Color, 1978, 85 mins. 6 secs.
Directed by Gerard Damiano
Starring Tony Hudson, Heather Young, Sharon Mitchell, Beth Anna, Jamie Gillis, Herschel Savage, Joey Silvera, Dory Devon
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

The Skin Flicksgodfather of the porno chic revolution, Skin FlicksGerard Damiano, still doesn't get quite the credit he deserves, with most of the focus resting entirely on his legally scandalous and ridiculously profitable Deep Throat and the beautifully executed and eerie The Devil in Miss Jones. After shining a spotlight on Damiano's other work including the stunning Memories Within Miss Aggie and the unorthodox Throat... 12 Years After, Vinegar Syndrome continues to do its part to increase appreciation for Damiano's golden age (before the industry demanded he switch to shooting on video) with one of his key titles, Skin Flicks (or Skin-Flicks to go by its on-screen title). Damiano was seriously experimenting with the possibilities of hardcore filmmaking by this point on the heels of the giddy puppet porno Let My Puppets Come and the psychological art film anthology Odyssey, and this one flips the lens around to study the adult industry itself including the personalities involved and the motivations behind those who make it in front of and behind the camera.

Young director Harry (one-shot actor Hudson, a Tony Musante lookalike who's quite good and seems like a New York theater actor making some extra cash) makes his living directing pornographic films and likes to make sure he gets the best out of his leading ladies, cautioning them that film is forever and trying to make sure they're confident and enjoy themselves. However, his working methods have a high price with him falling behind schedule and drawing the ire of his bankroller, a mobster named Al (Damiano himself), Skin Flickswho doesn't exactly sympathize with Harry's desire to cross over into mainstream films. His good friend Susan (Mitchell) is his current leading lady but needs Skin Flickscoaxing to find pleasure on screen even when she's going solo, and her desire to find a better life is destined to take a dark turn. With the walls of his profession closing in, Harry has to make a choice about how to move on and try to watch out for those who matter to him.

Though it delivers as a sex film where it counts in typical Damiano fashion, Skin Flicks obviously has a lot more on its mind as a sort of stock taking of the industry near the end of the '70s. The porno chic explosion in the first half of the decade was already slowing down and would of course switch over to people's bedrooms with the advent of the VCR, which makes this particular entry even more valuable as a snapshot of the era with a slew of familiar faces once again proving they could act as well as perform their main duties on camera. The naturalistic approach here works well, mostly free of any stylish trickery or flashy visuals with the performers granted plenty of breathing room. Mitchell excels of course as always, while Heather Young (a.k.a. Coleen Davis/Anderson) also has a compelling trajectory as a financially desperate young married woman who takes to her new life with an unusual enthusiasm.

Initially released on VHS by AVC, Skin Flicks has floated around in various gray market DVD editions sourced from that same tape for years in Skin Flickspretty sorry condition. The 2019 dual-format Blu-ray and DVD Skin Flicksrelease from Vinegar Syndrome is a much-needed remedy to that state of affairs, featuring a 2K scan from a print in mostly solid condition with good color and detail while only sporting modest, unavoidable amounts of damage. The DTS-HD MA English track (with optional English SDH subtitles) is also fine for what amounts to a limited sound mix. Two extras are included, both new audio commentaries; the first features Mitchell in conversation via phone with Casey Scott about her career including this film (made when she was still a newbie). Always energetic, conversant, and incredibly knowledgeable about the industry, she's full of stories and speaks candidly about time in the trenches with Scott lending his usual expert support and appreciation. She also goes into an interesting alternate ending that pops up multiple times through the track, so keep your ears peeled. Then you get a critical dissection of this film and Damiano's career from the duo of Samm Deighan and Heather Drain, who dive deep pulling apart the approach to character in his films, the themes of sexual expression and repression, the wide variety of female characters beyond the usual housewife/girlfriend roles, and the unerring eye for composition. Note that the commentary is sometimes scene and even shot specific but seems to be off by almost a minute, so don't be surprised when they react to things like Gillis' entrance and some of the sex acts a bit before they actually happen. Highly recommended and another solid entry in the company's line of major adult film resurrections.

Reviewed on May 16, 2019.