• The Girl Meets Girl Collection (Retro-Seduction Cinema) DVD Review

    The Girl Meets Girl Collection (Retro-Seduction Cinema) DVD Review
    Released by: Retro-Seduction Cinema
    Released on: July 5th, 2005.
    Director: Joe Sarno
    Cast: Marie Forsa, Nadia Henkowa, Anke Syring, Ulrike Butz, Nico Wolferstetter, Ines André, Birgit Zamulo, Eric Edwards, Harry Reems, Heidi Kappler
    Year: 1973/1974/1975
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    The Girl Meets Girl Collection – Movie Review:

    Three collaborations between sultry Maria Forsa and sexploitation maestro Joseph Sarno in one handy-dandy box? You bet. It’s the Girl Meets Girl Collection, from Seduction Cinema, a pretty swanky set that compiles the three films that Sarno made with producer Chris D. Nebes. What makes these interesting? Well aside from the usual Sarno touches and the interesting casting choices, all three films were shot in Germany, as opposed to his usual locales, being the United States and Sweden. Sarno would make better films than the three in this set both before and after production wrapped on this trilogy, but these three stand out as well made curiosity items and offer plenty of classy, sleazy, sexy soap opera fun in the grand Sarno tradition none the less.

    Vampire Ecstasy (1973):

    Better known in horror movie circles as Veil Of Blood, Joseph Sarno's 1973 vampire sex film comes to DVD in this boxed set under the alternate video title of Vampire Ecstasy (the film was also released as The Devil’s Plaything in the U.K. and saw a video release under that title by E.I. some years back).

    We first learn of a sinister female vampire named Baroness Varga who was executed in the mountains of Germany where she was found guilty of drinking the blood of nubile young women. Before she breathed her last, however, she claimed that she'd come back and live again off of the blood of the local women folk.

    Fast forward to the modern day (well, the modern day of 1973, at least), and two pretty young girls, Helga (Maria Forsa) and her friend, are heading up to the hill country to check out a creaky old castle that their recently deceased aunt has left to them in her will. When they arrive, the find that a young man named Peter and his sister Julie have had some car trouble and they too are hoping to hole up in the old castle for the night until they can get things sorted out in the morning.

    What the four young people soon learn is that the castle is not at all what it seems – and it is soon made apparent to them that the housekeeper who they thought to be able to trust is in fact the high priestess of a cult dedicated to resurrecting the spirit of Baroness Varga. She and her servants hold all manner of arcane Satanic and sexual rituals that further their cause, and it just so happens that these unfortunates have shown up on a night that they could very much use some fresh blood for their ceremonies – and Helga is looking pretty good to them right now! Good thing Peter is an expert in the occult and happens to be falling for her. With him on her side she just might stand a chance against the forces of darkness that are conspiring against her.

    Light on plot but high on gothic atmosphere and bongo music, The Devil's Plaything doesn't reinvent the wheel but it does manage to stir up some mood and a few of the steamier scenes are definitely hot stuff. The dubbing doesn't help the film or do it any favors but the same can be said about a lot of European horror movies of the same period – it's really no worse than average on this film. Fans of Jean Rollin or some of Jess Franco's material should appreciate the way that this movie unfolds (it is at times very reminiscent of Requiem For A Vampire and Vampyros Lesbos) as there are a few similarities to their work in here, even when you subtract the copious amount of lesbian vampires crammed into the movie.

    It’s worth noting that the title card for this film has been digitally altered on this release.

    Bibi (1974):

    After their first collaboration did well and made some money, Nebes and Sarno decided to collaborate on another production, once again based in Germany, though this time with a more specific focus on the erotic, rather than the horrific or the fantastic. Going under the alternate title of Girl Meets Girl (a title that E.I. seems to have made up and digitally slapped on as a title card for this release for some reason), the film follows a lovely young lady named Bibi (Maria Forsa again) who leaves her home in the quaint countryside to hit the big city and hang out with her Aunt Tony for a little while.

