Director: Carlos Tobalina (as Troy Benny)
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome's latest Peekarama release is a pair of Carlos Tobalina's collaborations with Jamie Gillis and John Holmes: SEXUAL HEIGHTS and UNDULATIONS.

Four divorced guys – doctor Ron (Jamie Gillis, WINTER HEAT), engineer Art (Michael Morrison, TABOO), lawyer Jim (Jesse Adams, ORIENTAL HAWAII), and architect Joe (Herschel Savage, PRETTY PEACHES 2) – live together in a suburban bachelor pad and pass the time with some rather chaste joint viewing of pornographic videos. Joe recognizes one of the actresses as Laurie (Tawny Pearl), the babysitter who teased him to distraction. His wife divorced him when he tried to act on his desires for Laurie, so he blames her for his bachelorhood. Ron comes up with an idea to "give it" to the tease, and calls her over to babysit a toy doll for dad (Art) and mom (Jim in drag) while Joe dresses up as the maid and Ron as the chauffeur.

They lace the champagne, food, and cigarettes with THC – the active ingredient in marijuana – and program the television to play back erotic videos while they watch Laurie through a two-way mirror. Once she's drugged and horny enough, Ron, Art, and Jim return home in costume to have their way with her ("What! Your wife has a cock too!"). Laurie then calls her roommates – Pat (Lysa Thatcher, CO-ED FEVER), Amy (Holly McCall, PRETTY PEACHES), and Amy's "little sister" Lolita (Lolita Grant) – to join them; but will Laurie's discovery of Joe's identity kill the party or will she be more willing this time around.

The plot of SEXUAL HEIGHTS – four guys get "revenge" on a tease – would have any politically-correct-minded viewer or anti-porn variety of feminist more than a little appalling, and it would be if its execution were not so cock-eyed (Ron not only buys costumes but also procures a Rolls Royce for the subterfuge, Savage in drag huskily sings "Hush, Little Baby", and everyone falls for the disguises). The scene in which Joe makes his move on Laurie is played like a rape scene with the girl entirely unwilling, and the scene in which Ron deflowers Lolita threatens to take things into similar territory.

Serena (DRACULA SUCKS) appears in one of the guys' videos in a lesbian scene with Jennifer Duran (UNDULATIONS) – who appears in another video doing a solo – while top-billed John Holmes has a pre-credits scene with Kitty Shayne (THREE RIPENING CHERRIES), another sex scene with Mai Lin (MAI LIN VS SERRENA) as his coke dealer, and is tied into the main story by a short dialogue scene with Gillis in which he explains his plan but suggests that Holmes' member would scare the girl off. John Seeman (BABY ROSEMARY) also appears in one of the videos. As usual, the film looks technically slick, Tobalina condescends to kaleidoscope opticals on some of the sex scenes to vary the coverage, and the title card makes it look like the film is supposed to be a 3D production. It's an interesting turn for Gillis and Savage, and makes a nice change from Tobalina's lazier orgy pics. Gillis and Michael Morrison (under the screen name Mort Ingleby) are also credited as assistant directors.

The titular UNDULATIONS is a cable television show hosted by Mai Lin (as herself) and Georgia Drugg (aka THE OTHER SIDE OF JULIE's Suzanne French, a woman with the most flat delivery and unnervingly blank stare). Tonight, their guests are John Holmes and Jamie Gillis (as themselves) and International Male Watchers' Society president Maggie Miller (Kitty Shayne, again). Amidst discussion of Holmes' and Gillis' approaches to adult film work – Holmes says they are "sexual athletes" rather than celebrities – are a series of vignettes. A clip from a Gay Pride parade leads to Georgia countering "but we women have a more legitimate cause" which leads to a lesbian scene with her and Marilyn Monroe-lookalike (Brooke West, AMANDA BY NIGHT). Apparently, their cause is horniness, because they soon welcome Gillis into bed with them.

Georgia then muses on men taking advantage of women seeking employment and what would happen if the shoe were on the other foot: executive Juliet Anderson (PURELY PHYSICAL) propositions applicant Billy Dee (THE SEDUCTRESS) and he's just fine with that. Likewise, a German-accented female shopkeeper proposes an alternate form of payment when Eric Stein (TROPIC OF DESIRE) cannot afford a painting. A discussion of male prostitution – which Holmes suggests is every woman's fantasy – leads to an anecdote from Maggie about a pregnant friend who arranges for her best friend to give her husband (Jon Martin, HOT LUNCH) some much-needed relief. After Holmes offers the other guests and hostesses some cocaine – Gillis abstains – they decide to give the audience a live show with Georgia working Holmes and Gillis taking on Mai Lin and Maggie.

UNDULATIONS pretty much strings together a handful of vignettes that Tobalina probably shot for other features or just on-the-fly on one of the venues that would ultimately kill theatrical porn and softcore releases. It is difficult to tell what he thinks of his viewers who are depicted here as a lip-biting, bug-eyed blonde woman and a cross-eyed shirtless guy (whose weird eye rolling movements are further emphasized by Tobalina creating a split-screen optical so that both of his eyes can move independently of one another). Given his own habit, the scene with Holmes doing cocaine may be more revealing about his personality than his faux-intellectual responses to the panel questions with throwaway comments about how women on cocaine start out "so delicately, and then in three months" (a pig-like sound), or how some women "won't even wash their hair it they know you have coke." It is actually surprising that a Tobalina film about erotic television is free of any appearance of the director himself stepping up on the soapbox to rattle on about censorship and sexual freedom.

Both films are restored in 2K from the original 35mm camera negatives, and the progressive, anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen (not 1.85:1 as listed on the back cover) presentations are crisp and colorful with only minor edge enhancement (possibly from the downscaling to SD rather than an attempt to give a bit more definition to the seventies softness). Shots with opticals look extremely coarse, but clean up at the shot changes. A blue scratch in some shots in both films seems to be an in-camera issue since it is not evident in cutaways (since they are on one of the videos in SEXUAL HEIGHTS and one of the vignettes in UNDULATIONS, these were presumably shot around the same time). The end credits are inaccurate with regard to the cast since they are the same overlay from SEXUAL HEIGHTS but colored pink. The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono tracks are a little hissy, but that presumably has more to do with the original budget recording rather than the preservation given the state of the picture elements. Lengthy trailers for the two films (5:09 and 4:22, respectively) are the sole extras. (Eric Cotenas)