Saturday, 30 August 2014

Vinegar Syndrome Review: The Early Works of Wakefield Poole

(dir: Wakefield Poole, 1971)

“The Most Acclaimed Male Movie in the History of Cinema”
 My only connection with Wakefield Poole prior to watching Boys in the Sand was Calvin Culver (also known as Casey Donovan) who appeared in Radley Metzger’s film, Score. Of course, the name Wakefield Poole is one you hear a lot when you are a fan of the Golden Age of adult cinema. Thanks to those chaps at Vinegar Syndrome, us fans of classic smut can now experience the works of Wakefield Poole with their Films of Wakefield Poole Collection. Kicking off the collection is Boys in the Sand, Poole’s directorial debut. The film is a piece of experimental art house pornography that is beautifully shot on the picturesque Fire Island. There is no dialogue or diegetic sound of any kind, in its place is music. Of course, there are hardcore scenes but they are shot tastefully and are in some places, very passionate and intense. That’s where my praise for the film ends. I found Boys in the Sand to be a very dull experience.
 Some may be put off by the sexual content, but that was no issue for me at all. I just found the film so uninteresting. Technically, the film is sound. Wakefield has such skill behind the camera and a great sense of style. The marriage of music and imagery is marvellous. If you are an aspiring filmmaker, this is a great example of what you can produce with a tight budget and creative mind. Although I didn’t enjoy the film aside from it’s aesthetic and experimental elements, I can appreciate just how important this film is. Not only was this a milestone for pornography in general but it also helped show gay sex and homosexuality in a positive light. Not only that, but it made Fire Island something of an international holidaying hot spot. Just like Deep Throat, the film itself is nothing to shout about but its cultural and social impact is something everyone should be aware of.

It’s not all negativity though my friends, this release also boasts four short films directed by Poole.
 ANDY (1971)

Fans of Andy Warhol will definitely appreciate this short. Filmed during a Warhol retrospective in 1971 at the Whitney Museum, Poole documents the event in a way that is exciting and kinetic. Not only that, but it compliments Warhol’s work perfectly. Not only did Poole shoot and edit this, he also created a soundtrack to compliment the imagery. It’s interesting to note that Poole presented the finished piece to Warhol as a present and even screened it before showings of Boys in the Sand. The soundtrack alone makes this worthy of viewing.
 A GIFT (1971)
Shot on Fire Island around the same time as Poole was making Boys in the Sand. This is something of a precursor to Poole’s first feature. The film was made in collaboration with Ed Parente and was shown to Parente’s lover to show how much he loved him. It’s once again a tastefully made piece that is symbolic following creative journey of a man and a shell. I have probably completely missed the point but it’s still worthy of a watch.
 HEAD FILM (1971)

Once again we have a very experimental and fast piece in which Poole combines music from the camp to the epic, with footage and audio taken from various TV shows, commercials and radio. Just for good measure we get lots of cooking (damn the food looks good!). This is indeed a very exciting piece of experimental film that also has a sense of humour about it. Shot on 8mm, this is a pure piece of experimentation at its finest.
 VITTORIO (19??)

Finally, we have what is possibly my favourite short on the DVD. Moving away from live action, Poole turns his hand to stop motion animation. The piece was made as part of a show put on by Triton Gallery to help publicise the art of Vittorio Florucci, a Canadian artist. There’s really not much to tell aside from it’s an intriguing and well made animation that stop motion animation fans will enjoy.

Overall, the main feature is nothing amazing for me but the release in question is fantastic. Vinegar Syndrome have certainly outdone themselves. Aside from the bonus shorts, you get an audio commentary, vintage interview and introduction from Poole himself as well as a featurette revisiting Fire Island. Not only that but there is an interview with Linda Williams, an unused sequence from Boys in the Sand as well as the films original trailer. The presentation of the film is as good as we will probably get, and Vinegar Syndrome have done the best with what materials they have. The shorts are presented here for the first time on DVD and the features are plentiful. This is a great release for fans of classic porn as well as those who are interested in the social aspects. We have come far as a society in terms of equal rights and this film and release could not have come at a better time. If you are open minded and mature enough, there is no reason why you shouldn’t at least check this release out. My hats off to Vinegar Syndrome once again.

You can buy this release directly from Vinegar Syndrome here as well as your favourite online retailers.

