Director: Carlos Tobalina (as Troy Benny)
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome delves into the seemingly bottomless vaults of porn auteur Carlos Tobalina for a Dorothy LeMay double feature with THREE RIPENING CHERRIES and SENSUAL FIRE.

Get this, THREE RIPENING CHERRIES purports to derive its story from Guy de Maupassant, as high school students Sally (Dorothy LeMay, Bob Chinn's TROPIC OF DESIRE), Lucy (Misty Regan, Anthony Spinelli's NOTHING TO HIDE), and Ann (Brooke West, GARAGE GIRLS) come home from sex ed class to an extracurricular lecture from Sally's mother Rose (Kitty Shayne, BLONDE FIRE) and South American cousin Claudia (Rosa Lee, CHAMPAGNE ORGY). Back in Rose's day, there were no sex ed classes and liberal attitudes, so girls like Rose had to learn about sex from the girls who went all the way. After a family friend (Aaron Stuart, VISTA VALLEY PTA) gets her drunk and rapes her, Rose sought affection everywhere she could by putting out but she never had an orgasm until she met Sally's father who she enjoys every time he comes to port.

In the country where Claudia grew up, girls waited until they were married to have sex (although she does have a vibrating "boyfriend" who keeps her company at night). With much to think about, Sally and her friends retire to her bedroom for a lesbian frolic while musing over who they want for their first times. Since the girls seemingly cannot go anywhere without one another, their Sapphic threesome is intercut with the three taking on preppy Paul (Jon Martin, HOT LUNCH), and jock duo Cesar (David Morris, BABYLON PINK) and Victor (Daoud Alar). Unfortunately, it turns out that Cesar and Victor are "dig each other" in real life. Ann would rather have her gym teacher (Mick South, BLONDES HAVE MORE FUN) while Sally is in love with her big-haired math teacher (Joe Elliot, BODY MAGIC); but one is bound for disappointment while the other is for a nasty surprise.

THREE RIPENING CHERRIES boasts an attractive trio of ladies and lots of sex, but does not quite lives up to the promise of its tagline "Ripe for action, ready to be plucked…" The first act consists of mother Rose's mostly rushed and incomplete dalliances (except for an oral scene with TASTY's Mike Horner) bridged by cutaways to the girls saying "tell us more." They spend the entire second act in bed in half-hearted clinches that are intercut with their fantasy encounters. Although there are blowjobs and money shots, there is no actual onscreen penetration inserts until roughly halfway through the movie (although the sex before that is likely unsimulated). They only go out into the real world for a series of disappoint real encounters in the last fifteen or so minutes, where most other filmmakers would make an entire feature out of schoolgirls teasing and seducing their teachers. That said, the requisite action is all present and accounted for; it's just delivered in the rather unambitious style of Tobalina's orgy pictures.

In SENSUAL FIRE, wealthy businessman Roy (Jamie Gillis, THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN) has finally relinquished bachelorhood for lovely widow Laura (Jesie St. James, Bob Chinn's FANTASYWORLD); that is, until her teenage daughter Teena (Dorothy Le May) comes home from boarding school. Through a peephole in his study, Roy spies on the girl masturbating and starts to fantasize about being in bed with her. At first, this galvanizes his sex life with Laura until he spies Teena with a boy her age. He consults shrink friend Dr. Bob Seeman (John Seeman, BABY ROSEMARY) who suggests that he has developed a fetish for young girls and suggests he indulge it with a visit to Madam Rose's bordello. The madam's secretary Glory (Serena, PRISONER OF PARADISE) shows him a selection of young-looking girls, but he likes her even more.

Still unable to get Teena out of his head, Roy consults very liberal Father Carlos (director Tobalina) who suggests his obsession with Teena is not because she is a young girl but because she reminds him of someone else from his own youth and sends him back to Madam Rose's with a photo of Teena for the madam to find a reasonable facsimile (imagine if Tobalina had been elected pope). Madam Rose works wonders and provides him with an exact double (or is it?) of Teena for an afternoon's enjoyment. He thinks he has gotten Teena out of his system until he catches her in bed with one of her girlfriends (and joins in himself, if only in his imagination); whereupon Dr. Seeman decides that the only way for Roy to get over his obsession is to have Teena in the flesh, and plots a way for it to happen without Teena or Laura being the wiser.

While good performers usually lift Tobalina films up from the mediocre, Gillis and James are wasted here in roles that would allow for some depth in the hands of another director (even Gillis' usual sleazy charm does not come across here). Serena makes for a nice change in a single sex scene since LeMay looks disturbingly underage (and even boyish in a handful of shots). As usual, the photography is professional, and the locations provide such good production value that one wonders how Tobalina sells well-to-do San Francisco home owners on the use of their homes for porno shoots (we're thankful for the variety, however). It seems as if Tobalina just pointed cameras at two or three beds and had the same actors get in and out of them in various combinations over the course of a day and split up the results into several separate sex scenes that seem nevertheless monotonous. Tobalina's cinematographer employs star filters to a ridiculous degree in all of the interstitial establishing shots, and probably spent more on the opticals than anything else in the film.

Restored in 2K from the original 35mm camera negatives, THREE RIPENING CHERRIES and SENSUAL FIRE – which takes its opening shot of the Golden Gate Bridge and the "Diamond Films Proudly Presents" card from THREE RIPENING CHERRIES – are gorgeously crisp and colorful with the only faults seemingly inherent in the original photography. On THREE RIPENING CHERRIES, there are handful of zoom shots in which the image flickers subtly (most noticeable in brighter shots) while it seems as if the cinematographer could not always focus well through the star filters in SENSUAL FIRE. The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono audio is clean with a trace of hiss. The only extras are lengthy theatrical trailers for both films (4:09 and 5:41, respectively). (Eric Cotenas)