Color, 1977, 70m.
Directed by Anthony Spinelli
Starring Chris Cassidy, Delania Raffino, Jack Wright, Joey Silvera, Desiree West

Color, 1977, 67m.
Directed by Anthony Spinelli
Starring Kristine Heller, John Leslie, Peter Johns, Dory Devon, Joey Silvera, Jack Wright
Vinegar Syndrome (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Expectations"I'm writing you this letter to explain what has happened to my life these past two months," explains the opening voiceover in Expectations, a haunting relic from the golden age of adult filmmaking. Said letter written to an unseen friend named Lyn by dissatisfied San Francisco socialite Margo (Hot Legs' Raffino), who's just gotten out after being stuck for five years in an unfulfilling marriage. She indulges in dreamy fantasies about encounters with men (symbolized here by a nameless Blair Harris), so she decides to seek fulfillment by answering a classified ad and swapping lives with another curious female, Montana (Talk Dirty to Me's Cassidy, billed here as "Suzette Holland"). As it turns out, Montana's quite the swinger, and right after the identity swap, Margo's getting down and dirty with the first aggressive guy (Silvera) who shows up on the doorstep for an appointment. Meanwhile Montana turns out to be more than a tad destructive, seducing Margo's eyepatch-sporting brother (Wright) and turning more than a tad parasitic. This being the '70s, it doesn't all necessarily have a happy ending.

One of the more accomplished smut director of the '70s, Anthony Spinelli belonged to the same group as other names like Armand Weston who seemed capable of making accomplished, effective films (including potent psychodramas like this one) and could have moved into more mainstream territory had they been so inclined. Spinelli's output declines as he became more prolific in the late '80s and intoExpectations the '90s, but at his height he was one of the best with a hot streak from 1976 to 1983 including Cry for Cindy, The Seduction of Lyn Carter (perhaps the Lyn written to in this film?), Easy, Aunt Peg, Talk Dirty to Me, Nothing to Hide, ExpectationsVista Valley PTA, and the closest he came to legit, Dixie Ray Hollywood Star (which was also shot as a straight neo-noir, It's Called Murder, Baby). Expectations fits squarely in with those films thanks to skillful photography, strong atmosphere, and a catchy central gimmick, basically a dark porn twist on The Prince and the Pauper (which Radley Metzger later dabbled with in the much frothier The Princess and the Call Girl). The rampant voiceover also gives it an interesting female perspective with lines like "Can I be the loose woman Montana calls herself?," and it's also a visual overload of '70s production design ranging from Roy Lichtenstein posters to disco-era fashions.

Released by familiar vintage adult company Essex, Expectations popped up on VHS now and then and received two iffy releases from an ancient tape master courtesy of TVX and Alpha Blue. The much-needed new transfer seen on Vinegar Syndrome's release is a sight for sore eyes, correctly framed and looking much more like a real 35mm production than the murky editions floating around before. The rich blues especially pop here at last, and you can make out background details in Montana's apartment completely buried in visual sludge before.

As a bonus, Expectationsthe DVD also happens to be a Spinelli double feature which means you also get another of his films from the same year, Confessions (also known as Confessions of a Woman). This is a much lighter, Expectationsgoofier film, with the Melanie Griffith-esque Kristine Heller (Mary! Mary!) enjoying a reasonably active sex life with her hubby (late industry stalwart John Leslie). However, he refuses to service her back enough which sends her on afternoon prowls for some easy action. That of course quickly escalates to infidelity in the great outdoors, silly toy play in front of Hollywood motorcycle posters like The Wild One, and dabbles in a switch-hitting classified encounter with a woman whose submissive husband (Wright again) has more than a few kinks, and even nails her husband's boss (Silvera, yes, again).

Heller does all the heavy lifting here for each carnal encounter, and while she isn't exactly a cinematic inferno of sexual passion, she's pretty and engaging enough to carry the film's comedic demands on her shoulders. However, she's also saddled with some astonishingly homely costars (the last scene in particular makes one hope she was paid well), and some of Spinelli's intercutting is completely bizarre, especially the enthusiastic banana scarfing during a swingers' party. As an explicit comedy it's pretty fun but definitely belongs in second place behind Encounters, which is really the main show here. Confessions also appeared in a cruddy-looking TVX edition before, and the Vinegar Syndrome version easily blows it away (so to speak). The print's also in pretty fine shape, and the goofy '70s rock soundtrack sounds just fine, too. Good, dirty fun for '70s sleaze fans.

Buy from Diabolik DVD.

Reviewed on February 26, 2013.