DVD Review: Vinegar Syndrome’s January Releases

Vinegar Syndrome could easily be described as the Criterion Collection of Times Square classics. But that’s not good enough. Criterion has an easy job with their releases since there’s plenty of well placed movie critics and historians that have championed their titles from their original theatrical releases to career retrospectives. There’s a sophisticated web of support for even Criterion’s most cult of independently produced titles. When Vinegar Syndrome uncovers the movies of Anthony Spinelli, Carlos Tobalina or Bud Lee, they can’t be relying on the ritzy Film Comment to provide a lavish essay. Most of the reviews of their films were written by critics with fake names. Yet these are filmmakers who worked with an indie passion for their creations on the level of John Cassavetes. Vinegar Syndrome allows the work of these directors to shine with transfers that look better than the prints that were shuttled around to various mobster owned adult cinemas. Vinegar Syndrome has curated a collection that shines a light on the 35mm adult feature film era to people who might not have been born when they were shuttered as VHS arrived. The January slate of four releases from Vinegar Syndrome goes from exploiting a science fiction hit in the ’70s to the end of the 35mm era in 1985.

SexWorld is the adult cinema’s response to Westworld and Futureworld except without Yul Brenner. Anthony Spinelli does a fine job of giving audiences what they were promised in Westworld of a futuristic pleasure palace where guests can truly indulge in their ultimate fantasies. Both of those studio films were PG Rated. What sort of pleasure can audiences really experience with a PG view of the action? Thankfully Sexworld wasn’t made for all audiences. This is a place where guests can indulge in their most forbidden fantasies. A married couple arrives, but they’ve paid for two different experiences. She wants to hook up with her neighbor. He dreams of a night with roommates. Can they return to each other after they get a taste? Another wife dreams of making love to a man who isn’t her meek husband. There’s a lot of jeopardy in people getting to experience their deepest carnal desire. Director Anthony Spinelli does a fine job at getting the mood of the bigger budget films without paying that much. There’s a bit of comedy in that instead of a futuristic mode of transportation to the pleasure resort, the people ride a bus to SexWorld. Vinegar Syndrome has done an outstanding job of giving the completely view of SexWorld with a Blu-ray/DVD limited edition release. They uncovered both the versions of the film including the one for more timid theater. They have an interview with star Kay Parker. She talks of Spinelli as a regular Hitchcock. Actor Joey Silvera has a bit of trouble remembering the shoot. But the guy did seem to make about 2,000 films during this era. Still photographer Joel Sussman discusses how he made sure he was paid for working on these films. He had a major career change. There is even a CD of the music. The theme to Sex World needs to be blasting from your stereo at your next pig picking. Vinegar Syndrome is only putting out 1,500 copies of the special edition so it’s worth ordering promptly from their website.
The Ribald Tales of Canterbury allowed Bud Lee to give his wife Hyapatia Lee a classy production to show off all her talents in 1985. Ribald is considered on of the last of the regularly released adult films shot and released on 35mm film. Sadly many of the theaters that specialized in adult fare were vanishing. This was around the time when Raleigh’s Studio One was converted into a McDonalds. The business was going to videostores with the special backrooms that were restricted to adults. Bud Lee made a production that deserved to be filmed and not merely captured on video. Loosely based on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the movie doesn’t focus so much on the pilgrims’ tales so much as bedroom exploits. Hyapathia is the hostess who makes sure that the journey is memorable for all. The costumes look good enough for a ren fair. The film is perfect for any student majoring in Middle English classics. Bud Lee contributes an audio commentary track to guide you through his creative vision. The DVD is a double feature with another film Bud shot on 35mm with Hyapatia. Hyapatia Lee’s Tasty is about radio station KNUT. The staff is about to get fired if they can’t bump up the ratings. This leads to a lot of scenes that didn’t get on WKRP. Hypathia and her fellow DJs drop the rock format to just talk about carnality on the air. The most amazing moment in the film is the guy who comes out looking like Burt Reynolds. This was a daring move since by 1985, Burt wasn’t that hot anymore. His mustache adds to the comedy. Bud does a video interview about the movie. It’s a fine double feature that allows Hyapatia to look great while captured on celluloid. Hyapatia caused a bit of a stir in the ’90s when supposedly she faked news of her death in order to sell merchandise.
Peekarama: Sexual Heights & Undulation hearkens back to exciting tag team wrestling teams from the early ’80s. Think of all the WWE stars that slapped hands in the middle of a smokey Boston Garden. Not many of them could compete with raw power of John Holmes and Jamie Gillis. The duo appears in both films bringing their pure aggression to the screen. Sexual Heights starts off with John and Jamie as divorced guys living together with two other guys. Jamie has a thing for his former babysitter. They come out with an outlandish scheme to hire her to babysit a doll. They lace all the food and drink in the house with THC so she can get high as the night progresses. Eventually her friends visit and things get wild. This is the type of movie that Hollywood wouldn’t think of making into a feature film today. Undulations is a fake talkshow hosted by Mai Lin and another actress. Their guests are John Holmes and Jamie Gillis. The two men talk about their theatrical careers with clips to illustrate their craft. Ultimately after all the talk, John and Jamie show off their talent with the hostess. The home audience must have been impressed that night. Both movies were directed by Carlos Tobalina, a director whose receiving a career retrospective thanks to Vinegar Syndrome. The trailers to both films are the bonus features. There were coming attractions for adult cinemas.
Peekarama: Three Ripening Cherries & Sensual Fire is another double feature from director Carlos Tobalina (under the fake name Troy Benny). He was a busy man behind the camera during this era. Three Ripening Cherries is not a documentary about agriculture. This is about a trio of ladies that includes Dorothy LeMay, Misty Regan and Brooke West. The girls are learning about the birds and the bees in school, home and in less academic places. The girls quickly get to exploring the pleasures of others and themselves. One of the girls gets a 50 Shades surprise from her teacher crush. The woman have that cute late ’70s look. Sensual Fire has Jamie Gillis without John Holmes. Gillis is a divorced guy who finally finds a woman that’s making him give up his second bachelorhood. It’s all going good for him until her daughter returns from boarding school. He’s torn between the mother and her daughter. He comes up with a scheme to enjoy them both without getting found out. There’s quite a few acting moments from Gillis. Once more he proves that he deserved to be cast in the gritty films of the ’70s. He’s even a little comic in this role of the torn between two forbidden lovers semi-schmuck.

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