The Film (3.5/5)
Champagne for Breakfast, released in 1980, plays like a porno version of the kind of women’s lib-era romantic comedies being made at the time, with Leslie Bovee playing a role that might have been played by Jane Fonda or Jill Clayburgh in the non-porno version. She plays Champagne, a VP at a cosmetics agency who, as the movie opens, demonstrates to her assistant how she can use her wealth and power to get any man she wants. Meanwhile, John Leslie is in the role that might have been played by Burt Reynolds or Ryan O’Neal in the non-porno version, a tough but sensitive man’s man who pretends to be gay to get a job as Champagne’s chauffeur and assistant (it sort of makes sense in context). It’s a classic romantic comedy premise, as Leslie starts to fall for his boss but doesn’t know how to tell her, and the pleasant surprise of Champagne for Breakfast is that it works as both a “couples movie” and a comedy.
Bovee and Leslie make for likable leads, and they have good chemistry throughout, which director Chris Warfield smartly teases out - of course they’re going to eventually get into bed together, but by delaying the inevitable as long as possible, Warfield made me care about the outcome more than I expected. There are several scenes that are genuinely sexy - I love the contrast of a female lead who is freely taking multiple partners and her secret admirer, who is oddly conservative for a porn protagonist. The scenes where Leslie gets worked up as he gives his boss full-body massages that have the sort of pleasant tension rare to a genre that is usually all about cutting to the chase.
Warfield and screenwriter John Hayes are surprisingly committed to the story and characters, even when it means bucking porn conventions. There’s an early scene where Leslie is seduced by a club owner (Kandi Barbour) when he’s applying for a job as a bouncer. When one of the dancers from the club (Dorothy LeMay) tries to join them, Leslie gets offended and leaves, making this possibly the only porno where a guy turns down a threeway. There’s another scene where Bovee goes to bed with a woman she picks up at a club (Candida Royalle) before admitting, a few minutes into the scene, that she’s not up for it. It’s weirdly conservative for a porno, and yet it’s admirable that Warfield seems to actually care about character motivation.
Bovee is sexy in an endearingly naive way as Champagne, and Leslie has never been more likable. The gay angle, thankfully, mostly stays away from any stereotypical mincing, although there’s one ugly moment where Leslie slugs a rent boy that Bovee has hired to service him. The movie makes pleasantly silly detours like the scene where Leslie has a quickie with a car wash employee (Sharon Kane), or Bovee’s encounter with a construction worker who drinks Schlitz from her pussy. The production values and cinematography are strong throughout, and Warfield has a good sense of where to put the camera to emphasize the sexual chemistry between the performers. And by the end of the movie, I was surprisingly engaged with the characters and cared about their fates as much as I would in a pretty good mainstream romantic comedy. Also released in a softcore version, Champagne for Breakfast is the kind of couples’ porn I could actually see couples enjoying together - it’s enjoyably smutty, but with a refreshing emphasis on its female lead’s desires.
Vinegar Syndrome continues to do admirable work in presenting vintage adult classics that have likely never looked or sounded better. Scanned in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative, the transfer of Champagne for Breakfast has strong detail, colors and skin tones while still retaining a pleasantly filmic look. Aside from some damage to the negative during the opening credits and in a few isolated shots, Champagne for Breakfast looks great throughout (and those moments only enhance the vintage atmosphere anyway). The 1.0 audio is one of their best tracks as well - aside from occasional hiss, I suspect this is one of the better source tracks the company has had to work with, and they’ve done a great job with it.
Trailers are included for the hard- and softcore versions of the film, as well as a six-minute reel of alternate scenes from the softcore cut.
Champagne for Breakfast is a lot of fun, and it’s the kind of porno I’d recommend, in particular, to couples who are maybe trying this sort of thing together for the first time. It’s pleasantly sexy and surprisingly charming, and any vintage porn aficionados are going to want to get this disc, both for the roster of A-list adult stars and for Vinegar’s Syndrome’s excellent presentation of the film.