Plot: This triple feature from Vinegar Syndrome features three films by prolific adult director Anthony Spinelli. The first, Cry for Cindy, is about a prostitute who takes her own life, with her friends remembering her in flashback as they try to understand what drove her to suicide. Touch Me is about a group of couples who participate in an experimental “encounter group” to learn more about their desires. In Act of Confession, a medieval nun has a series of sexual fantasies as she prepares to join her convent.
The Films (3/5)
Although the films here are presented non-chronologically, with the first two sharing a disc and Act of Confession on the third, it’s interesting to watch them together to get an idea of what we might call the oeuvre of Anthony Spinelli, one of the prominent directors of porn’s Golden Age. While it’d be a stretch to claim that there are any recurring themes or anything in the movies presented here, the director’s approach to shooting sex does start to become clear.
The first, Cry for Cindy, is a surprisingly dark melodrama. After a title card thanking Penthouse for “introducing” the filmmakers to the star, Amber Hunt, the movie mostly unfolds at Cindy’s funeral, as her friends remember the events leading up to her sad demise. Like so many others before her, Cindy is talked into trying prostitution by her friends at the beauty salon, in scenes that feature acting that is hilariously affect less even for porn. She’s able to secretly support her med student boyfriend, but when she quickly gets involved with a violent, controlling pimp (as opposed to the gentle, emotionally nurturing kind), things quickly go downhill.
While the plot is silly, I appreciate the effort put into at least trying to create a movie with a coherent story, and Spinelli’s direction is surprisingly stylish. The sex scenes are pretty sensual, with close-ups that emphasize hardcore detail without getting so close that it reduces everything to the joyless anatomical detail that makes up a large part of most mediocre porn today. Equal emphasis is put on female and male pleasure, as there’s a good deal of 69-ing and cunnilingus. I particularly appreciated a sequence that cross-cuts between the three female leads servicing their johns in separate rooms - it’s stylistically complex in a way that most porn filmmakers wouldn’t attempt, on top of being a lot of fun to watch. Given the plotline, it’s worth noting that the sex in Cry for Cindy is a little rougher, at times, than the average fare. For viewers who are into it, it’s likely to be very enjoyable, and everyone else will finds something to enjoy, between the more sensual scenes and the endearingly awful line readings.
Touch Me takes place in a “Group Encounter” of the sort that was trendy at the time; the movie plays like a hardcore version of the opening sequence in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. Tom Stevens is enjoyably weird as Dr. Lloyd Davis, the leader of the group, who has invited the group, mostly couples, to explore themselves and each other in a guilt-free environment. Even more so than Cry for Cindy, there’s an emphasis on story and even a few surprisingly dramatic moments, and while a few of the actors are a bit wooden (heh), most of them are capable. The sex scenes here are, at times, rougher than in Cry for Cindy; there’s one scene where a guy acts out a rape fantasy with his wife, and another moment, where a straight dude punches a lesbian in the face for rejecting him, that would be offensive if the scene weren’t so hilariously inept in its staging. For the most part, though, Spinelli again favors more sensual sex scenes, and one, between a couple in the woods, is good enough to justify the entire movie.
Probably the most notable thing about Touch Me is the performance of George ‘Buck’ Flower, who’d go on to be a character actor in films like Escape from New York, They Live, Back to the Future Part II and many others. Flower often played hobos, hillbillies and other colorful characters, and he had the face for it, so it’s humorously jarring seeing him show up in a porno. He plays a single guy who’s just there to get laid, as he announces repeatedly, but without spoiling anything, he ends one scene in tears. It’s unclear whether he actually has sex in the film - he appears to in one scene, but it’s shot at an angle that makes it impossible to tell. However, he is frequently naked, so if you’ve always wanted to see the “Sure, I’m the president” guy from Escape from New York’s penis, now’s your chance! Also, I noticed that Touch Me was edited by Michael Kahn, and an IMDb search confirmed that this is the same Michael Kahn who went on to edit most of Steven Spielberg’s movies, so remember that the next time you watch Schindler’s List.
Act of Confession is less plot-heavy and, in general, a bit weaker than the other two movies. I’m all about nunsploitation, so I should be the target audience for this movie, but the main character’s sexual fantasies are poorly shot, in dull low light that does the actors no favors. In addition, while the version included here isn’t technically softcore, it frequently seems to be cutting around the action to the point of frustration (although, for whatever reason, the cum shots are included). A scene of a nun fantasizing about being tied to a cross and ravished by two burly dudes should be right up my alley, but the extended reverse shots of poorly lit buttocks thrusting away grew wearying.
It’s worth noting, though, that seeing Act of Confession in any form is something of a miracle; after it was completed, the movie’s mob backers decided not to release the movie, mostly due to a scene where the nun imagines herself giving Jesus a blowjob as he walks on water. I read about this one a long time ago but didn’t make the connection until Jesus appeared on screen, at which point I exclaimed, “Oh wow, this is the one where Jesus gets a blowjob!” Unfortunately, as with the rest of the movie, most of the action is obscured - honestly, what’s the point of a “Jesus getting a blowjob” scene if we can’t see Jesus’ dick? Still, Vinegar Syndrome deserves a lot of credit for giving Act of Confession a release even in a somewhat truncated format.
Cry for Cindy and Touch Me were both scanned in 2K from 35mm archival prints; while it’s impossible to get the same kind of results as a remaster from an original camera negative, both transfers feature strong contrast and detail. While both transfers are surprisingly clean given the source, there’s still plenty of scratches and artifacts that, for me, adds to the time capsule effect of watching these movies today. The mono sound on both is mostly clear. Act of Confession is a lot rougher, particularly the tinny sound, but this is because it was sourced from the only known 16mm print; again, just having this movie on a disc is impressive in itself.
The only extras are reels for Cry for Cindy and Touch Me, as well as a softcore version of Cry for Cindy included on the second disc.
Vinegar Syndrome continues to do a commendable job of presenting vintage porn with the same kind of respect that labels like Criterion give to “important” films. The decision to collect three films by Anthony Spinelli in one set proves inspired, and for fans of ‘70s adult cinema, this one is a treat.