Color, 1978, 76m.
Directed by Lisa Barr
Starring Jesse Chacan, Liz Renay, Anita Sands, Mary Swan, The Amazing Ricardo, Jesse Adams, Toni Bell
Color, 1978, 81m.
Directed by Lisa Barr
Starring Leslie Bovee, Kandi Barbour, Tyler Reynolds, Jesse Chacan, Rick Roberts, Chris Rocks
Vinegar Syndrome (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Deep Roots

The second installment in Vinegar Syndrome's "Peekarama" double features of '70s vintage adult films is an unusual one indeed: an unofficial tribute to Jesse Chacan, one of the very, very few Native American actors in the industry. Deep RootsAt the time, Hollywood was undergoing a few growing pains in the wake of films like Little Big Man, trying to figure out ways to portray Native Americans without falling into simple noble or savage cliches. The porn industry likewise had a few speed bumps like 1979's notorious Sweet Savage, which mixed up a veteran legit actor (Aldo Ray) with "Indians" unconvincingly played by white people.

That's what makes the previous year's Deep Roots so fascinating as it follows the story of Billy (Chacan), an aspiring painter whose ancestors have lived and died on a reservation. He decides to hop on his motorcycle to find out how everyone else lives (after saying goodbye to his girlfriend) and heads to Los Angeles, where he does the obligatory walk down Hollywood Boulevard accompanied by rock music. His first painting gig at home doesn't go as planned when his model (short-lived starlet Anita Sands) disrobes and insists he paint her body instead; you can figure out where it all goes from there in a pretty striking scene in front of a fireplace. He then winds up getting in a fight with a "tease" showgirl (Bell) he has the hots for, then takes off to sleep with her best friend (Swan, delivering a clunky non-performance that must be seen to be believed).

Meanwhile, presumably somewhere down the street, the film shifts gears to a couple of "adult entertainers" including none other than the late Liz Renay, star of John Waters' Desperate Living, who steals her Deep Rootsfirst scene by talking about how much she'll be at her next gig "with bells on, and sequins and tassels and my tits hangin' out!" Her colleague, Joan (Debbie Love), goes off to get her hair done by some guy named the Amazing Ricardo, who also gives her a trim down below and, thanks to his enormous hairy posterior, makes you thankful this wasn't released on Blu-ray. Billy then gets it on in the bathtub with Bell, and we're back to Liz in a crazy pink pantsuit, lounging in bed reading her own autobiography, My Face for the World to See, and remarking, "Oh, what a nice girl." When Debbie shows up at the door stressed out about cheating on her boyfriend (but how could she possibly resist someone named the Amazing Ricardo?), Liz loosens her up by doing an insane topless burlesque routine that's worth the entire retail price of this disc. (And yes, Debbie joins in for a high-kicking naked finale.) Finally the two story strands converge when Billy shows up at the party Liz and company have been preparing for, a crazy swingers' bash where a guy dressed up as Groucho Marx goes around telling the comedian's most famous jokes and raffling off sex partners. Will Billy succumb to the temptations of the big city once and for all, or will he go back to his "deep roots?"

In case you couldn't tell already, this movie is amazing. The soft rock soundtrack is tons of fun, the '70s SoCal scenery looks great, and the whole thing is infectious fun from start to finish. The plot never really coheres into much beyond a basic "boy goes to the big city" template, but watching Renay and company kick back is more than enough to keep things unpredictable. Director "Lisa Barr" (a pseudonym for frequent Ray Dennis Steckler collaborator Joe Bardo) shows a real flair for both colorful compositions and steamy love scenes, Deep Rootswith the early Billy encounters ranking among the strongest of the late '70s. This one was previously released from Something Weird as a Dragon Art Theatre title alongside the nutty Harry Reems film Ape Over Love, taken from a very faded and jumpy print, but the one seen here is in much, much better shape with very strong colors and only some minor print damage at the reel changes and during the credits.

Chacan teamed up later the same year for another "Barr'/Bardo vehicle, Starlet Nights, which happens to be feature number two on this disc. However, the real star here is Leslie Bovee, starring as wicked Beverly Hills stepmother Joyce in a filthy "reimagining" of the Snow White story. We first see her waking Deep Rootsup early in the morning flashing her stuff for her enchanted mirror, which retorts, "Hey, get that pussy outta my face, I ain't had my coffee yet." In this case her mirror can also pleasure her by producing a fantasy men in the form of a genie (Chacan) and industry vet Tyler Reynolds, who also does ridiculous Paul Lynde and Tonto impressions for no apparent reason. (Incidentally, Bovee was having a banner year in '78 between this, Take Off, Maraschino Cherry, and MisBehavin', among others.) Anyway, the insatiable (and married) Joyce is afraid her beauty might be usurped by her stepdaughter, Snow (Neon Nights' Barbour), who's too pure and innocent for her own good. Joyce sets up an appointment for Snow with her agent (on the Warner Bros. lot!), then smears some sex potion on a magical apple provided by her mirror and has it given to the naive girl (after having a nooner with her husband's female assistant). As you'd expect, it all Deep Rootsleads to a very long masquerade party turned orgy, complete with Snow White doing a disco striptease and losing her innocence once and for all... to a movie producer named Grumpy. But what'll happen when she takes a bite of that apple after getting her big movie break?

Hardly the first adults-only retelling of the Snow White story, this one was made a year after the superior 7 into Snowy (which has yet to receive a remotely complete video release anywhere) and in turn probably inspired the similar, silly Serena: An Adult Fairy Tale. Most of the dwarf names are amusingly worked into the plot (the agent named Elmer J. Happy, a dumb lug of an actor named Bashful, the secretary named Lois Sneazy, etc.), and once again there's a bouncy soundtrack that sounds exactly like what you'd hear bubbling out of a car radio around the same time. Some of the gags really come out of left field (especially that Fantasy Island bit at the end) and the structure is random at best, but there's still lots of fun to be had. The print is much jumpier this time around (especially the end credits) but image quality is still nice, once again with fine detail and punchy colors. This one doesn't seem to have had a video release since its sole VHS appearance back in the mid-'80s, so it's great to have it back in circulation again.

Reviewed on February 1, 2013.