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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Vinegar Syndrome Drive-In Collection Review: In Search of Bigfoot (1975) / Cry Wilderness (1986)

(dir: Lawrence Crowley & William Miller, 1975)

"The Documented Proof of the Mysterious 'Bigfoot'"
 Usually it’s a lot easier and quicker for me to review films one by one but I thought for this release from Vinegar Syndrome, it’s only right to review the release as a whole. First up on this Drive-in Collection double feature, we have the 1975 documentary In Search of Bigfoot, directed by Lawrence Crowley (BIGFOOT: MAN OR BEAST) and William Miller (COWBOY SPIRIT, MYSTERIES FROM BEYOND THE TRIANGLE). The documentary focuses on Robert Morgan (BLOOD STALKERS, MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH) and his team who set out to locate the legendary Bigfoot. While on their expedition they meet loggers and eyewitnesses who all claim to have either witnessed or interacted with the mythical creature. There are highs and lows for Robert and his team and although an often hard faced and determined chap, Robert has lots of respect and good intentions.
 I’m not really too interested in the whole obsession with Bigfoot usually, but this documentary had me entertained from start to finish. Being made in the mid 70’s, there is that instant charm and it reminded me of the wonderfully kooky Mystery of the God’s presented by William Shatner, which I reviewed here. There are plenty of ‘interesting’ characters on show throughout the documentary, especially the locals who claim to have had contact with Bigfoot. To accompany the goings on within the expedition, we have some nicely shot scenes of the American wilderness and nature. Overall, this is an entertaining and sincere documentary about a group of people who have a passion for Bigfoot and the drive to prove their critics wrong. You really want Robert to succeed even if you yourself, don’t believe. I wonder if Wes Anderson watched this before he made The Life Aquatic? You’ll understand when you watch!

(dir: Jay Cohen, 1986)

"'Legends Do Live' If You Believe It"
 Eric Foster (THE WONDER YEARS, DARKROOM) plays as Paul, a young boy who once had an encounter with the legendary Bigfoot. One night, he gets a message from his hairy friend that his park ranger dad Will, played by Maurice Grandmaison (NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR, CATACLYSM) is in serious trouble. Paul escapes and meets his father and Indian friend Jim, played by John Tallman (LUST FOR FREEDOM, CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH PART 3) who are being pressured by the establishment (in true Jaws fashion) to get rid of the mysterious creature on the loose because it's tourism season soon. With the help of hot headed hunter Morgan Hicks (Griffin Casey in his only acting credit) the gang go on the hunt to find their prey, well Morgan definitely is. Will Paul save his father and prove that Bigfoot is real? Of course he will, all films like this end that way!
 If you want a film that tops Troll 2 for being so bad it's good, then this is the film for you. It's silly, hilariously acted out and just downright entertaining from start to finish. Paul and his father are so close, that they both share hilariously awful hair. To match the awful hairstyle and acting, we sometimes have some fantastically dire ADR work. The story mashes up the basics of Jaws with pretty much every other family-oriented Bigfoot film ever. This time however, we have a Bigfoot that loves Coca-Cola and likes to gets down to soft rock in his spare time. We also have a Native Indian called Red Hawk played by Foster Hood (BRANDED, LOVE IS A FUNNY THING) who lives in the wood and hammers down the message that us humans are scum. Don't forget lots of footage of animals, sometimes Bruno Mattei level stock footage use and some cheesy late 80's music. We also witness Morgan Hicks nearly strangling a raccoon to death. Lovely! I could go on more about some of the absurdity within this film but that would be no fun for potential first time viewers!
Overall, both films on this disc are entertaining in their own right. In Search of Bigfoot goes extremely well with the family friendly Cry Wilderness. Watching these together reminds me of obscure cable channels having a themed night. There is much fun to be had with this double feature. Both films once again have received top notch treatment from Vinegar Syndrome. They look and sound great as they are both presented in 2K, restored from original camera negatives. As I said at the start of the review, Bigfoot in general really doesn't interest me, but damn did I enjoy these flicks and will definitely be watching again (Cry Wilderness is a great film to share with your friends over a few beers and pizza). If you are interested in the legend of Bigfoot, this is a release for you. If you are in to obscure gems, once again, Vinegar Syndrome have you covered with this. Go buy it NOW!

You can buy the release directly from Vinegar Syndrome here as well as your favourite online retailers.