LITTLE MISS INNOCENCE
Color, 1972, 72m.
Directed by Chris Warfield
Starring John Alderman, Sandra Dempsey, Judy Medford
Color, 1975, 86m.
Directed by Chris Warfield
Starring Sondra Currie, Chris Warfield, Elizabeth Saxon, John Trujillo, Sonny Cooper
Vinegar Syndrome (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
Only in Hollywood could someone have a career like Chris Warfield. The California-based filmmaker started off as a studio actor in films like Torch Song and Diary of a Madman before turning to directing with Little Miss Innocence, his debut. He soon adopted the name "Billy Thornberg" for a decade-long stint directing hardcore films including the classic Champagne for Breakfast and one memorable Vinegar Syndrome double feature, Purely Physical and Cathouse Fever, but this double feature offers proof that he had the chops to make a film as good as any of his legit competitors at the time.
Little Miss Innocence opens on an appropriately delirious note with gaudy retro credits and a warbling theme song only one or two notes removed from "One Boy/One Girl" from Bye Bye Birdie. We're treated to some great early '70s vintage Los Angeles scenery starting off with the Capitol Records building where our protagonist, music writer Rick (Alderman), works and passes by landmarks like Hollywood High and Crossroads of the World. It's a nice sunny afternoon, so why not stop and pick up a couple of pretty young hitchhikers, Carol (Dempsey) and Judy (Medford)? He drops them off in the neighborhood near his "neato" house so they can walk around and explore, but their private conversation indicates they might have another plan in mind. Soon they're crashing out at his pad, taking advantage of his awesome color TV, and sipping brandy from snifters. That's just a prelude though as he winds up bedding down for the night with Judy, followed by a later tryst with Carol and an eventual threesome. As it turns out, the girls have a very unusual wager going... and Rick might even be willing to go along with it.
A really solid exploitation film with some strong similarities to the much later Death Game from 1977, this is a great showcase for all three actors. The late Alderman had one of the strangest careers of the era as he bounced between mainstream-ish fare like Malibu Express, Superstition, New Year's Evil, and The Stunt Man, plenty of TV roles, drive-in junk food like The Pink Angels and Drive-In Massacre, and occasional hardcore porn (usually in nonsexual roles), and he always turned in good performances regardless of the material. One of the best of the softcore starlets (with some occasional hardcore thrown in), Dempsey's a familiar face from Vinegar Syndrome's The Suckers , Widow Blue, and Touch Me, as well as Something Weird favorites like Country Hooker and The Black Alley Cats. Medford, also known as Terri Johnson, racked up her share of softcore credits as well like The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio, Below the Belt, and Drop Out Wife. This one came near the end of career, which closed out with another pairing with Dempsey in Video Vixens in 1975. (Incredibly, these were just two of four films the women made together.) Also behind the camera are two names very familiar to exploitation fans, cinematographer Ray Dennis Steckler (whose directorial career needs no introduction) and first assistant director and set decorator George "Buck" Flower, who bounced back and forth between softcore sleaze and mainstream bit parts.
For some reason this film has largely slipped under the radar of most video distributors over the years, essentially vanishing from the U.S. after its Lima Productions theatrical release apart from a gray market transfer of the UK VHS from Alpha Blue Archives. Sporting the original MPAA R-rated title card, the fresh transfer from Vinegar Syndrome is a very welcome release and a tremendously satisfying presentation of this undiscovered gem. Extras include the theatrical trailer (which includes some pretty raunchy shots not in the final cut) and an alternate title sequence as Teenage Innocence. Despite the indications that this film was probably toned down a bit to get that R rating, it's still very strong stuff with nudity galore from the three actors, who have the only speaking roles in the entire film.
Sharing space on the same DVD-9 is Warfield's second legit feature, Teenage Seductress, also made for Lima. This time the actual sleaze factor drops considerably in favor of lurid melodrama with Sondra Currie (Class of '74, Policewomen, tons of TV appearances, and The Hangover trilogy!) taking center stage as Terry, a woman heading out to Taos, New Mexico to track down a man named Preston King (Warfield). Thanks to a bohemian art gallery owner named Reggie (Trujillo), she learns Preston's whereabouts and gets Reggie to escort her out to his ranch. Instead of going in, she hightails it to "El Pueblo Motor Lodge" where she gets naked for a shower and has flashbacks to her childhood as an abandoned little girl who liked to play hopscotch. (Oh, and she hallucinates her mother's domineering face in the shower head.) That spurs her into action as she decides to infiltrate Preston's life, seduce him, and wreck his life... because he's her dad! That little twist is given away very early, so it's not a spoiler; instead we watch Terry bounce back and forth between plotting with Reggie and screwing with Preston's mind, leading to an emotional motel room reckoning.
This one also opens with an R rating at the head of the source print, but it barely earns it apart from the aforementioned shower scene and the general skeeviness of the subject matter. Currie (sister of Cherie Currie from The Runaways) is very good considering the soapy material she's given to work with and the New Mexico setting makes for a nice chance of pace, but the wildly misleading title (seriously, there isn't anyone close to adolescence anywhere in the film) is bound to set up viewers for something far trashier than what's actually delivered. If you want a competent '70s drama with a little bit of a perverse twist, however, it might hit the sweet spot.
Unlike the first feature, this one actually did get a VHS release in America, albeit not a very high profile one. The Vinegar Syndrome transfer comes from an occasionally damaged but pretty solid print with good colors and fine detail, showing off the desert scenery and vivid fashions to their best advantage. The sole extra for this one is the theatrical trailer, which does its best to look way, way more groovy and sexy than the actual movie.