Director: Anthony Spinelli
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome's latest Peekarama pairing gives us two bonuses (one unexpected and unannounced) with this trio of Anthony Spinelli pics.

CRY FOR CINDY is the tale of hairdresser Ann ("Hustler Honey" and centerspread Amber Hunt, SEXWORLD) whose her boyfriend Dennis (Spender Travis, BIG SPLIT) discovers that she has putting him through medical school not as a popular model but as a high class call girl. When her brutal pimp Ben (Spinelli regular Jack Wright, THE FIRST TIME) voices what she already knows about herself ("Face it, you're a whore") – after all, she hopped into bed with him (or a body double) after he beat her for holding out on him – Ann realizes that the only way out is suicide. At her funeral, the interior recollections of the mourners fill in the story of how Ann became Cindy. Hairdressing client Nora (the not-particularly-photogenic Mitzi Fraser) recalls how she and fellow prostitute Yvonne (Maryanne Fisher) suggested that Ann could make five hundred to a thousand dollars a week turning tricks. Her first job is a triple date with Nora and Yvonne in which Ann gets the high hard one from "virtually harmless" fifty-year-old Hank (thirty year old John Leslie with grey-streaked hair and white whiskers) while the other two take on Ken Scudder (BABY ROSEMARY) and Al Russo (C.B. MAMAS). Ann takes to whoring like a fish to water, soon taking on clients solo (including HARDGORE's John Seeman as a motel john with a special fetish), and the girls soon introduce her to pimp Ben who hooks her up with a higher class of clients (including TABOO's Turk Lyon as a wealthy businessman and JUDGEMENT DAY's Peter Whigham as a shrink who enjoys listening to rape fantasies). Yvonne remembers when Ann came to her troubled by the realization that she no longer desired her boyfriend over her weekly johns (Yvonne offers her some tender loving care). Not that it really matters, but Dennis thinks back to the signs he should have seen in Ann's behavior (mostly an excuse for another sex scene).

There's not much to CRY FOR CINDY, we know why she committed suicide and nothing we learn from the recollections of the other characters unlike Roger Watkins' HER NAME WAS LISA. It matters not since this is an Anthony Spinelli film and the main draw is well-lit sex scenes with a cast of familiar faces (although in this case, it's all of the male performers since this was Hunt's introductory performance and the other two did no other films). Hunt gives a decent-enough performance beneath god-awful hairdos, but acting honors go to Leslie and an as-always-scenery-chomping Wright. Considering the heroine's profession, it is appropriate that most of the sex scenes are rather abruptly edited to suggest the down-to-business aspect of it while only Ann's scenes with Dennis (romantic) and Yvonne (soothing) are depicted at length. Hustler magazine receives special thanks at the start and end for providing Ms. Hunt's services (as well as the glamor and cheesecake stills that appear in the film and over the closing montage).

Vinegar Syndrome's progressive, anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen transfer – from a 2K scan of an archival 35mm print – starts off scratchy but cleans up after the credits (which of course are a bit grainer due to the split-screen opticals) with healthy colors and textures (dig that sheen on Wright's helmet hair). Some faint vertical scratches come and go, and things get a bit rougher at the reel changes but it is in reasonable condition even if it hasn't been as well-preserved as Spinelli's Essex titles. The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono audio has some underling hiss as well as some crackling and pops at the points of visual damage on the print.

Spinelli's earlier TOUCH ME answers the never-asked-question of "What does George 'Buck' Flower look like naked?" Psychologist Dr. Lloyd Davis (Tom Stevens, STARNGERS) is concerned about the "loss of pleasure in everyday life" and holds encounter groups to help couples and individuals get in touch with the sensory world around them. Attending this session are unhappily married Lisa (Andy Bellamy, JOHNNY WADD) and Robert (John Keith, A SCREAM IN THE STREETS), macho photographer James (Richard Smedley, THE SUCKERS), sleazy salesman Harry (George "Buck" Flower, THEY LIVE), Bill (Ric Lutze, LES CHIC) who is concerned about his size and ability to pleasure a woman, young rich lesbian Betsy (Suzanne Fields, FLESH GORDON), repressed divorcee Doris (Rene Bond, A CLOCKWORK BLUE), and nymphomaniac career woman Marianne (Sandy Dempsey, POOR CECILY). Davis takes them through a series of exercises starting with breathing and then touching which invariably leads to heavy petting ("I don't know how I'm supposed to feel anything with my clothes on!"). Although he has his hands all over Marianne, Robert feels jealousy when he sees Lisa getting groped by James (whose game is being undermined by Harry's crude wisecracks since he's getting nowhere with still-clothed Doris). Betsy doesn't seem to mind being poked by Bill (who doesn't seem to have any erection problems), but Davis soon calls for break time. On their free time, Robert and Lisa try to reconnect physically while Marianne decides to test out Bill's stamina. During the next day's exercises, Davis pushes the group members to explore their emotional hang-ups physically, leading to a series of psychodrama games: Betsy tires of macho James' needling and issues him a balling challenge, a tearful Harry finds himself unable to perform in front of an audience, and Doris starts to unwind when she is assured no one will judge her for indulging in one of her darkest fantasies, and Bill's own secret fantasy could prove dangerous.

