Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
Released on: August 30th 2016.
Director: Kirdy Stevens
Cast: Kay Parker, Juliette Anderson, Turk Lyon, Mike Ranger, Dorothy Lemay, Tawny Pearl, Michael Morrison
Purchase From Amazon
Kay Parker had made a few adult films since starting in 1977 at the age of 33 years old (which was unusually old by industry standards) but it was the 1980 production, Taboo, directed by Kirdy Stevens, that made her a star. Parker, with her subtle and sexy English accent and impressive figure really embodied the ‘hot mom’ that many younger men seem drawn to. It’s for that reason, and the fact that she’s a solid actress capable of carrying a dramatic feature, that she’s the perfect choice to play the lead in this film (which obviously deals with the truly taboo theme of incest). While there had been plenty of porno movies made about this type of family affair before Taboo came along, this was the first to really qualify as a blockbuster. Most of its predecessors were really low budget, almost underground productions stemming from the seedy side of the New York City porno scene of the seventies. Stevens’ film presented the subject in a more serious manner, and also in a more sensual one dealing with Freudian themes and the repercussions of what can happen to a mother and son who dare to take their relationship to the next level.
Parker plays Barbara Scott, a roughly middle-aged woman who has recently gone through a divorce and finds herself single again. Like most women her age, Barbara has needs and so she tries to find a new man to fill the void that her ex has left. The film opens with Parker fucking a man named Chris Scott (Turk Lyon), her ex, in her bedroom but once it’s over, he leaves her for his secretary. The next morning, Parker, in her nightgown, is making breakfast for her son, Paul (Mike Ranger). Paul is no stranger to the ways of love, and we soon see him going to town on his girlfriend Sherry (Dorothy Le May) while the two of them are supposed to be studying. In the midst of their hot and heavy session, a friend named Diane (Tawny Pearl) walks in on them and the two lovely ladies do their best to make sure Paul’s well taken care of.
From there, mother and son have a talk about their day. It turns out that Barbara got a new job and that Paul doesn’t need to worry about school because she’s made sure that his father is going to help out with the finances. The next day Barbara is at work where she winds up fending off sexual advances from her boss, Jerry Morgan (Michael Morrison). She quits, or it looks like she’s going to, until he apologizes. Meanwhile, Barbara’s friend Gina (Juliet Anderson) is fucking around with two friends (Don Fernando and Miko Yani) who are doing their utmost to get her off.
However, back at the Scott home, Paul walks in on his mother in the shower and, unbeknownst to her, really likes what he sees. He watches her get dressed and is obviously excited by her. Barbara heads out for the night and leaves Paul studying with Sherry again, and now that he’s all turned out he can’t wait go to town on his buxom friend. Mom, on the other hand, has gone to a party where a bunch of swingers (Brooke West, Gary Eberhart, Jesse Adams, Jeff Scott, Jeremia Jones, Ken Scudder, Lee LeMay, Holly McCall, Sarah Harris, Starr Wood, T.J. Carson, and Valerie Darlyn) are all hanging out. Soon enough they all start kissing and fondling each other and an orgy breaks out, everyone sucking on everyone else in a giant daisy-chain of a fuck wheel. Barbara isn’t interested, fending off advances from a blonde hippy, and after watching everyone else fuck until they can’t fuck any more, her date for the evening drives her home. When she gets there, she can’t take it anymore, her pent up frustrations getting the better of her. She heads into the house and she sees Paul lying in bed and goes down on him. He wakes up, not in the least bit upset to find his mother hanging off of his dong, and then they go at it like two dogs in heat.
With the two of them having broken the ultimate taboo, Barbara decides to head off to work the next morning but she does leave Paul a note saying she wants to talk to him about it when she gets home. Cut to the office where Barbara can’t concentrate. She and her boss go for a walk to unwind and it looks like the two of them might be falling for one another. She comes home after her day out to talk to Paul, but he doesn’t want to hear it – he wants her! She fights his advances at first but soon she can’t help herself and once he’s gotten her warmed up she’s putty in his hands. Barbara heads over to her friend Gina’s house to talk to her about what’s happened and as Barbara confesses she watches Gina let her fingers do the walking and as Barbara keeps talking, she works herself to an orgasm – is there no one Barbara can turn to that isn’t obsessed with sex? She just needs someone to talk to, damn it! Torn between two lovers – her boss and her son – Barbara’s got some serious soul searching to do if she wants to figure this all out…
An interesting cast, a reasonably intelligent storyline and a truly controversial subject make Taboo a classic. Parker has the right kind of sexual charisma required to carry the film and her two scenes with Ranger are highlights of the movie in spite of (or perhaps because of) the risqué elements that they contain. While the movie could have dealt more with the ramifications and guilt that both parties would likely feel, this is a porno film after all and you can’t really fault it for not being as deep as it probably should have been. Regardless, despite the hardcore content – and there’s no shortage of it – the story treats its subject matter pretty seriously and injects enough character development and well crafted dramatics to hold our attention from start to finish. The movie also features a solid score, it’s quick in its pacing and it’s well edited.
