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“The time – present. The place – Berkeley, California. The theme – students world…and what they do.”

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And apparently what they do is make weird jokes about exchange students so socially backwards that their only source of release is “chicks…you know, buck-buck!”, “sheep” and “Manuela”, the affectionate nickname bestowed upon Rosy Palm and her five lovely sisters (as the great Ivor Biggun once sagely termed it) by our dubious hero of the piece, “Fernando” (Fernando Fortes).

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Fortes, a sort of braces-bedecked cross between John Oates, Carlos Santana and Wilfredo Roldan of Devil’s Express and Force Four fame, is both overearnest and overeager to the point of sleazy, hanging all over and inappropriately groping at each and every woman he meets.  Naturally, all he winds up getting for his “efforts” is rejected, which leaves him resorting to “lonely person devices”.  But that’s all about to change, because his stoner pal Dave (Blair Harris) feels sorry for the schlub and buys the guy a dime store guide on “sex through hypnotism”.

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Being the wonderful world of porn, the book actually works, allowing Fortes to have his way with cute random strangers much taller than he is (whoever she was, she’s uncredited), the braindead delivery girl from popular local pizza joint “Tit for Tat” (a shockingly bubbleheaded Connie Peterson) and even the two lesbi-inclined friends Harris introduced him to at the start of the film.

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Finally Harris offers Fortes a job as wedding photographer for his own family, despite the latter admitting to never having held a camera before(!). This allows our little sleazebag to hypnotize the entire wedding party, get the bride to offer oral favors and kick off one of Tobalina’s by now patented orgy sequences. “Fernando, you’re too much,” Harris offers, jocularly.

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Did I mention Fortes screws his way straight into a hospital stay, allowing Harris to have his way with Fortes’ homely Mexican fiancée?  Or that this causes Fortes to hypnotize some consolatory action from an equally unattractive and obviously herpes-afflicted nurse?

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Feeling very much like a mid to late 70’s affair, Come Under my Spell belies its 1981 vintage with some then-out of date Me Generation humor, attitudes and feel. Despite its general lack of aesthetic value on the distaff end, there’s a silly, lighthearted and juvenile feel to the affair that leaves it, like most Tobalina efforts, more amusing than offputting; more head shakingly ridiculous than offensive. There’s barely a hint of darkness to be found throughout, and one walks away with the feeling that they’ve just sat through something amazingly cheesy if not stupid, but ultimately harmless enough.  While hardly the best of the man’s films screened to date, it’s not his worst either.

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Next up, we fast forward a few years into a more obviously 80’s hardcore aesthetic, with good music (courtesy of a very funky Shamus) and the presence of New Wave haircut-sporting period regular Shone Taylor (Loose Ends, Evils of the Night).  Something Weird favorite Sharon Kelly nee Colleen Brennan appears in yet another of her late career adult features (like last month’s Ribald Tales of Canterbury) as a woman wronged.  You see, a visit to the doctor (director Carlos Tobalina) informs us that our pal Taylor gave her a round of the clap, so now she’s “going free…not to belong to just one man anymore…every man who wants can have me just for the asking.”

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She trysts with Blair Harris on a rather stylish lounge-deck sporting houseboat, then attends a lesbo four way which is surprisingly watchable due to the presence of two absolutely gorgeous ladies (sultry raven haired Laura Lazare, looking far less lost than she did in Chris Warfield’s Purely Physical – that upswept ‘do really suits her – and the simply stunning blonde Lili Marlene, who mars her otherwise stellar looks with the unfortunate decision to dye her pubes).

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Then apropos of nothing, a Chippendale’s stripper shows up, setting the ol’ gaydar ringing off the charts – if this guy’s ‘straight’, I’ll eat my hat!  He brings a few friends: a nerdy Kraftwerk wannabe, a fat guy who takes Kelly by the backdoor, giving the camera a nice view of her IUD (gee, thanks, Carlos!) and…is that Blair Harris again with Marlene?

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Somehow this all brings Kelly and Taylor back together again – marital stability by sleeping around!  Ah, togetherness…

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While there’s a whole hell of a lot less of the lighthearted humor that marked Tobalina’s 70’s productions to be found herein, Lady Dynamite is contrarily a far more aesthetic film, with well appointed locations (the houseboat, the place where they hold the orgy), genuinely attractive women (Carol Tong, Mai Lin and Sharon Thorpe aside, this is actually something of a rarity in Tobalina’s middling to fugly-preferential oeuvre) and a soundtrack so good, I truly wish Vinegar Syndrome thought to provide a copy. Gruesome shots of protective devices aside, what’s not to like?

Despite some clear instances of slowdown and rapid speedup on the soundtrack at points during Lady Dynamite, both features are given the standard Vinegar Syndrome/Process Blue makeover, with vibrant colors and surprising clarity which regulars of scum theaters back in the days of these films’ initial release would no doubt be shocked to see them in, particularly after so many years’ remove.

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As for Tobalina himself, we continue our love/hate relationship with the man’s works, finding most of them quite amusing and predictably similar despite the many limitations noted with each month’s release thereof.

They’re like junk food – it’s crap, you know it’s not doing you any particular good to consume it, but it’s safe in the sense that you generally know what to expect every time.

As this was a metaphor my father used to (quite accurately) apply to the Catholic Church as well, I’m sure Carlos would be amused.

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