Director: Kemal Horulu
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome performs some more digital revivification on the works of Golden Age oddball auteur Kemal Horulu with this double bill of VIRGIN AND THE LOVER and LUSTFUL FEELINGS, showcasing the talents of porn favorites Eric Edwards, Jamie Gillis, and Jennifer Welles (among others).

In VIRGIN AND THE LOVER, filmmaker Paul (Eric Edwards, THE PRIVATE AFTERNOONS OF PAMELA MANN) has a very odd sexual dysfunction. Gripped with a fear of women, he has only thus far been able to become aroused while dressed as a woman, and has only had sex with older woman Sandra (Susan Sloan) – who he met at a costume party dressed as a man – who died not long after. When not spending his nights in a dress dancing with a tuxedoed female mannequin (which usually gives way to dream encounters with women who catch his eye), he has been sublimating his desires by marking a film about a lesbian relationship: a two-part fifteen minute short with Jennifer Welles (THE SEXUALIST) and Darby Lloyd Rains (NAKED CAME THE STRANGER) which pads the film to ninety minutes. Paul has been seeing shrink Dr. Tracy (Reggi Defoe); however, he has also been chastely dating Tracy’s secretary Julie (Leah Marlon) who does not understand his reticence for physical intimacy. When Julie finds out the truth, will she be able to adapt herself to his particular desires or push Paul further into his fantasy life.

Shot the same year as Horulu’s THE SEXUALIST, VIRGIN AND THE LOVER – which purports to be based on a “French novelette by Kenneth Schwartz” – is a similar mess thanks partly to bad writing (never a strong point in porn, but the personalities can usually make even the most threadbare script passable), listless pacing, and a cast split down the middle between already-seasoned porn stars and would-be actors who will strip down only for softcore bumping and grinding. This makes for a very uneven mix when Edwards’ two crucial encounters (with his first love and the climactic one with his current love interest) are a lot of posing and moaning while his other two fantasy trysts (including one with his Rains) and the other hardcore bits seem like afterthoughts: THE SEXUALIST’s Jonathan John participates in a softcore foursome that suddenly turns into a hardcore threesome when he departs, leaving the ladies with only THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES’ prodigiously endowed Mark Stevens to entertain the two of them (John also has a simulated romp with the truly wooden Olinka Podany while Julie is out on a date with Paul). Horulu’s photography is at least slick and colorful, and the electronic library cues are well-chosen; but the film seems like a wasted opportunity of a half-good cast (also, it’s never really clear who the virgin is supposed to be here).

Vinegar Syndrome’s 2K-mastered progressive, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer of VIRGIN AND THE LOVER may be the best-looking of their hardcore titles so far (if not, then the best looking of the Kemal Horulu ones which also include this disc’s co-feature as well as the earlier Drive-in Collection double bill of THE SEXUALIST/WENDY’S PALACE). Apart from a jittery opening shot and one rough reel change, the 35mm camera negative source looks virtually unblemished. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio on the other hand is a bit more hissy and scratchy, but dialogue is always intelligible. The included trailer (3:19) is similar to the film in that the first two thirds or so feature much softcore groping, only to give way to a deluge of hardcore close-ups in the last third as the narrative describes its explicit portrayal of the film’s emotions.

In LUSTFUL FEELINGS, smalltime cocaine dealer Tony (Jamie Gillis, THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN) owes some serious coin to his suppliers, and his club owner pal Paul (Ras Kean, THE AFFAIRS OF JANICE) suggests he puts his girlfriend Joanna (Lesllie Bovee, FEMMES DE SADE) to work as a nude model (she spends most of her day lolling around the house masturbating anyway). Although Joanna agrees to the proposition because her boyfriend’s life is in danger, she also embraces the adventure when her connection Claudette (Eva Henderson, BLONDE VELVET) takes her not on a series of photo shoots but to jointly service a series of clients (starting with DEBBIE DOES DALLAS’ Richard Bolla as a voyeur in for punishment) without Tony’s knowledge. When he finds out, Tony can’t decide whether he’s angry because his “old lady” is whoring herself – although he’s been dallying with his neighbor (Nancy Dare, THE DEVIL INSIDE HER) – or because she’s been holding back half of her pay from him (the full amount would look suspicious for a handful of photo shoots). When Joanna walks out on him, he loses his means of making payments and runs up more debt while trying to collect from repeat customers – including a lesbian couple (THE STORY OF JOANNA’s Terri Hall and NAKED CAME THE STRANGER’s Helen Madigan) – and soon has the mob on his back, but an emboldened Joanna’s sense of adventure leads her into equally dangerous situations.

Certainly the better film in this double bill, LUSTFUL FEELINGS is thoroughly sleazy. It seems like a cheap charge for a porn film, but Horulu’s story inhabits a milieu of prostitution and drug-trafficking; one that might even resemble what the moral majority must think is really the world of the film’s cast (and it may be more than a bit unfortunate that the four black actors Horulu cast are either coke-fueled rapists or mob enforcers). Gillis does his best as the conflicted protagonist, but his non-screwing screentime is of course limited in favor of Joanna’s sexual adventures. Bobby Astyr (DRACULA EXOTICA) figures into Joanna’s final fateful appointment, and the masked actor billed as “Harvey” during Joanna’s S&M session is credited at IMDb as equally prolific porn star Herschel Savage (THE SATISFIERS OF ALPHA BLUE).

Vinegar Syndrome’s 2K-mastered progressive, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer of LUSTFUL FEELINGS is not as unblemished as VIRGIN AND THE LOVER, containing shots riddled with faint but plentiful white scratches; however, it is still one of the better-looking of the company's adult titles. The constant layer of hiss on the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack suggests that Vinegar Syndrome digital clean-up thankfully stopped short of obliterating the high end of the soundtrack. The included theatrical trailer (2:49) – like the poster on the cover – identifies the film simply as FEELINGS. (Eric Cotenas)