Director: Anthony Spinelli
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome follow up their well-received Blu-ray/DVD combo restoration/recovery of THE LOST FILMS OF HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS with a double billing you likely never saw at the drive-in: EXPECTATIONS and CONFESSIONS from prolific porn director Anthony Spinelli.

Wealthy Margo (Delania Raffino) has tired of her marriage and the “tall, dark, and boring” men in her life, so she puts an ad in an underground newspaper to switch identities with another person. She closes the deal with “loose woman” Montana (Chris Cassidy) and takes up residence in her garret apartment. Immediately upon slipping into Montana’s skin, she finds herself under assault by the other woman’s friends – literally in the case of Joey (porn stalwart Joey Silvera, billed as “Joey Civera”) – which seems a dereliction of their agreement which came with a schedule of each other’s appointments. Meanwhile, Montana – possibly only in Margo’s imagination – screws Margo’s one-eyed brother Vincent (Jack Wright) and calls up Margo to tell her about it. Margo (as Montana) semi-reluctantly endures more encounters outside of her comfort zone (including a lesbian liaison with Jenny [Desiree West]). By the time Margo decides that she wants her own life back, Montana may have already destroyed – or at least ruptured on the way to redefining – her identity.

At first seeming like a variation on “The Prince and the Pauper”, EXPECTATIONS is a string of sex scenes just enough substance to over-reach in interpretation as I will below. Montana may not exist at all: the scene where Vincent recognizes Montana as not being Margo actually starts as – and perhaps stays – Margo’s voice-over musings on what Montana must be doing at the very moment Margo herself is starting to explore Montana’s apartment and belongings. Montana either exposes Margo’s incestuous desire or perhaps Margo just imagines realizing her desire with a substitute body. On the other hand, Joey doesn’t seem to realize that Margo is not Montana (but Margo wonders if this may actually be a setup). The two women set up rules for their arrangement, but Montana blatantly breaks them (she calls up Margo to tell her that she screwed her brother). Jenny also addresses Margo as Montana while claiming to be a “friend” of Margo’s, either exposing another of her own “vices” (quotes doubly emphasized) or offering up an incitement. The framing element of the film is a letter Margo is writing to a friend about her decision to close up her apartment and drop out of society: is she experiencing sexual experimentation and freedom by assuming another identity, or just lolling around in bed indulging in a series of extended masturbatory fantasies? The closing sequence is another lesbian scene, this one between Margo and Montana; but it may suggest the merging of the two identities.

In CONFESSIONS, bored housewife Beth (Kristine Heller) gets little attention from her otherwise nice husband Gary (John Leslie) so she spends her days picking up guys before dabbling in prostitution. That’s really all there is to it, despite the Vinegar Syndrome DVD case synopsis suggesting a sting-in-the-tail ending in which she “learns the unfortunate reality of such a lifestyle”; which is just as well since some of the rougher scenes in EXPECTATIONS suggests that Spinelli would be capable of a darker denouement. On a whim, she picks up a motorcyclist (Peter Johns) for an anonymous encounter (he gives her some pointers on giving head and torments her with a vibrator). An emboldened Beth next has a bathroom quickie with her husband’s boss (Joey Silvera again). She is next hired by a woman (Karen Cusick) to play dominatrix to her submissive husband (EXPECTATION’s Jack Wright, billed as “Terence Scanlon”). Lastly, she plays prostitute to a scuzzy guy (Sonny Lustig) in a cheap hotel room for nothing more than the experience.

The story is pretty skeletal with little character development, which theater-goers were probably not looking for in the first place; however, viewers in search of unsung classics of adult cinema might be disappointed since it certainly seems like director Spinelli had a cast with enough acting chops to explore the idea’s dramatic and dark potential (a pornographic version of BELLE DU JOUR this certainly ain’t). Although the characters seem less well-heeled than those of EXPECTATIONS, CONFESSIONS is the more elegant-looking film for the most part (seemingly through better choice of wardrobe, locations, and décor). Above the bed are large posters of Jane Fonda as Barbarella and Marlon Brando on motorcycle (which flank Beth’s vibrator-pleasured standing body in a simple yet striking composition). During the party scene, blue and red gel lighting – compared with the odd assortment of non-sexual extras as pretentious party guests – distracts the viewer from noticing how sparsely furnished parts of the house seem to be. In fact, it looks like it could be a less-ambitious “Henry Paris” (Radley Metzger) film thanks in part to the look and the plot’s shifting dynamics of sexual dominance; however, such concerns ultimately seem to be just a novel way of passing the time in between rather monotonously shot and edited sex scenes.

Both EXPECTATIONS and CONFESSIONS (as CONFESSIONS OF A WOMAN) were previously released on DVD by TVX (likely using the 1980s tape master), but both films have been transferred from 2K high definitions masters of 35mm prints for Vinegar Syndrome’s dual-layer DVD. Although the encodes are interlaced, they are probably the sharpest and most detailed versions of these films on any video format despite the rare dings and scratches. The anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) framing looks dead-on throughout with no dipping boom microphones or cropped foreheads. CONFESSIONS is the better-looking film in the set, partially due to it being the consistently better lit of the two films. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio tracks are also in great condition. No extras have been provided, but the $14.98 is a handsome price for two new transfers. (Eric Cotenas)