The second of their Troma acquisitions, the seventies bizarre arthouse item SUGAR COOKIES gets a high definition facelift on Vinegar Syndrome's Blu-ray/DVD combo.
After killing X-rated "art film" starlet Alta Lee (Lynn Lowry, I DRINK YOUR BLOOD) in a ritualized game of Russian roulette, producer Max Pavell (George Shannon, I WILL WALK LIKE A CRAZY HORSE) seeks an alibi from Alta's icy bisexual lover Camelia (Mary Woronov, TERRORVISION) who provides one without question. While Max returns to his life of lucrative dealings and dalliances, Camelia auditions Alta's "replacement" and finds her exact double in naïve Julie (Lowry again). Camelia sets about turning Julie into Alta with Sapphic seduction and promises of stardom, plotting a very special surprise that Max cannot resist.
Directed by Theodore Gershuny (KEMEK) and photographed by Hasse Wallin (the only cinematography credit for a Swedish gaffer who worked on films like Tarkovsky's THE SACRIFICE), rarely does a shot go by that isn't frameable in a gallery (or a classy skin mag) apart from unnecessary expository scenes involving the police investigation and Pavell's idolizing, overweight former brother-in-law Gus (Daniel Sador) – who calls him "Uncle Max" – that must have been co-writer/producer Lloyd Kaufman's – whose father cameos as Max's lawyer – contribution to the script. Gershuny's then-wife Woronov, Lowry, and Shannon are all suitably striking presences to embody a cinematic amour fou – with a few welcome supporting presences like Jennifer Welles (THE SEXUALIST) as Max's secretary and Woronov's fellow Warholite Ondine (THE TELEPHONE BOOK) as her valet – but the film breaks its spell with digressions like the unnecessary police investigation and a subplot involving Max antagonizing his ex-wife (Monique Van Vooren, FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN) and – in what could only have been co-writer/producer Lloyd Kaufman's contribution to the script – the awkward attempts of Max's idolizing, overweight former brother-in-law – who calls him "Uncle Max" – Gus (Daniel Sador) to get laid (like something out of a teenage sex comedy from about a decade later). Nevertheless, the finished product is still a showcase for Woronov and Lowry in and out of Yves Saint Laurent duds. Credited among the producers is Oliver Stone, who would direct Woronov in his debut feature film SEIZURE.
Mastered from a 4K scan of the original camera negative, SUGAR COOKIES looks nothing short of stunning on Vinegar Syndrome's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widecreen Blu-ray (and the accompanying 16:9 DVD) from the opening credits (presumably grafted in from an intermediary source but still gorgeous). The seventies color palette is generally muted but blood reds stand out strikingly when they make their way into the frame via some set dressing, clothing accessories, and an autopsy. If only Gershuny's SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT – which also featured Woroanov, Ondine, and was produced by Kaufman and Ami Artzi – looked this good (which it never could because of the lower budget and underexposed photography, but it is unfortunate that the negative had not been so well preserved). The widescreen cropping still reveals a crew member at the corner of the frame at one point, but the tighter framing is adds considerably to the film's art film (and very non-Troma) gloss. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono audio is also in great shape, making itself known from the start with its rendering of the theme song.
The Blu-ray features the film's General Film Corporation theatrical trailer (1:43) as well as a brand new interview with Lynn Lowry (13:38) in which she recalls starting out as a model – being asked to do "art" photos – and initially refusing the script because of the amount of nudity. She naively thought that the film would make her a star while Woronov had comparatively more seasoned perspective. She also recalls that Kaufman referred to it as "the only X-rated film that didn't make a dime" and blames it on the publicity (although she too admits to not understanding the Gus scenes). While the Blu-ray features only the aforementioned Lowry interview and the original trailer, the DVD side of the package not only features the film and those extras in standard definition but also a couple additional extras. Carried over from the Troma DVD is a short interview with Woronov (4:58) – shot at the American Film Market – who recalls it as the third film she did with then-husband Gershuny, and that he said that SUGAR COOKIES was written specifically for her (only to discover it was about a murderous lesbian). She is obviously not fond of it – Kaufman suggests that the film was the equivalent of Welles' role for Rita Hawyorth in LADY FROM SHANGHAI – and that she was even more displeased at the part Gershuny picked for himself (apparently doubling for Gus in the mirrored-ceiling scene). She had seen the film recently as a guest at an American Cinematheque screening, and was surprised to learn that it was still available and had been regularly available (through Troma).
The Troma DVD had a short interview with Kaufman as well, but the Vinegar Syndrome DVD features a brand new longer interview (35:56) in which remembers first meeting model Lowry and putting her in a short film BATTLE OF LOVE'S RETURN (which he was encouraged to expand into a feature by Brian De Palma and Oliver Stone). He also elaborates on his friendship with Oliver Stone (which went back to the second grade), their respective breaks from college (Kaufman went to Chad, Stone went to Vietnam), and Stone's novelistic aspirations after college before getting interested in filmmaking via Kaufman. Kaufman recalls stupidly not taking Stone up on the offer to start a film company and ditch Gershuny and Artzi. Kaufman met Gershuny while working for Cannon on what would become SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT, and their mutual love of Hitchcock led to SUGAR COOKIES. Of SUGAR COOKIES, he says that it was conceived as a "flip revisiting of VERTIGO" and that the casting was a combination of Stone thinking big and wanting to get stars and Kaufman wanting to create his own stars. Kaufman takes credit for the first draft – which was heavily rewritten by Gershuny during shooting – and recalls disagreements between Gershuny and Artzi over the amount of sex in the film (which may have had more to do with Woronov's attitude towards the film's nude scenes). He recalls the shooting locations, the model for Max's character, using his father in cameo scenes, and the original script's additional "Gus" scenes that attracted the investors in the first place. The experiences shooting the nude scenes in SUGAR COOKIES led to Kaufman's policy of shooting nude scenes up front so as not to worry about having to replace actors. The DVD also includes Troma's own trailer (2:52) for the film. (Eric Cotenas)
BACK TO REVIEWS