The Films (3/5)
Vinegar Syndrome’s new Blu-ray set includes the 1978 adult classic Pretty Peaches (which the company previously released on a limited edition Blu-ray) and its two sequels (previously released as a double feature DVD). As there was a nearly decade-long gap between the original and its sequels (all of which were directed by Alex de Renzy), it’s interesting to compare them as products of the times they were made. While the casts, production values and hairstyles all change, de Renzy’s cheerfully puerile sense of humor is a constant throughout out.
I wrote about Pretty Peaches back when the original came out; in short, it’s the story of a young woman named Peaches (Desiree Costeau) who runs away from her father and new stepmom, gets in a car accident and wakes up with a case of amnesia. The film follows Peaches’ unwitting sexual odyssey, which includes a lesbian gang rape and, most notoriously, a forced enema scene, before arriving at a remarkably sick punchline. It’s strong stuff, and it would be offensive if it weren’t for the movie’s cheekily perverse tone, which makes it hard to take too seriously. Costeau is not only a good sport, she’s also a lovely and endearing leading lady with a knack for comedy. If you were to take the pornographic scenes out of Pretty Peaches, it’d still be an entertainingly odd little movie.
Costeau is replaced by the likable Siobhan Hunter in Pretty Peaches 2. Here, Peaches deliberately embarks on a journey of sexual exploration at the suggestion of her stepfather (Herschel Savage) – that it’s her stepdad as opposed to her biological father in the sequel suggests that an effort was made to tone down the taboo aspects of the original. The exception is the scene where Peaches visits her Uncle Howard (Ron Jeremy), who brags about his wife’s (Ashley Wells) sexual prowess before having a threeway with her and their son (Billy Dee). Even there, though, it’s implied that maybe the three aren’t biologically releated.
While the original felt genuinely transgressive, Pretty Peaches 2 reminds more of smutty ‘80s comedies like Hardbodies and Hamburger: The Motion Picture, and the ‘80s influence is on full display in the movie’s garishly loud production design. It’s a step down from the original, though it’s still well staged by de Renzy, with one scene that plays so much like the scene in Blue Velvet (released the year before) where Dorothy discovers Jeffrey in her closet that I wondered if de Renzy had seen David Lynch’s movie. The sequel is also notable for an all-star cast of male porn stars, including Jeremy, Savage, Peter North as Peaches’ boyfriend and Jamie Gillis as a creeper disguised like an old lady (haven’t I seen him do this before?).
Pretty Peaches 2 is a masterpiece compared to the final chapter in the trilogy, Pretty Peaches 3: The Quest. Peaches, played by Keisha this time, searches for spiritual enlightenment on the advice of her new therapist, Dr. Thunderpussy (Rachel Ryan). Along the way, she encounters a Jimmy Swaggart-esque televangelist (Gillis again) and gets mixed up with a pimp (Jack Baker) and a convent of predatory nuns. Compared to the first two, Pretty Peaches 3 is muddled and incoherent, and both the sex scenes and attempts at humor are tepid. I didn’t think I could be bored by nunsploitation in any form, but there’s a first for everything. It’s interesting as one of the last movies of its kind – it was shot on film years after the industry had begun to shift to video, and there’s still at least an attempt to tell a story with decent production values. Ultimately, though, it’s a coked-out mess of big hair, tanlines and poor attempts at MTV-style lighting and montage that is a sad reminder of how far the industry had fallen by the late ‘80s.
Pretty Peaches, which is given its own disc, looks nearly identical to the already-strong transfer from the previous Blu-ray (though, as Vinegar Syndrome didn’t include that disc’s special features, the bitrate is a little higher). Colors, contrast and detail are strong throughout, and Pretty Peaches 2 (which was also restored from 35mm elements) looks just as good. Pretty Peaches 3, which shares a disc with its predecessor, was shot on 16mm, and it looks softer and less detailed, but it’s still a pleasantly filmic-looking transfer. The DTS-HD 1.0 audio is clear throughout the first two films; Pretty Peaches 3 tends to sound quieter and more muddled, but this is probably attributable to the source elements.
Only a theatrical trailer for Pretty Peaches 2 is included.
For fans who picked up Vinegar Syndrome’s previous releases, the Pretty Peaches set probably isn’t worth the upgrade, especially since the special features from the original’s limited edition haven’t been included. But if you missed that Blu-ray or just want to have all three Pretty Peaches movies in one set, it’s well worth picking up.