With Vinegar Syndrome’s seventh Drive-in Collection DVD double feature, they follow THE SEXUALIST into “the lustful world of the educational, astrological filmmaker” and then stop by WENDY’S PALACE “where lust oozes from the open pores of a warm body”!
In THE SEXUALIST, filmmaker Jeffrey Montclair (Dale T. Fuller) is making an educational erotic film about lovemaking and the signs of the zodiac, determining the positions by charting the stars. The production is being funded by a “Godfather” (Jon Oppenheim, THE SISTER-IN-LAW) who literally lost the shirt off his back with their previous collaboration, and he’s not the only one impatient with the director and his inability to hire good talent (i.e. maintaining an erection): there’s also his “star” Monica (Jennifer Welles, ABIGAIL LESLIE IS BACK) who has been hanging around because Jeffrey has promised her a major role in the “Paradise Sequence” of a film he has been working on for years.
In between mind-numbing – only intermittently hardcore – sex scenes (featuring Tina Russell, her then-husband Jason, Arlana Blue, and Pudgy Roberts as gay gorilla Papamabuto among others) with very general narration about the temperaments of the different zodiac male and females as pertains to sex, a more interesting secondary storyline finds Monica taking in Inga (Barbara Benner, TEENAGE CHEERLEADER) who has bicycled to New York – from New Jersey, not Sweden – in search of fame and fortune. The runaway daughter of the mayor, Inga begs Monica to use her connections to get her a job. Monica, however, does not want Inga going down the same path she did when she was taken in by an older lesbian who introduced her to Jeffrey. Unaware of Monica’s objections, her erotica-writing brother Bob (Jonathan John, THE VIRGIN AND THE LOVER) introduces Inga to Jeffrey. Monica tries to warn her off working with him, but her concern turns to jealousy when Monica tells her that Jeffrey hasn’t offered her a part in the educational film but a major role in the “Paradise Sequence” of his dream project. Welles is absolutely gorgeous here, and the camera – or the cameraman – loves her since she’s given the best close-ups of the female cast. The comic aspects of the filmmaker storyline – including his attempt to produce a super species from the mating of Papamabuto with a female anthropologist/42nd Street penny arcade operator – jar with the dramatic storyline, which is rushed in between the “educational” sex scenes. Welles is the only thing that makes this one watchable; fortunately, there’s a second feature…
WENDY’S PALACE is what becomes of lesbian Lola’s (Rose Dunn) apartment bordello Wendy (Mary Poey) buys it off her for five grand (well, four grand and some Sapphic cuddles) when she resolves never to work the streets again after getting busted for prostitution – by vice cop Vince (Henry Mills) who balls her before arresting her – and serving three months in the workhouse. Just as Wendy gets her business going, a repentant Vince comes back into her life begging her forgiveness. Wendy originally came to the city with the goal of finding a husband and she still wants one; so she and Vince begin saving up money in a joint account to get married, only for Vince to run off with the money. Wendy learns to work off her sexual frustration with her girls – for the narrator tells us that lesbianism is “one of the few erotic sensations that ladies of the night can enjoy” – rather than their clients; but she finds that she just can’t quite Vince.
With direction attributed to THE SEXUALIST’s Kemal Horulu on Vinegar Syndrome’s back cover and to “Kenny” and “Ray Williams” on the print itself, WENDY’S PALACE has the same technical style – and overly expository narration – as the aforementioned film, but information about the film seems sketchy at best (then again I’d never heard of Kemal Horulu until now). The cast is unfamiliar – at least to me, but I’m not seventies porn expert – and the cast list entirely pseudonymous (perhaps for good reason as most of the male half sport certain telltale scars that the camera doesn’t even try to hide, then again the camera doesn’t try to hide flaccid members during the sex scenes either). It does share some crew members with THE SEXUALIST including that film’s assistant cameraman turned cinematographer here Paul Prado, editor Rene Powell, and production manager George Healy; although that film’s costume designer is credited with music here, so these names may be as pseudonymous as the cast list. There’s a modicum of style here, particularly in the titular bordello set (although one nicely framed shot is undermined by the sight of the sound recordist holding up a boom pole in the extreme left of the frame), as well as some nicely chosen New York exteriors. Wendy mills about with possibly real hookers under a massive advertisement for HELLO DOLLY which – along with a glimpse of a marquee for Visconti’s THE DAMNED – suggest the film was shot in 1969 or early 1970 (although there is also a theater marquee for 1966’s TEXAS ACROSS THE RIVER), which might explain the lack of hardcore sex scenes. Vinegar Syndrome lists a 1971 release date, and that may indeed be true (there is no copyright on the print or the poster). Although the sex scenes aren’t as explicit as THE SEXUALIST, they are certainly more enthusiastically performed (presumably Horulu didn’t identify with Jeffrey Montclair).
THE SEXUALIST – subtitled “A Voyage into the World of Forbidden Love” – comes to DVD mastered from a 2K scan of the 35mm camera negative. The anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer is gorgeous apart from some fading along the right edge of reel three for the first few minutes. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is clean and adequately renders the mix of live and post-dubbed dialogue (including narration) and classical music cues. In addition to the film’s graphic trailer (3:46), Vinegar Syndrome has also thoughtfully included a short reel of outtakes (5:03) including some bits snipped from the early discussion of masturbation – focusing on male masturbation – as well as additional positions preferred by the Aries woman as well as those from the pairing of the Leo male and Virgo female. WENDY’S PALACE has also been mastered in 2K from the 35mm camera negatives, and the disc’s anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer is similarly clean and vibrant with a few rare specs here and there, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is in good condition. The disc also includes a lengthy trailer (3:31) for the film. (Eric Cotenas)
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