DVD Review: Drive-In Collection: Virgin and the Lover & Lustful Feelings

A few decades back, an obscure director’s legacy would be elevated by getting a curated exhibition of their life’s work by a museum’s cinema or a massive write up in Film Comment magazine. Years later this revitalization transformed into a dedicated night on AMC (formerly American Movie Classics channel). A decade ago a director received true respect with a home video boxset. Kemal Horulu is the type of director who worked without much name checking over the decades. He’s not listed in books about auteur cinema like Woody, Scorsese and DePalma. But he deserves to be mentioned with his fellow New York City directors for his work in the ’70s. A majority of critics and film historians don’t have a clue about Horulu since his films about New York City played at the less prestigious theaters in Times Square. Most of the names in the credits on those kind of films were not real. So why would a movie critic dare praise a director’s work that might be done by different person or even people sharing the name like Allan Smithee. Horulu appears to be the real deal as a single person who grew as a director over the ’70s. His finest work is finally getting properly released on DVD to allow his reputation to flourish. Drive-In Collection: Virgin and the Lover & Lustful Feelings follows up his recent double feature of The Sexualist and Wendy’s Palace from Vinegar Syndrome.

Virgin and the Lover (1973 – 91 minutes) gives birth to the adult version of Mannequin and Lars and the Real Girl. Eric Edwards is a film editor with a couple interests that make him an unconventional star in an adult feature film. First is his desire to cross dress in flouncy and sheer ’70s fashions. This doesn’t make him any less of a manly man since he enjoys women that dress a little butch. His second fetish is a bit of a left turn. He’s got a thing for a mannequin that he perceives as being alive. But can he get hooked up with the real woman he desires? What’s it going to take for him to give up on his plastic passion proxy? Will he have to go to the emergency room for splinters? The movie has quite a bit of comedy for the bizarre love affair angle. Eric edits a movie starring Jennifer Welles (Wendy’s Palace) so you get to see a movie withing the movie without being charged for a double feature. The ending has a fine twist when Eric’s shrink decides to taste the madness for himself.

Lustful Feelings (1978 – 93 minutes) is the top bill on this double feature for a reason. This is Horulu’s masterwork. This is his version of Mean Streets. Although it’s more like Naked Mean Streets. Jamie Gillis is a small time hustler who finds himself in a deep hole with his underworld connections. The only way he can settle one debt is to talk his girlfriend (Leslie Bovee) into being a hooker. He eases her into the job by claiming it’s just a modeling gig. But she quickly catches on that there’s more money in going beyond posing for cheap magazines. As she gets deeper in the seedy carnality of New York City, Gillis keeps racking up his losses. Where will it end for the happy couple? Gillis is intense in this film. He’s got an amazing amount of edge on his screen presence. He does appear to be making a Scorsese film that didn’t require pants. The end scene with Gillis in the park could have easily been a great ending any ’70s-era crime drama. Horulu delivers an adult film that has elements that would really appeal to an adult audience. There’s such a raw flavor to Lustful Feelings. Gillis can do know wrong no matter what’s expected of him in a scene. He can play hard, deceptive and scared without brings a sense of doubt to his performance.

Kemal Horulu may never earn his auteur card from the crowd that worship major directors such as Kubrick and Tarantino. Thanks to the DVD release of Drive-In Collection: Virgin and the Lover & Lustful Feelings, Horlulu must be noted as a true New York based Indie filmmaker such as Lena Dunham. Lustful Feelings was not a feel good movie of the year. He wasn’t held back by studio demands to water down his films to make them audience friendly. He was able to make an adult feature that didn’t have a sweet Hollywood ending. He was able to get the best out of Jamie Gillis in a genre where acting is often seen as a detriment by the audience. Horulu is a director worth discovering as long as you’re 18 or older.

The video is 1.85 anamorphic. The restoration work makes these adult features look as good as when they debuted in the ’70s. The audio is mono. There’s a bit of a rumble on the tracks, but nothing that destroys your ability to hear what’s going on before the cast unzips.

Trailers are provided for both movies. They are for adult audiences.

Drive-In Collection: Virgin and the Lover & Lustful Feelings is a double feature from Kemal Horulu. Lustful Feelings is a New York City gangster flick that deserves more respect. This is a no holds and no underwear visit to the underbelly of Manhattan thanks to Jamie Gillis’ performance.

Vinegar Syndrome presents Drive-In Collection: Virgin and the Lover & Lustful Feelings. Directed by Kemal Horulu. Starring: Jamie Gillis, Leslie Bovee, Jennifer Welles and Eric Edwards. Rated: NC-17. Boxset Contents: Two movies on 1 DVD. Released: October 8, 2013.

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