• Pick-Up



    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: December 12th, 2017.
    Director: Bernard Hirschenson
    Cast: Jill Senter, Alan Long, Gini Eastwood, Tom Quinn, Bess Douglass, Don Penny
    Year: 1975
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    The Movie:

    Audiences lured into theaters by the trailer that was released for Pick-Up were probably expecting light sexploitation fare. And while there’s no shortage of skin on display in this title, they likely left confused by what they’d just seen – a fairly dark, and utterly strange film that plays as much like an art picture as it does a drive-in exploitation film.

    Two pretty young women - Carol (Jill Senter) and her friend Maureen (Gini Eastwod) – are hitchhiking across America. They figure they got lucky when a guy named Chuck (Alan Long) stops to pick them up in a giant motorhome. He’s heading to Tallahassee and he doesn’t mind at all if these two ladies tag along. And so, they hit the road, with Maureen killing time reading Tarot Cards in the back and Carol smoking some weed and getting down to some tunes. Things get interesting when, as they’re driving through the Everglades, a storm breaks out and they lose their way. After the motorhome gets stuck in the mud and they realize they aren’t going anywhere, Carol and Chuck decide to head out and explore the swamp together while Maureen gets more in touch with her spiritual side when the goddess Apollo gives her a staff and she winds up lying nude on an ancient ritualistic altar.

    As this trio becomes used to their new surroundings, it almost seems as if they’re content to stay here rather than attempt to find their way back… and then things get strange as Maureen’s past collides with her present, Chuck and Carol have slow motion sex, a politician (Don Penny) campaigns on a conservative values platform and a creepy fucking clown shows up.

    Crown International marketed this as a sexy hitchhiker film but this is, despite the high quotient of sex and nudity, pretty trippy stuff. The narrative is presented in a far more ‘stream of consciousness’ style than in a traditional, linear format and there are times where the film doesn’t just dabble with surrealism but full on embraces it. Originally titled Pazuzu (which is what the title card for this restored presentation reads), it’s clear that first time director Bernard Hirschenson (who also shot, edited and produced the picture) was aiming for more than just titillation. At times, he gets there, while at other times the story gets a bit buried underneath the director’s knack for strange imagery. The flashback scenes aren’t always that well done and the ending is a bit of a mess.

    And yet, the movie is fascinating in its own strange way. The performances aren’t necessarily great but they are earnest and committed. Nobody here is shy, that’s for sure, with both Ms. Senter and Ms. Eastwood (no relation to Clint) showing off all that the good Lord gave them, and there’s an admirable energy to their work in front of the camera. They went all in on this one, with Alan Long holding his own here too. If the film is imperfect, it definitely stands out and remains an engaging and entirely bizarre take on the outer fringes of America, sex and spirituality. Unfortunately Hirschenson, who shows loads of promise here, would never direct another feature.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Vinegar Syndrome presents Pick-Up on a 50GB Blu-ray disc in an AVC encoded 1080p transfer taken from a ‘brand new 2k restoration of the film from the 35mm original camera negative.’ In short, it looks fantastic. The movie’s occasionally dreamy, hazy cinematography looks excellent here, a high bit rate on the disc meaning that there are no compression artifacts to contend with. Colors are reproduced very nicely and skin tones look nice and natural. There’s very little print damage here, just the occasional small speck now and again, and the image is free of edge enhancement or noise reduction. All in all, this is a very nice, film-like offering and a pretty substantial upgrade over past DVD issues of the film.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono track is free of any issues. The film’s soundtrack sounds quite good, punchy when it needs to be without overpowering the performers in the film. Dialogue is easy to understand and to follow and the levels are properly balanced throughout. Optional English subtitles are provided.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary for Pick-Up featuring director Bernard Hirschenson moderated by Joe Rubin. They talk about how the version of the film presented on this Blu-ray is the original version with the original title, how Crown International completely changed the opening of the film. From there, we get a reasonably scene specific talk as Hirschenson talks about the opening credits, finding the locations, shooting with a small film crew, serving as the film’s cinematographer as well as its director, some of the themes that the film explores, how the film was originally intended to be called The Swamp Lord, his thoughts on the performances that are delivered by the different cast members in the film, the film’s distribution history, how it wound up with Crown, the visuals employed in the film and what inspired Hirschenson while making the picture and loads more.