    Once she arrives at her destination, Bibi has no qualms whatsoever about letting her wild side cut loose as she devours any man or woman lucky enough to get in her way. Bibi, it seems, has taken a page out of Aunt Tony’s book and indulges herself with partners of both sexes, which leads to an encounter or two that makes the alternate titling of the film a little more appropriate than it would be otherwise. Eventually, however, after Bibi has had her way with anyone and everyone she can, the Sarno soap operatics kick in and she has to own up to what she’s done. You can’t go sleeping around with as many people as Bibi does in this film and not get on someone’s bad side or wreak havoc with someone’s emotions…

    Bibi could almost be a remake of Sarno’s earlier Swedish coming of age story, Inga, as it follows pretty much the exact same basic plot line of that earlier effort, though it doesn’t do it quite as well and because of that it seems to lack some of the originality that made Inga so good. At any rate, it’s still a very solid effort from Sarno that should please his fans as it combines pretty much everything that his body of work is known for in one, neat little package.

    As you’d expect from some of Sarno’s better films, the camera work and the direction are both excellent. The film is paced very well, wasting no time getting the plot setup and the action moving and once it starts, it keeps up until the end as we tag along for Bibi’s hot and heavy adventures, watching her break a few taboos as she dabbles in things with her Aunt that no girl ever should and hangs out with a few of the more ‘swinging’ locales who are only too happy to give her the attention that she wants. It’s not particularly deep stuff, but it’s fun and it’s sexy and it is really well shot. The dialogue and the acting is hampered by an obvious language barrier but let’s face it, we’re not watching this one for the line delivery… as classy as it is, it’s still a low budget sexploitation film and sometimes you’ve just got to accept a movie for it is and enjoy it on that level without shame! Look for a guy who sure as shit looks like Harry Reems (look at the guy on the right hand side of that screenshot!) during the disco scene. If that isn't Harry, he's got a doppelganger somewhere in Germany... a doppelganger with killer dance moves!

    Butterflies (1975):

    The third and final film in the set is also the best and the best known of the three German Nebes/Sarno efforts. This time out, Forsa plays a young vixen named Denise who lives out in the quaint countryside and spends her free time hanging out with Freddy (Rob Everett, better known as porno star Eric Edwards), her nice, down to earth boyfriend.

    Things are going fine for the young lovebirds until one day she realizes that her life is boring and that she is in fact very unhappy. What does she do? She packs up and heads off to seek adventure in the big city. She isn't there long before she meets up with a flashy nightclub operator named Frank (played by Harry Reems of Deep Throat fame). The two hit it off and Denise thinks that she's something special to him, but soon reality sets in and when Frank doesn't seem to have any desire to treat her any differently than any other of the women that are in his employ, she soon becomes just as disillusioned with her new life as she was with her old one. To make matters worse, the woman that Frank lives with is starting to see Denise as a threat and she's none too happy about any of the attention that Frank has given her in the first place, let alone any attention that Denise might hope to get down the road.

    Frank leads her on a bit but Denise does finally figure out that she, like all the other woman that Frank has come into contact with, has been used as nothing more than a cheap lay. Reality truly does bite sometimes, and she's going to have to figure out what to do with her life sooner or later, because obviously things just aren't working out for her here.

    About as close to hardcore as you can get without actually crossing the full on 'we show penetration' line, Butterflies is steamy stuff (in fact there is a hardcore version of the film out there that did play theatrically - more on that later). The sex is very obviously real and performers seem pretty into it - as they should be. This gives the movie a lot of passion and a lot of flat out sexiness that works well in its favor, which is good, because there isn't a whole lot of plot to work with here.

    Once again we're treated to some excellent cinematography and truly polished looking camera work, ensuring that Butterflies always looks better than you'd expect it to. Most of Sarno's work has this quality and there are some shots and compositions in this film that rival any of the other films that this reviewer has seen from his catalogue.

