Director: Charles DeSantos
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome's Peekarama series brings to light some of the earliest works of ANAL ANNIE auteur Charles Webb AKA Charles DeSantos.

A biology student who became a filmmaker working on Richard Nixon's campaigns, Charles Webb moved to San Francisco in the late sixties and got into adult filmmaking through his association with Lowell Pickett and Arlene Elster who staged the first erotic film festival in 1970 and sought with their company Leo Productions to elevate the artistic appreciation of pornography. The three productions contained on this disc are from his later independent work starting with THE SINFUL PLEASURES OF REVEREND STAR in which private detective Ed (Ken Scudder, THUNDERCRACK!) is investigating why respectable girls from good families are suddenly surrendering their lives to pass out leaflets for the cult of Reverend Starr (Herbert Wong, THE GIRLS IN THE BAND). When his secretary/girlfriend Mel (Melva Bruce, LIQUID LIPS) attempts to get close to the reverend and is instead inducted into his cult – whose number include Desiree West (SEXWORLD), Laura Bourbon (LOVE SLAVES), and Kristine Heller (7 INTO SNOWY) – via mesmerism and a gangbang, Ed realizes that the only way to save Mel and the other girls is to use Reverend Star's own methods against him. Although padded with a completely unrelated sex scene from DeSantos' earlier film SWEET WHITE DREAM (Paul Thomas is credited on the back of the box but his appearance here is a non-sexual one from this particular clip), the minimally-plotted film is fitfully entertaining and even astute in comparing the cult's followers and Young Republicans. The climax takes place during Chinese New Year and has scantily clad women and men running down the street (and receiving wolf whistles) with knives chasing down one of the characters who is stabbed and beaten before bewildered onlookers.

In KINKY TRICKS, seventeen-year-old Candy (Candida Royale, SUNNY) has just gotten out of prison and has given her parole officer the address of Elliot, a frustrated writer who once slept with her to research an article on prostitution. Elliot eventually relents to her staying with him so long as she does not disturb him. When she learns that he is desperate to finish and sell his novel or lose his home, Candy decides to help out by turning "kinky tricks" while Elliot is on campus teaching English. Her former pimp Sharkey (Rock Steadie, BABY CAKES) supplies her with two more girls and a steady stream of clients with bizarre fetishes. While Candy goes tiptoeing through the tulips (to Tiny Tim's hit novelty cover) with a black tap dancer (Mick Jones, BLAZING ZIPPERS), the other two girls take on a guy who likes to be infantilized, one who likes to wear stockings and garters (Blair Harris, LADY DYNAMITE), along with cowboys and various masked perverts (including INTRUSION's Michael Gaunt). Candy has pined for the engaged Elliot, but how will he react to the unexpected "surprise" of finding Candy, her pimp, and her friends "celebrating" on his dining room floor? An everything-but-the-kitchen sink comedy with plenty of kinks for comic effect, the film is pretty much carried by Royale since her love interest is dull as dirt (and possibly body doubled for penetration shots) and her two hooker friends are rather unappealing (particularly the one with the Carole Kane-esque voice).

CHINA LUST is a jade dildo that well-to-do couple Veronica Taylor (ALL NIGHT LONG) and Jeff Lyle (HER LAST FLING) buy in a Chinatown curiosity show just minutes before thieves Peter Johns (LOVE SECRETS) and Herbert Wong come searching for it on behalf of its rightful owner (Linda Wong, BABY FACE), or so the dildo tells us in a voice that sounds like James Hong. Having magically bestowed pleasure upon the couple after tasting her "juices", the dildo is eager to change hands and it is borrowed by maid Laura Bourbon whose tryst with the female chauffeur is interrupted when the two thieves burst in and steal it. Since the dildo can only be enjoyed those seeking the purity of pleasure rather than profit, the thieves are distracted from returning it to its owner by their bedmates Melba Bruce and Vicky Lindsay (COME UNDER MY SPELL). Since it can only be enjoyed by those seeking pleasure, the dildo provokes quarreling and violence between the thieves to effect its escape into the hands of another innocent couple (after a brief detour up the anus of Bruce's other partner-in-crime) Desiree West and Ken Scudder. One puzzles why Wong needs "China Lust" since she's already got something bigger (and blacker) waiting in the wings. Rather lame in the comedy department, the film at least moves along at a good clip as it attempts to be zany. IMDb erroneously credits the film as being directed by Summer Brown (THE PREY).

Transferred from 2K scans of 16mm archival elements, the three non-anamorphic 1.33:1 fullscreen transfers are pretty clean and colorful for take-it-or-leave-it transfers, with KINKY TRICKS probably looking the best thanks to well-lit interiors and daringly setting its "tiptoe through the tulips" sequence in the outside yard in broad daylight. SINFUL PLEASURES looks grainier with low-lit interiors and underexposed guerilla shooting of the Chinese New Year climax. It is highly doubtful that any previous transfers of these films looked anywhere near as good, and also highly likely that the original camera negatives are lost. An audio interview with DeSantos conducted by Vinegar Syndrome's Joe Rudin and Laura Marks of The Rialto Report – which recently did a podcast on Pickett and Elster featuring some comments on DeSantos – plays over the entirety of SINFUL PLEASURES and is continued over KINKY TRICKS. The first part covers DeSantos' education and beginnings as a filmmaker, working with Pickett and Elster – who were in competition with the Mitchell Brothers to produce the first feature-length porn film with COZY COOL after a number of loops and shorts – and his early credits including LOVE, YOLANDA which were crewed by San Francisco State University filmmaking students who like DeSantos worked in both porn and mainstream television commercial work (including some he refuses to name since they went onto more respectable work in the industry). The second part covers his other collaborations, including those with Precision Labs' Burt Steiger who financed and produced a number of porn and exploitation films (the latter including Rudy Ray Moore's PETEY WHEATSTRAW and DISCO GODFATHER). As with their earlier Shaun Costello double features, it is nice to see Vinegar Syndrome affording the special edition treatment of their Blu-rays to some of their double and triple feature DVD line titles. (Eric Cotenas)