Written by: George Pacheco on December 15th, 2016
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1970 (Sexual Encounter Group), USA, 1971 (Weed, Innocents Abroad)
Director: Alex DeRenzy (All Films)
Narrator: Lindis Guinness (The Sensually Liberated Female)
DVD Release Date: November 29th, 2016
Approximate Running Times: 116 minutes (Weed), 96 minutes (Innocents Abroad), 82 minutes (Sexual Encounter Group)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio (All Films)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English (All Films)
DVD Release: Vinegar Syndrome
Region Encoding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.98
Alex De Renzy may have made his biggest commercial impact in the world of adult films, but this two disc collection from Vinegar Syndrome proves that the West Coast auteur was also more than comfortable helming documentary features.
De Renzy’s Weed is probably the most well known film on this disc, having received a DVD release via Something Weird on a double bill with the LSD doc The Acid Eaters. Still, VinSyn’s version runs a little longer, clocking in just shy of two hours, yet De Renzy’s film more often than not succeeds in being remarkably interesting for most of its running time.
Weed serves as a time capsule of sorts, showcasing footage of marijuana use at home in the U.S. and abroad, with particular emphasis paid upon its cultivation, use and transport (read: smuggling) over borders. De Renzy also includes some fascinating footage shot in Vietnam during the war, as he interviews both GIs and locals about their drug habits. De Renzy bizarrely also includes a shoehorned in scene of male nudity during a scene where two men are trying to use joints to seduce two young women, but for the most part, Weed plays it as a straight forward documentary. The director even features another unrelated-and very realistic-sequence of two very young girls shooting heroin in an unidentified bathroom, the impact of which is strange and slightly disturbing.
Some may find Weed to be somewhat dull and dry in spots, and this is a fair argument, but for those seeking an intriguing look back at a very specific moment in the history of America’s “war on drugs” would do well in checking this main feature out. In comparison, Innocents Abroad may pretend on the surface to be an “intelligent” documentary with “redeeming social value,” when in reality the feature is De Renzy’s attempt at showing Europe’s burgeoning 70s sex trade on film with a ridiculous narration over the top.
The film is actually quite successful in its intentions, as De Renzy gets great footage of live sex shows, prostitution and XXX shops in such countries as Germany and The Netherlands, while the U.K. also gets in its share of the action via some fascinating footage of 1970s Soho. The narrator’s tone ranges from pseudo-intellectual science babble to ludicrous impersonations and jokes, but rarely is it ever boring. Innocents Abroad doesn’t shy away from showcasing any hardcore footage, but it’s never really played for erotic purposes, but rather yet another time capsule of sexuality during the very free 1970s.
Finally, Sexual Encounter Group might be the most interesting film in the bunch, as it follows, with minimal cuts and edits, the afternoon spent by a far out California sex group. The film follows paired off couples as they move from an outdoor pool setting into one very groovy, shag carpeted living room to engage in sensory therapy, light petting and zodiac conversation, before finally moving into all-out orgy territory. It should be said that, sadly, the final two reels of this film are missing their original dialogue and music. As a result, VinSyn have replaced it with music taken from other De Renzy films. This is a shame, as the dialogue is some of the most interesting aspects of the film, and Sexual Encounter Group isn’t nearly as interesting without the context of the participants and their conversation.
Here’s hoping that this missing footage can someday be found, but in the meantime, consider this De Renzy Documentary Collection to be yet another strong release from Vinegar Syndrome.
Aside from the technical issues previously mentioned with Sexual Encounter Group, the bulk of this disc from VinSyn looks remarkably good, considering their age. Flesh tones look decent, and there are no issues with compression to be found. The soundtracks are balanced nicely, and overall these rare films probably aren’t going appear any more impressive than they do here on this disc. There are no extras to be had, but in spite of this, fans of Alex De Renzy and his early work are highly advised to check this one out.