TROPIC OF DESIRE FANTASY WORLD DEEP TANGO YOUNG SECRETARIES PURELY PHYSICAL CATHOUSE FEVER PRETTY PEACHES 2 PRETTY PEACHES 3: THE QUEST
ALL NIGHT LONG
Color, 1975, 79m.
Directed by John Hayes
Starring Sharon Thorpe, John Leslie, Leslie Bovee, Ken Scudder, Monique Cardin, John Seeman, Candida Royalle
TAPESTRY OF PASSION
Color, 1978, 81m.
Directed by John Hayes
Starring Jon Martin, Christine De Shaffer, Brigit Olsen, Desiree Cousteau, Mandy Ashley, Sharon Kane, Juliet Anderson
Color, 1979, 81m.
Directed by Bob Chinn
Starring Georgina Spelvin, Blair Harris, Jesie St. James, Kitty Shayne, Starr Wood, James Price, Don Fernando, Jon Martin
Color, 1979, 79m.
Directed by Bob Chinn
Starring Jesie St. James, Sharon Kane, Laurien Dominique, Valerie Darlyn, Lisa Eldridge, Jon Martin, Jesse Adams, Michael Morrison, James Price, Paul Thomas
THE ULTIMATE PLEASURE
Color, 1977, 71m.
Directed by Carlos Tobalina
Starring Kristine Heller, Jeff Lyle, Nina Fause, Iris Medina, Annette Haven, John Holmes, Ray Wells, Candia Royalle
I AM ALWAYS READY
Color, 1979, 75m.
Directed by Carlos Tobalina
Starring Marlene Munro, John Holmes, Ronie Ross, Blair Harris, Vicky Lindsay, Mike Horner
Color, 1973, 86m.
Directed by Zachary Youngblood
Starring Mona Watson, Keith Henderson, Annette Haven
Directed by Richard Kanter
Starring Jan Mitchell, John Barnum, Sharon O'Hara (Colleen Brennan), Gary Schneider, Vincene Wallace, Gordon LePage, Brittany York
Color, 1982, 82m.
Directed by ChrisWarfield
Starring Laura Lazare, Jade Wong, Michael Morrison, Joey Silvera, Nicole Black, Juliet Anderson, Dana Moore, Danny Weirdman, Tigr
Color, 1984, 78m.
Directed by Chris Warfield
Starring Becky Savage, Rhonda Jo Petty, Herschel Savage, John Colt, Misty Dawn, Debbie Truelove, Rick Cassidy, Tommy Drake
Directed by Alex de Renzy
Starring Siobhan Hunter, Hershel Savage, Tracey Adams, Melissa Melendez, Peter North, Jamie Gillis, Tami White, Billy Dee, Ron Jeremy
Directed by Alex DeRenzy
Starring Keisha, Jamie Gillis, Rachel Ryan, Victoria Paris, Mike Horner, Lynn LeMay, Don Fernando, Priscilla Love, Jon Martin, Marc Wallice
Vinegar Syndrome (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9) and Full Frame
TROPIC OF DESIRE
PRETTY PEACHES 2
PRETTY PEACHES 3: THE QUEST
The "Peekarama" series from Vinegar Syndrome has been a very welcome development for fans of off-the-wall vintage adult films, and that tradition continues in full force with All Night Long and Tapestry of Passion. These mid-'70s comedies from busy studio Essex (both directed by Alan Colberg, who appeared in front of and behind the camera throughout the decade) highlight one of the era's most popular male stars, John Holmes, whose infamous manhood made up for what he lacked in, well, looks and screen presence. Made in 1975, the first film is basically a sex competition between Holmes and softcore/hardcore genre stalwart Ric Lutze to see who can bed the most women in a single night, a bet that starts off at a southern-fried banquet where awards are given out for on-camera carnal accomplishments. The men's exploits (involving a multitude of races, positions, and occupations, including a geisha and a dominatrix) are broadcast to the crowd via closed circuit TV. The female cast is a lively batch of familiar second stringers like Suzy Chung, Desiree West, Veronica Taylor, and Sharon Thorpe, and the comedy works pretty well coupled with gaudy, colorful art direction.
