• Blonde Ambition (Distribpix) DVD Review

    Blonde Ambition (Distribpix) DVD Review
    Released by: Distribpix
    Released on: April 27th, 2010.
    Director: John Amero, Lem Amero
    Cast: Suzy Mendal, Dory Devon, Jamie Gillis, Eric Edwards, R. Bolla, Wade Nichols, Molly Malone, George Payne
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    Blonde Ambition - Movie Review:

    Lem and John Amero, a pair of gay brothers who cut their teeth in the low budget filmmaking world of sixties and seventies era New York City, blend an honest affection for big budget Hollywood musicals and screwy exploitation and porno films with their 1981 offering, Blonde Ambition. The last ‘straight’ film they would make and the second last film they’d made period (they made one last picture under the Francis Ellie moniker – the alias they used for their gay porno movies), it’s more comedic than it is carnal but that doesn’t make it any less fascinating or any less entertaining.

    When the film begins, the Kane Sisters – Suager (Suzy Mandel of Benny Hill fame) and Candy (Dory Devon) – are performing on stage in a dive bar in the lovely town of Coyote Fang, Wyoming. The stars of quite possibly the worst variety show ever performed, they never the less catch the eye of a wealthy man named Stephen (Eric Edwards) and his friend/butler Eric (R. Bolla) who whisk the pair back to New York City. The girls see this as their shot at the big time, figuring they’ll have their own Broadway show in no time flat, but of course, it doesn’t quite work out that way.

    Eventually they find work in a XXX reimagining of Gone With The Wind simply entitled G.W.T.W. that’s directed by a rather manic filmmaker (played by Jamie Gillis in a role written for Harry Reems who simply wanted more money than the Amero’s could justify) but more importantly they wind up involved in the disappearance of a valuable brooch. Along the way, they get into relationships with different men, including the aforementioned Stephan and a mustachioed stud named Max (played really well by the late gay porn and soap opera superstar Wade Nichols), a guy named Bob (George Payne and his amazing disappearing tan lines) not to mention a couple whose entire apartment is an ice skating rink. It all culminates in a bizarre drag show inside a Greenwich Village gay bar where they’re hunted down by Stephen’s Aunt Sybil Buckingham (Molly Malone, who was fine with appearing in hardcore sex films but would leave them room when they sex was being shot). The film also features appearances from a young Herschel Savage (credited as Greg Falcon), eighties porno flash in the pan Pepe, and the late David Morris.

    One of the closest films to ever really blend adult filmmaking and mainstream moviemaking, Blonde Ambition plays just as well without the hardcore sex in it as it does with it. Part of the reason for this is that Suzy Mendal wouldn’t do hardcore and so anytime her character (named one of Marilyn Monroe more famous roles) the film cuts to a body double in a wig. This is equal parts amusing and irritating, but it somehow manages to fit in with the film’s completely off the wall sense of humor. The gags are corny, and often sexualized, but there’s such a freewheeling sense of fun behind it all that you can’t help but enjoy the film. It’s all done with a goofy sense of humor and the sex is celebratory rather than base or trashy.

    Shot all over the Manhattan of the late seventies and early eighties (it took the Amero’s a while to finish this film and there are a couple of stock footage inserts that pop up here and there) the script is fun and sometimes even clever. The movie works a few musical bits into the plot and also benefits from an interesting score (Amero notes in his commentary that they intentionally used some obscure European recordings so as to fly under the copyright radar and avoid prosecution) and there’s a very appreciable attention to detail evident in the production values from the wardrobe to the set dressings. A few continuity errors pop up – you can tell George Payne’s scenes were shot at different times because of his tan, for example, but it never hurts the movie at all.

    The cast members are all obviously having a blast throughout the film, with all involved hamming it up just enough that at times it does actually feel like one of those classic musicals from which it takes its inspiration. If the sex isn’t as plentiful, explicit or erotic as other porno movies made before and after, it doesn’t matter. A far cry from their sixties era roughies or their darkly surrealist XXX feature Baccahanele, the Amero Brothers’ Blonde Ambition holds up really well not just as a classic adult film by any standard of entertainment you’d wish to levy against it. It’s simply impossible not to be entertained by this one.

    Blonde Ambition - DVD Review:

    While the image is, unfortunately, interlaced this 1.33.1 fullframe transfer is a huge improvement over the previous DVD release. Digitally remasterd from original 35mm film elements, it does show some minor scratches here and there and has a healthy coat of film grain evident over top, but is generally in very good shape indeed. Colors look pretty good even if some scenes look a little yellow, black levels are reasonably strong and deep and skin tones look quite natural. Detail levels are vastly improved over the previous release, both in the foreground and the background of the image, and there are no problems to report with edge enhancement or mpeg compression artifacts. The improvement in quality makes it much easier to appreciate the production values that went into this film. While it was still very much a low budget feature by mainstream standards, by the standards of the adult film industry of the era in which it was made, Blonde Ambition was, well, pretty ambitious. Where many vintage adult films were shot in apartments or in dank studios, this one uses many different sets, different lighting techniques, a wealth of great locations and a fairly fancy wardrobe – all of which comes through nice and clear thanks to this new restored DVD.

