The Films (2/5):
Vinegar Syndrome’s double feature disc includes two movies by Alex de Renzy, the adult film auteur whose pervy sense of humor and penchant for kinky, out-of-left-field plot twists would later result in porno classics like Pretty Peaches and Femmes de Sade. The two movies included here - 1972’s Little Sisters and the previous year’s Powder Burns - are among his earliest work, and they’re much rougher, technically and performance-wise, than his later films. There’s still enough general weirdness on display, however, for them to be of interest to de Renzy fans.
Little Sisters is the more interesting of the two - a weird psychosexual fairy tale seemingly shot in the woods over a couple of days, the movie’s technical and narrative ineptness oddly words for it. The story follows a mother and her two nubile daughters (Clair Dia and Kandi Johnson - the rest of the cast is unbilled) who live in an idyllic shack in the woods. When the mother goes out for the day, her daughters are kidnapped by - a plot summary I read afterward said they were “pirates,” but I thought they were murderous hippies. Maybe we’re both right.
As the girls are repeatedly defiled, their mother searches for them with the help of a longhair in Peter Pan costume and a gang of “dykes” (the term the movie repeatedly uses). The movie is very much a product of its time, with the bad hippie gang throwing off strong Mansonoid vibes. The grainy 16mm scenes of the young girls being carried into the woods are reminiscent of the same year’s Last House on the Left, whose director and producer had gotten their start in porn. Thankfully, things don’t get as grim here, as the whole thing builds to an inexplicably happy ending.
Little Sisters was made early enough that there wasn’t really a formula for shooting sex yet, which is most evident in the complete lack of money shots. At the same time, this gives the movie an odd kind of freedom, most obviously in an extended gay orgy scene at a monastery. Guy-on-guy scenes are almost never included in porn aimed at straight audiences today, and there’s something admirably transgressive about its inclusion here, even if it’s just because de Renzy didn’t know any better. It’s also possible that he just didn’t care - judging from the inclusion of cues from the soundtracks of Performance and 2001 over, respectively, the monastery scene and one where a scrawny guy has sex with a very big lady, that’s a strong possibility.
The second feature, Powder Burns, isn’t as fascinatingly odd, though it has its moments. It’s an awkward attempt at a western parody narrated by Sheriff Sham, the mayor of Sewerpipe Creek and the proprietor or the town’s saloon. What little plot there is involves Sham using go-go dancers to bring in business and his conflict with local bad guys the McNasty brothers. Powder Burns actually seems to forget that it’s a porno for a while - aside from the occasional striptease, there’s no sex in the movie for the first 45 minutes, and it’s all cornpone humor and mugging until then. When the movie eventually gets to the sex scenes, they’re interestingly unpolished - the sex here feels less choreographed than verite, like the performers just went for it while the cameras rolled. As with Little Sisters, it feels like nobody involved really knew what they were doing - it doesn’t make for a great porno, but it’s interesting in its own way.
Vinegar Syndrome presents both films in their original aspect ratios of 1.33:1. It’s clear the elements the company had to work with were rougher than usual, with print damage throughout both films. The 1.0 mono audio fares better, though it also occasionally suffers from damage to the prints used. The company still deserves credit for bringing these films to DVD, though - while the transfers may not be up to the company’s usual high standards, a little research suggests that this is as good as either movie has ever looked or sounded on home video.
No extras are included.
While the transfers are far from perfect and the discs feature the movies only, it’s safe to say that this is the best possible presentation of these films. For fans of Alex de Renzy or porn with a weird streak, this disc is worth a look.