• 5 Films 5 Years – Volume 3: Golden Age Erotica (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: July, 2018.
    Director: Phillip Marshak/Thomas Paine/Bill Milling/John Hayes
    Cast: Jamie Gillis, Annette Haven, Serena, John Leslie, John Holmes, Seka, Tish Ambrose, Eric Edwards, Robert Kerman, Rachel Ashley, Amber Lynn, Harry Reems, C.J. Laing, Bree Anthony, Bobby Astyr, Georgina Spelvin, Jessie St James, Jon Martin, Ken Scudder, Sharon Kane, Leslie Bovee, Candida Royalle
    Year: 1989/1985/1975/1979/1978

    5 Films 5 Years – Volume 3: Golden Age Erotica - Movie Reviews:

    To celebrate their fifth anniversary, Vinegar Syndrome give five of their best vintage adult films a welcome Blu-ray upgrade in this exclusive two-disc set. Here’s what to look for…

    Dracula Sucks:

    Directed by Phillip Marshak (who directed one of the segments in Night Train To Terror), Dracula Sucks makes its official DVD debut (it was included on an unauthorized Alpha Blue Archives DVD along with Vamp and Dracula Exotica under its Lust At First Bite cut) in a never before seen director’s cut version courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome.

    The movie is an extremely loose adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula that puzzlingly takes place not in Europe but in a castle located in the California desert sometime in the 1930s. The castle, dubbed Carfax Abbey, just happens to be situated beside an insane asylum and when Count Dracula (Jamie Gillis) takes up residence in said castle, he does what any friendly neighbor would do and pays the guys next door a visit. The asylum is run by a monocled Doctor Arthur Seward (John Leslie) and his assistant Doctor Sybil Seward (Kay Parker) but Dracula is far more interested with the good doctor’s niece, Mina (Annette Haven), much to the dismay of her fiancé, Jonathan Harker (Paul Thomas). Also on hand at the asylum are Doctor John Stoker (John Holmes), Doctor Peter Bradley (Mike Ranger), a nurse named Betty (Seka) and an apple obsessed orderly named Henry (William Margold) – and that’s just the staff!

    Hanging around Dracula’s castle is his old pal Renfield (Richard Bulik), completely insane as per the opening scene, and his wife Irene (Pat Manning) and more than a few ghostly female vampire servants. When Mina’s friend Lucy (Serena) comes to visit, he pays her a nocturnal visit and puts the bite on her (in a very strange scene while she’s sitting on the toilet relieving herself!), turning her into a vampire too. Later John Holmes’ legendary schlong also gets bit and he in turn puts the bite on a certain nurse when she comes to check on him! Just when it looks like Dracula and his cohorts will be able to use everyone and everything in the asylum as their playmates, Doctor Van Helsing (Reggie Nalder credited as Detlef van Berg!?!) shows up to visit his colleague Seward, but Dracula isn’t about to let Mina just slip through his fingers…

    This one is pretty out there, a completely off the wall mix of porno movie couplings of varying degrees of explicitness, low budget horror movie trappings, wild overacting and genuinely atmospheric set pieces. The castle location used for the film helps a lot and it’s quite well lit and pretty well photographed too, but then we get strange contrasts to this like a goofy rubber bat and whatever the Hell is going on in the asylum cells with that guy in the cowboy suit and the girl in the Little Bo Peep costume diddling herself under her skirt right next to him… with a stuffed hanging monkey hovering above. It’s a movie that dresses itself like you’d expect a horror porn hybrid to dress itself but which then throws genre conventions to the wind in favor of barely restrained cinematic insanity. It’s a whole lot of fun, actually.

    The cast, as Margold notes in his commentary track (more on that in a bit) seem to be constantly trying to outdo one another so we wind up with a really mixed bag of thesping here. Leslie has definitely been better but he’s fun to watch as the man in charge of the mental hospital and his scene with uber-MILF Kay Parker is a good one. Parker is a bit underused here but she looks great. Seka is fun to watch even if her trademark blue eye shadow is missing in action while Serena is actually oddly effective as Lucy, bringing a weird otherworldly tone to her performance once she’s been bitten. Annette Haven’s eyebrows look odd here and her hair is kind of overdone but she’s still the natural beauty her fans remember her as and she too can act and does well in the part. John Holmes is goofy as goofy can be and looks amazingly dopey with vampire fangs in his mouth while Ranger and Thomas are fun too. And then there’s Reggie Nalder who somehow wound up in all of this. Not surprisingly he’s got nothing to do with any of the sex scenes but the star of Mark Of The Devil and countless other horror films seems to be enjoying himself acting alongside the top tier of adult talent in the industry at the time, and he gets a few of the best lines in the film.

