[VINEGAR SYNDROME DOUBLE-FEATURE DOUBLE FEATURE] FOUR FILMS REVIEWED!

 

 

Among the many adult films released by Vinegar Syndrome, the films of Carlos Tobalina have stood out for their obvious preoccupation with very particular types of sex scenes: namely, orgies. The prolific and hugely successful adult filmmaker directed nearly 50 films over the course of his career, and Vinegar Syndrome has released several of his films in both standalone discs (MARILYN AND THE SENATOR, JUNGLE BLUE) and  Peekarama double features (THE ULTIMATE PLEASURE and I AM ALWAYS READY, ORIENTAL HAWAII and MAI LIN VS. SERENA). In October and November, they released two more double features of Tobalina’s mid-70s films, and they have confirmed that more Tobalina titles are on the way in 2015. Whether Vinegar Syndrome are particular fans of Tobalina’s or they sell really well, there’s no disputing that his films are heavy on the group sex and light on everything else. The latest two Peekarama double features don’t do anything to challenge that assumption.

The first double feature starts with CARNAL HAVEN (1975). The film opens with an orgy (apparently Tobalina’s favorite sexual activity, judging from his films I’ve seen so far) and then explains that all the people in the orgy are couples who are having difficulties in their relationship. Short vignettes show the couples in their unhappy home lives, and then the action cuts abruptly back to the orgy where we watch the couple as they expand their sexual horizons with a bunch of other people. The film features Leslee Bovee, Annette Haven, John Leslie, Candida Royalle, and other names familiar to fans of 70s adult film, but it gives them very little to do other than act as participants and background extras in the orgy scenes. While purporting to be an “educational” film about how group sex can improve your relationship and mental health—or something along those lines—there’s just not much happening in CARNAL HAVEN. It looks like Tobalina hired all the actors, shot a long orgy, and then figured out how to make it work as a narrative movie with little skits later.

This goes for the second film on this disc, HER LAST FLING (1976), as well. Sandy (Sandy Feldman) is told by her doctor that she has only weeks to live, so she heads to Las Vegas to spend the last of her days in carnal ecstasy. This basically means we watch Sandy in the midst of an orgy scene, again featuring big name performers like Annette Haven, Candida Royalle, Paul Thomas and John Holmes as anonymous participants. Every once in a while there’s a little break where we watch Sandy wander the Las Vegas strip and think to herself, and then it’s back to the action. No points for guessing how this one turns out, but if you suspect a film from the guy who apparently believes group sex can fix all your physical and mental health problems does not end with its main character dying from some horrible illness, you will probably not be surprised.

The next double feature disc gives you a hint about the films’ content right away. The titles of the films included are FANTASTIC ORGY (1978) and CHAMPAGNE ORGY (1978). FANTASTIC ORGY opens with a “reporter” named Martha introducing the audience to the film’s star, Iris Medina. “Prepare yourself for a great movie!” Martha enthuses. She introduces Iris as a very liberated and independent woman who loves sex. Iris confirms this and then it’s off to see her at work on a porn film set, although for some reason we hear her thoughts in the voice of “Martha” throughout the entire film. If some of the footage here looks oddly familiar, that’s because it’s clearly from the same shoot used in HER LAST FLING. Apparently also a fan of adult films, at one point Iris recognizes one of the stars of that film and calls him out on the narration track. Paul Thomas, Leslee Bovee, Annette Haven, Sharon Thorpe and Desiree West all appear, but again they’re just nameless bodies in the pile. However, this time John Holmes is identified as Iris’s favorite porn star, and she desperately hopes to have sex with him. She gets her wish in a final scene between the two of them, although Holmes still doesn’t get any speaking lines in the whole movie.

CHAMPAGNE ORGY returns to the meta-realm of Tobalina films like MAI LIN VS. SERENA. Carlos Tobalina (himself) wants to celebrate the completion of shooting his latest film with a champagne party. One of his stars suggests they rent out a place, and Tobalina agrees, but smartly brings along his crew. When the cocktail waitress they hire spikes the champagne with some sort of super aphrodisiac, the wrap party turns into a gigantic multi-room orgy. Fortunately, Tobalina has his camera and sound crew on hand to film the party for another film in order to make the money to cover the damages to the place. There are some callback jokes (Fernando “I am always ready!” Fortes both actually shot the film and appears in it as the “character” he played in several other films) and some girls try to seduce Carlos himself, which he expertly plays off. Otherwise, a solid 50 minutes of this 77-minute feature is dedicated to footage of the orgy, featuring an entirely different cast from the previous features. Dorothy LeMay, Misty Regan, Brooke West, Mike Horner, David Morris, Aaron Stuart, and a number of other familiar faces all make appearances.

Vinegar Syndrome presents all four films in fantastic transfers, all sourced from the films’ 35mm camera negatives. Each disc also includes the trailers for both films. There’s no room for complaint on the presentation of the films at all—this is as good as any of these films have looked since they first hit the big screen. The issue is that if you’re not into the same kind of thing Tobalina is into, these films will likely bore you. There’s certainly a place for this kind of basically plotless sex film among the more cinematically-inclined adult features of the 70s and 80s, and no doubt plenty of films of this type that are made with less care than Tobalina’s films. If this is your kind of thing, these two double feature discs should be at the top of your shopping list. However, if you like a more even ratio between a film’s plot, character, and dialogue and its sex, there are plenty of other Vinegar Syndrome releases that you will find more engaging than these.

 

– JASON COFFMAN. 

 

 

 

Jason Coffman

Jason Coffman

Unrepentant cinephile. Contributor to Daily Grindhouse and Film Monthly. Member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. Co-director, Chicago Cinema Society. Attempted filmmaker. Proud owner of 35mm prints of Andy Milligan's GURU, THE MAD MONK and Zalman King's TWO MOON JUNCTION.
Jason Coffman
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