Color, 1973, 87m.
Directed by Kemal Horulu
Starring Jennifer Welles, Dale T. Fuller, Jon E. Oppenheim, Pudgy Roberts, Shana O'Neal, Edward B. Davis, Jonathan John, Tina Russell, Jason Russell
Color, 1971, 71m.
Directed by Kemal Horulu
Starring Mary Poey, Rose Dunn, Henry Mills, Judith Kely, Susan Dalon
Vinegar Syndrome (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
"On the threshold of the twenty-first century, scientific research reveals that sexual relations will play a greater role in the lives of the average man and woman," intones a very serious narrator in the opening moments of The Sexualist (which comes with the handy subtitle, A Voyage to the World of Forbidden Love). You know you're in for a fun ride when he follows that by proclaiming, "Jeffrey Montclair, the former medical student, now a filmmaker and astrologer, knows from his extensive reading into the scientific literature of sex that masturbation can sometimes be the most important safety valve of the mind." And when that's accompanied by footage of softcore-turned-hardcore starlet Jennifer Welles, writhing around on a psychedelic bedspread rubbing a burning candle where it probably shouldn't be safely applied, there's no question this is not your average smut film.
The aforementioned Jeffrey Montclair, played by dentally-challenged one-shot wonder Dale T. Fuller, an "educational" filmmaker shooting intellectual porn films where he explores such themes as the coupling of the races, which basically means his leading lady, Monica (Welles), berates her black leading man when he can't perform and he retorts that her pasty body doesn't do it for him. That doesn't sit well with the director's mobster backer (Oppenheim), who isn't too impressed with the "art" being delivered. A call for talent covering every astrological sign reaches some pretty unusual characters like a couple of catty drag queens and a gorilla named Papamobutu who's freshly arrived from Africa (and first seen riding a newspaper at a bus stop), but the main concern for Montclair is capturing the ideal zodiac sex positions for all the Tauruses, Pisces, and Leos out there, all explained in hilarious detail by our humble narrator. Monica winds up taking a new nymphet (O'Neal) under her wing (in every sense) who threatens to unseat her role in Montclair's big feature film, but the dramatic tension takes a backseat to the multitude of oddball sex scenes, zodiac lessons, and surreal comedy.
Apparently conceived as a softcore comedy and spiced up with additional (fairly brief) hardcore moments featuring then-spouses Tina and Jason Russell, The Sexualist is an absolutely bizarre film that couldn't have possibly proved satisfying to the raincoat crowd. However, if you're looking for a zany cult film in sexploitation drag, this one more than delivers. Nary a minute goes by without a daffy comment from the narrator or a nutty sex act that defies belief (with the gorilla storyline going in a few directions that wouldn't be out of place in Thundercrack!), and as usual, the almost constantly naked Welles gives it her all whether cussing or bouncing atop her co-stars. On top of that you get some priceless footage of Times Square in the early '70s, including a priceless flash of a marquee showing Mark of the Devil and Cry of the Banshee behind our two scene-stealing transvestites (one of them doing her best Holly Woodlawn impression).
Though the packaging doesn't mention it, the Vinegar Syndrome release in 2013 is most likely the first uncut release of The Sexualist ever on home video. The prior version on VHS from Alpha Blue ran a paltry 73 minutes and was woefully incomplete, with heavy print damage cutting off several scenes and abbreviating the last scene. That same tattered version popped up on a double feature dedicated to director Kemal Horulu, sharing space with The Virgin and the Lover. The Vinegar Syndrome presentation is such a drastic improvement it's almost mind boggling, transferred from the original camera negative and looking completely spotless. The framing is also improved, balancing out compositions that made little sense in the mostly open matte earlier version. The mono audio is also excellent, and in a nice gesture, the long (and spoiler-filled) theatrical trailer is included along with five minutes of outtakes including "Libra personality" mutual manual stimulation between the Russells and extended couplings from two of the softcore stag film shoots.
Then we take a trip over to Wendy's Palace, an earlier and far more obscure title from director Horulu offering a glimpse at hooking circa 1970, when all the girls in New York City seem to strut their stuff in front of billboards for Hello, Dolly! Our title character (Poey) has been forced into the world's oldest profession to make a few bucks, but she doesn't have a pimp. That makes her vulnerable to a vice cop named Vince (Mills) who samples her wares before sending her off to the slammer, where (off screen) she learns about the joys of sapphic love. Once out she's comfortable for a little while when a relative's death leaves her some cash, but before long she's bunking up with a lesbian named Lola (Dunn), who wants to go off to spend some money and fixes Wendy up as the manager for her "house of pleasure." Before you know it, Wendy's breaking in new girls for the "weirdo" clients, including a rich young guy named Buckley (who apparently has a fetish for head scarves) and an art student/"son of a British lord' who takes pictures of blondes to send back to his dad at the House of Parliament. Meanwhile Vince, wracked with guilt, gets sacked from his job for fooling around with the girls and hops back in the sack with Wendy, including a menage a trois with one of her girls, Fancy(!). He wants to get into the business, too, so he and Wendy can save up enough to get married, but can they ever really find true happiness?
Like the previous feature, this is a veritable feast of colorful NYC big city sleaze with enough softcore grinding and funky hairstyles to get a big smile from fans of the period. All accompanied by a chipper soundtrack comprised of library music, there's an almost nonstop parade of skin here with a couple of scenes most likely added later given the far more gynecological nature of their photography. The plot itself moves in an amusingly herky jerky manner with some odd detours along the way, most notably a lengthy appearance by a sleazy "doctor of the house" who was "kicked out of the French Academy for Science" and spends several minutes feeling up all of the female employees. The transfer of this long-lost relic looks immaculate with all of the cheap decor and gaudy colors looking fantastic from start to finish, and the anamorphic framing appears to be correct. The menu screen (which oddly calls this Wedny's Palace) also tosses in the theatrical trailer, which among other things promises a descent into "the bowels of the human soul." They ain't kiddin'!
Buy from Diabolik DVD
Reviewed on August 6, 2013.