Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome follows up their Storefront Theatre Collection with another three disc set of 16mm hardcore oddities.

Best-known of the films though perhaps little seen is THE GEEK (55:58) which starts out as a pretty dead-on parody of 1970s bigfoot documentaries with three couples hiking into the wilds of Oregon (supposedly using Oregon, Washington state, and Alberta, Canada) in search of sasquatch – also known as "The Geek" here for some reason – before eating up roughly forty-five minutes of its running time on two ugly sex scenes between two of the couples who then discover that The Geek is real and that he is horny. Once the viewer's curiosity is satisfied, there is probably little need to revisit this one. In 1971's HOTTER THAN HELL (70:31), Satan learns from St. Peter that his next shipment of souls will be shorted because God was able to find something good in many of them. Angered, Satan sends his sons Devla (Ron Darby, INSIDE AMY) and Hades (John McGaughtery, DADDY'S BABY SITTER) up to Earth for a first hand report that man is indeed corrupt and to make sure to deliver him some delectable female souls for amusement. The pair first find roommates Connie (Judy Travers, THE TAKERS) and Donna (Judy Angel, FROM RUSSIA WITH LUST) as interested in corrupting them as they are, a virgin (Suzanne Fields, FLESH GORDON) Hades must first make drunk and pliant, a go-go dancer who is an exhibitionist even alone in her room, and a spinster (Annette Michael, PSYCHED BY THE 4D WITCH) who has never achieved climax. Satan soon finds he must drag his sons back to hell before they are corrupted by Earthly pleasures, but they do not come back alone. A rather dull comedy with intermittent hardcore action – Devla never gets it up so he usually disappears onto the next venture while his younger brother finishes things up – the cast and crew list may be the film's most amusing touch with pseudonyms like Fanny Fiddler and Lotta Goodbody.

Disc one also includes Joe Davian's HOUSE OF DE SADE (58:15) in which couple Lucille (Vanessa del Rio, HER NAME WAS LISA) and Brett (David Williams, FETISHES OF MONIQUE) are invited to a séance at a haunted house in North Beach and decide to bring along two couples (Lee Roy St. John, BLOODSUCKING FREAKS' Crystal Sync, HIGH SCHOOL BUNNIES' Paula Morton, and THE PITFALLS OF BUNNY's Don Smith). While the other couples settle in for some pre-séance sex, Lucille is terrorized by phantom ejaculations (a threesome calms her down). A hunchback (Peter Andrews, ALL ABOUT GLORIA LEONARD) conducts the séance in which the group are able to reach the Marquis de Sade who possesses Brett who leads the group in an S&M orgy in the house's dungeon. Contact with De Sade seems unnecessary since the sextet all seem to have been predisposed to rough sex before (with Brett peeling and slicing up a cucumber while half of it is inside Lucille during their first sex scene), indeed one wonders by the half-hour mark if the couples will be too otherwise engaged to bother showing up at the haunted house. Unambitious and slow but it becomes intense and soon delivers what one expects from Davian. THE SORCERESS (59:29) eschews the supernatural and the fantastic as Jill and her boyfriend cook up a scheme to blackmail his banker poker buddies by having her pretend to be a palm reader, facilitate the acting out of their darkest fantasies while her boyfriend secretly photographs them. Andrea True (BOTH WAYS) turns up as an unhappy woman who walks in off the street and is treated to a soothing lesbian encounter, but Eric Edwards (CORPORATE ASSETS) has a surprise in store for Jill that even she cannot see coming (sort of in the vein one would expect from a guest appearance by contemporary Jamie Gillis).

Disc two opens with Gil Kenston's COME DEADLY (60:32) in which a BLOOD AND BLACK LACE-esque slouched hat-wearing faceless rapist/killer targets the actresses of low rent New York stage productions. When Anne (Maggie Williams), star of a stilted production of "The Taming of the Shrew" is the latest victim, cop Winston (Kirt Jones) decides to go undercover as an actor and finds some likely suspects – effete director Andy (Peter Puluva), rotund actor Martin (Hoss Slocum), and spurned former star Phil – and a couple more potential victims in actresses Julie (Cindy Johnson) and Marie (Nina Fause, MARILYN AND THE SENATOR). The murder scenes are scored with Bach's Fugue and Tocata in D Minor and the killer is not difficult to identify (Winston even feels sorry for him). Also using the Bach tune for its murders is MANIA (56:10), a pornographic take on Narcisco Serrador's THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED. Female juvenile delinquents whose families are wealthy enough to keep them out of jail are sent to the hilltop academy of puritanical Mrs. Wellington who carries on an incestuous relationship with her Peter who conveniently beds the "bad girls" before they are murdered. A creepy handyman is seen disposing of large bundles of garbage on a regular basis and Mrs. Wellington's icy exterior may be melting when she meets new girl Susan, but we know who the real killer is and what he is doing with the bodies. Indifferently photographed with lengthy but dull sex scenes scored with an instrumental of "California Dreamin'" and a cover of "Witchy Woman."

