A TOUCH OF GENIE (1974) Blu-ray/DVD combo
Director: Joseph Sarno
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome conjures up a new restoration of one of softcore pioneer Joseph Sarno's few hardcore efforts with A TOUCH OF GENIE.

Between his domineering mother (Ultramax, THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS) and the love of his life Janet Geckel who is being romanced by a gynecologist, nerdy thrift shop salesman Melvin (Douglas Stone) finds himself taking a lot of two-hour lunches at the local raincoat theater. When he acquires an odd vase with a very suggestive opening, his efforts to "rub" the inside of it conjures up spunky genie Harama (Chris Jordan, ABIGAIL LESLIE IS BACK IN TOWN) who offers him five wishes. He uses the wishes to become insurance salesman Eric Edwards (THE PRIVATE AFTERNOONS OF PAMELA MANN), milkman Levi Richards (THE ABDUCTION OF AN AMERICAN PLAYGIRL), private detective Marc Stevens (SYLVIA), and gynecologist Harry Reems (DEEP THROAT) in sexual scenarios with dream girl Tina Russell (THE SENSUALIST) and Sandy Fox (SATAN WAS A LADY). These fantasies, however, are usually frustrated by appearances by Melvin's mother and his discomfort with her as a sexual being having flings with the mailman (and possibly some of her female friends). Having fallen in love with Genie herself, she can only hope that he uses his final wish for her.

A light-hearted but uncharacteristically hardcore effort from Sarno – whose subsequent softcore works were of a higher quality but usually sold poorly in the burgeoning hardcore market – A TOUCH OF GENIE relies heavily on the New York Yiddish comedy but is less grating than the likes of A CLOCKWORK BLUE (a prior Vinegar Syndrome release). Sarno's humor along with the acting talent of the cast keep the dialogue scenes amusing while the sex scenes are well-shot but betray the director's lack of interest in hardcore sex and usually last just long enough to get the requisite shots in before he brings in the comic relief boner killer of Melvin's mother (who makes things especially awkward when she makes the moves on him as the milkman). Stone does not actually "perform" in any of the sex scenes, nor does Jordan who usually had nonsexual roles in hardcore films and was best utilized in Sarno's softcore films. Fred J. Lincoln appears in the background as a porn audience member (along with a guy who might be Paul Thomas) two years before he would launch his own directorial career in the genre.

Previously released on DVD from 16mm elements by After Hours Cinema in its hardcore version and in an R-rated version by sister label Secret Key as part of the DEEP THROAT COMEDY COLLECTION, A TOUCH OF GENIE comes to Blu-ray/DVD combo in a new 2K scan of the original 35mm camera negative. The image is richly colorful and clear enough to see that the camera is not always in focus. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track is in good condition, and this may be the first Vinegar Syndrome hardcore title to include English SDH subtitles.

While Vinegar Syndrome's limited Blu-ray/DVD combo of Sarno's ALL THE SINS OF SODOM was barebones, the company has cooked up a pair of extras for this one. "A Touch of Eric" (23:18) is an interview with actor Edwards who discusses his beginnings as a stage and TV commercial actor before getting into porn. He recalls first working on Sarno on GENIE and discusses some of their subsequent collaborations including BUTTERFLIES and LAURA'S TOYS (with an anecdote about Cathja Graff's first orgasm). He also discusses his co-stars on GENIE, including his discomfort doing sex scenes with Tina Russell with her husband on the set as producer. "All About Joe" (25:55) is an interview with biographer Michael Bowen that covers Sarno's beginnings in industrial film and as a softcore pioneer as well as the impact of hardcore filmmaking on his aesthetic. This information is familiar to Sarno fans from Bowen's other writings that accompanied earlier DVD releases but this interview also includes what information he has been able to glean from the film itself about its period of production and the distributor 808 Pictures, credited producer Jason Russell, and the garment district backer of the film. The disc also includes the film's theatrical trailer (2:54). The cover is reversible with more explicit artwork on the inside. (Eric Cotenas)