    Not surprisingly, the real star of the show is Jamie Gillis. Even when his eyes are glowing bright red courtesy of some bad optical effects his work as (a bearded) Dracula is actually quite good. He hits the right mix of over the top theatrical body language and well-mannered line delivery, complete with what we are to assume is a Hungarian accent, you know, to add some authenticity to the fact that this is a Jewish dude from New York playing the world’s most famous Transylvanian! Gillis has always been regarded as one of the most talented actors to ever bone women on camera for pay and you can definitely see how his live theater experience would have prepared him for a role like this. He’s a kick to watch and looks great strutting about in a reasonably lavish looking cape.

    Corporate Assets:

    Thomas Paine’s directorial debut was this glossy 35mm feature introduces us to a business woman named Jill (Tish Ambrose) who is, in fact, a madame – but at least she’s a madame at the corporate level! She watches over a small army of prostitutes (Rachel Ashley, Amber Lynn and a couple of others) who are in the regular employ of a shady businessman named Sheeves (Robert Kerman). For what purpose does he employ these lovely and willing ladies? Blackmail!

    A new female employee is brought on, Babette (Sheri St. Claire), only to learn the truth about Sheeves’ organization and what she’s expected to do, while Jill becomes increasingly unimpressed with life at the office, finding love in the arms of a dreamy park ranger named Winston Fields (Eric Edwards). But Winston’s got problems of his own, he’s haunted by his military past and what his country has asked of him. But Jill’s attempts to get out from under Sheeves’s control won’t come without a cost.

    Presented completely uncut (was the scene where Herschel Savage rapes Sheri St. Claire previously cut? It might have been…), this is a glossy, engaging soap opera that comes complete with decent characterizations, a few solid plot twists, romance, action and intrigue aplenty. The cinematography is excellent and the production values really strong. The lighting, the set design and the costumes/wardrobe are all impressive, even if the fashions on display indicate that, yes, this is very much a product of its time.

    Of course, the cast and what they do to each other is clearly going to be the big draw here. Tish Ambrose is pretty convincing in the more dramatic aspects of the film, sharing some genuine tenderness with Edwards’ Vietnam vet turned park ranger. Edwards is pretty much always reliable from an acting standpoint, he’s as good here as he is anywhere else. Sheri St. Claire as the naïve hooker in training is not only very attractive but actually quite sympathetic while Robert Kerman nails it as the heavy, playing his abusive and sleazy character to the hilt. The supporting cast is made up of some A-listers as well, so be on the lookout for Jamie Gillis, Harry Reems and Paul Thomas as a few of the johns that get involved in some of the dirty dealings, and as was previously mentioned Rachel Ashley and Amber Lynn, both in very fine form here, are well cast as some of the call girls. Herschel Savage plays Kerman’s muscle in the film, and he too is surprisingly convincing in a particularly despicable turn. Bill Margold has a small role in the film as a cop.

    Briskly paced, technically quite well made and surprisingly engaging in terms of its storytelling ambitions, Corporate Assets is good stuff.

    Vixens Of Kung Fu:

    Bree Anthony plays Paula, a young woman whose luck turns sour one day while taking a leisurely stroll through what looks like upstate New York in the middle of the afternoon. She's interrupted by three thugs - Jamie Gillis, Bobby Astyr and some guy in a sweater with a receding hairline - with obviously sinister intent. After verbally harassing her, she makes a break for it but unfortunately for her, these guys possess a tranquilizer gun (!!) and before she can make her escape they shoot her in the back. She falls to the ground and they proceed to strip her and rape her and once they've had their way with her, they leave her there all alone.

    She regains consciousness and soon finds comfort in the arms of the titular Vixens Of Kung-Fu, a small group of three women (comprised of Linda Trussell and Rosanne Lang, and lead by C.J. Laing) who have no use for men and instead find comfort in one another's arms. Laing takes her under her wing and initiates her by giving her a massage and having lesbian sex with her. Once that's out of the way with, it's time to begin her training regimen and she soon learns the ways of the Vixens. We also learn a little bit about Paula's background as a prostitute and learn that she's exactly the kind of mistreated woman that the Vixens want as a pupil.

    Soon, a wandering kung-fu practitioner named Yang (Tony Richards, credited here as Tony Blue) makes the mistake of wandering past the Vixens' training grounds. He's immediately attacked for his error in judgment, beaten to a pulp in one of the most inept on-screen displays of kung-fu ever filmed.

