Of all of the previously released films of sexploitation auteur Joe Sarno, A Touch of Genie seems a rather odd choice to settle on for restoration and reissue.
The absolutely least Sarno-like entry in the New York filmmaker’s entire oeuvre, this decidedly Yiddish theateresque comedy fails to fall under any of his established periods, neither of the much feted chiaroscuro dramas of sin and consequence of the 1960s, his more liberated and expansive Swedish period or his mid-to-late 70’s hard-R pictures featuring known adult film stars (but rarely if ever “crossing that line” on camera).
Now, if they’d delved into his known adult pictures (many of which came with the “Inside” titling, covering known commodities like Seka, Annie Sprinkle and Jennifer Welles and promising newcomers like Little Oral Annie), the rationale here may have been a bit more obvious.
But despite the straight up hardcore footage (and numerous stars of the genre), A Touch of Genie is very much of a comedy more than an adult picture per se…and unlike his other comedies of the same year or thereabouts (Deep Throat Pt. II, The Switch, or How to Alter Your Ego), feels quite borscht belt in tone.
An amazingly dorky nebbish named Melvin (Douglas Stone) comes back from his usual trenchcoat and gag-nose sporting trip to the Deuce theatrical circuit to discover that his latest acquisition is in fact the equivalent of a magic lamp. Frantically messing with the thing (which is more accurately a cheap Grecian-style flowerpot or vase) ends with Melvin releasing his very own genii (the usually quite cute Chris Jordan, one time wife of costar Eric Edwards, albeit here made up so garishly as to evoke that horror show Mimi from The Drew Carey Show).
The victim of both his own geekishness and the overbearing mothering of the frightening Warhol Factory hanger-on Ultramax (who actually gets in on the action briefly…shudder), Melvin uses his newfound power to…well, take on the part of various adult film stars like Harry Reems, Marc Stevens and Eric Edwards, to bang cutie Lynn Stevens and his personal fetish, Tina Russell (whose husband Jason both cameos and apparently came up with the idea for this one in the first place!). Note of curiosity: another cameo features none other than F.J. Lincoln of last month’s That’s Outrageous…
Ms. Stevens is pretty cute, there’s a happy ending with a more normal appearance Chris Jordan, and if you dig Tina Russell, she gets a lot of screen time. But is this what anyone’s thinking of when it comes to a Sarno film?
Hell, no – at times, it practically feels Andy Milligan with its sheer low rent, hideous and constrained sets and if not cattiness, then certainly kvetchiness…an odd choice to pick and restore, inasmuch as said restoration job is an impeccable one.
Secret Key’s Deep Throat Comedy Collection (which also featured the other aforementioned Sarno comedies) featured an edited, rather rough looking Grindhouse print of the film, filled with running lines and speckling which ran 1:09. There was a slightly harder to find XXX version running 1:22:18, but the print was of similar quality (subjectively speaking, the color was a touch more vibrant if garish, and they seemed to be a bit less of the reel damage…but even so).
Vinegar Syndrome brings A Touch of Genie to viewers in a comparatively stunning 1:25:50 print, brought up to the usual standards of the company’s releases to date (which is to say, rather vibrant if not stellar, with bold color and contrast and surprising clarity throughout).
The reversible cover features some more appropriate Playboy cartoon-style poster art, and the disc comes with an amusing extra with the likeable Eric Edwards (23m). There’s also a 26m chat with a Michael Bowen about Sarno and the initial theatrical release of the film.
Bottom line, if you’re a Sarno collector or really into Lynn Stevens, Tina Russell or (a fully clothed) Chris Jordan, you’ll probably want to grab this one. The more casual Sarno fans, however, may want to sample a bit of this glaring oddity among the man’s work before diving in.