Disc two also includes DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (60:51) in which young metaphysical writer Andrew moves into a boarding house run by Zenobia (Helen Madigan, Sarno's MISTY) and finds his soul and libido tested by her sex-starved unearthly familiars. Joey Silvera (SEXWORLD) appears as one of the cultists who works as a gravedigger and delivers instructions from the beyond to the cult as to Jonathan's fate when he attempts to move out. Rather dull despite a more concerted effort in evoking atmosphere but diverting compared to the second disc's final feature UNHOLY CHILD (57:09) in which sailor Gabe returns home to San Francisco and finds his home life turned upside down. His girl Stella rebuffs him, ashamed of what she has done to make a living since he left, his sister Martha – who cheats on her husband with a lesbian neighbor – blames him for their father's mysterious death, and a strange man is trailing him around the city seemingly intent on killing him. Gabe spends much of the running time either bewildered or getting laid – during which he flops around like a dying fish – but the identity of the would-be killer is no headscratcher.

Disc three opens with the execrable CULT OF THE SCORPION (65:24) in which a girl in search of her half-sister, who she believes has been abducted by someone called The Scorpion, gains special access to the secret sex society by way of randy P.I. Pomerantz who is already a member and gets her so horny she no longer cares about anything but her own pleasure. Boring and ugly with murderously bad acting. Slightly better is DR. SEXUAL AND MR. HYDE (63:45) in which Dr. Jekyll's Home for the Insane caters mainly to nymphos. Despite the admonishments of prim nurse Margaret, aged Jekyll studies the chemical properties of his patients and creates a potion that unleashes his own animal desires and turns him into a stud (well, younger anyways). He doses Margaret with the potion and turns her on the patients while he takes advantage of young visitor Prudence (Suzanne Fields) who visits with her fiancé. Shot around some reasonably atmospheric stone factory ruins and the usual cramped interiors, the film surprisingly works. THE RITES OF URANUS (59:01) inducts Sarah (Vivian Parks) – that is, anal sex – with phallic candles and sub-Gregorian chant ("Uranus is our love, enter my dark passage"). Sarah's seduction turns to terror when she is dosed with LSD and suffers torments for apparently killing the cult's leader (Frank Rowney). Meanwhile, the inducting of another cult member Dana is offered in contrast with scenes of her being emotionally manipulated and worn down into signing away her earthly possessions before her initiation. Scuzzy but probably the best-designed of the productions and the best-looking of the print sources. The cast of unknowns is distinguished by appearances of Mike Ranger (TABOO) and Don Fernando (A PLACE BEYOND SHAME). WALTZ OF THE BAT (70:55) is the oddest of the bunch, in which portly Count Fledermaus (Barry Vane, BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR) has lived for a hundred years thanks to powers bestowed to him by The Bee (Kandi Johnson, RESURRECTION OF EVE) that he misuses as a pimp, seducing girls and sending them off to service others and bring the money back to him. In order to thwart the count, The Bee must have sex with him by midnight. Overlong at seventy minutes, the film sports shots of the count flitting around rainy San Francisco streets in a black cape and The Bee running through apartment hallways in her glittery getup (and delivering dialogue to the camera like a children's story time performer). An encounter between The Bee and two "Indian" clients is underscored by John Denver's "Wooden Indian." Uninspiring, but viewers may be relieved that when this one is over, concluding the set.

Mastered from fullscreen 2K scans of scratched-to-hell-and-back 16mm sources, all four films probably look no worse than they did after a couple runs through the storefront projectors, THE GEEK and RITES OF URANUS are probably the best-preserved of the materials but damage mainly consists of scratches and missing chunks of emulsion where the film stuck together on the reels over the years as opposed to missing frames, tears, or obvious missing footage. The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono tracks carry over the film damage to the optical track with some hiss and noise, but some of the dialogue is just badly recorded on location with little care. There are no extras, but twelve features on three dual-layer discs in an attractive cardboard digibook in a sturdy slipcase for thirty-five bucks (less from Vinegar Syndrome) is a pretty good deal if you know what to expect after the first set. (Eric Cotenas)