    Scorned by the Vixens, Yang decides that he needs to bone up on his kung-fu skills and so he heads into Chinatown and kneels at the feet of a woman working in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant (Peonies Jong). This woman turns out to be Madame Blue, though Yang insists on calling her Master for some reason. Regardless, she reluctantly takes him on as a student and they head into the woods where she instructs him in the deadly art of her own style - Golden Dragon Raising Head! This primarily involves Yang stroking his...uh... wang. While Yang and Madame Blue are training, C.J. and Paula are running up and down the beach together in slow motion like something out of Bo Derek's filmography. Once the two students are finished training, it's time for the climactic showdown to be held in upstate New York at Bear Mountain (at least it sure looks like Bear Mountain)!

    Wow. What a horribly made film in all of the best possible ways! Vixens Of Kung Fu is definitely 'so bad it's good' material, from Tony Richard's Moe haircut and cheesy earring to the 'Asian style' soundtrack presumably added as an afterthought to give the movie some authenticity as a martial arts film. The martial arts themselves? Amazingly bad. Imagine the likes of Tony Richards, Bree Anthony and C.J. Laing strutting and striking the phoniest looking kung-fu poses imaginable while the film cuts faster than a Russ Meyer movie in an unsuccessful attempt to hide their obvious lack of martial arts training. Someone named Anthony Wong (no relation to the Cat III superstar from Hong Kong we can assume) is credited with 'special kung-fu fighting.' He should have been fired. Yang's tendency to call his female teacher Master time and time again adds to the unintentional comedic value that the picture is overripe with, while the overly long shots of Laing and Anthony running up, and then later down, the same beach pad out the film in a rather curious manner.

    The sole directorial credit of one Lin Cho Chiang (a great pseudonym for Milling) and the only known picture produced by Chiang Productions (likely a fake company all together), Vixens Of Kung-Fu is a poorly made and completely goofy smut film but it's certainly an entertaining mess of a picture. The girl on girl scene with Laing and Anthony is steamier than you'd probably expect though the heterosexual sex scenes in the film are pretty clinical and devoid of all but the most rudimentary sexuality. That said, this is one of those porno movies that modern smut fans are likely going to watch more because of the camp factor and B-movie values than the XXX happenings. Evaluated as a grindhouse oddity rather than a serious adult picture, Vixens Of Kung-Fu is pretty interesting and definitely worth seeing for the copious amount of comedy that it contains when viewed today, more than three decades after it played theaters.

    Interestingly enough, kung-fu porno didn't die with this film. In 2002, gonzo smut peddlers Kick Ass Productions released a series of four Kung-Fu Girls films, which were re-released on DVD in 2007, presumably to cash in on the success of Wicked Pictures' own Kung-Fu Nurses A-Go-Go, which itself was probably made to cash in on Tarantino and Rodriguez' Grindhouse double feature. Digging even deeper into the depths of obscurity, in 2005 Masterlen Productions shat out a fetish video entitled Kung-Fu Masochist in which a chubby girl named Andrea is put through rigorous kung-fu training courtesy of director/producer/co-star Master Len. Alt/punk porn purveyors Burning Angel got in on this too with their release of Kung-Fu Pussy a couple of years ago. Maybe Vixens Of Kung-Fu was more influential than most of us realized!

    The film is also known as Vixens Of Kung-Fu: A Tale Of Yin And Yang, which is how the title card reads on this presentation.

    Tropic Of Desire:

    When this film begins, we travel to a Hawaiian brothel during America’s involvement in the Second World War. The brother’s madame, Frances (Georgina Spelvin), delivers the mail to her working girls and one of the ladies, Rita (Kitty Shayne), gets a letter notifying her that her fiancé was killed in battle. Understandably distraught, she leaves the brothel and heads back to the continental United States.

    Meanwhile, a navy man named Jack (Jon Martin) has just arrived after a year and a half at sea and he can’t wait to get back to his favorite lady of the evening, Donna (Jesie St. James). He’s shown up with two pals, Gus (Ken Scudder) – who is hoping to reconnect with Rita who he believes is actually in love with him, and Phil (Blair Harris) – who is just hoping to get some action for the first time in his life. He winds up getting intimate with Terry (Star Hill) but blacks out, though this doesn’t stop her from going at it solo and Jack gets reacquainted with Donna in a big way. Gus, however, is heartbroken, so Frances does everything that she can to lift his spirits while he falls inside a bottle. From there, another Rita-fanatic, this time a British pilot named Malcolm (James Price), shows up looking for her. She’s a popular one. No luck, of course, but eventually Malcolm and Gus wind up in a room with Mona (Susan Nero) and Gloria (Mandy Ashley) watching a dirty movie complete with some fisting! Frances, however, has to find a replacement for her most popular girl. When June (Dorothy LeMay) shows up looking for work, the elder madame takes it upon herself to make sure she’s got what it takes to make it in the business!