    The English language Dolby Digital Mono sound track on this disc is pretty good for the most part. The dialogue is clean and clear and easy to follow, making it easy to overlook the occasional pop in the mix. The music sounds very strong, nice and bouncy with a stronger low end than most older mono tracks seem to have, but never overpowering the fantastic dialogue or the moans and groans in the sex scenes. It’s properly balanced and generally sounds just fine.

    The best of the many extra features included with this release is the feature length audio commentary track with director John Amero and moderator Benson Hurst. While Hurst is a bit too low in the mix and a bit hard to hear at times, Amero, thankfully, is not and his memory is sharp as a tack. He’s more than happy to talk about the films that influenced this one, what he and his late brother, Lem, were going for with this picture, how they conned their way into different interesting locations under the pretenses of shooting a legitimate film and how and why the different cast members wound up in the picture. Amero points out that the Saloon the Kane sisters initially appear in is actually CBGB and note that the non-hardcore portions of the film that take place in the airplane were shot at New York’s JFK airport inside a mock-plane used to train flight attendants. Amero’s keen on talking about the difficulties of shooting hardcore, timing the money shots in the Gone With The Wind orgy sequence, and how Suzy Mandel was quite accommodating despite her insistence on not doing anything stronger than softcore material. The track is never dull, and there’s rarely more than a few seconds that go by without the affable Amero relaying a great nugget of trivia or spouting off some quirky fact about the picture and it makes for absolutely fascinating listening.

    Hurst also moderates a second commentary track, this time featuring Jamie Gillis, sadly one of his last recorded recollections about his career. Gillis doesn’t have as much to say about the picture as Amero does but he’s got some great stories to share and observations to make. He points out pretty early one that porno movies are basically all gay as they require a money shot and focus on penis size, but then goes on to elaborate about his working relationship and friendship with Robert Kerman (aka R. Bolla) before sharing a bizarre story in which he found a dead cat stashed in the actor’s freezer. He discusses how much he enjoyed working with the Amero Brothers, notes how this role was unusually for him in that he didn’t disrobe or have sex in the picture, and gives his thoughts on the various people who worked on the picture, including Suzy Mendal. Gillis gets quiet in spots and there are moments where he clams up, but what’s here is often times pretty fascinating and frequently very funny as well. His fan base will definitely want to take the time to go through this track as well as the first one.

    Rounding out the extra features on the first disc are some nice animated menus, chapter stops, and the film’s original theatrical trailer.

    The second disc features the softcore version of the film, which is an interesting alternate version. The hardcore version of the film is probably the one people will want to watch more often, but the film does flow a little better in this form and without the obvious body double inserts it feels a bit more cohesive. Aside from that, it follows the same script and story and features the same cast members. Including both versions of the film was definitely the right thing to do, and now viewers can decide for themselves which version they prefer.

    Also included on the second disc is a Video Tribute To The Late Jamie Gillis, to whom this DVD has been dedicated. Gillis worked on a lot of films now owned by the Video-X-Pix library and this tribute is a collection of clips from some of his best. Menus and chapter stops are included, as are two still galleries – one which covers Blonde Ambition advertising and promotional material from its original theatrical run and various home video releases, and one which includes a bunch of slides that look to have been shot as promotional photos for the film.

    If that weren’t enough, inside the keepcase is a full color booklet of liner notes from adult film historian ‘Benson Hurst’ which detail the Amero Brothers’ film career, the history and popularity of the picture, it’s cast, and its impact. It makes for excellent, in-depth reading. A collectible film strip, taken from an actual print of Blonde Ambition, can also be found inside the case along with a classy reproduction of one of Suzy Mandel’s publicity headshots. All of this fits inside the keepcase, which in turn, fits inside a snazzy O-ring cover.

    Blonde Ambition - The Final Word:

    Blonde Ambition isn’t a particularly erotic adult picture bit it is a really damned entertaining one that does an excellent job of mixing up the golden age Hollywood musicals with a seventies smut film aesthetic. It’s well shot, well directed, really well acted and consistently hilarious, which goes a long way towards making up for the fact that it’s only ever sexy for seconds at a time. Video-X-Pix’s Platinum Elite Collection release is a true thing of beauty, presenting the film in lovingly restored condition with a host of extras that are interesting and often just as entertaining as the feature itself.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. stinty's Avatar
      stinty -
      Wasn't there supposed to be a Blu upgrade of this in the works? I seem to remember that rumour from long ago when I bought the Metzger reissues that they did.