Director: Richard Mailer
Vinegar Syndrome

The latest Peekarama release from Vinegar Syndrome highlights two back-to-back works by Richard Mailer with PHYSICAL ATTRACTION and CLASSICAL ROMANCE.

The object of PHYSICAL ATTRACTION is prostitute Bobbi (Shanna McCullough, FALCON BREAST) who feels that there must be more to life than hooking. Her housemate April (Pamela Mann, SEXDANCE FEVER) prefers to live in the now, coaxing Bobbi into a lesbian cuddle for a voyeur client and satisfying the other whims of their abusive pimp Luther (Craig Roberts, TABOO II) who constantly threatens to put Bobbi out on the street when she rejects his advances. After turning tricks by night in sleazy motels, Bobbi goes for a morning jog – to a barely disguised reworking of Vangelis' CHARIOTS OF FIRE theme – where she meets cute with Ed (David Cannon, STIFF COMPETITION) who is training a group of runners for the Olympic trials. When one of his runners breaks her leg, Ed approaches Bobbi and offers to train her. Bobbi falls for Ed over pizza and wine, training with the team and concealing her double life from them. When Bobbi stands up too many Johns, Luther comes looking for her and catty runner Margo (Lisa Lake, HOT FLASHES) gets the ammunition she believes will cause Bobbi to fall out of favor with Ed.

Although it seems like the plot could have come Lifetime TV movie without the hardcore sex scenes, PHYSICAL ATTRACTION largely eschews its plot development in favor of packing in as many sex scenes as possible, throwing in additional encounters in between the Luther and Bobbi's replacement Ginny (Valerie Love), Margo and teammates Nancy (Bunny Bleu, TRASHY LADY) and Stu (Paul Thomas, EROTIC ADVENTURES OF CANDY), in addition to Bobbi's Johns (STUD HUNTERS' Greg Derek and ORIENTAL JADE's Blake Palmer) and April's with RAMBONE AND THE DOUBLE PENETRATORS' Frank James that sometimes seem rushed and "anti-climactic" (despite the money shots) compared to the pivotal encounters between Bobbi and Ed (the second of which looks like an extension of her "stretching" exercises). Even the climactic Olympic trials intercut Luther and Ginny with close-ups of an announcer describing Bobbi's progress rather than a couple disembodied close-up shots of Bobbi versus Margo. Performances are relatively poor but passable; however, there is something quite entertaining about Roberts' brand of awfulness. Still photographer/set decorator on both films Ron Vogel cameos here as a jogger.

Thomas headlines CLASSICAL ROMANCE in a search for someone with which to harmonize as Eric, a pianist whose mentor pushes him to audition for the conservatory but he lacks self-confidence and prefers wasting away playing the organ in a piano bar, doing blow, and sleeping with customers. One night at work, his lifeguard friend Tommy (David Cannon again) goes off for a quickie with customer Helen (Valerie Love again), leaving him to get to know attractive and somber Laura (Jacqueline Lorians, THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES). After an off-screen one night stand, Laura resists Eric's efforts to contact her. With a conservatory audition looming, Eric ponders whether to form a rock band with girlfriend/sugar mama Monica (Desiree Lane, NEW WAVE HOOKERS) and Judy (Renee Summers, star of both FIRST TIME AT CHERRY HIGH and LOOSE TIMES AT RIDLEY HIGH) over a threesome. When Laura does contact him, they begin an affair and he connects with Laura over their mutual love classical music unlike Monica who detests his love of "long haired music" by the likes of "Choppin" (Chopin). Renewed, Eric wants to start life anew, but will Laura leave her unfaithful husband (Herschel Savage, BLUE ICE) even when he brutalizes her and carries on with his mistresses (PHYSICAL ATTRACTION's Bunny Bleu and Lisa Lake) with her in the same bed?

CLASSICAL ROMANCE is the better film here, thanks to Thomas' anchoring lead performance (although he is never shown physically playing the piano or singing, he did so in FANTASY WORLD) and a somewhat believable central romance with the couple's first two encounters off-screen before a lengthy, dissolve-heavy sex scene to the vocal "Piano Man" by Shelton John and Joyce Lucas ("Together we are harmony…") once he proclaims his love for her. Lane's Monica does "audition" for club owner Irv (Don Hodge, WHAT GETS ME HOT!), but that is less a FAME humiliation scene than to suggest that she is more cynical about pursuing her ambitions than our leads (Savage lends the film its edginess without going too over-the-top). The "health spa" set where Eric meets Helen in search of Laura is the same gym set where the runners work out in PHYSICAL ATTRACTION which suggests the two films were shot back-to-back (perhaps simultaneously given usual lead performer Thomas' scant screen time in the that picture).

Both films are mastered in 2K from the 16mm original camera negatives. PHYSICAL ATTRACTION's progressive, anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) widescreen transfer is colorful but as grainy as one expects from 16mm (although it probably looks better than if Vinegar Syndrome had done the transfer from a 35mm blow-up intermediate element). The widescreen framing looks a bit tight in long shots with even the average height women's hairlines bisected by the top. CLASSICAL ROMANCE's progressive, anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) is similar in appearance apart from slight fading on the extreme right of the frame in a couple shots (a handful of night scenes look softer and grainer, but that seems to be a matter of insufficient lighting). The widescreen framing is generally balanced apart from one or two close-ups that just look invasive. The end cast crawl appears to come from an inferior, somewhat blurry source while the technical credits are in better condition and may actually have been culled from PHYSICAL ATTRACTION as the crews were identical as is the crew listing. The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono tracks on both are in fine condition, with some hiss likely part of the original re-recording. The sole extra is a trailer for CLASSICAL ROMANCE (2:47). (Eric Cotenas)