The second film is another in Holmes's string of Johnny Wadd adventures, credited by series creator Bob Chinn and trotting the stone-faced private eye through another perilous plot involving a femme fatale. Said femme in this case is the murderer of submissive John Leslie, who gets offed after one flashback and leaves behind a mysterious wife (Annette Haven), a potential witness (West), and Wadd's client, Jean (Leslie Bovee), sister of the deceased. Needless to say, most of his investigation involves thrusting his way through the entire cast one at a time. A bit glossier and better acted than most of the dirt-cheap Wadd outings before it (some of which were softcore), this one sets the stage for his best-known future exploits like The Jade Pussycat and Blonde Fire. Both transfers from the 35mm negatives look terrific and appear to have been kept in pristine condition, easily blowing away the dull VHS-era masters floating around from Essex and Electric for years; the theatrical trailers for both features are also included.
Our next pairing is a couple of genuine Bob Chinn films and one of the best Peekarama releases to date, the gloriously hypersaturated Tropic of Desire and Fantasy World. The first film is a vibrant hothouse melodrama, sort of a companion piece to Chinn's tropical soap opera Sadie, about a bunch of American sailors about to go on leave with Japanese forces now starting to retreat. They manage to find both conflict and sexual comfort at a palm-enshrouded Hawaii brothel run by Frances (Georgina Spelvin), a madam who isn't above servicing some of the men herself. Her stable of girls (including Jesie St. James, Kitty Shayne, and Starr Wood) takes care of the new arrivals (including Blair Harris, Jon Martin, and oddly short-lived James Price), but the drama unfolding outside the bedrooms turns into a powder keg bound to lead to a violent explosion. Nicely acted and very steamy, it's an inventive and overripe little gem that easily stands as one of Chinn's best.
Fantasy World is no slouch either, with much of the same cast returning for an all-out fantasia about a strange club where six neophyte visitors (a trio of Screw-reading sailors and some sexy working girls) find themselves becoming spectators in an ongoing show emceed by a peculiar conjurer in white makeup and a top hat. An opening routine involving a snake and the Garden of Eden gets their attention, with the line between audience and performer blurring as they become swallowed up in a night-long orgy of indulgence.
Drawing some obvious aesthetic and narrative inspiration from another Vinegar Syndrome title, Bijou, Fantasy World also anticipates the dark aesthetic that would become familiar in adult films thanks to Cafe Flesh, Nightdreams, and the films of the Dark Brothers, among many others. It's visually impeccable from start to finish and features a string of unusually enthusiastic sex scenes, which essentially account for 90% of the film. It isn't exactly packed with superstars of the era, but everyone seems to be giving their all and having fun with scenes that are lit and executed with more care than usual. Definitely recommended, and it probably goes without saying at this point that both transfers from the original negatives look sparkling clear from start to finish in all their candy-colored glory. The gaudy theatrical trailers for both films are also included.
One name familiar to Vinegar Syndrome fans is Carlos Tobalina, the idiosyncratic madman behind such gonzo '70s epics as Jungle Blue and Marilyn and the Senator. He gets the spotlight again courtesy of a double feature of two of his more widely available Essex projects, starting with The Ultimate Pleasure (whose gorgeous poster art has been featured in several publications dedicated to the period), previously available in a drastically shortened gray market version from Alpha Blue. Starring under the name "Priscilla St. James," Kristine Heller (familiar from films like 7 into Snowy and V the Hot One) stars as Rose, a sexually repressed woman married to cab driver Jim (Jeff Lyle). When he winds up in possession of a stash of money being carried by a dead mobster, Jim sends Rose off for treatment at the hands of the world's most unlikely shrink (Marilyn's Fause, who manages to deliver even less of a performance here), while he bops off to Vegas for orgies set up by Annette Haven. (Back then, who wouldn't?) Both of them sleep their way through the cast (including a young Candida Royalle), and no points for guessing how it all ends up. If that sounds straightforward, well, bear in mind this is a Tobalina films which means lots of out-of-nowhere speeches about personal liberty and random "artsy" interjections, such as a "dream"(?) opening involving Lyle, Holmes, and a bunch of naked women in front of a projection screen.
