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Vinegar Syndrome unearths yet another standout entry in the oeuvre of the legendary Anthony Spinelli with his visually impressive 40’s detective noir, Dixie Ray, Hollywood Star.

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Bafflingly, veteran cult movie star Cameron Mitchell appears rather prominently alongside adult film regulars John Leslie, Veronica Hart, Lisa DeLeeuw, Samantha Fox, Juliet Anderson and Kelly Nichols (who had previously costarred with Mitchell and Land of the Lost’s Wesley Eure in The Toolbox Murders).

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Admittedly, Mitchell was relegated mostly to low budget slashers, cheesy bottom feeder horror pictures and Filipino epics such as Night Train to Terror and Raw Force at this point in his career.  But still…didn’t he know this was a porno?

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After getting oral favors from supposed lesbo Adrian (Juliet Anderson), private Dick Nick Popodopolis (John Leslie) finds himself involved in his first homicide.  Apparently her employer, the titular Dixie Ray, may be involved in the murder of “ol’ Charlie”, and Nick has “the negatives”.  When her seduction attempt fails to sway him from the case, she pulls a gun – you can guess the result.

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After giving his secretary (Hilary Summers) a parting gift, Leslie gets invited to the beachfront estate of the rather rough edged Dixie herself (Lisa De Leeuw) to investigate a case of blackmail against herself…by her ex husband.  Oddly, the negatives have been making the rounds, and are back in her hands…hubby’s using the prints against her.  Even more bizarrely, she doesn’t destroy the negatives, but entrusts them to Leslie for some unknown reason…say wha?

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Leslie’s first stop: hubby’s current squeeze, Leslie (Kelly Nichols), but all he gets from her is another piece of the action.  Then back to Dixie’s place, where he discovers Nichols is actually Dixie’s daughter (and hubby’s stepdaughter)!  The plot thickens…and so do the obvious cinematic homages (her suddenly youthful wardrobe change and demeanor and imposing staircase entrance instantly called a certain Humphrey Bogart Phiip Marlowe film to mind…)

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Off to his office, where he gets roughed up by a pair of zoot suit sporting thugs (Sam Baldwin and Chuck Dawson) in the employ of shady nightclub owner Tony La Marr (Steve Marlow), former owner of the negatives…who proceeds to send his girlfriend Sherry (Veronica Hart) and her friend Lisa (Samantha Fox) around Leslie’s way for a kinky bit of round robin.  Then a call from soon-to-be late hubby Charles Barclay himself (producer Chris Warfield, of Champagne for Breakfast, Purely Physical and Cathouse Fever) reveals that he may not be the blackmailer after all…

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Filled with stylish period clothes, cars and the cinematic tropes of 40’s noir, Dixie Ray Hollywood Star comes off as what is often a surprisingly sexy (if you can believe that!) ode to films like the Bogart/Bacall The Big Sleep and the Barbara Stanwyck noir Double Indemnity.  While missing much of the snappy banter and coy innuendo of its obvious cinematic inspirations, director Anthony Spinelli fills in the void this creates with a reasonably complex plot, plenty of arousing dirty talk, strong attention to period authentic detail and some absolutely gorgeous cinematography.

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As usual, Vinegar Syndrome and Process Blue offer an amazing restoration of a likely long neglected print of an effectively underground film, one similarly passed from one Times Square grindhouse theater to the next at the time of release.  To see films like this in such a vibrant, pristine state only serves to put to shame the utter lack of concern of major studios for the preservation, restoration and release of their filmic libraries.

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Seriously, Sony, MGM, Warner, et al…if small startup “boutique” labels are willing and able to lavish this level of attention on no budget, small release cult grindhouse, drive in, direct to video and adult films from the late ’60’s-mid ’90s…what the hell is your lame excuse?

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