Director: Carlos Tobalina
Impulse Films (Synapse Films)

Before hardcore pornography became widely available after the incredible success of Gerard Damiano’s DEEP THROAT, the raincoat crowd was only able to see graphic blowjobs and penetration shots through under-the-counter loops and infrequent features such as Bill Osco’s MONA. Enterprising exploiteers latched onto the idea of portraying hardcore sex under the guise of educational and documentary films, referred to as “white coaters”. Some of the more popular titles included MAN AND WIFE, AMERICAN SEXUAL REVOLUTION, BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL, and 101 ACTS OF LOVE, and it’s a pleasant surprise to see REFINEMENTS IN LOVE, an incredibly obscure Carlos Tobalina white coater, hit DVD!

Through interviews with “doctors” and “experts”, Tobalina discusses REFINEMENTS IN LOVE; in other words, the sexual revolution is impacting the American social climate. Or at least that’s what I think it’s about. While Gerard Damiano’s CHANGES did the job better, and without relying on sneaking in so much hardcore sex, Tobalina’s off-the-wall examination of the newly liberal sexual environment across the country jumps all over the place and doesn’t make a lick of sense. However, it’s so mind-boggling that it’s worthy viewing for the curious, or those who think they have seen everything! Stock footage of an atomic bomb testing and church congregations preaching repression collide with small town parades and , and then there’s the plentiful sex scenes thrown in to demonstrate the various positions and healthy behavior of horny white people in 1971. Amongst the various sex participants are Rene Bond, pre-implants, being doused in baby powder before being plowed by a Patrick Wright look-alike; Linda Broom, a little-known blonde bombshell familiar from ANGELS’ WILD WOMEN (“Wanna see some boobies?”), in a rare hardcore scene with a much older gentleman; Ric Lutze as a gent surprised by his girlfriend’s use of baby oil as they make love, Eurosex starlet Brigitte Maier on a waterbed, and boy wonder Ron Darby in the closing sex scene (shocking because he rarely did hardcore!). And you have to love the theme song “Why Aren’t We Free to Love?” by Marv and Kim, which could have been a hit!

The most interesting segments of the film follow director Tobalina himself, as he is interviewed for a television news report (highly unlikely!) and discusses casting, shooting on-location in his Pacific Palisades mansion, distributing his films, and how adult theaters cater to couples as well as the usual hairy-palmed perverts. The only legitimate part of this sequence features a newspaper article and snapshot featuring Tobalina and his wife, Maria (who also served on the AFAA board of advisors after David F. Friedman retired). Newsreel-type footage shows an exotic opening of Tobalina’s I AM CURIOUS TAHITI (which is double-featured with 101 ACTS OF LOVE) at the Los Palmos Theater, and the exteriors of the Mayan Theater, which was owned and operated by Tobalina when he wasn’t making movies. Maria also shows up later as a reporter from Germany, interviewing another “expert” on TV, and you get a sneak peek into the Adam Theatre in L.A., where two cops bust the theater, arresting the entire staff and confiscating a print, in a staged sequence. Surprisingly, considering the film hails from the early days of pornography, most of the sex scenes are quite erotic, with up-close-and-personal photography, and even without any messy pop shots, the plentiful beautiful girls and studly men illustrate what West Coast sex films were all about.

Where REFINEMENTS fails to be a home run is the editing. While I’ve been assured by the supplier of the print used for the transfer here that the reels are in correct order, the film plays as if it was pieced together by someone who had never edited a movie before! The opening credits appear 45 minutes into the film, for God’s sake! Hostess Liz Renay finally introduces herself 13 minutes after she began narrating the on-screen shenanigans! Scenes initiated earlier in the film don’t have their conclusion until further into the running time. While this makes for a whacky viewing experience, some connoisseurs of the genre will most likely find it to be a hindrance rather than an asset to the film’s enjoyability. All this considered, REFINEMENTS IN LOVE is still a historically fascinating watch from the cusp between softcore and hardcore sinema.

Released by Synapse Films under their Impulse Pictures banner (the Real Boogie Nights webmaster, Dimitrios Otis, provided the very rare and very good condition print), REFINEMENTS IN LOVE is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer that seems a little tight on the top and bottom in some scenes (like most films of this genre, Tobalina most likely shot this in the Academy ratio of 1.37:1). While some scenes feature dirt and debris, discoloration, and dark lines, for the most part, this is a fine-looking presentation for a film making its home video debut! No extras are to be found, unfortunately, but this is typical of the Impulse Pictures imprint. (Casey Scott)