Valerie and Her Week of Wonders

Color, 1973, 78m.
Directed by Douglas Randall
Starring Susan Curtis, Helen McLean, Nicole Vadim, Jamie Gillis, Sarah Davenport, Linda Patrick, Joy Campbell, Darby Lloyd Rains
Vinegar Syndrome (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

The Flying AcquaintancesThe Flying AcquaintancesA real curio from the New York adult filmmaking scene, The Flying Acquaintances was shot during the transition from softcore to hardcore and marks one of the earliest appearances of one of the era's busiest stars, Jamie Gillis. Completely softcore and of very little interest as an actual sex film, this is more intriguing as a zero-budget attempt to create a comedy in the same vein as Paul Morrissey's underground hits around the same time like Trash and Women in Revolt with motormouth characters and slapdash, ragged filmmaking defining the entire style of the film.

"Sensitive, suave, debonair" bank teller Max Dizzy (Gillis, going under the name "John Howard" here) is first seen trying out unorthodox sexual positions on Sylvie (Curtis), both of them yammering nonstop and saying things like "How can anyone have sex with you? What's wrong with you?" As a narrator informs us, Max moonlights as a cab driver and collects his payment in sexual favors from his clients, despite the fact that he's married to Patricia (Campbell). This pattern continues when he picks up a stewardess (Rains, with whom he also appeared in several XXX films), while the film spins off on other tangents involving Barbara (Vadim, billed as "Barbara Radall") wanting to get into the movies by seducing a French auteur and swapping stories with her female pals. Other random characters drift in and out until we return to the home life of Max and Patricia, who doesn't know he's unfaithful but hasn't exactly been chase herself.The Flying Acquaintances

The Flying AcquaintancesOnce considered lost, this rescue job from Vinegar Syndrome bears the title Acquaintances on the actual print and really shows off how rushed and awkward the end result is, with one-shot director Douglas Randall (with credit to producer Robert Steiner on the packaging) throwing in very pale, damaged stock footage to spackle in some of the gaps and shooting almost everything in locked-down master shots. Of course Gillis and Rains quickly progressed to doing explicit films right after this (including a memorable pairing in The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann) while the rest of the female cast is plucked from the New York softcore scene with mixed results. The fact that about half of the dialogue is looped in and doesn't match the actors gives the whole enterprise a bit of a Doris Wishman vibe as well, and the constant barrage of dialogue coupled with a tinkling lounge score (including, yes, a crooning theme song) gives it a really strange vibe that will leave many unprepared viewers scratching their heads.

Vinegar Syndrome's DVD features a typically superb transfer from the original negative (the damage seen here is inherent to the source, mainly that aforementioned stock footage). You'll be especially thankful for the extra clarity during the opening shots, an amazing string of driving shots down 1972 New York streets with movie marquees showing everything from The Godfather to blaxploitation classics. Extras include the theatrical trailer (emphasizing the comedy), some black and white promo stills under the misleading title The Sensuous Stewardesses, and over 11 minutes of outtakes from four of the sex scenes (just longer, not more graphic), with the last one showing some of Gillis' amusing improv skills already developing even in this early offering.

Reviewed on July 12, 2015.