    The cast is what really makes this one shine. Forsa is an absolute vixen in this film, looking about as sexy as a woman can get and even outdoing her performance in Mac Ahlberg's Justine & Juliette made that same year and also starring Harry Reems. Speaking of Mr. Reems, he is in fine form here, hamming it up for the camera as you'd expect him to but also playing it straight when he needs to. Eric Edwards isn't given as much to do in the film but the novelty of seeing him here, looking all of fifteen or sixteen (but actually being much older than that) is not without its odd charm. When the dust settles, Butterflies stands up as one of Sarno's best efforts, thanks to some genuinely erotic sex and some keen visuals.

    The Girl Meets Girl Collection – DVD Review:

    First things first, weirdness abounds with the transfers in this set. Vampire Ecstasy, previously released on a single disc from the same company in a 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation as The Devil's Plaything, is presented here in a fullframe presentation. The framing doesn’t kill the movie but it does make one wonder about the logic behind the decision. BiBi starts off at slightly letterboxed during the opening credits (note the video generated title card, always a no-no, and again, something that makes you question the logic…) but soon reverts to another fullframe presentation only to become letterboxed again towards the end – very strange. Butterflies is also fullframe, though this reviewer could find no evidence disputing this ratio as correct and the framing looked pretty decent for that third and final film in the set.

    As far as video quality goes, all three transfers in this set are taken from 35mm prints, which means that the movies look nice and natural here, but there obviously hasn’t been any extensive restoration done as they’re a bit worse for wear in spots. Butterflies is definitely the cleanest looking of the three, as the other two exhibit some mild color fading a bit more print damage. There’s grain throughout and specks here and there, as well as the odd vertical scratch to content with but the movies are definitely watchable, even if they are far from perfect. Veil Of Blood looks the worst out of the three as it’s overly dark in spots, with Bibi falling somewhere in between the other two movies.

    Each of the three films in this set gets a Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack, and for the most part they sound fine. Presented with English dialogue across the board the sound quality isn’t going to blow you away but aside from some mild hiss here and there, there’s little to complain about. Understanding the performers and following the dialogue is easy enough and the scores for the three films all sound quite good.

    Let’s break down the supplements in this set by disc, shall we?

    First off, Vampire Ecstasy features an excellent commentary track from the film’s producer, Chris D. Nebe. While this is an excellent discussion, the sound quality does leave something to be desired, so be prepared to adjust the volume during playback if you want to her what Nebe has to say about the film – and you do! He remembers the project very clearly, covering how they came to get the castle to shoot in, as well as how Sarno went about casting the film. He talks about Maria Forsa in a fair bit of detail, covering her exploits both on and off the screen, and he also talks about his working relationship with Sarno himself.

    Also included is a featurette that contains some great interviews with Nebe as well as with Sarno himself. While Nebe definitely has more to say in this documentary than Sarno does, the director still manages to provide us with a few amusing anecdotes about some of the locales who lived in the area as well as how the copulation scenes were shot in such a way as to achieve the utmost realism (note – like in a lot of Sarno’s films, they weren’t faked!).

    Rounding out the extras on this disc is the Retro-Seduction Cinema trailer vault that contains promo spots for Swedish Wildcats, Inga, The Seduction Of Inga, Girl Meets Girl, Vampire Ecstasy, Butterflies, Laura’s Toys, Abigail Leslie Is Back In Town, and finally, Lust For Laura.

    Bibi, like the film that came before it, also contains an excellent audio commentary with producer Nebe. Once again, his memory proves to be pretty sharp as he covers how he came to work with Sarno again on this second film. Nebe also provides a lot of details on the shooting locations and, once again, on the casting choices as he tells us why a few of the specific performers were chosen for their specific roles, Forsa in particular as they figured that they could capitalize on her screen presence easily enough. There’s very little dead air in her and Nebe keeps the track moving at a good pace. When he isn’t hitting us with trivia and interesting facts about the movie he’s got an anecdote to share or a quirky story to tell about the people he made this movie with. Thankfully the audio is much improved on this track compared to commentary on Vampire Ecstasy.