    A fairly effective dramedy obviously made with a modest budget, Tropic Of Desire is pretty well made. The cinematography makes the most of the sets and while the vast majority of the film takes place only in a couple of rooms, it’s nicely lit and Chinn does a decent job of creating and maintaining the illusion. The period attire and score help here too. The cast, however, are what really make this. Jessie St. James is pretty smoldering here and gets quite a bit of screen time while Susan Nero and Mandy Ashely do fine work as well. Spelvin, not surprisingly, steals the show. She has a solo scene involving a conveniently placed throw pillow early on in the movie but it’s her final scene with the beautiful Dorothy LeMay that really cooks. Chinn was definitely recycling some of the ideas that he toyed around with earlier in Sadie, but Tropic Of Desire absolutely has enough going for it in its own right to be quite worthwhile.

    Baby Rosemary:

    Baby Rosemary introduces us, not surprisingly, to a beautiful young woman named Rosemary (Sharon Thorpe), a well behaved lass who has yet to get to know a man in the Biblical sense of the term. This is the source of some frustration to her boyfriend, John (John Leslie), who can’t wait to get it on with his special lady before she heads off to take a new job as a teacher. Rosemary, however, just isn’t giving up the goods. Frustrated, John heads off to release some tension with another girl (a hooker played by Leslie Bovee) while Rosemary heads off to say goodbye to dear old dad – but on the way there, a guy named Mick (Ken Scudder) and his tough lady Katie (Samantha King) rough up and rape poor Rosemary, deflowering her against her will. Sordid!

    From here we jump three years into the future. Rosemary’s she’s come home for the first time in years when she runs into John, now an officer of the law. He tells her that her father, who she was never that close with, has passed away. At the funeral two of her students (Candida Royale and Melba Poche) show up and get it on with the mortician. Although there might still be something between Rosemary and John, she instead searches out Mick and has a torrid fling with him but when Mick tries to clean up his act and become a typical respected member of society, all of a sudden Rosemary loses interest. Could it be that she’s got a thing for bad boys? Maybe, but this proves problematic when Mick responds by threatening to kill poor Rosemary… and then the distraught woman starts hearing from her father again. But wait, isn’t he dead? Yes. Yes he is.

    This one has a fair bit more going on in terms of its plot than your typical raincoater and as such, it’s an interesting picture. John, obviously obsessed with Rosemary, releases tension with a hooker played by Bovee but insists on calling her Rosemary when they go at it in what seems to be some sort of attempt to convince himself that he’s actually had her all this time, basically letting us know that he’s maybe a little unstable. On top of that, Rosemary herself has got that issue with her dead father calling to her, which in turn ties into John’s relationship with her. Hayes definitely put some effort into his craft here and the story proves one worth watching for this reason. Of course, the fact that the movie has a few solid sex scenes in it, all performed by a game cast in their prime, is equally important and the film delivers here as well.

    5 Films 5 Years – Volume 3: Golden Age Erotica - Blu-ray Review:

    The five films are spread across two 50GB discs and presented in their original aspect ratios, each in a new 2k scan that has been restored from the original 35mm negative. Generally speaking, they look great. There’s some minor print damage here and there – typically very minor indeed - but nothing serious worth complaining about. Detail advances quite handily over the standard definition releases that each of these five features have received in the past. Colors look nice, there are no noticeable compression issues and black levels look good. Skin tones appear natural and lifelike and the transfers are free of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement.

    As far as audio goes, each film gets an English language DTS-HD Mono track, there are no alternate language options or subtitles provided here. Clarity is fine for the most part. You might pick up on some minor hiss here and there but we get better depth than we did on the DVD releases. Balance is fine throughout while dialogue stays clean and clear.

    There are no extras to note, just a menus offering film selection on each disc. Note that the fronts of the discs are both labelled the same, save for ‘disc one’ and ‘disc two’ so you don’t necessarily know what films are on each disc until you put them in your player. It’s also worth noting that any extras that were included on the DVD releases are not ported over to this Blu-ray set.

    5 Films 5 Years – Volume 3: Golden Age Erotica - The Final Word:

    Vinegar Syndrome has once again done a great job bringing five of their best vintage adult features to Blu-ray to celebrate their fifth anniversary. Sure, the presentations are barebones but you get a whole lot of bang for your buck and the presentation for each feature is excellent. The movies themselves are all a lot of fun, genuine classics of adult cinema worth appreciating on a few different levels. Highly recommended!

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