• Peekarama: Sunny / More Than Sisters

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    DVD Release Date: August 29th, 2017.
    Director: Shaun Costello
    Cast: Candida Royale, Marlene Willouhgby, Merle Michaels, Rick Iverson, Lynn Stevens, Jamie Gillis, Colleen Anderson, Eric Edwards, Robert Kerman
    Year: 1979/1979
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    The Movies:

    A double dose of Shaun Costello classics from 1979 courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome’s Peekarama line of vintage adult movie double features!


    The first film stars Candida Royale as the titular Sunny, a working girl who makes a very nice living servicing the clients she’s hooked up with by John Carmichael (Jake Teague). The plot thickens when a well to do heiress named Mabel Carter (Marlene Willoughby) talks to Carmichael and arranges his help in a scheme. Her late husband has left everything in a trust to their son, Marc (Rick Iverson as Jeremy Wyatt), who has inherited everything but shown no interest in the family business. Mabel would like to get back control of the company to stop its stock from plummeting even more than it has since Marc took over. How is this going to work? Marc’s weakness is sex. When she was younger she could control him this way but as she’s aged, that isn’t the cast anymore. She wants Carmichael to get a woman who will take orders from her and trap Marc to fall for and eventually to marry her.

    Of course, that woman is Sunny and before you know it, Carmichael has flown her in from San Francisco to New York City. But before she splits, we see her makes some quality time with her roommate Claire (Merle Michaels). From there, Sunny – who is “hardly an avocado” – is introduced to the mustachioed Marc by boatman Harry (Gordon G. Duvall as Sleepie La Beef). Marc is quite intrigued by his new friend and soon enough they’re screwing on the deck of his yacht. A few days later Sunny meets with Carmichael and Mabel, tells them what happened and explains that Marc was impressed enough with her that he wants to ‘test’ her. As the plot evolves and Sunny and Marc get closer, Sunny and Marc go at it some more, Mabel gets it on with whoever she pleases (including her chauffeur), Sunny winds up in a kinky photo shoot that turns into a gang bang, and Marc and his mom get more intimate than New York State law allows for. There’s also a weird costume party scene that turns into an orgy of sorts atop some nasty looking shag carpeting and then, of course, a bit of a twist ending.

    Nicely paced and well shot with a good cast, Sunny is a fairly dreamy, light porno movie. The plot isn’t heavy, but it’s enough to bridge the scenes nicely enough and the cast are game. Marlene Willoughby and especially Candida Royale are both very good here, handling the dramatics as well as the couplings and showing plenty of enthusiasm in their respective roles. Rick Iverson struggles a bit with some of the acting his part calls for but he rises to the occasion when he needs to. Had there been a bit more effort put into Costello’s plot this one would have stood out more but as it stands it’s a decent entry in his filmography.

    More Than Sisters:

    More Than Sisters also sees Costello playing a man whose loyal wife is plagued by nightmares. In order to try and get her some help, he pays a visit to a psychiatrist named Dr. Bannister (well-played by Jamie Gillis), who ascertains that the only way to help the woman in question would be to interview her. It seems that the poor woman is experiencing some pretty serious sexual experiences in her dreams, which are causing her to make some rather unorthodox requests from her husband.

    As she’s brought into the asylum where the good doctor operates, the same hospital where her sister has been locked away for some time, we learn that there’s a whole lot more going on here than pill popping and group therapy – it seems that everyone here has some sexual hang up of some sort, and that they’re only too happy to work them through with one another.

    The sign on the hospital used for this film reads Hartenwood Asylum and places it in Quebec, though it’s unclear if that was the real name of the institution used in the film or not (it’d be understandable if the powers that be that let Costello shoot his film there didn’t want the real name used). It could very well have been in Quebec, as the buildings don’t bare any resemblance to any of the better known mental institutions that are scattered around the New York and Long Island areas where Costello would shoot most of his pictures. The location shooting inside the hospital is quite fascinating, whether it’s authentic or not (I’m leaning towards yes on this one). It has a bizarre, sterile and medicinal feel that makes for an interesting contrast to the copious amount of bumping and grinding that goes on behind its walls. The scene in which a certain character comes up to the entrance and sees the staff leering, shot with a fish eye lens, has a rather ominous effect.

