’s a pretty damn good one!).  Liking that woman more and more…

Certainly the best we’ve seen from Tobalina to date (at least on Vinegar Syndrome’s watch), The Ultimate Pleasure comes with a strong relative recommendation – if you’re gonna watch one of the label’s Tobalina flicks, this is definitely the one to go with.

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Next up Carlos delivers I am Always Ready, from the subsequent year.  Like the lead feature, the film is bolstered by a rather funky score and the ubiquitous presences of both Paul Thomas and John Holmes.  Unlike the visually sumptuous main feature and its bevy of beauties, however, this one is marred by a succession of nausea inducing butt uglies and a nigh total absence of exterior travelogue footage, making it a truly painful viewing experience in the main.

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In fact, with the exception of one fairly cute Linda McCartneylike redhead in the first “porn film shoot” sequence by an outdoor hottub (she thankfully does reappear in a later orgy sequence), it’s as if Tobalina raided the local feminist rally or ERA march for the homeliest, stockiest short cropped fuglies possible.

As much as The Ultimate Pleasure was a delight for the voyeuristic eye, I am Always Ready sees fit to punish the male gaze with the most unattractive distaff population conceivable, and is best thought of as a sort of endurance test, notable only as one of the earliest roles of 80’s porn star Mike Horner. All I can say is thank God for that redhead, whoever she was…

001

“Whistle while you work, Hitler is a jerk…”

Next up, Gail Palmer of last month’s Erotic Adventures of Candy and Candy Goes to Hollywood returns to produce another pair of seemingly big budget Bob Chinn features.

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First we return to 1940’s nostalgia, Sadie style, with Tropic of Desire.  Georgina Spelvin runs a Honolulu whorehouse populated by stocky redhead Kitty Shayne, hard bitten Susan Nero, vaguely Sharon Mitchellesque Mandy Ashley, pretty Starr Wood and the somewhat Brigitte LaHaielike Jesie St. James.  When Shayne’s beau gets killed in action, she opts out of the business, but is soon replaced by the much cuter flame tressed Dorothy LeMay. And life goes on…

yeah, I know this is from Fantasy World...but don't she look like Brigitte LaHaie?

yeah, I know this is from Fantasy World…but don’t she look like Brigitte LaHaie?

There’s really not a lot going on here to speak of outside the Chinn standard of sumptuous cinematography, attention to setting and period detail and an emphasis on script and acting over the more prurient aspects.  Like a less mainstream Radley Metzger, Chinn always offers a bit more for the couples market, if somewhat to the detriment of the more raunchy end of the equation.  If any films from the era of “porno chic” were qualified to stand up to the odd practice of the time of cutting to “hard R” release alternates, Chinn’s were certainly the ones.

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The notably middle aged Spelvin and scary Nero aside, the girls are pretty, the wartime feel is accurate and there’s not a lot to distract from the positives this time around (unlike Sadie, where Cris Cassidy’s rough edged crassness left much of the premise harder to swallow than the production otherwise deserved).

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Don Fernando makes an early career appearance with a surprising if welcome bit of fisting (!) which seems to astonish him as much as it does the viewer (“he lost his wristwatch!”), Spelvin delivers her usual assured onscreen presence and thespian skills, Marlene Munroe (Fernando’s fistee) continues the geek show with some Thai bar girl style vaginal cigarette smoking and all is quite well on the Western front.

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Next up is the same year’s Fantasy World, more properly known by its onscreen title of Desiderio del Femmina.  While kicking off once again on a naval gunboat, this one eschews the period setting for a more contemporary one (complete with some reading of want ads from Al Goldstein’s Screw).

Taking a shore leave visit to a live sex show, beefy Southern-fried Michael Moore lookalike Michael Morrison and his two pals Jesse Adams and Jon Martin go off in search of the elusive Fantasy World, which doesn’t even publish its address…but dammit, the three gobs manage to find the place in record time.

gee, d'you think this might be the place?

gee, d’you think this might be the place?

