Director: Carlos Tobalina
Vinegar Syndrome

The latest Vinegar Syndrome "Peekarama" DVD brings us a digitally restored pairing of films from the only porn auteur that can make sex boring: Carlos Tobalina (JUNGLE BLUE).

THE ULTIMATE PLEASURE is the "story" of unhappily married Jim (Jeff Lyle, ) and Rose (Kristine Heller, 7 INTO SNOWY). Rose cannot enjoy sexual pleasure, so she makes excuses to her husband and takes refuge in cigarettes and alcohol. When a mobster croaks in his cab and leaves behind a suitcase full of cash, Jim quits his job and heads to Las Vegas under the excuse of taking a new job as a trucker. In Vegas, he hooks up with Genie (Annette Haven, SEX WORLD), so named because she can get her clients anything for a price; and Jim can certainly afford a foursome. Jim isn't stingy, however, as he also pays for Rose to visit a psychiatric clinic to discuss her aversion to sex with a therapist Dr. Sharpe (Tobalina muse Nina Fause, MARILYN AND THE SENATOR). Sharpe traces Rose's frigidity to childhood molestation at the hands of her father and administers a psychotropic drug made from South American tree bark. With Rose under the influence of the drug, Sharpe encourages her to imagine "gentle hands" which leads to dual fantasies about a probing oil massage from a group of women and the oral servicing of a quintet of men (including Rose's fantasy man John Holmes). Jim is also moved to undergo treatment under Dr. Ruiz (Paul Thomas, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A FLEA) who, like Sharpe with Rose, tries to make him immune to advertisements of addictive substances that take the place of finding pleasure in the ones you love but they don't stand a change out in the real world.

THE ULTIMATE PLEASURE is a mess of a film in more ways than one. The film opens with a five minute orgy in front of a projection screen that is completely unrelated to anything in the film itself – apart from the presence of Holmes – and may have been grafted onto the finished film as an afterthought since the story proper does not feature a sex scene until roughly twenty minutes in. Lyle and Heller are decent performers, but Fause is simply terrible and is given plenty of dialogue. Usually a good actor, Thomas comes across just as bad reciting one of Tobalina's not-unjustified but preachy social commentary rants about how the government care more about the cigarette and alcohol lobby than the national health. Holmes also features in Rose's induced fantasy but he's just going through the motions like everyone else. It's ironic that Rose discusses having to fake orgasms as the moans and groans (some dubbed in) of all the cast members sound disconnected from the intensity of the actual acts.

I AM ALWAYS READY is without question the worse film. Fause's thankfully one-off replacement Ronie Ross plays herself as an heiress who decides to produce a porn film with her inheritance. A series of intertitles bracket Ronie's trip to San Francisco where she finds a producer, interviews various cast members, dreams of John Holmes (and flies him in from Europe to do a scene), and gets involved in the action herself in between giving inane direction in the most grating voice to cameraman Fernando ("Can you get a close-up of the tits. They're beautiful") who turns out to be the only person on the set who is "always ready" (which certainly comes in handy). Opening with shimmering optical titles (which probably cost more than the entire film), I AM ALWAYS READY does not seem pieced together from different films; it just seems uninspired and poorly made. Ross is boring – she's kind of plain-looking under Tobalina's furs and Mercedes-Benz-branded jumpsuits, but her atrocious acting makes her character seem pathetic in her apparent need to pay for sex in the guise of producing a film – Holmes is bored, and the other performers are wasted (including Paul Thomas, TABOO's Dorothy LeMay and her husband Lee, and Anthony Spinelli regular Ken Scudder). Tobalina's knowledge of the mechanics of filmmaking is not demonstrated in the film within the film and barely in the film itself (the performers are certainly enthusiastic in the orgy scenes but the cameraman and editor can't summon up the same energy). The entire film is constructed around a groaner of a punchline (and not in a good way). While it is disappointing to see some performers who have done more interesting work so underused here, it is probably just as likely that they considered some of what would be their more memorable projects to be just another job.

Both progressive, anamorphic 1.78:1 transfers on Vinegar Syndrome's dual-layer DVD are derived from 2K scans of the original 35mm camera negatives. Colors are strong but the image quality is as variable as the original photography. THE ULTIMATE PLEASURE is uncreatively lit and photographed but the image is reasonably sharp (the long shots in the opening orgy shot look overly soft but the close-ups and inserts are sharp suggesting that the photography is to blame rather than the elements). I AM ALWAYS READY is also variable, with plenty of soft long shots that suggest that cameraman is either inept or the camera lens is out of alignment (I this case, some close-ups and inserts are sharper than others). The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono tracks are in good condition. The only extras are theatrical trailers for both films (3:11 and 5:18, respectively). (Eric Cotenas)