After releasing a pair of great standalone features in January, Vinegar Syndrome returned in February with two very different films. One represents the early days of “hardcore” cinema before DEEP THROAT, while the other is a fairly typical example of adult film in the late 1970s. Like January’s releases of STAR VIRGIN and TOO NAUGHTY TO SAY NO, February’s releases of SEX & ASTROLOGY and SENSUAL ENCOUNTERS OF EVERY KIND are interesting for offering a look at the particular era in which they were produced. Unlike the previous releases, though, they are not quite as strong on their own terms as entertainment.
SEX & ASTROLOGY (1970) opens with a credits sequence in which all the crew are given ridiculous fake names like “Basil Barff” and “Ivan Cutchacockoff.” This sets the tone early and tips off the viewer that this is not going to be a serious-minded film. In fact, the film was directed by exploitation legend Matt Cimber, and the tone here is reminiscent of another of his films recently released by Vinegar Syndrome, THE SENSUALLY LIBERATED FEMALE. Like that film, SEX & ASTROLOGY has a tongue-in-cheek voiceover, although here it is more overtly comic and frequently absurd.
This film purports to be an exploration of the sexual personalities of people born under different signs of the zodiac, presented as a series of vignettes tied together in an orgy thrown by Venus. The sets are minimal but garishly colored, as are the actors. Many appear in full-body paint with wild makeup, writhing under lurid colored lights. The sex is clearly unsimulated but certainly not shot in any way typically associated with “hardcore” film, making SEX & ASTROLOGY a curiosity: a film with real sex that is not very explicit.
Vinegar Syndrome presents SEX & ASTROLOGY on DVD restored in 2k from “16mm vault elements,” and the results are solid. The colors are bright and the print this scan was taken from looks to have been in surprisingly good shape for one that was probably screened quite a bit over 40 years ago. The only special feature on this disc is the film’s original theatrical trailer, but in this case it’s more than enough to fill in another missing film in the oeuvre of Matt Cimber. That alone makes SEX & ASTROLOGY worth checking out.
February’s other standalone release is director ’sSENSUAL ENCOUNTERS OF EVERY KIND, produced by Harold Lime. Some of Lime’s other work has been previously released by Vinegar Syndrome including THE YOUNG SECRETARIES (also directed by Kanter, released on one of the early Peekaramadiscs with DEEP TANGO) and THE SUCKERS (directed by Stu Segall, released on a Drive-In Collection disc with THE LOVE GARDEN). Lime worked behind the scenes in sexploitation film in the 1960s and 1970s, eventually moving into hardcore and working in video in the 1980s and into the 2000s. While obviously taking its title from a play on 1977’s Hollywood hit CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, SENSUAL ENCOUNTERS is (perhaps disappointingly) not a hardcore remake of that film.
Instead, this is the story of a magical amulet which grants its owner their deepest sexual fantasy before it mysteriously moves on to the next person. This very loose structure means the film is another series of mostly unrelated vignettes tied together by the passing along of the amulet, intentional or otherwise. These include a wealthy woman (Leslie Bovee) coerced into a gangbang with her three male gardeners, an in-home teacher (Georgina Spelvin) seduced by her two young students, a senator and his mistress (Serena), a gym coach (John Leslie) seduced by two cheerleaders, and more. The first two scenes with Leslie Bovee and Georgina Spelvin are actually uncomfortable to watch since they both involve their female leads being persuaded to take part in sex despite their own strong resistance. This is not a factor at all in the rest of the scenes, and opening the film with them gives it an off-putting feel that never quite goes away despite the enthusiasm of the female characters throughout the rest of the movie.
SENSUAL ENCOUNTERS OF EVERY KIND was restored by Vinegar Syndrome from the film’s 35mm camera negative, and the results are great as usual. The disc includes an audio interview with actor Jon Martin that is presented as a sort of commentary track that plays over the film. Martin’s career in adult film spanned decades and included work with the Mitchell Brothers, Gail Palmer, Anthony Spinelli, Bob Chinn, Carlos Tobalina, Alex de Renzy, and a legion of the most recognizable stars of the Golden Age of Porn. The interview, conducted by Vinegar Syndrome’s Joe Rubin, runs about 50 minutes and is well worth the price of the disc on its own.
Vinegar Syndrome’s dedication to preserving and releasing exploitation film history is impressive, and these two releases are great examples of their work. While neither of these films are probably of much interest to casual fans of adult film of the 1970s, anyone who is interested in the history of sex cinema will find them both well worth a look.
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