Vinegar Syndrome Presents Two Films Directed by Anthony Spinelli
Starring Kristine Heller, Delania Raffino, Jack Wright, Chris Cassidy, Joey Silvera, John Leslie
EXPECTATIONS 70 minutes CONFESSIONS 67 minutes
Vinegar Syndrome has announced a treasure trove of new-to-DVD restorations of vintage double bills, and the first out of the gate pairs up two films from Anthony Spinelli, the director best known for his hardcore classic TALK DIRTY TO ME. While EXPECTATIONS and CONFESSIONS, both lensed in 1977, are from Spinelli’s pre-TALK DIRTY career, they’re far from throwaway films, and both display a fine knowledge of the look of film that would make TALK DIRTY and many of his later films such successes.
Both films feature the similar tropes of having a woman in a solid relationship questioning their sexual limitations, and then exploring them through a series of hardcore vignettes. The disc opens with EXPECTATIONS, the darker film of the pair, following the disaffected Margo (Delania Raffino) in her attempts to change her identity and renew her life from a dull marriage.
As we learn from Margo’s letter to a friend narrated over the opening coupling of her making love with a man in a blue-lit sequence, Margo is discontented with her current relationship and has pursued an ad in an underground paper to get in touch with Montana (Chris Cassidy), a woman apparently an expert on such things. The pair meet in a park and exchange identities (including social security numbers!) and go upon their merry ways, with Margo/Margaret now inhabiting a swinging single life and Montana/Margo heading home(?) as well.
As she’s just essentially given up her identity, we can guess that Margo/Montana’s a pretty dim bulb, and she doesn’t help her case any by letting a random guy who claims to be meeting her for an art meeting into her apartment. It seems like he’s about to rape her, but she starts to get into it, so it’s apparently all okay.
Meanwhile, Montana/Margo hangs out at home when Margo/Montana’s brother, an attractive but goofy looking fellow with an inexplicable eye patch (Jack Wright), stops by and Montana/Margo takes time off from busily posing in front of the mirror to seduce him. This gets into an impressively weird area, as a she cajoles him into fantasizing about her as his sister, and Spinelli does a fine job at leveraging the eroticism involved with the ridiculousness of the situation, backed with some fine photography and energetic performances.
The same, unfortunately, can’t be said for the scenes with Margo/Montana, which feel more like a really dumb woman getting taken advantage of. Essentially a take on “The Prince and the Pauper” in which the pauper is just a moron who ends up depressed and alone, Spinelli’s eye and bizarre performances by Cassidy and Wright are the most interesting things about the film. The sex scenes are well-lensed, Vinegar’s transfer brings out Spinelli’s often-excellent framing beautifully and Raffino does what she can, but the results aren’t compelling enough to be the dark take on the subject it should be.
The second film on the disc, CONFESSIONS, utilizes the same set-up of a married woman discontented with the stability of her love life, but instead of turning it into a bleak parable, it becomes an energetically whimsical story of a young woman’s sordid exploits. We realize we’re on different turf from the opening credits, which are accompanied by a catchy pop tune that’s just annoying enough to be an earworm, and a perfect way to mark the tone of the affairs to follow.
Kristine Heller stars as Beth, a woman we first meet waking up her husband of (again) five years Gary (John Leslie) with a pleasant blowjob. Gary, however, doesn’t exchange the favor, leaving Beth to comment, “we’re going down a one-way street and I’ve got bad vibes it’s all your way!” While Gary goes off to work, Beth uses the time off to get her more physical needs met.
Her first conquest is a motorcyclist, whom she follows and almost drives into, then instantly hooks up with, which is believeable because it was the ‘70s and men are horndogs. (AMIRITE, LADIES? MEN BE SEXING!) However, her head-giving technique is off, and the biker is forced to guide her through things, after consoling her with, “You really do have a fantastic body, but you’ve got to learn to give good head!” Unlike her hubby, however, the biker is more than happy to give back to her nether regions, and even entices her with a vibrator, plying her ladyparts as she’s backed against a wall, bookeneded by photos of Jane Fonda and Marlon Brando.
Next up, Beth and Gary hit a low-rent version of a Z-Man party sequence from BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS filled with Gary’s work pals, as snippets of conversation and mild dancing are edited together in a flurry that makes the event seem much larger than the apartment in which it clearly takes place. Beth, however, has her sights set on Gary’s new boss Tom, with whom she hooks up with at the party, resulting in a great montage of lovemaking and partygoers eating sandwiches and bananas (who the hell catered this thing?) as Gary talks about how innocent his wife is.
Beth’s next conquest is the most entertaining, as she’s hired by a wife to act as a dominatrix toward her husband (Jack Wright again, now sans eye patch but just as creepily entertaining), specifically instructing her to “be a bitch to him!” Beth is more than happy to oblige, though the outfit in which she chooses to do so makes her breasts resemble truncated traffic cones, ordering him to indulge in some CFNM play and having him feast upon her inner business. Afterwards, his wife pays for her services in sapphic currency, much to Beth’s surprised delight.
With the previous two sequences so entertaining and well-staged, the final interlude, in which Beth plays prostitute for an unfortunate-looking guy (Sonny Lustig) who’s just above Avery Schreiber on the attractiveness scale, is a bit of a let-down, though it does come with a clever coda. It’s all summed up with a similar smugness, as Beth settles back down with his hubby for a meal, telling him of her day spent “window shopping.”
Credited under the pseudonym of “Leonard Burke,” Anthony Spinelli’s direction of CONFESSIONS is top-notch, making the most out of a editing and set design and giving the film a look that Vinegar’s transfer brings out beautifully, save for a momentary red tinting at the beginning. Kristine Heller is fantastic in the lead, a beautiful woman whose playful smirk gleefully invites you to be in on the same joke she’s clearly enjoying.
CONFESSIONS is a crisp, witty and fun ride, and one that serves as a highly entertaining counterpart to EXPECTATIONS. The double-bill works as a great treatment of the films of Spinelli, containing two similarly-plotted films of female sexual exploration treated entirely differently. Spinelli’s eye for solid set design and a fine sense of casting talented performers, however, shines through in both films, making this a must-buy for fans of vintage erotica. No extra features other than chapter stops are included, but this pair of newly-restored films on one DVD is more than worth the price of admission without them.
– Paul Freitag-Fey
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