Written by: George Pacheco on March 26th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: 1983, USA
Director: Anthony Spinellli
Writer: Dean Rogers
Cast: John Leslie, Cameron Mitchell, Veronica Hart, Juliet Anderson
DVD Release Date: March 10th, 2015
Approximate Running Times: 101 minutes (Dixie Ray Hollywood Star), 94 Minutes (It’s Called Murder Baby)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Both Versions)
Rating: XXX (Dixie Ray Hollywood Star) and R (It’s Called Murder Baby)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono (Both Versions)
DVD Release: Vinegar Syndrome
Region Encoding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.98
Dixie Ray Hollywood Star may be one of the final cinematic gasps of the golden age X rated film as proper, full length narrative feature, complete with costuming, production design and trained dramatic acting. If this notion was indeed true, however, then there are few better ways to go out then this fine feature, directed by one of the industry’s most talented auteurs, Sam Weston a.k.a. Anthony Spinelli (SexWorld).
One of the best compliments payable to Dixie Ray Hollywood Star is that the film possesses the appearance of an older feature, and this isn’t only due to the decision of Spinelli and scriptwriter Dean Rogers to set Dixie Ray in World War II America. Rather, there’s a pervasive sensibility of class and care leant to this production, from the bottom up, in nearly all aspects. There’s obvious attention paid to exuding the vibe of a classic film noir detective mystery here, as Spinelli and Co. detail the exploits of one private dick by the name of Nick Popadopalis, played with charming ease by noted adult film star John Leslie. The clothes, music and language fit the mood very well, while the acting of Leslie and his costars is universally solid, with every performer giving their all to deliver the best quality product. Hell, the legendary actor Cameron Mitchell even shows up in a small role as a police lieutenant, although the star would later claim that he had no idea he was performing in an adult motion picture.
This is due to Dixie Ray Hollywood Star receiving two separate cuts, the titular X rated cut, as well as a different, R rated cut, which subtracts the sexual content and focuses more upon the mystery. This cut goes by the title of It’s Called Murder, Baby and actually works far better as a feature film than Dixie Ray, the latter needing to shift its focus every so often in order to hem in the required sexual congress. It must be said, however, that both versions achieve their desired goals, with the sex scenes in Dixie Ray going all out with a level of eroticism rare even for its time. The lack of music during these scenes only enhances the performances laid there on the screen, in particular a scene late in the film with Leslie, Samantha Fox and the iconic, beautiful Veronica Hart.
The fact that both cuts are so imminently watchable is testament to the talent of Spinelli, his cast and crew, for both Dixie Ray Hollywood Star and It’s Called Murder, Baby are some of the best cinematic works the genre has to offer, particularly during this time in the early eighties, when videotape was already threatening and changing the landscape of adult cinema in the United States.
Vinegar Syndrome should be commended, as usual, for their hard work and dedication to preserving such slices of classic American adult cinema, and their track record continues here, unabated, with a primo service done to this DVD of Dixie Ray Hollywood Star. As mentioned earlier, both hard and soft cuts of the film are included here, both scanned in 2k from the original 35mm negatives. These picture and audio for both are fantastic, with only a little bit of grain popping up during It’s Called Murder Baby, while the latter also features a bit of muffled audio during the scene where Leslie is roughed up by a couple of heavies. Also included is the film’s original theatrical trailer.
It’s Called Murder Baby did receive a VHS release back in the 80s, while Dixie Ray Hollywood star has seen its own DVD release, as well, but it’s great that Vinegar Syndrome has combined both here into one, truly definitive package.