The Films (2.5/5)
Vinegar Syndrome’s double feature disc highlights two features directed by Bob Chinn, one of the more prolific director’s of porn’s theatrical heyday. Chinn’s biggest claim to fame is making John Holmes a star in the Johnny Wadd series. The second half of this double feature, California Gigolo, is one of Holmes’ later starring vehicles, but the first, Holmes-free feature, Hot Legs, is the more enjoyable of the two.
Hot Legs centers around an ad agency trying to make it big with a campaign for the titular brand of sexy leggings. Among the main characters are model Annie (Jesie St. James), permanently stressed-out producer Mort (Richard Pacheco) and photographer Dave (Paul Thomas), and the most endearing thing about Hot Legs is that Chinn and story writer Gail Palmer seem as interested with telling a story about the realities of working at an ad agency as they are in making a porno. The sex scenes aren’t particularly erotic and most of the attempts at humor fall flat, but it’s oddly watchable anyway, largely thanks to the likable cast.
Chinn and cinematographer Ken Gibb also deserve a lot of credit for the lighting and compositions, which are surprisingly artful and precise both in the sex scenes and otherwise. The performers may not have a great deal of chemistry, but at least everything looks great. The highlight is a cheerfully kitschy, garishly lit roller disco sequence that turns into a pornographic fantasy between the two models in the shoot. Again, it’s not particularly sexy, but it’s oddly entertaining. The movie also ends with a romp between Mort and makeup girl Katrina (Lauren Dominique) that is oddly endearing. Hot Legs isn’t among the best or sexiest adult movies of its era, but it’s a fun 80-minute time capsule.
The second feature, California Gigolo, stars John Holmes basically playing himself as “John,” a wealthy gigolo who is constantly in demand with his attractive clientele. While this second feature is also handsomely shot, it feels much more perfunctory than Hot Legs. We see Holmes visit a few of his customers, including one (Liza Dwyer) left hot and bothered by an obscene phone caller and a kinkster (Veri Knotty) who demonstrates a hidden talent with her surprisingly elastic lady bits that is both impressive and actively unarousing. It’s a brief movie with a thin premise and fewer attempts at comedy, clearly built around Holmes’ star appeal and little else.
I’ve seen a number of John Holmes movies at this point, and I have to say, for possibly the most famous male porn star of all time, he’s got a surprisingly dull screen presence. Once one gets past his enormous penis - and I’m not trying to shortchange the penis, it ain’t nothing - he’s something of a charisma vacuum. He never has any real chemistry with his co-stars, and the only time he ever really comes alive onscreen is when he’s smacking women around. His contemporaries like John Leslie and Paul Thomas have far more likable screen presences, and even Ron “The Hedgehog” Jeremy has some sense of comic timing. Holmes is a bore with a very big, very impressive dick, but his filmography is proof that size isn’t everything.
Vinegar Syndrome’s transfers of both features, restored in 2K from the original 35mm camera negatives are very impressive. The company has worked wonders with less-than-stellar source elements, and in this case, it appears that both negatives were in great condition to begin with. A few instances of dirt and scratches aside, both movies look terrific, with colors, contrast and skin tones are. The Dolby Digital 1.0 audio is clear throughout.
Theatrical trailers for both films are included.
Neither of the films included here are high water marks for the genre, but they’re more stylish and well made than the average porno. Vinegar Syndrome’s presentation of both films is typically impressive and well worth checking out for fans of Bob Chinn or John Holmes.