    Those who watch seventies porn for awesome New York City footage might not see as much of that here as in some of Costello’s other films (Water Power, for example, takes place almost entirely in Times Square – or at least gives us the illusion that it does) but there are some great shots here, including one where Costello’s character and his wife come out of a theater showing A Chorus Line. We get some nice marquee shots here and the cinematography shows off the seemingly omnipresent Coca-Cola sign that we see in so many movies from this era, as well as a great, massive Gordon’s Gin sign. There’s lots of light and neon here and the film has that time capsule quality that makes so much similar material so interesting to a lot of people. There’s also some nice footage of Central Park and lower Manhattan

    As far as the acting goes, More Than Sisters is better than average. Costello is good in his supporting role here while Lynn Stevens makes for a positively lovely leading lady. Her natural good looks and attractive face and figure make her plenty easy on the eyes and she shows some admirable spirit here as well. Gillis is good as the doctor, just as pompous and seemingly arrogant as you’d hope he would be in a part like this, though a bit more restrained than he’s been in some of his better known films. As far as the eroticism quotient goes, the first scene in the film shows Costello’s character and his wife in bed together and there’s a fair bit of heat here, even if the anal looks a bit uncomfortable! This is followed by a scene with Roger Cain and R. Bolla doing what hospital interns shouldn’t ever do to a patient no matter how pretty and blonde she may be. Gillis gets into it with a nurse who goes down on him before he gives her a spanking, but only has the one scene here. Eric Edwards and Lynn Stevens make a good couple in their scene together, sharing some champagne in a fancy room before getting down and dirty, and the ‘big finale’ scene involving quite a few of the principal players all at once is interestingly shot.

    As Scorsese’s influence was all over Water Power, so DePalma’s influence is all over More Than Sisters (even the title is a nod). A few interesting and familiar sounding musical cues work their way into the picture to nice effect while the film is generally well shot, well lit and at least trying to do something a bit different with the genre. It’s not always one hundred percent successful – if you start to think about the plot too long you’ll realize how ropey it all is – but Costello certainly deserves credit for attempting such an ambitious project in the first place. A great cast and some really interesting locations are this film’s strongest points and make it a pretty interesting watch.


    Both movies are presented in transfers in standard definition transfer taken from new 2k scans of original 35mm archival elements. Both films are framed at 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen. There’s some mild print damage here and there on each film but nothing so serious as to take you out of the movie. Detail is pretty decent and colors are nicely reproduced. Black levels are fairly solid here and the transfers are free of compression artifacts, noise reduction and edge enhancement.

    Both films get the English language Dolby Digital Mono treatment. Clarity is just fine in each film with the music used in each feature sounding nice and clear. Balance is fine in each picture and while range is understandably limited by the original elements you can always understand the dialogue well enough.

    The main extra on this release is an audio commentary featuring Costello that plays over More Than Sisters. Moderated by Joe Rubin, this track Costello joins in via Skype and the quality is pretty rough, but the conversation is interesting enough. They start off by talking about how the movie came to be, then talking about the locations used in the film, how the various cast and crew members came to join the production, the noirish qualities of the film, the producers that he worked with on the picture, the challenges of shooting and impromptu anal scene, who threatened to shoot who when someone refused to do a scene and quite a bit more. They also talk about the making of Sunny a fair bit on this track, about how it was the last film he made for a particular producer, where he shot the film, how he came to direct, the shooting schedule and more.

    Aside from that we get a trailer for Sunny, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Both Sunny and More Than Sisters are well worth seeing for anyone interested in seventies smut. They both feature good casts and solid direction and offer up more than just the requisite bumping and grinding. Vinegar Syndrome’s DVD release is a good one, presenting both films in nice shape and with an interesting commentary track from their director.