The second film is also a variation on the "how much sex can money buy?" idea, I Am Always Ready, which posits that every woman would blow her fortune on being able to sleep with John Holmes. Right. So anyway, Ronie Ross stars as an heiress (playing herself, or some variation thereof) who decides to use her new family fortune to fund a porn project in San Francisco. That's pretty much the entire plot as she arranges a variety of film shoots, getting dream man Johnny in on the action along with a ton of other regulars like Dorothy LeMay (High School Memories), Marlene Munroe (also seen in those aforementioned Bob Chinn films), and a very young Mike Horner from his "Roy Clark Jr."/"Don Hart" days. Tobalina was never much of an actor's director so he can't elicit much from Ross (who's hilariously wooden at times), but if you're looking for late '70s weirdness instead of bona fide erotica, you'll find plenty here. As with the other Tobalinas, these are beautiful new transfers from uncut elements that bear little resemblance to the miserable past editions; the trailers for both are included.
As early '70s as smut movies get, Deep Tango charts the bohemian misadventures of Pauline (Mona Watson) and John (James LeGros look alike Keith Henderson), who meet up while apartment hunting; imitating a certain renowned Marlon Brando film (with Watson even sporting a Maria Schneider-styled hairdo), they decide to hook up there in the afternoon without sharing any personal information. Pauline's day job as a nurse working for a sex therapist put her in contact with some strange characters, such as a naked woman who won't get out of a bathtub filled with her own blood, while John's girlfriend (a young Annette Haven) ropes him into film shoots and orgies involving lots of robes and general weirdness. As with that Brando classic, it all ends with a pistol and a bullet, but not before lots of amusingly pretentious touches like stock footage of trains intercut with the sex scenes. Presented full frame from what might be the only print left in existence, it's a strange curio most enjoyable as a counterculture cash-in rather than a straight-up slice of erotica.
Paired up on the same disc is The Young Secretaries, a tacky little comedy about a guy named Robert (John Barnum) who runs a "one-man advertising service," Crystal Ball. His hunt for new secretarial help coincides with his efforts to save his business from the clutches of his two-timing wife (Colleen Brennan), with most of the staff too busy hooking up on company property to realize their jobs might be in jeopardy. And, uh, that's about it. Also obscure and presumed lost until this release, the film is presented full frame as well in "as is" condition and appears to be one of those odd beasts made during the transition from softcore to hard; very little of it qualifies as explicit, which makes it even more jarring when the film occasionally steps a bit over the line. Hats off for preserving these two, which could have otherwise joined an untold number of fellow titles in oblivion.
Now we cross the threshold into the 1980s, when attempts at merging mainstream production values and attitudes with unsimulated sex were rapidly fading away (along with any pretense at "socially redeeming content"). Case in point: Purely Physical, another variation on the "sex motel" idea where we visit numerous rooms with various couples taking turns on each other. Chris Warfield, who had transitioned from cranking out 8mm loops to classier offerings like Champagne for Breakfast, brings the loop aesthetic over here thanks to the framing device of a neophyte journalism major named Kathy (Laura Lazare), who takes a night job working the front desk at a motel to better study human nature. She gets an eyeful thanks to a string of businessmen, hookers, and newlyweds, all eager to try out the hotel sheets. Among the clientele are Joey Silvera (whose menage a trois scene presents an unusual twist), Juliet "Aunt Peg" Anderson (who nearly stops the show with a pre-Body Double solo routine), Nicole Noir, and Jade Wong. The proceedings are beautifully shot and filled with a variety of character flourishes, which makes for a fine time killer and one of the better outings from this transitional period in the industry. Oddly enough, Lazare gets the shortest shrift in the final scene (the weakest encounter in the film), but otherwise it's a durable example of how 35mm productions could have continued to flourish throughout the VHS age.
