Distribpix has long been in the business of preserving adult film history, but in the last few years they’ve really stepped up their game with their series of Radley Metzger’s “Henry Paris” releases, culminating in a ridiculously lavish edition of THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN and a release of BARBARA BROADCAST that is nearly as expansive. Now that the “Henry Paris” films are nearly all complete (a restored MARASCHINO CHERRY is coming soon), adult film fans have been wondering what could be next for the company. Their latest release is the first from their new imprint Sweetheart Theatres, through which they will release double features of classic adult films (somewhat similar to Vinegar Syndrome’s “Peekarama” line). The first release is a double feature of films by William Lustig that he directed under the name “Billy Bagg” before going on to make films like MANIAC and VIGILANTE, and it certainly stands up to the high standard set by previous Distribpix releases.
The first film, THE VIOLATION OF CLAUDIA (1977), was Lustig’s feature film debut. Sharon Mitchell stars as Claudia, a bored housewife whose husband Jason (Don Peterson) is too busy to pay attention to her. She tells her tennis coach Kip (Jamie Gillis) about her frustration, and he responds by inviting her to work for him as an escort. She doesn’t think she can do it, but Kip seduces her in the club’s massage parlor, and when she tells Jason about it over dinner he doesn’t even blink. She then picks up a young hitchhiker for an afternoon fling, and decides to take Kip up on his offer. Her first client is a nerdy guy who turns her into an ice cream sundae by putting whipped cream and toppings all over her body and eating them off, but they can’t all be that fun. Can they?
Sharon Mitchell is excellent in the lead role as Claudia, and Jamie Gillis is great as sleazy tennis coach/pimp Kip. Lustig keeps things moving quickly all the way up to the surprise ending, and at a brief 63 minutes THE VIOLATION OF CLAUDIA certainly leaves the audience wanting more. Still, it looks great—this was the era when adult films like this were shot on 35mm, with color by Technicolor. On the film’s commentary track, Lustig notes that it looks like “a real movie,” and it truly does. Lustig was clearly familiar and comfortable with filmmaking, and this is a solid debut feature.
The second film is HOT HONEY (1978), which is not quite as good but still an interesting watch. Honey (Colleen Anderson) rejects the sexual advances of her boyfriend Johnny (Jack Hammer), who is tired of her prudish nature and dumps her. She returns home only to be berated by her wheelchair-bound brother Michael (Jamie Gillis) while his Nurse (Serena) looks on. Honey goes to her friend Sara (Lisa Marks) to talk about her troubles (and admit that she’s a virgin), and the two women end up having sex after Sara insists that Honey just needs someone who “understands a woman’s pleasures.” Honey returns home to find the Nurse and Michael in the midst of some light bondage, and the Nurse invites Honey to join in. Their threesome seems to last about half the film’s running time, after which Honey, newly sexually initiated and completely insatiable, goes back to Johnny for a night but insists that one man isn’t enough for her any more.
HOT HONEY is very light on plot and very heavy on hardcore sex. It’s longer than THE VIOLATION OF CLAUDIA at 72 minutes, but it feels much less substantial. Distribpix has done a good job of preserving the film, but it looks cheaper than VIOLATION, and its heavier focus on sex makes it less memorable than that film. It’s even oddly inferior from a technical standpoint, with one fairly important dramatic shot being clearly out of focus, although the film’s extremely rushed schedule (shot in just three days) is probably the main reason for this. For Lustig fans, this will be a must-watch, but aside from 70s adult cinema fans, most other audiences would probably not find much to set HOT HONEY apart from its contemporaries.
Each film has been restored in 2K from their original negatives, and the disc features trailers for both films (a “hot version” for THE VIOLATION OF CLAUDIA and a “cool version” for HOT HONEY), a slideshow and ephemera gallery, and an hour-long podcast with Bill Lustig. The real crown jewel, however, are the full-length commentary tracks by Lustig being interviewed by Nicolas Winding Refn (director of the PUSHER series, DRIVE, and ONLY GOD FORGIVES, among others). These tracks are packed with fascinating stories and information; Lustig is a great raconteur with a long memory, and his enthusiasm for both the films in question and the golden era of the grindhouse is infectious. Refn often offers little more than a prompt for Lustig to launch from throughout the commentaries, and it’s a delight to listen to him. This disc would honestly be worth the price of admission for the commentary tracks alone, but the opportunity to have the early Lustig films in never-before-seen quality makes this a must-own for fans of 70s adult cinema and Lustig. This is a fantastic launch for the Sweetheart Theatres line, and fans will no doubt be eager to see what their future releases have in store.
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