Director: Carlos Tobalina (as Troy Benny)
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome scrapes up two more of Carlos Tobalina's inexhaustible filmography with COME UNDER MY SPELL and LADY DYNAMITE.

In COME UNDER MY SPELL, popular college horndog Dave (Blair Harris, TROPIC OF DESIRE) feels sorry for his foreign exchange student roommate Fernando (Fernando Fortes, CHAMPAGNE ORGY) who lost his virginity to a sheep and has been seeing his right hand on a regular basis (even the two girls Dave brings home for Fernando would rather have a threesome with him). He happens upon a book called "Sex Through Hypnotism" in a bookstore bin and gives it to Fernando who puts it to use with a random neighbor before demonstrating his hypnotism skills for Dave on the pizza girl (Connie Peterson, LUSTY PRINCESS) who they cheat out of sex and twenty dollars for the pizza ("All the money seems to be here, but for some reason I feel like I've been screwed"). As Fernando becomes more proficient in his hypnotism skills – creepily yanking compliant women off the street for a quick screw – Dave hits upon the idea to have Fernando use his powers on his snobby relatives at his cousin's wedding, turning the wedding party (well, at least the attractive ones) into an orgy in which Fernando has his way with the bride. Dave warns Fernando not to get too carried away, but Fernando may be working himself into an early grave just as his fiancée from an arranged marriage arrives (Dave offers to "take care of her" however).

COME UNDER MY SPELL has the makings of a somewhat rape-y sex comedy, but not much in the way of cheap laughs despite comic situations thanks to middling comic timing on the part of the actors, particularly Fortes who usually worked behind the camera for Tobalina as credited cinematographer (although the director himself probably operated the camera). The sex is photographed in a rather uninspired fashioned of long shots and inserts, with the orgy scene rather short of "details" and no clear shot of Fernando's fiancée who is on her back with her hair in her face as soon as she meets Dave. In one bizarre shot, as Dave commences his (offscreen) threesome with the two women he brought home for Fernando, the camera pans left to follow Fernando as he walks away and catches an unknown man sitting and observing well into the left corner of the frame and holds on him (did Dave get the girls from a pimp or did Tobalina?) The director himself shows up in cameo in the penultimate scene, and the film closes with a riff on the shock ending of CARRIE.

Everyone's favorite sexploitation redhead Colleen Brennan (aka Sharon Kelly) is LADY DYNAMITE as career woman Valerie, content in her marriage and sex life until she discovers that her husband (Shone Taylor, LITTLE OFTEN ANNIE) has been cheating on her when her doctor (another Tobalina cameo) reveals that she has gonorrhea. After taking her antibiotics treatment, Valerie walks out on her husband and decides to give herself to any man who wants her (yeah, no risk to the clap there), starting with a handsome executive (Blair Harris again) aboard his boat. Next, she attends a party given by a friend (Laura Lazare, SEKA'S FANTASIES) that is "just for the ladies" – including Lili Marlene (THE YOUNG LIKE IT HOT) – until a quartet of strippers (including BABYLON NIGHTS' Nick Niter and COFFEE TEA OR ME's Rocky Balboa) – with varying levels of dancing talent – join in. After Valerie has expanded her horizons, will she be willing to take her husband back or send him away with a bang?

Carlos Tobalina films are not known for their performances, with the actors usually as robotic in delivery as their bumping and grinding, but what keeps LADY DYNAMITE engaging is Brennan's performance which sparkles during both the dialogue and sex scenes (although at the height of one orgasm, she calls to mind a possessed Elke Sommer in HOUSE OF EXORCISM). Whereas COME UNDER MY SPELL has a certain seventies-look about the film's look and library music sound, LADY DYNAMITE has its foot firmly in the early eighties from the production design, Brennan's hairstyle and the music (including a song during the orgy scene built around the question "Where's the beef?"). Although nowhere near as explosive as its title card, LADY DYNAMITE is the better half of the double feature and one of the better Tobalina films Vinegar Syndrome has released thus far.

Both films were scanned and restored in 2K from the original 35mm camera negatives. The 1.78:1 progressive, anamorphic encodes seem true to their sources with undistorted colors, healthy grain, and only some rare instances of frame damage as well as light leaks in the original cinematography (the clarity is such that one can tell Ms. Brennan is doubled during the anal sex inserts in LADY DYNAMITE). In COME UNDER MY SPELL, some scenes are softer simply because the focus is simply and pathetically off. The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono audio tracks are what we've come to expect: crisp with a layer of hiss that does not impede our understanding of the dialogue or appreciation of the music. The disc's only extras are trailers for both films (5:46 and 5:09, respectively). Although the feature COME UNDER MY SPELL has an optical title card, the trailer presents the title as a close-up of the film's poster art like the credits of some of Tobalina's even cheaper films (instead of a fade out or optical wipe, the cameraman simply passes and index card in front of the camera lens). (Eric Cotenas)