The Films (2.5/5)
This double feature from Vinegar Syndrome includes two early-’70s sexploitation movies directed by Chris Warfield, who had a fascinatingly varied career. Warfield started as a character actor in the 1950s before turning to directing low-budget drive-in fare, eventually directing a few hardcore movies. I reviewed the Warfield-directed Champagne for Breakfast a few months ago, and was surprised at how well it worked as a romantic comedy aside from its sex scenes. The movies included here are tamer - Little Miss Innocence (aka Teenage Innocence) features a vintage MPAA R-rating logo at its start - but they share Warfield’s talent for getting entertaining performances out of his cast even when the material was less than stellar.
Little Miss Innocence begins with two young hitchhikers, Carol (Sandy Dempsey) and Judy (Judy Medford), who get picked up by a record executive named Rick (John Alderman) and soon invite themselves over to his house. Before long, all three get into bed together, and nerdy, middle-aged Rick can’t believe his luck. However, after a couple of days, the girls refuse to leave his house and keep demanding him to perform past the point of total exhaustion. “Sounds like a good problem to have,” you may be thinking, but when Rick threatens to call the cops if the girls don’t leave, they turn the table on him, and what began as a softcore fantasy turns into a psychosexual melodrama.
While Little Miss Innocence is rough around the edges, it’s surprisingly entertaining, especially as it gets stranger in its second half. All three leads - the only characters in the movie, aside from a brief scene featuring Rick’s boss - are compelling, with Dempsey, in particular, making the most out of a scene near the end where her character has a bit of a meltdown. While the premise is distasteful, the tone is just knowing enough that it never becomes too queasy. And while the sex scenes were clearly cut to avoid an X rating, there’s at least one out-of-nowhere “WTF?!!” moment that gave me a fit of hysterical laughter.
Warfield isn’t the only member of the movie’s crew to straddle the mainstream and adult film industries - notorious director Ray Dennis Steckler was the DP (and the movie looks a liot better than his own) and character actor George “Buck” Flower, who also appeared in 1971’s Touch Me, is credited as the assistant director and set designer. Flower wrote the screenplay for the second half of the double feature, Teenage Seductress, which is both tamer and more tasteless than Little Miss Innocence. Warfield stars in this one as famed author and painter Preston King, who is targeted for revenge by Terry (Sondra Currie), the grown daughter he abandoned as a young girl. Ingratiating herself with Preston, who hires her as his assistant, Terry plans to reveal her identity to her dad only after she’s seduced him.
It’s an impressively sick premise, but the movie is surprisingly tepid - it’s less a sexploitation movie than a soapy melodrama with brief nudity, and it runs out of steam about 30 minutes before it’s over. It’s watchable, though, thanks to the performances - thanks to Warfield and Currie (whose sister is Cherrie Currie of The Runaways - no wonder she looked so familiar), the whole thing is far more dramatically credible than it should be. As with Little Miss Innocence, the distasteful premise is handled with surprising restraint, although I’ll admit that, in this case, it could’ve used a bit more shock value.
Vinegar Syndrome has restored both films in 2K from their original negatives. The 1.85:1 anamorphic presentations are impressive, with strong color and contrast. Grain is inconsistent throughout both movies, though it’s likely this is an aspect of the source elements. There’s occasional visible damage in both movies, but for the most part, these are remarkably clean, detailed presentations.
The theatrical trailer for each movie is included.
The two movies included here, particularly Little Miss Innocence, are highly recommended for fans of ‘70s softcore sexploitation or lurid melodrama, and Vinegar Syndrome’s presentation of them is typically strong.