• Pets

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: May 25th, 2018.
    Director: Raphael Nussbaum
    Cast: Ed Bishop, Joan Blackman, Candice Rialson, Teri Guzman, Brett Parker, Matt Green, Mike Cartel, K.T. Stevens
    Year: 1974
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    The Movie:

    Raphael Nussbaum’s 1974 film Pets tells the story of a beautiful woman named Bonnie (Candice Rialson) who escapes from her creepily controlling pimp-esque brother (Mike Cartel) and makes it out into the streets of early seventies Los Angeles and then the beach. Here she befriends a kindly prostitute named Pat (Teri Guzman) and the pair quickly hit it off. Soon enough, a man named Dan (Brett Parker) tries to bring the two lovely ladies back to his place for a little entertainment – his wife is out of town and while the cat’s away, the mice will play. What Dan doesn’t expect along the way is for Pat to pull out a gun as the two girls bind and rob him. Pat takes the keys and leaves Bonnie to look over him while she pilfers his pad. Eventually Pat kills Dan’s dog – she’s not a very nice person.

    The drama intensifies when Pat learns Bonnie told Dan that she wasn’t brandishing a real pistol, but a fake one. Pat splits, leaving Bonnie to hook up with a weird gang of hippies. After that, Bonnie meets a vivacious lesbian painter named Geraldine (Joan Blackman) who convinces Bonnie to pose for her by offering her room and board for a little nude modelling time. She agrees, and the painting that results is quickly snatched up by wealthy Vincent (Ed Bishop). Bonnie and Geraldine hit it off but as Bonnie becomes closer to hunky criminal Ron (Matt Green), Geraldine’s affection soon turns to jealousy and Ron winds up with a bullet in him.

    Understandably put off by this, poor Bonnie splits and winds up taking solace at Vincent’s place, unaware that Vincent’s art collection is rivaled only by his collection of living, breathing women kept caged in the basement of his mansion…

    Co-written by director/producer Nussbaum with Richard Reich who based the story on his own three-act play that premiered off Broadway in 1969, Pets moves at an appropriately leisurely pace, clocking in at almost an hour and forty two minutes, but builds to a really strong conclusion. The cinematography is of good quality and the score from Jorge Del Barrio appropriately odd.

    While the infamous marketing materials showing Candice Rialson and Teri Guzman chained and collared in contrasting black and white outfits is definitely an eye catcher, it’s more than a little misrepresentative of the film in question. That’s not to say that Pets isn’t an exploitation gold mine – it’s got some marginally kinky scenarios, plentiful pleasing nudity, wicked cool seventies fashions and loads of super slick dialogue all working in its favor – it just isn’t bondage-heavy as that image alludes to. Still, if you’re into seventies drive-in fare, this is pretty much essential viewing thanks in no small part to presence of curvy blonde Candice Rialson. She appeared in a quite a few films worth the time of anyone interested in this review, like Candy Stripe Nurses, Mama’s Dirty Girls and Hollywood Boulevard but this is her first leading role and she’s great in the part. She not only looks fantastic but she proves a more than capable actress, handling the more dramatic aspects of her character just as easily as she does Bonnie’s sexier, more uninhibited traits.

    Not to be outdone, Teri Guzman and Joan Blackman are also great in their roles. Guzman plays the tough, conniving con artist perfectly and while Blackman’s character may be a definite exploitation movie stereotype, she manages to create an interesting and memorable character out of Geraldine. Ed Bishop is also quite solid in his part, bringing just enough natural creepiness to his role to really shine here.


    Vinegar Syndrome brings Pets to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer that is framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and taken from a new 2k scan of multiple 35mm prints. A definite and noticeable improvement over the old Code Red DVD release (now long out of print, it was interlaced and taken from very rough elements), the picture does show some print damage and is less than pristine, but so too is it more than watchable. The opening credits are a bit worse than the rest of the film in that regard, things clean up quite nicely after those first few minutes but then get a little scratchy here and there throughout depending on what source was used. Detail is quite solid, there’s a lot of good texture here and a nice amount of depth. Colors aren’t always completely consistent, they fluctuate a bit here and there, but for the most part they are reproduced quite nicely, if unevenly, black levels too. All in all, a very film-like presentation akin to watching a theatrical print that might have made the rounds a few times – which for fans of this type of exploitation cinema should be more than fine. Clearly VS has done the best with the elements available.

    The DTS-HD Mono track, which comes with optional English subtitles, is of similar quality to the video quality. There’s a bit of hiss here and there but nothing so distracting as to take you out of the movie. Dialogue is clear and easily discernable while the levels are properly balanced throughout.

    As far as extras go, the main supplement is Brotherly Love, a fifteen minute interview with actor Mike Cartel who also served as production assistant on the movie. Here he speaks about his work wearing both hats in the film, his friendship with the director, and what he did on the shoot – everything from working as a grip to bringing coffee on the set. He notes that Nussbaum did not want to direct the film, his interactions with the different cast and crew members who worked on the shoot, an interesting story about Jeff Bridges, hanging out in the director’s hot tub and quite a bit more – Cartel absolutely fills his fifteen minutes with some interesting stories and background information on the film and those who made it.

    Aside from that we also get a trailer for the feature, an alternate opening credits sequence that uses the alternate title of One Night Stand, an archival still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    As to the packaging, Vinegar Syndrome has included some very cool reversible cover sleeve art as well as a slick embossed slipcover that really sells the movie with its awesome painted art. A DVD version of the movie is also included.

    The Final Word:

    Pets is not just a great showcase for the late Candice Rialson and a few other equally talented sirens of the silver screen, but it’s an engaging and well-made slice of very seventies flavored exploitation. It’s sexy, it’s tense, it’s twisted and it’s great! Vinegar Syndrome brings this one to Blu-ray looking as good as it can under the circumstances – and with some extras as well. Highly recommended!

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