• Fleshpot On 42nd Street (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: March 26th, 2019.
    Director: Andy Milligan
    Cast: Laura Cannon, Neil Flanagan, Harry Reems, Paul Matthews, Earle Edgerton, Fred J. Lincoln
    Year: 1973
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    Fleshpot On 42nd Street – Movie Review:

    Directed by Andy Milligan and released theatrically in 1973, Fleshpot On 42nd-Street revolves around Dusty Cole (Laura Cannon). She once worked as a Times Square prostitute but now lives a grumpy middle-aged man named Tony (Richard Towers) in Queens. He’s always after her to help out more around the house and to get a job but she figures she’s paying her own way by sleeping with him. Eventually, Tony puts her on the spot and she decides rob him, fencing his valuables for cash. Or at least she tries to. She heads to a pawn shop run by Sammy (Earle Edgerton) but winds up robbing him too when he refuses to pay her what the items are really worth unless, you know, she does a little something extra for him under the table.

    Dusty winds up reconnecting with catty drag queen Cherry (Neil Flanagan, credited as Lynn Flanagan!), and after a conversation she winds up moving in with her, agreeing to go 50/50 on the rent. Dusty starts working as a hooker again, earning some money from kinky john Jimmie (Paul Matthews), but soon falls in love with a lawyer named Bob (Harry Reems). After they spend the night together at his family home on Staten Island, she starts to wonder if maybe he’s ‘the one’ and if maybe she should go straight. In order to do that, she’ll need to make a bit more money, however, which is where Jimmy and his equally sleazy pals Fred J. Lincoln, Tony Johnson and Ron Keith) come in…

    One of the last films to come out of the Andy Milligan/William Mishkin partnership, Fleshpot On 42nd Street is an exploitation picture and not one of the horror films for which the director is better known. It also works as a genuinely interesting drama, and as a bit of a character study piece as well. At times the movie feels like something akin to the late 60’s features that Paul Morrisey was directing for Andy Warhol in that it focuses on seedy characters rather than ‘average’ people but it’s definitely got Milligan’s stamp all over it, particularly when it comes to the dialogue (Cherry’s dialogue in particular).

    Cast with a strange mix of early 70’s adult film stars and members of Milligan’s company of stock players, the acting here is quite a bit better than it is in many of his other pictures. Laura Canon and Harry Reems, who worked together on Shaun Costello’s Forced Entry the same year and on Dark Drams in 1971, are very good here. You get the impression that they really do care for one another, their scenes together are earnest and feel very genuine. This does a lot to elevate the picture, while Neil Flanagan steals pretty much all of the scenes that he appears in, providing the film with a bit of welcome comic relief. Paul Matthews, who showed up in The Oral Generation, does a fine job of playing the john with a taste for rough stuff, while supporting work from Ron Keith (of Milligan’s Vapors and Guru The Mad Monk), Tony Johnson and Fred J. Lincoln (star of Last House On The Left and numerous adult film productions) are quite good in their respective roles.

    Note that this version of Fleshpot On 42nd Street is completely uncut, which means that it does include two brief hardcore sequences between Laura Cannon and Harry Reems. In the context of the scenes in which they occur, they actually come off as surprisingly loving and romantic rather than crass or exploitative. It’s also worth noting that this is how the film was shot, these are not inserts added at a later date but reflective of the film’s original version.

    Fleshpot On 42nd Street – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Fleshpot On 42nd Street to Blu-ray taken from a new 4k scan of the original 16mm reversal framed at 1.33.1 fullframe and it’s quite a revelation over what we’ve seen before in terms of how this film has been treated. The 1.33.1 framing looks better here than it did on the Something Weird DVD-R that matted the film to approximately 1.85.1. That version looked pretty tight, whereas this version improves on certain compositions and opens things up a bit more. Those who want the film in widescreen, a 1.85.1 option is also included. The elements used for this transfer were clearly in very nice shape. The image quality here is miles above the previous release and color reproduction much stronger and more natural looking. Black levels are also improved in a big way, and skin tones look better too. There’s a lot more detail, depth and texture evident here as well and the image is free of obvious compression artifacts. There’s surprisingly little visible dame here, just some white specks here and there. You might notice a hair in the gate once in a while and some very minor wobble but otherwise, it’s hard to complain about this at all. Again, it looks so much better than it ever has before – it’s pretty impressive!

    The DTS-HD Mono track on the disc is also pretty decent, given the elements available. There was no audio available with the uncut reversal used for the transfers so Vinegar Syndrome basically had to reconstruct the audio to match this version using a few different sources. As such, the track is understandably a bit uneven but those accustomed to the somewhat rough ‘around the edges’ nature of most of Millgan’s work won’t be too taken aback by this. There are a few spots where the score sounds a bit punchier and some spots where it sounds a little less punchy but generally speaking this is fine. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Kat Ellinger, Samm Deighan, and Heather Drain provide an audio commentary that is less about the film specifically than it is about Milligan in general. Still, it’s an interesting talk that see the trio make some interesting observations about the man’s work and about how this film compares to some of his other pictures. They talk about the locations a fair bit and focus quite a lot of time on the themes that this and other picture sin the director’s cannon deal with, and also make some interesting points about how some of what we see here would likely have been influenced by some of what Milligan went through in his own life. They also offer up some trivia and information about a few of the cast members, some of whom Milligan collaborated with often, as well as the use of the more explicit sequences in this particular picture. It’s a good track, definitely worth a listen.

    The disc also includes a four-minutes Locations Then And Now featurette that shows off what Times Square and Staten Island looked like in 1973 versus what they look like now. As usually with featurettes like this, it’s as interesting to see what hasn’t changed as what has. Menus and chapter selection are also included. As this is a combo pack release, we also get a DVD version of the movie and Vinegar Syndrome packages this with some nice reversible cover artwork.

    Slip cover collectors will be interested in buying directly from Vinegar Syndrome where they can get a limited-edition slip featuring exclusive artwork from Earl Kessler Jr. that is limited to 1,500 pieces.

    Fleshpot On 42nd Street – The Final Word:

    Fleshpot On 42nd Street is one of Milligan’s best pictures, an obviously personal work filled with interesting characters and featuring some genuinely good performances. It’s also a fascinating time capsule of early 70’s New York City and an intriguing look at the seedy side of life in the big city. Vinegar Syndrome’s presentation is, in a word, excellent. The commentary is a nice addition as well but it’s the quality of the restoration here that really makes this one essential.

    Click on the images below for full sized Fleshpot On 42nd Street Blu-ray screen caps!