Its companion on the same DVD is another Warfield project released two years later, Cathouse Fever. As you can probably guess from the title, it's about girls from all walks of life who end up working in the world's oldest profession. Our narrator is guitar-strumming L.A. secretary Becky Savage ("I know I've got great legs but nobody else knows it"), who decides to relieve her lonely nights by turning tricks after fantasizing about coupling on the floor with Hershel Savage. So she packs up and heads to Las Vegas to see how the other half lives, ending up in a brothel where wacky hijinks include tag-teaming girls and a guy whose wife's taped his mouth shut (to keep him from talking to girls). Our girl gets started quickly with a seasoned john named Mickey Macho (John Colt), and they both revolve in and out through the rest of the film as we meet the rest of the girls and guys of the establishment (including a weird game of cowboys and indians and a striking bit involving Rhonda Jo Petty and a lot of cash on top of an office desk). Needless to say, our heroine finds out more than a little about herself before she heads back home. Neither of these films fared especially well on home video before this release (VCA, 'nuff said), so the transfers here are a real revelation with the more daring flourishes (like the hallucinatory Bava-style lighting during Cathouse's finale) finally able to be appreciated. Trailers for both are included, with the Cathouse one apparently a textless rough cut that was never finished.
Our last stop through the wilds of the Peekarama series lands us near the other end of the '80s with a pair of titles from Alex de Renzy, a prolific genre auteur who made a splash in the latter half of the '70s with the kinky Desiree Cousteau hit, Pretty Peaches. It took a while before two sequels were commissioned and rolled out with much fanfare by VCA, who slapped trailers for them on seemingly every single one of their VHS releases for years. An '80s porn star in every physical way, Siobhan Hunter was brought on to play the upbeat and ever-curious title character in 1987's Pretty Peaches 2. Here she's living a dysfunctional life with her mom (Tracey Adams) and her boyfriend (Peter North), who hook up after an unfortunate incident involving voyeurism, a cramp, and a butcher knife. Her dad (Savage again) tries to give her some life and sex advice, which sends her off to visit her uncle (Ron Jeremy) in San Francisco and wind up getting involved with every man in sight-- including a matronly grandmother who turns out to be Jamie Gillis in drag.
Gillis and Adams returned two years later for Pretty Peaches 3: The Quest, but the title character this time was played by the very different Keisha (who had actually been in the biz a bit longer than her predecessor). Peaches' nonstop sex dreams get her sent by her mom to a lesbian shrink (Rachel Ryan) who in turn refers her to a smarmy televangelist (Gillis, natch) and his country-fried better half (Victoria Paris). You can pretty much imagine where that all goes, complete with satirical jabs at '80s religious shysters. Then it's one adventure after another as Peaches traverses through sapphic Swedish farm girls and a couple of California cults, with the last one a bizarre scam act run by perennial goofball Mike Horner. How much you get out of both of these films will probably depend on your familiarity with '80s smut, which has an aggressive tackiness that can seem downright alien to anyone who didn't come of age during the Reagan years. The hairstyles fill up most of the screen, the art direction and clothes are loaded with neon, and the female physiques are really starting to fill out with silicone (foreshadowing the video age's plunge into total artificiality). The twisted de Renzy humor is still in evidence, thankfully, and his striking visual sense makes these among his last efforts before lapsing into anonymous workmanlike assembly line titles until his death in 2001. Both transfers look gorgeous, not surprisingly, with the 35mm first film (presented 16:9 of course) looking a bit more polished than the video-geared second one, which was lensed in 16mm and is presented full frame as originally shot. A trailer for the first film is included, which should bring back memories for more than a few people who can remember adjusting the tracking on a VCR.