Christmas Evil

Color, 1978, 92m.
Directed by Alex de Renzy
Starring Desiree Cousteau, Juliet Anderson, John Leslie, Joey Silvera, Flower, Paul Thomas
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), VCA (US R0 NTSC)

Pretty PeachesHigh up there in the pantheon of screwball sex comedies from the porno chic era is this freewheeling cult classic, which made an instant sPretty Peachesuperstar out of Georgia-born Desiree Cousteau and confirmed director Alex de Renzy's status as one of the best (and most twisted) of the creative minds in the second half of the '70s. The film also marked the peak of his hot streak following previous, fairly extreme successes like Femmes de Sade and the infamous Long Jeanne Silver, titles you can't even begin to imagine playing on major American movie screens today. Though widely censored on home video, the film was successful enough to inspire two De Renzy sequels without Cousteau, available on DVD as a double feature from Vinegar Syndrome.

This was actually one of a pair of high-profile adult films from '78 inspired by Terry Southern's Candy (itself a derivation from Candide) along with the more faithful and straightforward The Erotic Adventures of Candy. Here Cousteau takes starring honors as the bubble-headed Peaches, a daddy's girl who runs around in super-short shorts to go see her cowboy dad (Leslie) get hitched in Vegas to his feisty girlfriend (Flower). A nasty crash leaves her unconscious in the woods where she's discovered by two guys including Joey Silvera, who takes advantage of her unwilling condition. They decide to let her move in with them when she turns out to be suffering from amnesia. Soon she winds up tangling with a randy psychiatrist (Thomas), a lot of gropey lesbians, and other assorted fruitcakes before a climactic baby oil orgy gives her a few more answers than she was Pretty Peachesexpecting.Pretty Peaches

Despite the fact that everything is played for laughs (and successfully so), Pretty Peaches had a very rocky history on home video with the often timid VCA issuing it on tape and DVD in drastically edited form. The biggest casualty was also the film's biggest claim to fame, an outrageous sequence half an hour in featuring Cousteau getting "cleaned" in a public bathroom by a nutty doctor. For years this scene was only present in the French edition, though Alpha Blue did manage to cobble together a complete bootleg version of wildly varying quality. Even in edited form the film managed to sustain a solid reputation among fans of golden age classics, stacking up nicely against the many top-tier comedies made around the same time. On top of that you get a hefty roster of familiar faces in the group sex scenes including Holly McCall, Turk Lyon, and many others.

For its uncut home video debut in the U.S., Vinegar Syndrome has given the limited 1500-unit, dual-format Pretty Peachesrelease the red carpet treatment as part of its ongoing series of notable de Renzy releases. The Blu-ray features a sterling HD presentation of the complete feature from a new 2K transfer, and it looks spectacular with pitch-perfect color and detail. You can easily chuck out any other release and be happy with this one. Also included are three bonus de Renzy trailers for Femmes de Sade, Pretty Peaches II and Baby Face II. The DVD features the film and trailers plus two additional standard def extras; the big one here is apparently the only known de Renzy interview on video, short just before his death, with 19 minutes devoted to his early career including his "porno king" status for the first theatrical adult films released in the U.S. and France. He also reveals the surprising connection between one of his most famous films and an Oscar-winning makeup artist and reminds us of one of Ron Jeremy's most notable, often forgotten talents. Then there's an 11-minute interview with Dr. Ted McIlvenna, a major player in San Francisco's creative and sexual communities who talks about his long-spanning friendship with the prolific de Renzy starting with a filmmaker event called "the Circle of Delight" and including his pals like Joan Baez. Amazing stuff and a perfect capper for a very welcome release.

Reviewed on November 16, 2014.