Kirdy directs with some flair and the cinematography is definitely better than average as it does a fine job of capturing the San Francisco locations where the story plays out. It’s Parker’s show, however. She steals every scene that she’s in and she makes quite an impression not just in the sex scenes, but in the quieter moments as well. She’s believable in the part, not just because she looks it, but because her performance is clearly committed – she sells it! The supporting players are pretty decent too. Juliette Anderson as her nympho friend is rather charming in her rampant horniness, but she too handles herself quite well in the scenes where she’s asked to act, rather than react. Mike Ranger is good as Paul, he too brings a believable enough style to his performance that we buy him as he wrestles with his feelings and his emotions. Throw in the beautiful Dorothy Lemay in a welcome, but underused, supporting role and an appearance from super foxy Brook West and, yeah, the cast are a big part of what makes this one work as surprisingly well as it does.
Taboo debuts on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer taken from a 2k scan of ‘35mm vault elements’ which means that the negative wasn’t available to be used and this was probably a print source. Regardless, it looks quite good. There’s some mild to occasionally moderate print damage here and there – scratches and what not, and some more noticeable than others – but nothing so serious as to take you out of the movie at all. Colors are really nicely reproduced, never too hot or oversaturated, while skin tones look lifelike and natural. Detail is quite nice and texture as well, you can really notice this when the movie heads into the bedroom – check out the pilling on the sheets or the flecked paint job on the headboard! There are no problems with any compression artifacts and the transfer is free of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement.
The old DVD release from Standard Digital was fullframe. Here’s a quick comparison between that DVD (on the top) and this new Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome (on the bottom):
Framing is definitely tighter on the top and the bottom of the frame but not in a bad way, and there’s quite a bit more information evident on the left and right sides of the frame. The compositions looks quite a bit better here, not to mention the increase in detail, clarity, color reproduction and… pretty much everything else.
The only audio option provided for the feature is an English DTS-HD Mono track, there are no alternate language options or subtitles provided. The audio is fine, there’s decent depth here and good clarity. The score sounds nice, it’s well balanced like the rest of the track, and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion. The music during the opening scene has some nice bounce to it, the bass is pretty strong here and for an older single channel mix, things shape up quite nicely actually.
Amazingly enough, there are four commentary tracks included on the disc - two new ones and two archival tracks. The first new track features leading lady Kay Parker and moderator Joe Rubin from Vinegar Syndrome. This is a fairly scene specific track that starts off by talking about how the producer and writer’s bedroom was used for the opening scene and how Parker was and remains surprised that this movie about incest was written by a woman. They talk about how this was the film that sent Parker into the upper echelon of adult film actresses, how she met Kirdy Stevens and wound up being cast in the film despite her trepidations in regards to the subject matter, the locations that were used for the shoot, how she felt like a fish out of water as she was still reconciling her involvement in the making of pornographic films, the nervousness that seems to be a big part of what makes her performance so good and what her experiences were like working on the set of an X-rated film with her work on V – The Hot One. There’s also some talk about the psychology behind the sex scenes in the film, her thoughts on the other cast members who appeared in the film, the energy that existed on set, the film’s poster art and its variations and how the movie was marketed, and of course, the film’s most infamous scene in which she goes at it with Mike Ranger. The track is quite informative, Parker really opens up here and it’s well paced and very listenable – good stuff.
