Director: John Hayes
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome's latest PEEKARAMA BIG 2 UNIT SHOW! release brings us a DVD double bill of the odd BABY ROSEMARY and the more conventional HOT LUNCH.

Contrary to what the title suggests, BABY ROSEMARY is not a pornographic spin on the Ira Levin novel/Roman Polanski film. It tells the story of Rosemary (Sharon Thorpe, MARILYN AND THE SENATOR), still a virgin in her mid-twenties, much to the frustration of her boyfriend John (John Leslie, PRETTY PEACHES) who she will be leaving to take a teaching position at a girls school. Stopping by a dive hotel to say goodbye to her estranged father, Rosemary is raped by Mick (Ken Scudder, MIDNIGHT HUSTLE) and his girlfriend Katie (Samantha King, THE SECRET DREAMS OF MONA Q). Three years later, she returns to town when John – now a police officer – informs her of her father's death. Although she claims to still love John, she resists his attentions and seeks out Mick instead and inexplicably begins an affair with him. Things go sour, however, when Mick cleans himself up and gets a regular job. Rosemary herself cannot explain what has changed, and Mick becomes dangerous again, threatening to kill her the next time he sees her. Mick's threats may be the least of her worries, however, when her father starts beckoning her from beyond the grave.

BABY ROSEMARY starts out as a psychological drama with hardcore sex scenes, mainly interesting for its cast of Anthony Spinelli and Alex de Renzy regulars – Leslie Bovee (STARLET NIGHTS) pops up as hooker Unis who plays Rosemary surrogate to John whenever he gets turned away – with some oddball touches like two of Rosemary's pupils (THE TALE OF TIFFANY LUST's Candida Royale and FEMMES DE SADE's Melba Poché) who belong to a sex cult – how old are her students? – and boff the mortician (John Seeman, NAKED AFTERNOON) during the viewing of Rosemary's father at the funeral home. Still holding on to the notion that the film might have taken some inspiration from ROSEMARY'S BABY, it at first seems as though there is some conspiracy going on, what with strangers Mick and Katie, and even John seeming to have had more of a relationship with Rosemary's father than she; but that goes nowhere. Only in the last fifteen minutes does anything of a supernatural nature occurs – even if it might all be in Rosemary's head – with creepy voices and a surreal funeral service turned orgy, with the film itself not seeming to be sure Rosemary has any longing for her father or if anything inappropriate happened in her childhood. Earlier in the decade, director John Hayes had helmed GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE, GARDEN OF THE DEAD and DREAM NO EVIL (which was also about a psychologically-damaged young woman's relationship with her father).

In HOT LUNCH, the life of country bumpkin Andrew (Jon Martin, PRETTY PEACHES 3) takes a downward turn when he gets fired from his greasy spoon job on the first night only to then discover his unfaithful wife (Dorothy Smight) plans to divorce him and sue him for support because he's a schmuck who can't disco dance! Andrew hires lawyer Luana (Christine De Shaffer, DRACULA EXOTICA), but she has to get him a job as an encyclopedia salesman for her friend Gloria (Brigit Olsen, OVER EASY) just so he can pay her fees. He lands difficult client Ms. Hathaway (Brandy Smith, TROPIC OF DESIRE) when his schmuck-iness stirs her loins, leading an unsuspecting Gloria to make him an account executive. When she catches him in the warehouse pants-less with aggressive Salome (Desiree Cousteau, PRETTY PEACHES) and timid Tish (Anita Grimes), Gloria decides to ride him (literally and figuratively) all the way to the bank. Her plans to pimp Andrew out to successful grocer Rita (Bonnie Holliday, 7 INTO SNOWY) may be derailed, however, when she leaves him in the care of sensible Luana.

HOT LUNCH starts out appearing to be set in and around the diner with that name after a lengthy pre-credits teaser and Andrew's first night on the job in which he has to cook around and over owner Toni (Juliet Anderson, THE TENDER TRAP) and prostitute Unis (Sharon Kane, SERVICE ENTRANCE) going down on each other on the kitchen floor. After that, it shifts to the travails of Andrew whose innate friendliness makes him irresistible go women. Like BABY ROSEMARY, the film is over-reliant on voiceovers to unnecessarily explain character motivations, but it's also more conventional story-wise. The love story aspect is introduced rather late in the film (the resulting sex scene is the only one without a money shot, presumably a deliberate choice since its hardcore like the other ones) and the performances are mostly bland, but the sex scenes are enthusiastic and diverse and the film has good production values. Apparently, HOT LUNCH was also available in – or at least prepared for – a softer, alternate version.

Both progressive, anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfers are derived from their original camera negatives. BABY ROSEMARY has some bad splices early on, but nothing disruptive, and the image is otherwise clean and colorful with heavy grain only apparent in some underlit night exteriors. The slicker-looking HOT LUNCH also has the overall more consistent presentation in terms of color and sharpness. The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono tracks are variable, but generally clean and nothing to complain about. While the Peekarama Big 2 Unit Show! releases thus far have been barebones with the exception of trailer for one or both films, this release features trailers for both films – "Hot" and "Cold" ones for HOT LUNCH – as well as a compilation of alternate soft shots (2:57) for that film. By the look of them, it appears that the soft cut would have been still quite explicit, with a couple shots cutting away early or substituting alternate angles (the sex scene between Andrew and Hathaway cuts away to exterior shots of the warehouse), as well as an alternate take of Lisa's "schmuck" tirade without semen on her face. Separately, these two John Hayes efforts might not be satisfying, but they make an entertaining enough double bill that sheds some more light on the career of one of a lesser-known seventies exploitation filmmakers who transitioned to adult filmmaking. (Eric Cotenas)