    Up next is an interview with Bernard Hirschenson that runs twenty-three minutes. He talks about getting his start making $12 a week in 1948 working as a gopher. From here he learned the business, figured out what other people did in the film industry, and then worked his way up doing grip work, sound work, prop work and more. From there he talks about getting into photography and working as a cinematographer, having to serve in Europe for the United States Army, and then how he started working on bigger projects when he got back, including West Side Story. At this point he talks about working at Orgy At Lil’s Place and how all that came together, shooting and lighting the orgy scene, working with director Jerald Intrator and his thoughts on the movie itself. He also talks about working with Intrator on Satan In High Heels, before then going on to discuss his work doing commercials, his experiences shooting Richard Nixon, scripts that he has written over the years that he’d like a younger generation of filmmakers to make, and various other projects that he’s had a hand in over the years.

    Up next is an eighteen minute long audio interview with co-star Gini Eastwood conducted by Joe Rubin. It starts off with Eastwood talking about her childhood in upstate New York and how she got into dancing and then eventually acting as she got older. She then moved to New York City full time after finishing high school and releasing a record, worked as a chorus girl on Broadway for a while, worked with Frank Gorshin, performed in Jesus Christ Superstar and quite a bit more. She then goes on to talk about working on Pick-Up, Hirschenson as a director, what it was like on set during the shoot and a few interesting things that happened out in the Everglades, such as coming across a group of Cuban commandos training in the swamp and, when shooting the altar scene, being interrupted by the arrival of some alligator poachers!

    It’s also worth pointing out the inclusion of a second feature on this disc, and that comes in the form of the 1963 picture Orgy at Lil's Place, which was co-produced and photographed by Bernard Hirschenson. Transferred from elements belonging to the American Genre Film Archive, this film was directed by Jerald Intrator (credited as J. Nehemiah).

    This film is narrated by a woman named Ann (one-time Playboy Playmate Kari Knudsen). She’s a foxy redhead who moves to New York City to live with her pretty dark-haired sister Sally (June Ashley). Before long, they’re both working as nude models catering to the big city’s art scene. And then, eventually, there’s an orgy.

    This one is really light on plot but it’s an interesting time capsule for sure. Shot without live sound, the whole thing is narrated by Ann (though in all likelihood Knudsen, a Norwegian, didn’t do the voice acting here) so it has a strange, distant quality to it. Still, it’s very nicely shot with some interesting camerawork and good lighting. This was obviously made without much of a budget but it does a nice job of capturing a somewhat bohemian vibe, tying into the art scene setting and capturing the stranger side of New York’s socialite culture.

    As to the orgy itself, clearly meant to be the main draw given the film’s title and all, it’s definitely on the more restrained side. Yes, there’s nudity and what not here but this is far less exploitative than you’d probably expect it to be. It is interesting to note, however, that the bulk of the film is shot in black and white, but once it’s time for the group grope, the movie switches to color film stock.

    Rounding out the extras are the original theatrical trailer for the feature, a teaser trailer for the feature, alternate Crown International opening and ending credits, a still gallery for Orgy At Lil’s Place, menus and chapter selection. Vinegar Syndrome has also provided some very cool reversible cover art that displays the Pick-Up artwork on one side and the Pazuzu artwork on the reverse.

    The Final Word:

    Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release of Pick-Up is impressive. The film has never looked better, it shines on Blu-ray, and the disc is loaded with extras highlighted by a very good commentary and the inclusion of a second feature in the form of the obscure sexploitation pictures Orgy At Lil’s Place. All in all, a really solid package for anyone interested in the genre.

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