After introducing their "Peekarama" porn double feature line, Vinegar Syndrome gives us another "Drive-in Collection" set of softcore obscurities (better left forgotten) from Eric Jeffrey Haims.
When the seemingly accidental (if bizarre) death of Janet Pender (Cathie Demille) – who apparently flew off a rope swing onto the tines of a pitchfork – is determined to be murder when an additional V-shaped mutilation is discovered by the coroner, Detective John Kinkaid (Donn Greer, ALICE IN ACIDLAND) and Sgt. Martin Wolf (Gray Daniels, GALLERY OF HORROR) descend upon the "Florence Nightingale Institute" for training nurses. Although Dr. Cabala (Sebastian Brook) scoffs at the idea of a murderer on the loose, it isn't long before a dark figure is stalking the halls and picking off the hornier pupils – each mutilated post-mortem with the same V symbol – and there is no shortage of suspects. Dr. Cabala himself has a reputation for sexual deviance, and also requires that his students wear no undergarments beneath their uniforms. Dr. Leticia Boges (Mady Maguire, A SCREAM IN THE STREETS) carries out experiments in her lab at night and is jealous of any woman her fiancé Dr. Mark Carter (John Terry) flirts with; but she ought to be more concerned for the girls since Carter enjoys dissecting live frogs (shown in truly revolting lingering detail that might even make diehard CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST fans avert their eyes) just a bit too much. Brilliant student Judy (Rene Bond, COUNTRY CUZZINS) skulks around in a hat, cape, fake moustache, and sword cane (ostensibly for her role as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the school play) while nympho Amber (Nora Wieternik, FLESH GORDON) is experimenting with love potions (not that she really needs them). Among the staff, housekeeper Hettie Green (Casey Larrain, A TASTE OF HONEY) – whose daughter was killed by a drunken doctor – gives kinky massages to the new nurses, subhuman handyman Moss (Hump Hardy) nabs girls in the dark, scarred cook Margaret (Terri Bond) resents the "hussies" she cooks meals for, and virile groundskeeper Josh (Ric Lutze, COUNTRY HOOKER) reads underwear magazines and is tasked with disposing of the leftovers from the anatomy lessons.
After an interminable narration by Greer's inspector (the actor also scripted the film) about the case of Jekyll and Hyde, the film then introduces one red herring character after another and tries its damndest to implicate them to the audience. The killer's revelation actually is a surprise, and it is the one sequence in which director Haims demonstrates some skill in blurring our perceptions as to which one of the characters in the scene is the one experiencing the dissolve-heavy psychotic episode; but that's after an hour or so of horrid acting (particularly Brook's Dr. Cabala), plenty of unatmospheric wanderings (despite a neat mansion setting with a circular staircase) to inappropriate library music, and sex scenes that are usually heavier on nudity than action (with the exception of one of Hettie's massages). It is hard to determine just how explicit this film was meant to be since sex scenes cut away to other scenes as the undressing starts and then return only to go through a lot of trouble to keep the camera above the waist (even though most of the cast members have shown a lot more in other softcore and hardcore films from this era). Apparently set in England, it was obviously shot in California going by the palm trees on the grounds of the institute and the number of West Coast sex film stars (some better known than others). Production values aren't that bad with the Andy Milligan-esque period costumes more convincing than any of the character's seeming knowledge of science as they tinker with beakers and test tubs full of dry ice (and eviscerate poor frogs). The whole thing ends on one of the most ridiculous and technically inept double exposures ever. The film had no American VHS release, while – according to John Charles' Video Watchdog review of the film – the British company Intervision cancelled their planned 1982 VHS release, but did ship out the units they produced to people who ordered the title outside of the country. The Intervision tape command high prices when it does show up on auction sites.
A CLOCKWORK BLUE is more technically accomplished but even more deserving of remaining in obscurity. Cue plenty of lame Yiddish humor as bumbling nebbish mama's boy researcher Homer (Joseph E. Tata, THE UNHOLY ROLLERS) gets thrown back in time when a pocket watch belonging to one of his ancestors succeeds where his professor's time travel experiments have failed. Homer smokes pot with Paul Revere (John Kirkland) and is ravished by Betsy Ross (Marie Arnold, MEAT CLEAVER MASSACRE). As the Scarlet Pimpernel, he interrupts a lesbian tryst between Marie Antoinette (Suzanne Fields, BLUE MONEY) and Madame Dubarry (Shella Bancroft) and barely escapes the attentions of foppish King Louis XVI (Sebastian Brook again). In Salem, Homer watches two "savages" get it on with a corn cob when Miles Standish puts him in the stocks after catching him with hot-to-trot Priscilla (Mady Maguire again). Portly Henry VIII mistakes him for painter Hans Holbein and commissions him to paint his betrothed Anne Boleyn (Rene Bond again) while she sleeps in the nude only to spy her giving her virginity to Thomas Cromwell (grandson of Oliver). Ted V. Mikels regular Bill Bagdad (THE GIRL IN GOLD BOOTS) turns up as the real Holbein to expose his imposter's finger painting. In ancient Greece, Homer impatiently waits for Paris (Ray Sebastian) and Helen of Troy (Jayne Allyson, THE GODSON) to get out of bed so he can warn them about the Trojan Horse. In Rome, Julius Caesar (Donn Greer again) mistakes Homer for Marc Antony and entrusts him with the guardianship of Cleopatra (Shannon West, FLESH GORDON) until when they attend an orgy on the Ides of March.
The suspense does not lie in whether Homer will survive the dangers of any of these time periods, but in whether he will manage to get laid, but the character is so annoying that the viewer would rather he remain the frustrated voyeur (henpecked by his mother – hulking guy in drag – eating out of a kid's lunch box, and bathing a doll). The period sets range from "stylized" to completely threadbare, and the same can be said of the costumes. Like Homer's watch, the film just winds down to an unfunny punchline; although nothing that came before it was particularly chuckle worthy (not even switching the voices of Paris and Helen of Troy). However unexciting THE JEKYLL AND HYDE PORTFOLIO, it's definitely the stronger and more watchable film in this double bill.
While most of Vinegar Syndrome's anamorphic widescreen titles are matted to 1.85:1 – and the back covers specifies this – the two titles here are opened up to 1.78:1 (there is no loss of picture information between 1.78:1 and 1.85:1 with these titles since the 2K and 4K scans start out as full aperture). The possibly 16mm-photographed THE JEKYLL AND HYDE PORTFOLIO has its share of damage – probably a lot of which was there from the start – but the image is reasonably sharp (too sharp in those frog mutilation scenes), colorful, and appropriately heavy in grain in the darker scenes. The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono audio is also in good condition. Shot entirely on sound stages (with light stands occasionally visible at the edges of the frame), A CLOCKWORK BLUE is sharper, cleaner, and boldly-colored in comparison. This Vinegar Syndrome double bill is available in two versions. Limited to 1000 copies and only available in limited supply from Vinegar Syndrome (with the rest being sold at upcoming conventions), the Blu-ray/DVD combo edition exclusively features the hardcore cut of A CLOCKWORK BLUE (86:18) on both its Blu-ray and DVD copies. The standard "Drive-in Collection" DVD features the softcore version of A CLOCKWORK BLUE (86:21). Both the Blu and DVD combos and the standard DVD feature the same "Drive-in Collection" menu, and THE JEKYLL AND HYDE PORTFOLIO is the identical cut (81:36) in both versions. The two editions have the same catalogue number, but they can be distinguished by the combo featuring different artwork (and of course coming in a Blu-ray case). (Eric Cotenas)
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