The Film (3/5)
Despite being advertised as such Sugar Cookies is not a Troma film, nor is it a Troma pick up. Sugar Cookies was a film co-produced, and co-written by a young Lloyd Kaufman under the Armor Films banner a few years before Troma came into existence. It is a film that Kaufman mentions in his book "All I Needed to Know About Filmmaking I Learned From the Toxic Avenger" as an early failure. In the book he describes going to the Cannes Film Festival with Sugar Cookies (and Silent Night, Bloody Night) director Theodore Gershuny and with Gershuny hiring a pair of prostitutes for the evening. They take the pair back to their hotel room, where the pair engages in a lesbian act that was apparently more explicit than anything in the film they were promoting.
Sugar Cookies was considered a disappointment to the young Kaufman, who wanted the film to go further in in a sexploitation direction, and in the book he refers to the film as sub-softcore and actually goes so far as to refer to Sugar Cookies as mushy-core. It is that sort of endorsement that prevented me from seeing it until now. I knew Sugar Cookies was a take on Hitchcock's Vertigo with Lynn Lowry filling in the Kim Novak role. However, aside from that I did not know what exactly to expect. I ended up being quite pleased with the results of the film, and while not perfect it is much better a film than Kaufman made it out to be, and the weaknesses he described ended up being strengths.
Sugar Cookies stars George Shannon as Max. As the film opens he is playing a kinky sex game involving a gun with his lover Alta played by Lynn Lowry. During this game the gun goes off, and she dies. He makes it look like a suicide with the assistance of his sometime lover Camilla played by Mary Woronov (Eating Raoul). After that the film begins to follow Camilla, as she starts her own film production, and in the process of auditioning actresses stumbles onto Julie who is the near spitting image of Alta. She cast Julie in the role, and takes her under her wing, and soon the two begin a romantic relationship, which seems more on the dominant/submissive side of things where Camilla is in the dominant role, and is slowly turning Julie into another person, Alta. While this is happening Max tries to iron out his relationship with his ex-wife and brother in law, Gus.
Sugar Cookies had the potential to be a very good little Hitchcock-riff, in the end it's a fun little time waster, and much better than it was made out to be. The film has a cold sterile atmosphere for much of it's running time that actually works in it's favor. This carries over into the sex scenes both in the films opening, and the later moments between Camilla and Julie. Whereas Kaufman found that these scenes didn't go far enough, the way they were portrayed seemed to fit the calculating manipulative atmosphere of the film. The character of Camilla may be bisexual, but her interest in Julie isn't sexual, as it is revenge it is as tool to enact revenge. The sex therefore would be more detached than it would in a film like Bound where the characters had a passion for one another.
Gershuny for what it's worth has created an interesting slightly atmospheric movie when Camilla and Julie are engaging on the screen. The film is a tad slow at times, and only really falters in moments like the subplot with Gus, which involves more comedic elements such as the characters predilection for cross dressing (not to say that cross dressing can only be played for laughs, but here it is). This element feels quite out of place with the rest of the film, although it should be said feels like a precursor to the bizarre humor and offbeat sensibility Kaufman would later bring to his Troma output.
The restoration for Sugar Cookies is another win for the folks at Vinegar Syndrome. The 1:78:1 AVC encoded 1080p transfer looks as good as a film of this caliber probably could look on home video. Colors are excellent, natural where they need to be, and vibrant in other places, fine detail is similarly excellent throughout, and there is a healthy level of natural organic film grain present throughout the feature. There are a few moments of print damage scattered about, but in my opinion that only helps the atmosphere of the film by giving it a more natural filmlike look.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD MA 1.0. The track is decent, but not very remarkable, which offers a counterpoint to the excellent video. The dialogue is audible, as is the films score, but I did detect moments of hissing and other such anomalies present on the track.
Vinegar Syndrome have put together quite a splendid extras package together for their release of Sugar Cookies on Blu-ray. The Blu-ray contains a 13 minute interview with star Lynn Lowry who reflects on the film, and her work with Lloyd Kaufman (the Battle of Love's Return as well). The Blu-ray also contains a HD version of the films trailer.
The DVD also included in the set contains an excellent interview with producer, writer, and Troma head honcho Lloyd Kaufman who gives nothing less than a very excited and detailed interview about Sugar Cookies. Lloyd's interviews covers some of the material I remember from his book, but is more in depth, and honestly the man is always a hoot to watch.
We then get a 5 minute interview in SD with Mary Woronov taken from a convention appearance. She discusses Sugar Cookies, but not too deeply, but does discuss the director Gershuny who was her husband when the film was shot. We also get an SD trailer that is cut for a Troma release of the film.
Not the worst Hitchcock style film you'll ever see, but far from the best. Sugar Cookies is still a bit of a fun time, and is greatly enhanced by an excellent pair of leading ladies in Mary Woronov and Lynn Lowry who seemingly are always memorable in their cult film roles. The Blu-ray restoration from Vinegar Syndrome is excellent, and the extras really push this one over the top. RECOMMENDED.