DVD REVIEW – VINEGAR SYNDROME’S “PEEKARAMA” DOUBLE BILL

Vinegar Syndrome has done some spectacular work since launching in early 2012 with their LOST FILMS OF HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS Blu-ray release. Their Drive-In Collection series of double features has mined some amazing lost gems of American exploitation cinema, from obscure horror films of the ’60s to hardcore adult films of the ’70s. In order to differentiate their hardcore content from other films, Vinegar Syndrome has launched a new series called “Peekarama” that will basically be the Drive-In Collection for adult films: double and triple features featuring new transfers of classic hardcore features. The first in this new line features two takes on an appropriate theme with 1975’s ABDUCTION OF AN AMERICAN PLAYGIRL and 1976’s WINTER HEAT.

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Will (Eric Edwards) and Fred (Alan Marlowe) making Saturday night plans.

In ABDUCTION OF AN AMERICAN PLAYGIRL, Will and Fred (Eric Edwards and Alan Marlowe, familiar faces to fans of 70s porn films) are two losers looking to get laid. They decide to kidnap voluptuous blonde Jackie (Darby Lloyd Raines, who appeared in Radley Metzger’s NAKED CAME THE STRANGER and THE PRIVATE AFTERNOONS OF PAMELA MANN) and take her to Will’s sister’s remote cabin to have some fun. Things start looking up when they realize she’s the daughter of a rich business owner and they hatch a plan to hold her for ransom. One thing they could not have anticipated, however, is that she’s also completely insatiable, and soon our hapless “heroes” are begging her to leave them alone and dropping her ransom price, desperate for her father to take her back. Meanwhile, Jackie’s cooking them breakfast and giving them 10 minutes of rest, and failure to meet her demands means she’ll go to the cops and report kidnapping and rape.

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Jackie (Darby Lloyd Raines) helping out a couple of lost hunters.

Ah, the 1970s! As repellant as the storyline is, ABDUCTION OF AN AMERICAN PLAYGIRL is pitched at a sub-Benny Hill level of goofy broad comedy, and almost absurdly focused on character-based “laffs,” so much so that the first sex scene doesn’t even start until about 17 minutes into the 71-minute film, when our heroine gets a look at Eric Edwards’s package and enthusiastically sets the games in motion. The plot goes pretty much as one would expect from here, extended thanks an interlude with two hunters who stumble upon the cabin to help pad out the running time to feature-length (and provide an excuse for the classy line “I see a bush I’d like to whack.”) and a lesbian sex scene between Jackie and her younger sister Lee (Shelly Turner, wearing one of the least convincing wigs in film history). The stereotypes don’t stop coming until the end of the film, as the incestuous sisters have a threesome with a black bellhop (Daryl Spangler) whose appetite puts even theirs to shame. They respond to his request for “more!” by putting him in the neighboring hotel room with a gay male couple, although the last we see of him he’s just standing at the door in shock when the girls close the door, so maybe that worked out? A frustrating loose end in this otherwise airtight narrative!

This would all be some seriously uncomfortable viewing if it wasn’t for the light tone and weird choice of mambo muzak that plays over almost every sex scene. There’s also a pretty hilarious sequence in which Edwards, Marlowe and Raines run through a bewildering number of positions in fast motion while some frantic vaudeville music plays, lest you have any question about what kind of movie this is. Interestingly, the DVD includes a trailer for the film under the title ABDUCTION OF AN AMERICAN PLOWGIRL, perhaps a working title to throw off the locals during production?

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Deep, deep in the 1970s with Shelly Turner.

Now, for some genuinely uncomfortable viewing, one needs look no further than WINTER HEAT, the second part of this double-feature disc and a film that falls squarely into the “roughie” subgenre. Four criminals on the lam, led by Stevie (Jamie Gillis), decide to hide out in a house where three female friends are taking a weekend vacation. Unsurprisingly, the situation quickly devolves into the criminals having their way with the women, who respond with varying levels of consent. As the day continues, two of the women turn the tables on their captors in very different ways, ending the film with a visual punchline that has Stevie literally brought to his knees.

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Stevie (Jamie Gillis) and Joey (Mickey Humm) menace Gail (Bree Anthony) and Clair (Susan Sloan).

Unlike ABDUCTION, WINTER HEAT does not have a playful tone. The criminals bully and force the women into having sex with them, and in one particularly nasty extended scene Stevie tells Jenny (Jenny Lane) repeatedly that she has to do what he says or he’ll beat her up. An extended scene in the kitchen of the house has Stevie forcing Gail (Bree Anthony of THE TAKING OF CHRISTINA) to eat huge spoonfuls of oatmeal while he molests her. Gillis was a solid actor, and the fact that he’s so cold and creepy in WINTER HEAT is proof, contrasted with some of the more (and, amazingly, sometimes less) likeable characters he played for various other directors. He’s genuinely menacing here, putting the “rough” in “roughie.”

Despite the fact that the criminals end up dominated by the end of the film, the tone of WINTER HEAT is too mean-spirited to be any kind of fun, regardless of what the wildly inappropriate library music playing over the sex scenes might otherwise suggest. And if you had a problem with the the loose ends at the conclusion of ABDUCTION, you’ll probably be driven to distraction by the fact that Clair (Susan Sloan, who appeared in some of Carter Stevens’s films as Nova Kane) just seems to disappear after being coerced into a lesbian scene by the female criminal Agnes (Helen Madigan, who also appeared in Radley Metzger’s NAKED CAME THE STRANGER and Wes Craven’s hardcore THE FIREWORKS WOMAN). A similar fate befalls dim-bulb Benji (Alex Mann, who appeared in films by Doris Wishman and Joe Sarno), who gets one scene with young Jenny and is never seen again.

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Gail convinces Joey to give up his life of crime.

Both films are presented on a single disc, ABDUCTION scanned in 2k from the film’s 35mm negative and WINTER HEAT scanned in 2k from an archival print. ABDUCTION looks very clean, while the print of WINTER HEAT had clearly seen a lot of use and has some splices and noise, although it’s still entirely watchable and no doubt the best (if not only) presentation of the film available widely on home video. As with all of Vinegar Syndrome’s other titles, just having these films available on disc is a pretty huge deal for fans, and the inclusion of the ABDUCTION trailer is a nice touch. Overall this is a fine launch title for the Peekarama line, and promises even greater things to come.

Er, no pun intended.

 

-Jason Coffman

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