Director: Billy Thornberg
Vinegar Syndrome

This Peekarama Big 2 Unit Show! DVD presents a double bill from TV actor turned pornographic producer/director Chris Warfield (aka Billy Thornberg).

In PURELY PHYSICAL, college student Kathy Harrington (Laura Lazare, ALL ABOUT ANNETTE) takes a job as a night clerk at a motel to pay for classes as well as for inspiration for her creative writing. I guess she's taking a class on erotica since she mostly imagines the sexual encounters between the guests. A pair of supposed newlyweds (Albert Johnson and PRISONER OF PARADISE's Jade Wong) who are actually a high school couple looking for somewhere to screw. Truck driver Curt (Danny Weirdman, SATISFACTIONS) asks for a personal wake-up call from Kathy but is refused. Salesman Charlie (Michael Morrison, TABOO) wants to talk movies with Iris (Tigr, A THOUSAND AND ONE EROTIC NIGHTS), but she has other things in mind. Worn out Jonathan's (Joey Silvera, OUI GIRLS) sleep is disturbed by hookers (BLACK DESIRE's Nicole Black and SEVEN SEDUCTIONS' Phaery Burd). When Kathy rebuffs her advances, career woman Claudia (Juliet Anderson, VISTA VALLEY PTA) takes matters into her own hands (well, hand and hand mirror). After peaking in on middle class housewife Mrs. Northrup's (Dana Moore, EXPOSE ME NOW) threesome with her tennis trainer (Eric Stein, AUNT PEG'S FULFILLMENT) and player Terry (Adam Adams, TOUCH ME IN THE MORNING), Kathy decides she needs to loosen up a little.

A typical series of porn vignettes loosely tied together by a framing device and narration, there is nothing exceptional about PURELY PHYSICAL. As per the norm for Essex Video productions, it's well-acted and attractively photographed. The motel setting actually does not have to stand in for anything else for once, and a familiar series of porn personalities makes for a pleasant watch. Only Morrison's talkative film fan and particularly Anderson's lonely but lovely forty-something businesswoman make much of an impression performance-wise, but Lazare is nice to look at in a series of glamorous close-ups that break up the sex scenes.

In CATHOUSE FEVER, young Los Angeles secretary Becky (Becky Savage, PLEASURES OF A WOMAN) has a very active fantasy life (starring NASTY NURSES' Herschel Savage) but she's otherwise too shy to get what she really wants out of a man. One day she sees an ad for a Las Vegas cathouse, quits her job, and heads to Vegas to be a prostitute. Brothel madam Rhonda (Rhonda Jo Petty, probably still having around since THE BEST CATHOUSE IN LAS VEGAS) gives Becky a live audition with the rather weedy-looking Mickey Macho (John Colt, SEX RINK) while Sherry (Marla Lee Gardner) takes on Tex (Jerry Davis, MELTS IN YOUR MOUTH). Rather than taking on clients, Rhonda uses her body to deal with the tax man (Art Parker) and getting deadbeat Mickey to pay off his debts. Becky learns what the girls do for recreation when Debby (Debbie Truelove, DEBBIE DOES LAS VEGAS) asks her to test out some of her toys followed by an erotic bubble bath with Brandy (Gaylene Marie, THE YOUNGER THE BETTER). Eventually, Becky learns that she wants more than just sex and returns to her fantasies (this time starring FANTASM's Rick Cassidy) confident that eventually she will meet the real man of her dreams.

Despite having wall-to-wall sex and being lighter in tone than PURELY PHYSICAL, CATHOUSE FEVER – made two years later by Thornberg's own Coventry Productions – is the less interesting film in this double billing. The sex scenes are intercut with Becky wandering around soulfully with her guitar and an unfunny recurring "gag" as all of the cathouse girl try in vain to bring off "Tape Mouth" (Tommy Drake), and the use of the same three guys suggests either a lack of availability of porn actors for some reason or Thornberg not wanting to pay any additional performers (if that was the case, then he should probably be commended for casting more females since the men are pretty interchangeable). Everyone's favorite porn redhead Sharon Kelly/Colleen Brennan is credited at IMDb as providing Becky's voiceovers, but that really doesn't make any more interesting as a film (but you could do worse).

Both progressive, anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen transfers are derived from 2K scans of the original 35mm camera negative. Both look virtually spotless and sharp with colors as beautiful as the "production design" allows (although Petty's red gown looks a bit noisy in one scene). Even if neither film is a classic, these forty-seventh release by Vinegar Syndrome at least assures us that the materials for quite a bit of the porn films produced in the seventies and eighties on 35mm have been preserved (which seemed in doubt only a few years ago what with decades of recycled video masters for DVD releases and restorations of films like CALIGULA, DEBBIE DOES DALLAS, and INSATIABLE the rare exceptions). The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono tracks have an underlying trace of hiss, but nothing disruptive to the dialogue or music. The disc also includes trailers for both films (2:35 and 2:31, respectively). (Eric Cotenas)