SOME CALL IT LOVING (1973) Blu-ray/DVD combo
Director: James B. Harris
Etiquette Pictures/Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome's sister company Etiquette Pictures makes their debut with a Blu-ray/DVD combo of the game-playing obscurity SOME CALL IT LOVING.

"He who wakes the sleeping beauty is in danger of awakening himself" so dreamer Robert Troy (Zalman King, BLUE SUNSHINE) discovers when he buys a "Sleeping Beauty" sideshow attraction to add to the collection of fantasy objects he has amassed in the seaside mansion of his devoted mistress Scarlett (Carol White, I'LL NEVER FORGET WHAT'S'ISNAME). Troy does not have to kiss Sleeping Beauty – actually Jennifer (Tisa Farrow, ZOMBIE) – to wake her since she has been kept continuously asleep by medication. Troy helps her with her physical rehabilitation while Scarlett and her maid/playmate Angelica (Veronica Anderson) induct her into the games they play seemingly for Troy's amusement. Their courtship is a series of idyllic, soft-focus, star-filtered but chaste dates, but Troy is torn between yearning for something real and disturbed by young Jennifer's desire to take things further. When Troy takes her for a date away from the mansion to his other world of escape as a saxophone player for a jazz band, Scarlett initiates another series of games, playing Jennifer's guardian and objecting to Troy's intentions. Troy plots to take Jennifer away with him, but their relationship may not be able to survive in the real world.

Although director James B. Harris was a regular collaborator with Stanley Kubrick as his producer on his first three feature films, Kubrickians are probably more familiar with Harris' composer brother Bob who composed the infectious theme for LOLITA (supplementing the Nelson Riddle score). Something altogether more intimate and abstract than Harris' own directorial debut with the all-star THE BEDFORD INCIDENT, SOME CALL IT LOVING is an arty chamber drama in which the "cloistered" (literally in the final scenes) atmosphere of the mansion is dragged into the outside world, isolating the main characters from reality in dreamy haze. The game-playing aspect of the film is never quite as disorientating as it needs to be, however, for the viewer to look beyond the artifice of Mario Tosi's (CARRIE) sumptuous photography and attempts at surrealism. King's subtle performance makes the film hard to get into at first – especially without the context of why he wants to escape reality (other than the impending death of his alcoholic friend played by a sauced Richard Pryor) – until we discover that the Scarlett's use of game playing to come between Troy and Jennifer is less out of jealousy than to draw out the "puppy love" phase of their relationship for his sake. Jennifer is a more enigmatic figure, disturbing Troy with hints that her existence before her long sleep may have been more worldly than he may want of his innocent sleeping beauty; the way she takes to game-playing might just as well indicate an adeptness at manipulation as it might her inability (and unpreparedness) to function in reality. For viewers who want to be genuinely engaged by the story, it may disappoint; but SOME CALL IT LOVING may win more viewers as a risky, personal work (for a mainstream Hollywood producer/director) that did not find major distribution and had less of a chance on the grindhouse circuit. The moving orchestral score from arranger Richard Hazard (BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA) sounds like it comes from an earlier era and does aid the dream-like feel. The cast also includes Logan Ramsay (THE BEAST WITHIN) as the previous owner of the Sleeping Beauty attraction and Pat Priest (THE INCREDIBLE TWO-HEADED TRANSPLANT) as the attending nurse.

Released on VHS in the eighties by Video Supply Depot, a division of Monterey Home Video, SOME CALL IT LOVING's HD overhaul comes from a 2K scan of the original 35mm camera negative. The 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen presentation is understandably grainy with blooming light sources in the night exteriors and darkened interiors while the daytime scenes also have a dreamy softness to them (overall looking like a less refined version of what Tosi achieved in some sequences of CARRIE). Detail is good taking into account the camera filtration, the grain gets considerably heavier in the interior shots of the Sleeping Beauty van late in the film suggesting that the city lights and any lighted parts of the vehicle's instrument panel were the only sources of lighting for these shots. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track is clean with faint hiss apart from one or two bumps after the credits and at the changeovers, with the score rarely threatening to distort at the high ends. English SDH subtitles are available but there is no setup menu.

Extras include an audio commentary by director James B. Harris and Samuel B. Prime, in which he describes the central difference between John Collier's short story in that Harris felt that rather than sleeping beauty waking up and turning out to be a horrible person, the fault should be the protagonist's inability to reconcile his fantasy of the perfect woman with the real thing. Harris also discusses the autobiographical aspects in which his hang-ups were different but he came to the realization that he was the one constant in his string of unsuccessful relationships. Harris describes his preferred two hour plus cut of the film ("Every filmmaker feels like they could watch a four hour version of their film") that did not play well with audiences, and his attempts to shop the film at Paramount without success despite a good reception at Cannes (where it played out of competition at the Director's Fortnight). He was advised to shorten it by fifteen minutes, and found it was not necessary to explain the sources of the main character's fantasies (with Harris discussing the ways in which Troy's betrayal kink is realized throughout). They discuss how King's acting career has been overshadowed by his work as an erotica auteur (Harris saw him on the television show THE YOUNG LAWYERS), and that King suggested Pryor and also contributed to other aspects of the film. Olivia Hussey (ROMEO & JULIET) had been considered for the role of Jennifer, but Harris felt that the inexperienced Farrow could be guided in her naïve performance. The mansion was furnished with sculptures created by King's wife and later frequent co-writer Patricia Louisianna Knop (DELTA OF VENUS). He also recalls an embarrassing interview with him and Pryor at Cannes since the actor had only been present for his scenes and could not answer questions relating to the story. Prime is an excellent moderator with an appreciation for the film and a desire to know more about it from the director which turns out a worthy commentary track (hopefully, further the commentary tracks on future Etiquette releases will be of the same quality).

Harris is back in "Some Call It History: Looking Back with James B. Harris" (6:52) in which he talks again about his collaborations with Kubrick and his desire to direct, as well as the film's popularity in France. In "A Dream So Real: Mario Tosi in Conversation" (8:27), Tosi believes that it may have been himself and King who handled more of the staging than Harris. He also wishes he could have applied what he knows now about soft lighting and low light to the film then, and that the funeral scene took so long because Pryor kept everyone in stitches. The outtake footage (15:55) is without original audio but accompanied by commentary from Harris and Prime. There are some extensions as well as some redundant materials, but the most interesting is the post-credits sequence in which Troy goes home for his mother's funeral. Besides setting up the source of some of his fetishes (nuns, cheerleaders, his mother's cane), the sequence also features Millie Perkins (THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA) in a role entirely missing from the finished feature. Kevin John Bozelka provides a brief essay in an included booklet that also reminds us that Vinegar Syndrome also started out with booklets for their first two Blu-ray releases, and one hopes that they continue doing so with the Etiquette releases. (Eric Cotenas)