Framed as a documentary about sexual behavior in an alienating society – not unusual when it came to pre-DEEP THROAT hardcore works – TOUCH ME is pleasingly stuffed with a cast of hardcore performers who would soon be highly recognizable (as well as Flower who started out in non-sexual supporting bits in seventies softcore films and would become a prolific character actor gracing everything from countless genre works like CRIMINALLY INSANE, THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA, A SMALL TOWN IN TEXAS, and DRIVE-IN MASSACRE, BACK TO THE FUTURE, PUMPKINHEAD to prominent supporting bits in John Carpenter films starting with THE FOG up through VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED). Realistic concerns about sexual frigidity, the ability to create or maintain emotional relationships, sexual performance and the ability to give pleasure, the effects of religion and upbringing on attitudes towards sex, and the fear of exclusion are fodder for sex scenes. This would be more entertaining if the sex was actually sexy. While there is definitely some oral-genital contact between the actors (including some who can't quite get it up on camera) – and Lutze is ready to go despite his character's hang-up (he later went up against Johnny Wadd himself to prove who could go ALL NIGHT LONG) – most of the hardcore shots appear to be body-doubled with mismatched bodies and flat lighting (one wonders if future Academy Award-winning editor Michael Kahn added these bluntly inserted bits or just the footage around it). As such, it's more entertaining for the cast and their attempted dramatics than for the "action".

Vinegar Syndrome's progressive, anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen presentation is mastered from a 2K scan of a 35mm archival print. The opening and reel changes are a bit rough, and the image sharpness is inconsistent with some soft passages due to the original photography more than print damage or fading. At its best, the colors are attractive and the detail (seventies hair and shag carpeting) crisp. The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track is as good as the on-set sound allows (even in widescreen you can see a boom microphone dip into the frame) as well as the spots where print damage affects the optical track.

Set in the fifteenth century, AN ACT OF CONFESSION is the story of Sister Beatrice (Kim Durey), a young girl troubled by her fantasies about other boys and girls until she found the lord (Spinelli's film posits that the cloister offers freedom while marriage is the prison sentence). It isn't long, however, before she starts having troubling dreams. First she fantasizes about fellow novice Sister Jennifer (Cyndee Summers, PANORAMA BLUE) who roll around in bed (this is the softcore version after all) before taking a particularly sacrilegious communion with Father Beauvier (Keith Erickson, SUCKULA). Her confession gets the priest all hot and bothered – particularly the crucifixion fantasy with a pair of monks – that he issues a harsh penance. The fervent prayer only brings about more fantasies (an orgy with the entire small cast), but eventually Sister Beatrice finds out what it's really like to be a Bride of Christ when the man himself walks on water to give her a peak under his robes.

Spinelli's nunsploitation film was once thought lost but has turned up recently in a single 16mm print; unfortunately, it is only the film's softcore edit (running just over fifty-nine minutes). As is the case with many "lost" films, AN ACT OF CONFESSION is not a rediscovered classic.There appear to be some alternate angles, including some raised legs and an overhead shot of oral sex in which it's obvious that the actress is just "going through the motions", but other sex scenes are trimmed down and angles and takes are repeated to pad out scenes to what might have been only half their original length. None of the sacrilegious acts are really as shocking as they seem to want to be, but the story of a nun finding relief from the sins of the flesh in a fantasized or even out of body sensual encounter with Christ (this one is most elliptically-edited in this cut so it's difficult to tell how graphic it was supposed to be) would have some effectiveness if Spinelli had been at all concerned with performances. Outside of the sex scenes and narrated voiceovers (possibly by another actress), Durey just poses in contemplation amidst her chores or grins (not quite beatifically) at the camera. Spinelli's minimalistic approach to performance, lighting, camera composition, props and sets seems more self-consciously artful (almost at times anticipating Walerian Borowczyk's BEHIND CONVENT WALLS over THE DEVILS or any Italian nunsploitation films) than cheap but the end result is more interesting as a remnant of a technically still lost (in its uncut form) vintage adult film.

Vinegar Syndrome has decided to include this imperfect if rare extra – from a 2K scan framed at 1.33:1 – on a second dual-layer disc with the unannounced last minute addition of a softcore cut of CRY FOR CINDY (67:16 vs the hardcore 85:42) from a beat-up 35mm print with no restoration and minimal color correction. While most of the sex scenes are simply cut down – some covering the cuts with long dissolves and overlays – some scenes do appear to have alternate angles. All of the sex scenes are present but shorter, with only the lesbian scene being significantly cut down. The ending also cuts from the burial to a single still shot of Hunt rather than the montage of stills that concluded the hardcore cut. It is a thoughtful addition, but probably not one which viewers will likely visit more than once. There are no trailers for any of the films, but this triple- (technically quadruple-) feature is a must-have release as a package rather than for any one of the features. (Eric Cotenas)