CHINA GIRL (1975) Blu-ray/DVD combo
Director: Paul Aratow (as Paolo Uccello)
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome gives an HD overhaul the other CHINA GIRL with James Hong with their Blu-ray/DVD combo restoration that also boasts an exclusive interview with Annette Haven.

The US government is developing a secret formula for total memory recall that can, of course, be detrimental to American security if it falls into the wrong hands. Two of the four scientists who have been working on it have disappeared after their contributions to the formula were "extracted" by Madame Woo (Pamela Yen) who approaches potential buyer Mr. Smythe (Louis Ganapoler) with half of the formula with the intention of getting the other half from scientists Olinsky (Barry Vane, WALTZ OF THE BLACK BAT) and Teresa Hardgrave (Annette Haven, THE GRAFENBERG SPOT). Anticipating this, the CIA appoint protection to the scientists, with agent David Chase (Tom Douglass) posing as a traveling salesman and courting a very game Teresa around San Francisco (in between bedroom romps and intense games of backgammon). After grabbing Olinsky, Woo demonstrates her technique of sexual torture to the skeptical Smythe. When insatiable Teresa wears out her tormentors, Madame Woo too falls under her spell and desperately tries to get her to give up the formula rather than surrender her to the hands of her sadistic superior Chan (James Hong, BIG TROULE IN LITTLE CHINA).

Opening with a stylish and wonderfully explicit animated title sequence, CHINA GIRL is higher on sex than intrigue, yet it does attempt to be a legitimate thriller in between the lengthy sex scenes. Hong's Chan is genuinely menacing and Yen conflicted while Douglass and Haven make for suitably engaging leads. Production values are in keeping with some of the better San Francisco-lensed productions of the time while the few fight scenes are as competently-staged as any low-budget mainstream exploitation film. The sex scenes themselves are nothing to write home about but the film still impresses as a whole. The supporting cast includes Sharon Thorpe (BABY ROSEMARY) and Bonnie Holliday (7 INTO SNOWY) who was first introduced Haven to Alex de Renzy (PRETTY PEACHES) and was her lover at the time. The film was directed by Paul Aratow (whose subsequent X-rated softcore film LUCIFER'S WOMEN would be extensively reworked into DOCTOR DRACULA by Al Adamson), but writing/producing couple Edwin Scott Brown and Summer Brown would move back and forth between adult films like EVERY WOMAN HAS A FANTASY and CHINA LUST and low-budget exploitation like THE PREY and HUMAN EXPERIMENTS.

Transferred from a 2K scan of the original 16mm camera negative, Vinegar Syndrome's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC widescreen transfer looks a little tight at 1.85:1 in close-ups but wider compositions generally look fine. Some light leaks along the right edge of the frame are apparent in a few shots, and there are some light scratches at the reel changes and during opticals, but saturated colors stand out amidst the woodwork, more subdued décor choices, and bare flesh. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono soundtrack is clean with the funky main title music having more depth than the rest of the soundtrack which often resorts to reedy oriental underscore.

Besides the film's theatrical trailer (2:16), the disc also features an extensive audio interview (43:42) with a well-spoken Haven who discusses how Holliday (who she refers to as her wife during the period) introduced her to De Renzy who would direct her in her debut LADY FREAKS. She recalls being aware that doing pornography would make her a social pariah but she felt that she could be a good role model in sexual education and healthy attitudes about sexuality. Before discussing CHINA GIRL and her collaboration with Edwin and Summer Brown, she touches upon her second film DEEP TANGO (in which she played the equivalent of Jean-Pierre Leaud's filmmaker fiancé character to the gender reversed male protagonist of this bizarre pornographic take on LAST TANGO IN PARIS by way of DEEP THROAT). She recalls Hong's professionalism and that actress Yen had appeared in a children's show in Hawaii (and hoped to return to it hence her use of an alias), and also that Holliday's small breasts held her back in the business. The cover is reversible with the front version patterned after the artwork and title font for Roman Polanski's CHINATOWN. (Eric Cotenas)