• A Touch Of Genie

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: June, 2017.
    Director: Joe Sarno
    Cast: Harry Reems, Tina Russell, Mark Stevens, Eric Edwards, Chris Jordan, Ultramax
    Year: 1974
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    The Movie:

    Joe Sarno’s 1974 hardcore sex comedy, A Touch Of Genie, follows the exploits of a nerdy Jewish guy named Melvin Finklefarb (Doug Stone). Melvin is supposed to be running his second hand store in Manhattan but is far more interested in checking out the action at the nearby porno theaters than keeping his business going. While this upsets his mother (Ultramax) greatly, his life turns around when he winds up, completely by chance, discovering a bottle with a magic genie inside… which he jerks off into. The genie, named Amara (beautiful Sarno regular Chris Jordan using the alias Karen Craig), comes out and as genies are apt to do, she offers Melvin five wishes.

    So what does Melvin wish for? Surprise, surprise – he wants to be able to become his favorite porn stars so that he can live out all the action he’s been watching with such dedication in the theaters all this time. What Melvin doesn’t realize, while he’s ‘becoming’ porn stars and screwing porn starlets, is that the woman he’s longed for all this time may be closer than he realizes. Will Melvin find true love or is he destined to hang out in dirty porno theaters wearing a fake moustache and a raincoat for the rest of his life?

    Featuring cameos from an interesting array of New York City’s finest adult performers including Harry Reems, Tina Russell, Mark Stevens (wearing a Marc Stevens t-shirt no less!), Levi Richards, Eric Edwards, Sandy Foxx and Lynn Stevens among others, Sarno’s film is a fairly subversive XXX’er that works far better than it probably has any right to. The film basically combines the type of Jewish humor that comedians like Jackie Mason made popular in their day with the traditional genie/wishes story and works it into the whole ‘film within a film’ concept. Doug Stone as Melvin never engages in any of the hardcore action, he simply turns into one of the male stars and gets his rocks off that way. With that said, Stone is pretty funny in the part (clearly channeling Woody Allen more than a little bit), hamming it up to the point where it feels like he walked out of a high school play or something and really letting his geeky side take over. We like Melvin enough, though, that we not only want him to get laid but we want him to find love as well – how can you not feel at least a little bit for the poor guy?

    The movie also features some great period footage of New York City, showing off a marquee or two and giving us a good feel for the grit and grim of certain neighborhoods. Most of the indoor locations are pretty minimalist but when Sarno takes his camera outside, it’s a bit of a treat.

    His overbearing mother, however, is the real star of the show. Played incredibly well by Ultramax, best known for appearing in mid-seventies classics like Dominatrix Without Mercy, Through The Looking Glass and immortalized as Marc Stevens’ mother in Shaun Costello’s Joe Rock Superstar, she really gets into her role here. Playing to Jewish clichés without ever getting nasty about it, she’s not only sexy in an odd sort of way but she’s absolutely hilarious in the part. Between her performance here and Harry Reems basically just playing Harry Reems, there are some pretty effective gags, some playful sexual humor and some surprisingly hot sex scenes. All of this works together well enough to make A Touch Of Genie one worth watching and a film that proves (more so than Deep Throat 2!) that Sarno actually had a knack for comedy.


    Vinegar Syndrome brings A Touch Of Genie to Blu-ray ‘newly scanned and restored in 2k from the original 35mm negative’ and it looks excellent. The AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer on the 25GB disc shows great color reproduction and really solid fine detail. Any print damage that shows up here is really minor, just the occasional white speck now and then, otherwise the image is really clean. There’s great texture and depth to the image and color reproduction looks spot on. A noticeable amount of film grain is obvious, but it’s never a distraction or a detriment, it just serves to make the image look like film. No complaints here, this is an impressive picture.

    The DTS-HD Mono soundtrack, in English of course, is on par with the video in that there’s some hiss here and there and the occasional pop but dialogue is properly balanced and easy enough to understand. This mix isn’t fancy, but it gets the job done. Optional English SHD are included, which is a nice touch.

    Extras start off with a featurette called A Touch Of Eric which is a fun twenty-three minute long interview with Eric Edwards. He starts by talking about his late wife, Chris Jordan, who was the ‘star’ in the feature. He then goes on to talk about how this was the first film he worked on with Sarno and with Chris Jordan (or Karen Craig if you prefer). He discusses how the various sex scenes were shot on different ‘heaven looking’ sets that were quite different than the sets used for the non-sex scenes. He talks about how he enjoyed working with Sarno, how he then went on to make quite a few other pictures with him including Laura’s Toys in Stockholm on a set with no running water, Sarno’s attempts to get a specific scene in one take (and how he made it happen!), travelling through Europe because of his interactions with Sarno, a fun story about a European beer hall experience where he was seated between two ladies, and plenty more memories about not just Joe Sarno but his wife Peggy as well. Edwards looks back on this really fondly and has a lot of really genuinely nice things to say about both of them. He also talks about working with both Jason and Tina Russell, working with Harry Reems, getting to know Arcadia Lake after Marc Stevens bailed on a live sex show he was supposed to do and the trials and tribulations of doing five sex scenes a day at Show World in NYC and loads more. Edwards led quite the life and he’s got a great memory – lots of amazing stories here.

    Also on the disc is All About Joe, a twenty-seven minute long interview with Sarno biographer Michael Bowen. After Bowen introduces himself he talks about how he met Sarno in the early 2000s and then goes on to give us a quick history of the man and how he got into filmmaking. He then talks about the importance of Sarno’s work making independent features in the early sixties, his hesitance to get involved with hardcore filmmaking once softcore got brushed under the rug in the seventies, his work on XXX pictures like Sleepy Head and how he then became more prominent as a XXX director once he recognized that the writing was on the wall. He then goes on to talk about A Touch Of Genie, how the actors play over the top Jewish stereotypes (including Russell who by all accounts was raised Catholic), how Sarno wound up becoming a ‘go to’ director for producers who wanted a film brought in on time and under budget, how Sarno’s cast tended to genuinely love working with him and quite a bit more.

    Rounding out the extras is an original theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. This release is a combo pack, so we get a DVD version of the movie, and hey, there’s some nice reversible cover art included here as well.

    The Final Word:

    Those familiar only with Sarno’s more serious side might be baffled by this one but there’s a lot to like about A Touch Of Genie, from Tina Russell’s scintillating performance to Reems’ hilarious supporting role. Vinegar Syndrome has done a fine job bringing the uncut XXX version of the movie to Blu-ray for the first time – the extras are solid and the presentation very impressive.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!