Director: Wakefield Poole
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome's fourth Wakefield Poole release debuts the long unseen erotic documentary TAKE ONE paired with his infamous loop feature MOVING! along with some nice contextual extras on a two-disc set.

Describing itself as "A Docufantasy", TAKE ONE seeks to visualize the erotic fantasies of its interview subjects utilizing a mixture of interviews, live photography, cutaways to filmed encounters, as well as projected stills and filmed images on background screen made of parachute behind the subjects. In the film's optional director's video introduction (3:04), Poole reveals that the project was a collaboration with photographer Edd Dundas – who had published illustrated gay sex manuals – and that he visualized it as a tribute to the historic Nob Hill Theater, his idealized version of a porno house, with the interviews and fantasies culminating in a screening at the theater that turns into an orgy. First up is dancer Sal Guange performing in a live show on the Nob Hill stage, focusing on flexing and balletic movement than overt eroticism. The second subject is production crew member Nick Ritter, a car enthusiast who fantasizes about his idealized double who is just as into his meticulously-restored classic car as he, trying to make himself one with the automobile in ways David Cronenberg would never have envisioned for CRASH. However popular the fetish of fake incest is in the annals of straight and gay porn, the fantasy of real-life brothers Dutch and Rudy Valentino is less about breaking that taboo than doing it on television (they are able to watch themselves on a TV monitor during their interview); and even then, they are role-playing an encounter between younger Rudy and an anonymous leatherman, seeming to regard breaking the communication barrier during the interview as the bigger hurdle. Poole is also seen talking a bartender into revealing his leather fantasy, which is visualized in a seemingly more aggressive manner than the brothers with its emphasis on hellish red gel lighting and slick skin.

The film next takes the viewer to the desert where mustachioed porn star Richard Locke (L.A. TOOL & DIE) living an idyllic existence in the middle of nowhere, growing his food, sleeping outside on hot desert nights, and hoping to convert his boyfriend Alex to the lifestyle in an oily encounter on his house's roof in the blazing sun. The hope of domestic bliss seems realized by two other partners, Bill and Philip seen in bed on a lazy morning becoming aroused by just discussing the idea of being in the film. There is no hardcore content in this scene (see below), with Poole seeming to offer the scene up in contrast to the prior one as less heated but affectionate. The climax of the docufantasy finds the participants showing up at the Nob Hill Theater for a screening, seated under gel lighting in the respective colors corresponding to the colors of their tickets, checking each other out on film and in the flesh before wandering into the theater's labyrinthine backrooms.

In this age where every permutation of partners, sex toy, and object can be found on the internet or entire companies specifying in niche fetishes, and any exhibitionist with a camera can put themselves online and be regarded (however loosely) as a "porn star," it is quite striking just how simplistic the erotic fantasies on view in the film are in terms of content and the ways Poole adapts his style to covering them, sometimes loose and improvisational according to the arousal of the performers and other times more experimental in ways that recall BIJOU with expressionistic gel lighting, photographic doubling by projecting the fantasy images behind and upon the aroused performer. Despite the emphasis on erotic fantasy, the film also seems to convey something of the lives of the participants and their lives beyond what they do to each other before the camera.

Previously unreleased outside of its theatrical play, TAKE ONE comes to Vinegar Syndrome DVD from a 2K master of the best-known surviving elements – it was the first feature Poole shot with negative film – which has more than its share of lime green scratches, dings, and dents, but is no worse than one or two of Vinegar Syndrome's rescues from oblivion titles. The Dolby Digital mono track also conveys the dialogue clearly enough despite the low-budget mixing. The film is accompanied by an audio commentary by Poole in which he discusses his move to San Francisco from the east coast, his breakup with longtime partner Peter Fisk, and their partnership in the store Hot Flash selling avant-garde artwork and holding gallery openings (friends affectionately called it "Wakefield Poole's garage sale"). He also discusses his collaboration with Dundass and subsequent partner Paul Hatlestad here, as well as providing background on the interviewees and how he became acquainted with them.

Poole also reveals on the commentary track that the editing of the film was never to his satisfaction and that he took the opportunity to do some cutting on the version seen here. Fortunately, the trimmed bits are included in their entirety as deleted scenes. Since Sal the dancer did not take park in the finale, Poole elected to trim down his earlier appearance, and the extraneous material is included in "More of Sal's Dance and Video Interview" (4:09). Erection issues plagued the Phil and Bill scene, and Poole elected to trim the eventual "Hardcore Part of Philip and Bill Scene" (3:51) which actually works since the softer version in the feature better conveys a sense of tenderness and Poole notes in his commentary that "they were already living their fantasy." Also trimmed was the "Frank and Dutch Orgy Scene" (8:01), presumably for reasons of pacing during the climax. Also included are two short films: "Roger" (10:49) features a masturbatory performance by the muscular and well-endowed photo model. The featurette "Wakefield Poole in San Francisco" (13:11) – an extract from the 2013 Poole documentary I ALWAYS SAID YES – reveals that straight model Roger was a gay sensation in stills but his initial live appearances disappointed since he could not dance and had trouble getting himself aroused for the audience. Poole shot the film performance which was projected alongside his live appearances, getting both Roger and the audience worked up. The featurette also reveals that the "Freedom Day Parade 1974" (11:45) footage was the first short film that Poole made upon arriving in San Francisco.

