Color, 1976, 79m.
Directed by John Hayes
Starring Sharon Thorpe, John Leslie, Leslie Bovee, Ken Scudder, Monique Cardin, John Seeman, Candida Royalle

Color, 1978, 81m.
Directed by John Hayes
Starring Jon Martin, Christine De Shaffer, Brigit Olsen, Desiree Cousteau, Mandy Ashley, Sharon Kane, Juliet Anderson
Vinegar Syndrome (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Baby Rosemary

Though not advertised as such, this double feature "Peekarama" release from Baby RosemaryVinegar Syndrome is a collection of the two most notable adult films by director John Hayes, better known to drive-in fanatics for Grave of the Vampire, Garden of the Dead, and Dream No Evil, among others. Like many of his peers, he tried to imbue some personality on his pseudonymous hardcore work (usually under the name Howard Perkins) with these two toying with the horror and screwball comedy genres to mostly positive effect.

"I've got to say goodbye to my father tonight," says the title character of Baby Rosemary (Sharon Thorpe) to her cop date John (Leslie) as they make out in the hallway. She has to leave for a three-years teaching assignment, and he's not thrilled. Eventually she tells him to scram since she has other things to focus on, which means going into her apartment and standing naked in front of her mirror accompanied by delirious voiceovers. Clearly, this is a woman with daddy issues -- and she seems to be a virgin to boot. Meanwhile a frustrated John runs off for an unsatisfying quickie with Leslie Bovee on some filthy-looking apartment stairs. Then there's a bizarre, unpleasant scene in which Rosemary is forced into a threesome by a knife-wielding bisexual woman and her boyfriend (Scudder).

When she returns to town again, Rosemary and Baby RosemaryJohn reconnect after he delivers the news that her father's died, something that she takes unusually well. As it turns out, he was an abusive, neglectful jerk, and Rosemary's voluptuous students (including Candida Royalle) are weirdly snide and catty when dealing with the newbie mortician. Then two of the girls, uh, have sex with said mortician in front of a bunch of Universal monster posters, of course, while carrying candles and chanting about the "penetrator of the eternal womb" as Rosemary and John watch at the doorway. That's enough to Baby Rosemaryget Rosemary too heated up for comfort as she and John finally cut loose in the bedroom, after which she goes to get some more from that aforementioned switchblade tormenter and her sadistic boy toy. From there Rosemary's grip on reality seems to slip -- or perhaps there really are occult forces at work -- which leads to an extended finale with the whole cast having an orgy in the smoke-filled funeral parlor in front of her dad's body, complete with a skull-faced participant.

As far as hardcore horror films go, this one doesn't even aim for the delirious heights of the best efforts (Through the Looking Glass, The Devil Inside Her, and The Destroying Angel, for example). In fact, it's really more of a roughie for most of its running time before the third act plunge into skull-faced sex orgies and fog-enshrouded insanity, which scores points more for sheer weirdness than actual chills. That said, Thorpe makes for one heck of an unsettled heroine, and the whole cast handles the seedy material well.

Like most Essex titles, Baby Rosemary (which has nothing to do with a certain famous Roman Polanski film despite its title) made the rounds on VHS both from the original releasing company and sublabels like Electric and Excalibur, all of them watchable but nothing spectacular. Not surprisingly, this 2014 transfer is a massive improvement across the board and up there with the best of the label's DVD editions so far. The negative has been kept in terrific condition, and it really does look like a whole new film here. Top marks all around. The sole extra is the theatrical trailer ("Haunted by her baby doll fantasies, she searched everywhere! The first film produced by an Academy Award nominee to give the adult film audience explicit, erotic sex!").Baby Rosemary

Baby RosemaryBetter known for its catchy poster art than its merits as an actual film, Hot Lunch is a goofy, nearly plotless comedy that kicks off with a blackout sketch involving some colorful characters watching a couple have sex outside the titular San Francisco restaurant. Inside we meet some equally dramatic folks, like Juliet Anderson (Aunt Peg herself) and Sharon Kane who have a hair-pulling cat fight in the kitchen before making out on the floor. Less fortunate is Andrew (industry staple Jon Martin), who gets sacked from his job when he can't work around the amorous lesbian action; that same night he even gets dumped by his wife when he finds her having a disco orgy drenched in dry ice. However, the process of finding employment and getting a divorce turns out to be full of surprises, mostly in the form of women who have sex with him at the drop of a hat. Will he ever find love again? Hey, it's a romantic comedy; what do you think?

Fairly amusing and heavy on comic turns by game stars of the era (including cute Desiree Cousteau, who gets one of the best scenes), Hot Lunch is a typical offering from the end of the '70s when adult features were edging closer to the tone and production values of mainstream Hollywood; it's fast paced, slick, and entertaining, the sort of thing adventurous couples could go see on a date before the raincoaters took over the theaters again. Jon Martin manages to carry the film well, proving why he would remain in demand well into the '90s, and Christine DeShaffer (fresh off of Teenage Cruisers) is well cast as our hero's possible salvation.

As with the first feature, this was an Essex title with an identical home video history; likewise, the transfer shapes up just as well with an often scorching array of colors from nearly pristine film elements. This time extras are slightly more robust thanks to two theatrical trailers (one explicit, one soft) and a smattering of alternate soft versions of scenes used for the "cool" theatrical version, which may have turned up on cable at some point.

Reviewed on June 13, 2014.