Jesie St. James returns alongside Sharon Kane and the Eileen Brennanesque Lauren Dominique as a trio of tourists looking for a dance club who get misguided by a really ironic cabbie to the titular establishment.  I’d hate to think where he’d direct someone looking for a haircut or a bite to eat…

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Morrison gets a menage a trois with an uncredited cutie named ‘Serena’ and his very attractive if hoity-toity voiced wife Valerie Darlyn, St. James gets to blow several guys at once, Dominique gets a Harlequin romance style session with pianist Paul Thomas, Adams gets with sexy Starr Wood (who pulls a rather credulity-straining turn as a “Japanese geisha” type) and Kane and Martin do a really low-rent, zero energy take on an S&M session.  There’s a quickie orgy, and credits roll.

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Look, as with many Chinn efforts, neither of these films is going to set the world afire with raunchy eroticism.  But dammit, if you’re looking for a touch of class, decent, nigh-mainstream level scripting and reasonably well budgeted adult film, you know exactly where to turn.

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Do the transfers even need to be addressed?  Vinegar Syndrome and Process Blue have built a nearly unshakeable standard of primo, high-def restorations of the sort of long forgotten grindhouse obscurities that would have come out previously (if ever) in tattered, splice-afflicted, green tinted prints from the likes of Something Weird or in muddy, grainy, nearly pitch black-lit versions on grey market labels like Alpha Blue…and likely in DVD-R format to boot.  If classic adult film and softcore grindhouse oddities are your thing, you already know the place to go.  Nuff said.

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Unfortunately, after one surprisingly decent Tobalina effort and two typically well appointed Chinn offerings, we hit the bottom of the barrel with two zero budget stinkers from a guy named Chris Warfield.  And yeah, it’s probably no surprise you’ve never heard of him before, given the two films on display herein.  Let’s just put it this way.  When your top billed costar is MI(W)LF* starlet “Aunt Peg”, you just have to know you’re really in for it.

*the W stands for “wouldn’t” if not “would never“…

hmm...I could be the next Fabio...

hmm…I could be the next Fabio…

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The frequently open mouthed, lost looking Laura Lazare is a would-be writer who takes a job at the desk of a sleazy no tell motel.  Apparently aspiring to be a sleazy romance novelist (or perhaps a regular contributor to Penthouse Forum), she whiles away her workday by imagining what each check-in must be doing behind closed doors.

take a good look.  She's the ONLY reason to watch this film.

take a good look. She’s the ONLY reason to watch this film.

With only the cute and quite petite Filipina “Jade Wong” worthy of attention, it’s just one long succession of trips to the same crummy hotel bedroom by one homely couple after another.

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The same general aesthetic (or more precisely, lack thereof) and (nonexistent) plot applies to Cathouse Fever, where the best thing on offer is someone named Marla Lee Gardner as ‘Sherry’.  The only “names” here are Herschel Savage and an increasingly less Farrah Fawcettlike Rhonda Jo Petty, but like Purely Physical, there’s only one starlet worth watching, and she’s an effective unknown.  By far the least of this month’s Peekarama double features, this one’s an easy pass.

Hello!  I'm the only reason to watch the other film!

Hello! I’m the only reason to watch the other film!

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So here’s the skinny.  All of these films quite likely look better today than they did in their initial theatrical release.  Chinn delivers a pair of quite watchable offerings with a touch of class, and even Carlos Tobalina scores a decided win with The Ultimate Pleasure.  There’s a few redhead and Filipina cuties on display to enliven matters a bit, and you even get the ever stunning Annette Haven.  While there’s not a hell of a lot to recommend on the more prurient end of the equation, those three films come quite recommended as being among the more enjoyable offerings of the genre, at least in terms of pure cinema.

But when it comes to that other three, you’re on your own, kid.

good lord, do I have to star in a Chris Warfield film?  Really?  sigh...

good lord, do I have to star in a Chris Warfield film? Really? sigh…

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