After direction the pornographic gothic romance PHANTASMES (released stateside as THE SEDUCTION OF AMY), Jean Rollin – quoted in a Video Watchdog interview – realized that porn audiences did not care for elaborate stories and beautiful settings. In America, for every well-plotted, well-acted porn film with nice production value, there are more no-budget, bare mattress examples. After the critical success and financial failure of his $80,000 artful softcore film BIBLE!, Wakefield Poole reveals in the optional director's video introduction (1:39), that he found himself making a $4,800 16mm loop feature for the 8mm company he had formed with partner Marv Shulman to distribute BOYS IN THE SAND for home consumption. Poole later discovered the cash flow problem was due to Shulman's partner having a hand in developing what would become the musical A CHORUS LINE and using porn money to fund it. Approached without any real inspiration in terms of staging, camerawork, a plot, or even BIJOU-esque treatment of its fantastic elements, MOVING! achieved notoriety for the presence of Casey Donovan – whose popularity had grown since his appearance in BOYS IN THE SAND with stage shows, other film appearances, an "After Dark" magazine profile, and even department store layouts – in the first loop and the third one's groundbreaking and shocking fisting scene.

In "House for Sale," Donovan stumbles upon a house to let with an Edenic garden, swimming pool, tennis court, and a hothouse from which fantasy leatherman Val Martin (BORN TO RAISE HELL) emerges for some frolicking and a surprise fisting out in the open. With Viagara not invented yet, the shoelaces turned leather ties are put to use as more than just a kink. "Room for Rent," finds Burt Edwards and Curt Gerard grabbing a motel room for a tryst. Devoid of fantastical elements or even anything in the way of setup, the middle segment generates heat from the chemistry between the two enthusiastic performers who seem completely into each other and unselfconscious of Poole's camera which seems as if all it can do is just document the action, zooming in and out and circling the couple's bedroom acrobatics. "House for Rent" features Poole's then-partner Peter Fisk (BIJOU) as a fantasy figure who steps out of a drawing to dominate slight and submissive Tom Wright, culminating in a more graphic and extended fisting sequence missing from some prints of the film. At the sight of what Poole describes on the commentary of "life fluids," one may feel that the more oblique views fisting in the first loop seems as though it would have conformed more to what journalist Jack Fritscher in the accompanying featurette described as the "successsful mainstream depiction of fisting."

Previously released in 2011 on DVD by Gorilla Factory Productions on a double feature with the video-lensed ONE, TWO, THREE… in a transfer mastered from the 16mm negative, MOVING! received a new 2K restoration for Vinegar Syndrome's release. The materials have a couple vertical scratches and some splice lines visible three-quarters down the image, but the image in general looks quite good with detail fairing best on either end of Poole's zooms. There is a persistent hiss throughout the Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track but that may be part of the original mixing which consists of music – uninspired choices as the director admits – and a few ambient effects only.

On the commentary track, Poole goes in depth on his move with Peter Fisk to the west coast and discovering that Fisk's involvement with his subsequent partner Rusty while they were still together motivated the move. He provides more background information on the Hot Flash store and its cultural significance, and the financial situation that lead to him shooting MOVING! He recalls his friendship with Casey Donovan, and how the fisting part of the sequence was indeed meant to be more graphic. Although "Room for Rent" on its own has no overt fantasy elements, the commentary track imposes one on it as Poole labels it a send-up of the motel porno cliché (he also points out that it was shot at a motel known to be safe for porn shoots). He reveals that one of the participants was an actor having trouble finding work who he assured would not get wide exposure from the film since it was destined for home viewing (only for it to get brief theatrical play to get some additional revenue). "Apartment for Rent" was shot in Poole's apartment which had only been sparsely furnished with flea market finds, and found Poole inspired by the controlled setting and the intimacy of the act to try for some more considered lighting even though the crew consisted of just him, the camera, and two lamps. Most interesting is the revelation that he turned down a larger budget Blaxploitation film because he did not feel he had the experience to work on that scale until after he hand done BIBLE! "More on MOVING!" (4:43) is also extracted from the 2013 Poole documentary and covers some of the same ground of the commentary with artist David Edward Byrd "painting" a less romanticized portrait of Fisk, journalist Jack Fritscher describing the impact of the fisting scene (as well as a tragic accident that befell actor Wright who is referred to by his real name Terry on the commentary and in the featurette), and illustrator Robert W. Richards stating that Poole and Donovan were the one responsible for legitimizing porn (describing the latter as both All-American and a "sex monster"). The film's theatrical trailer (3:32) is also included. (Eric Cotenas)