Director: Bob Chinn
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome brings us some more Bob Chinn with the back-to-back double bill TROPIC OF DESIRE and FANTASY WORLD.

The setting of TROPIC OF DESIRE is a Honolulu brothel run by Frances (Georgina Spelvin, THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES). When prostitute Rita (Kitty Shayne) receives word that her soldier fiancée – who she had told she was working as a USO girl to save money for a down-payment on a house for them after the war – has been killed in action, she decides to head back stateside. After eighteen months out on the ocean, marine Jack (Jon Martin, HOT LUNCH) is looking forward to reconnecting with Donna (Jesie St. James, BLUE HEAT) as well as getting virginal buddy Phil (Blair Harris, ORIENTAL TABOO) laid. Their pal Gus (Ken Scudder, BABY ROSEMARY) is in for a disappointment since he's looking forward to seeing Rita who he believes is in love with him ("She's not a whore. Whores are dirty and mean!"). Jack sets Phil up with Terry (Star Hills, SAME TIME EVERY YEAR) but he faints only to come to and discover that Terry has started without him ("How am I doin' down there?"). While Jack goes off with Donna, Frances tries to cheer up Gus who is drowning his sorrows. When another one of Rita's admirers British pilot Malcolm (James Price, BLONDE FIRE) turns up, sets them up in a with maneater Mona (Susan Nero, G-STRINGS) and sweet Texan Gloria (Mandy Ashley, OVER EASY) and a stag film featuring Loretta Young-lookalike Marlene Munroe (COME UNDER MY SPELL), Don Fernando (CANDY STRIPERS), and a surprise fisting. With her guests squared away, sexually-frustrated Frances finally gets to audition Rita's replacement June (Dorothy LeMay, BLUE HEAT) herself. With these pairings (and a few more), the guests may be too busy to notice that the war is ending.

TROPIC OF DESIRE is handsomely-made if unambitious, but a much more satisfying view than Chinn's similarly-themed SADIE (part of an earlier Vinegar Syndrome double bill with THE SEDUCTRESS). The sets and costumes are attractive, as are the women (with Spelvin looking quite glamorous even at her raunchiest). The tone is mostly comic with some drama that does not overreach the range of the actors, and the sex scenes are nicely photographed (although the first sex scene drags in its preliminaries as Chinn and writer/editor Jeffrey Fairbanks [EXPOSED] seems more interested in setting up the period visually as well as aurally with vintage needle drops). The opening credits cite the film as "A Film by Gail Palmer" (to whom Chinn's CANDY films are also credited" that is "Directed by Bob Chinn". The disc's co-feature FANTASY WORLD recycles – also directed by Chinn and Fairbanks -- recycles some of the actors (notably St. James, Price, and Martin as another sailor, very likely in the same uniform), crew (including DRIVE-IN MASSCARE cinematographer Ken Gibb), and even some sets from TROPIC OF DESIRE making it an apt co-feature even if it's not quite as elaborate.

The titular club is a San Francisco hole-in-the-wall with live sex shows that cater to every desire (even unspoken ones) of its clientele, which includes a trio of sailors on shore leave – Cal (Jon Martin again), Frank (Michael Morrison, TABOO), and Sloan (Jesse Adams, GIRLS U.S.A.) – and a trio of vacationing Midwest switchboard operators: reserved Chrissie (Laurien Dominique, THE ECTASY GIRLS), naughty Nancy (Jesie St. James again), and know-it-all Ellen (Sharon Kane, DEEPRUB). The fey MC (James Price again) can read the thoughts of the guests and magically transports them into their secret fantasies (in between sex vignettes on stage including one with Eve, a live snake, and a man in a devil mask). Married Frank gets a threesome with performer Serena (not that one) and his wife Audrey (Valerie Darlyn, SCREWPLES) while Nancy realizes her desire to take on three men (well… parts of three men, with black body suits cut out at the crotch meant to make them otherwise invisible against the black background). Cal realizes his Oriental fetish by being services (in multiple ways) by a geisha girl (Star Wood again) while Paul Thomas (DRACULA SUCKS) serenades Chrissie with the ballad "If Wishes Were Horses" (Thomas – who starred in the Broadway run of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR – receives writing and singing credit for the song under his real name Paul Toubus). A freaked out Ellen seemingly does not take kindly to Sloan's come-ons until they are both transported into a bondage fantasy (scored with a cue from Tangerine Dream's score for SORCERER). Once they are all sexually sated, will they be able to return to reality and leave "Fantasy World" (or would they even want to)?

Vinegar Syndrome's dual-layer disc features progressive, anamorphic 1.78:1 encodes derived from 2K scans of the original 35mm camera negatives for both films. TROPIC OF DESIRE is virtually spotless with attractive colors and crisp close-up (faces and genitals) apart from the stock exteriors. FANTASY WORLD also looks quite good in general, although the black stage backgrounds do evince some heavier grain and the reel changes and optical effects also feature some scratches and coarsening. Both Dolby Digital 1.0 mono audio tracks feature a layer of hiss, but this is likely part of the original optical tracks and probably could not be scrubbed out without distorting the feature audio itself. The only extras are trailer for both films (3:49 and 2:24, respectively). (Eric Cotenas)