Writer/producer Helen Terrie takes the spotlight on the second new commentary track. She jumps in with both feet and talks about how Kirdy Stevens used to collect old black and white stag movies, his enthusiasm for it, how he wound up building a film developing machine so they could develop their own dirty movies for kicks and how this eventually led to going pro. Rubin is here again as a moderator, trying to keep her on topic as she details the early days of the porno movie industry, girlie movie arcades and their prominence in California and how the cops were not cool with any of this. She then goes on to talk about some of her writing credits, including her first feature, Lollipop Palace, which she co-wrote with Stevens (who passed away in 2012), which was sold to a chain of theaters run by a man who had some mob ties. She talks about how Taboo sold incredibly well on video, which led to the making of Anytime, Anyplace and then the other Taboo films that followed because they were not allowed to make a sequel to Anytime, Anyplace because of the stipulations of their contract on that picture. There are some great stories here about how Kirdy Stevens was born in Japan and raised in an orphanage after being born to a mother who was born in Germany and a father that was born in Russia. She talks about how he left at fourteen and spent the rest of his life in California without any family, how she ‘picked him up at the beach’ and how they got married shortly after. There are a lot of great stories here. Terrie is keen to tell her story, it would seem, as she talks about different people she’s worked with over the years in front of and behind the camera, such as Julio Macat (who wound up shooting Home Alone and a bunch of other mainstream pictures!), the importance of tax write-off’s in the industry, shooting features compared to shooting loops, why Stevens stopped the Taboo series after the fifth film, their friendship with none other than Dick Miller, Eric Edwards, Mike Ranger, Ginger Lynn, Sharon Kelly and plenty more. This isn’t scene specific, it’s barely Taboo specific at times, but it’s an interesting look back on Terrie’s life and times in the adult film industry and the people she knew and worked with during those years.
Carried over from the old Standard Digital DVD release are the two commentary tracks, the first of which is Kay Parker again. There are a few too many stretches of dead air on this track, but when Parker has something to say it is worth listening to. She talks about working with a few of her co-stars on this picture and how professional many of them were. She also talks about where various scenes were shot and what it was like working on the movie. She doesn’t lend a lot of insight into the picture but she does tell some decent stories even if the moderator, who more or less mutters in the background, should have done a better job of prodding for information and keeping her on track. Parker is critical of her performance at times, explaining that much of the movie was done using only one or two takes. She points out that the movie is, to an extent, a commentary on how times and society as a whole had changed around the time that this film was shot. Her memory is spotty at times, and she’s honest about that, though she has no problem pointing out a sleazy cast member or two when the time comes. The most interesting part of the commentary is when Parker talks about when she was confronted on a talk show by a group of religious people in San Francisco who wanted the film banned and how a few other people rose to the movie’s defense.
Also carried over from that DVD is the commentary with director Kirdy Stevens who covers the history of the film. Kirdy is joined here by Helen Terrie. This is a little slow at times but Kirdy has some interesting trivia and stories to tell, explaining how Turk Lyon got his name and how he went about casting the film. He talks about meeting Dorothy Le May and how Jesse St. James was initially wanted for the lead role that finally wound up with Kay Parker. Stevens, interestingly enough, never wanted his female performers to swear in the film, stating that what you see on camera should be enough. They talk about why certain angles were used for certain scenes and where various scenes were shot (parts were shot in a real estate office!). There’s some dead air here and there, unfortunately, but when the two of them are talking this is an interesting look back at the making of the movie. Terrie talks about the fact that many producers concentrate more on the stills so that the box art will be strong and that copies will move but with this film they concentrated more on the shooting of the film, which resulted in having to come back and shoot some stills after the fact. Stevens obviously put a lot of thought into the color schemes that we see in the movie, using orange and red to make things look ‘hot’ in various intervals. The two even talk about how Boogie Nights borrows from Mike Ranger’s life and how he looks ‘pretty’ and ‘sincere’ when he’s interacting with Kay Parker’s character.
Also of interest to fans of classic adult cinema will be the Interview With Kay Parker (7:14 – also carried over from the older DVD release), who still looks gorgeous. She talks about how the film has become a cult classic and elaborates on why she thinks this is. She talks about how she joined an improvisational acting group which led to her meeting John Leslie who introduced her to the world of adult filmmaking in San Francisco. Her first appearance in an adult movie was a non-sex role, but from there she went full tilt into hardcore and how it was difficult at first to actually fuck on camera because she started to panic a little bit. She talks about how she met Kirdy Stevens and how she was impressed enough with the script for Taboo that she was interested in taking the role and the rest is history. She claims to have no regrets, and comes across as a smart and intelligent woman who knew exactly what she was doing on camera. Parker also talks about which co-stars she slept with on camera made it feel natural and which ones did not, pointing out that the more natural scenes turned out better than the other ones.
Rounding out the extras on the disc is a still gallery of promotional material, animated menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release there’s also a DVD included inside the clear Blu-ray keepcase. Vinegar Syndrome has also provided some cool reversible cover art for the disc, with an alternate poster image used on the flipside of the insert.
The Final Word:
Taboo holds up well, it’s a psychologically compelling adult film that treats its controversial subject matter with maturity, but not at the expense of the requisite titillation! Kay Parker is great in the lead and the rest of the cast do fine work as well, while the technical merits of the production are quite solid. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray debut for the film carries over all of the extras from the previous DVD release and throws in two new – and legitimately engaging – commentary tracks to compliment the 2k re-mastering.