    Sarno joins Nebe again for a featurette on this disc as well, and not surprisingly, Nebe once again is the dominant voice in the discussion. Sarno does manage to get some really interesting points across here though as he almost sort of psycho-analyzes his own film to a certain extent, talking about some of the more cerebral aspects of the movie while Nebe gives us more dirt on Forsa and her performance in the movie. While the commentary has more information in it as a whole, this is still a very worthwhile addition to the set as it does afford us the chance to get Sarno’s take on the movie.

    The trailer vault this time around is packed with some different promo spots, and a quick scan through the menus shows advertisements for newer E.I. fare such as Playmate Of The Apes, Lord Of The G-Strings, Roxanna, Spiderbabe, Sexy American Idle, Sin Sisters, The Sexy Adventures Of Van Helsing, Pleasures Of A Woman, The Seduction Of Mistry Mundae, Flesh For Olivia, New York Wildcats and The Erotic Diary Of Misty Mundae. There’s a whole lot of skin packed into these promos, perverts rejoice! The Sarno trailers from the first disc are also included here as well.

    The best of the three films once again contains featurette in which Nebe and Sarno discuss how they collaborated on this film and how they opted to get Harry Reems and a young Eric Edwards involved in the German shoot. They cover the reality versus fiction aspect of shooting more explicit adult content and Sarno gives us a nice history of his career and how he ended up in Germany after becoming a mainstay of the New York exploitation scene of the sixties. It’s a pretty interesting piece and it’s nice to get to hear so many of these stories out of Sarno’s own mouth, as he’s much more active in this documentary than he was on the other two in the set.

    This time out, we don’t get an audio commentary however there is an audio interview with Nebe, conducted by Michael J. Bowen and it proves to be just as interesting as a commentary probably would have been, even if it is more compact in its delivery. It plays out over the entire length of the feature just as a commentary would. The focus this time is as much on Nebe as it is on Sarno or Forsa, probably more so as we get to hear how he got his start as a producer as well as some of the highlights from his interesting career. Bowen knows his stuff and he’s very good at keeping Nebe on topic and getting as much information out of him as he can, and because of that we also get schooled on some of the scoring done for the movie and the German locations where so much of the material was shot. Michael Raso, president of E.I./Seduction Cinema, provides a brief but respectful introduction to the interview.

    Unfortunately, Seduction Cinema has opted not to include the hardcore version of Butterflies in this set but has made it available as a separate release. While Sarno has stated that the version of the film contained in this set is his cut of the film, it would have been nice to see both versions included here for the sake of completion. That release contains both cuts of the film, which means that if you want both versions of Butterflies you’re essentially paying for the softer cut of the film twice – slightly annoying.

    Aside from what’s contained on the three DVDs in the set, Seduction Cinema has also included a fantastic booklet containing thirteen pages of liner notes that explain the history of these three films and where they fit in Sarno’s filmography, written by Michael J. Bowen. This is definitely worth a read as it contains a whole whack of quotes from Sarno and his wife Peggy as well as a few very cool behind the scenes and promotional photographs as well. A soundtrack CD is also included, which is a nice touch, even if a track listing would have been ideal (there isn’t one included but it isn’t too difficult to ascertain that the first five tracks are from Bibi, the next eleven from Butterflies and the remaining nine are from Vampire Ecstasy).

    The Girl Meets Girl Collection – The Final Word Review:

    While the fact that the transfers could have used a little more spit and polish and the fact that the alternate cut of Butterflies is not included in this set are both lamentable, the Girl Meets Girl Collection is an otherwise really nice set of Sarno films that should make the director’s fans quite happy.