Written by: George Pacheco on February 11th, 2016
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1978 (Pretty Peaches), USA, 1987 (Pretty Peaches II), USA, 1989 (Pretty Peaches III)
Director: Alex de Renzy (All Films)
Cast: Desiree Cousteau, Juliet Anderson, Lisa Sue Corey, John Leslie, Joey Silvera, Paul Thomas (Pretty Peaches), Buck Adams, Tracey Adams, F.M. Bradley, Billy Dee, Jamie Gillis, Siobhan Hunter, Ron Jeremy, Janette Littledove, Melissa Melendez, Peter North, Herschel Savage, Ashley Welles, Tammy White (Pretty Peaches II), Keisha, Lynn LeMay, Tracey Adams, Marc Wallice, Eric Price, Rachel Ryan, Jamie Gillis, Victoria Paris (Pretty Peaches III)
BluRay released: January 19th, 2015
Approximate running time: 92 minutes (Pretty Peaches), 85 minutes (Pretty Peaches II), 90 minutes (Pretty Peaches III)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (All Films)
Rating: XXX (All Films)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English (All Films)
BluRay Release: Vinegar Syndrome
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $32.98
Adult cinema auteur Alex de Renzy was infamous for his subversive, yet often well assembled pictures throughout the 1970s and 80s, before eventually succumbing to the quick-and-cheap video gonzo craze throughout the 90s. The cinema of De Renzy’s was usually controversial, extreme and sometimes satirical, but always unique, even if not all of the behavior included in his films was played for laughs, or even titillation.
Such is this case with 1978’s Pretty Peaches, a film which many believe to be one of de Renzy’s best, not to mention one of the most successful and popular adult pictures of the late 1970s. The film is essentially a reworking of Voltaire’s Candide, a tale of a very sexual yet naive girl who constantly seems to find herself at the mercy of opportunistic men and women, all the while falling into deeper and deeper hole of trouble and chaos.
The idea isn’t a new one, and has been used in such films as Candy from 1968, as well as the Italian film Mondo Candido, which switches the sexes by placing the naivete upon a young, time travelling man. De Renzy, naturally, places the plot within an adult film context, although Pretty Peaches actually doesn’t feature any hardcore sex in it for quite some time, as it sets up the characters and situation for its leading lady, Desiree Cousteau.
Cousteau had appeared in a number of films prior to this one, including director Bob Chinn’s Hot and Saucy Pizza Girls in 1978, but this was the film which truly raised her profile and made her a certified star in the adult circuit. Filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson would even model a character after her performance here in Peaches in his landmark take on the 70s porn industry, Boogie Nights.
The actress truly is beyond beautiful in the title role, and nails both the innocence and restrained, wanton sexuality with ease. It’s difficult to say how much of her success in this role is put on, and how much is actually Costeau herself, but it works on screen in a big way. There are a number of other big time adult performers who appear in the picture, including Joey Silvera, Juliet Anderson and John Leslie, who plays Peaches newly married father.
It’s after Peaches’ departure from her dad’s wedding where she accidentally crashes her car, and winds up with amnesia. This is where her first sexual encounter takes place with a duo of opportunistic, small time criminals, with aims on selling her back to her father for a hefty ransom. They take her along for the ride in her Jeep, and from then on, the film becomes rather episodic as Peaches gets into more and more trouble with the people she meets, and those to which she is introduced, thanks to her new friends, played by Silvera and Ken Scudder.
These scenes vary in effectiveness, but all are memorable, for many different reasons. It should be said that there are two scenes in particular which make for uncomfortable viewing, and this is where de Renzy’s penchant for sleaze and extremity would come into play. Neither scene is erotic, and they are strangely played for laughs, complete with goofy background music which wouldn’t sound out of place at a carnival. To say that these scenes make Pretty Peaches a wee bit more disturbing than Candy or Mondo Candido is an understatement, with one of them being excised from the film entirely on previous prints of the film.
Vinegar Syndrome’s print of Pretty Peaches is uncut, however, and it’s clear from the get-go that de Renzy knew what he was doing with his wild tonal shifts. This is probably why the film has endured for such a long time as an adult film with not only a proper story, but with enough cinematography and acting chops to make it yet another snapshot of a fascinating industry.
The second and third entries do follow a similar storyline, for the most part, namely that of a naive girl exploring the sexual world in a very episodic and travelogue sort of way. Pretty Peaches 2 is the superior sequel, with Siobahn Hunter taking over the role of Peaches in what is definitely more of a light hearted and rompy take on traditional 80s porn fare. The cinematography and acting is still strong, although the connections to Candide are very much dropped, in favor of a hitchhiking story of sexual awakening. This is fine, though, because de Renzy really plays up the laughs factor here, as opposed to the bits of darkness which made the first film more difficult to watch, if simultaneously more rewarding.
Pretty Peaches 3: The Quest, drops down the quality significantly, however, although the over the top nature of sex and fun is still there in spades. Keisha plays Peaches this time around, which is a loss, as there is clearly not much effort made to retain any sort of character traits, other than a nebulous sort of naivete. The film is another road romp which is held together by Jamie Gillis-who also appears in Pretty Peaches 2 in memorable drag role as “Granny”-who portrays an exaggerated take on the perverted preacher tropes of a Jimmy Swaggert or Jim Bakker type.
Shot in grainy 16mm, as opposed to the 35mm stock used on the first two installments, Pretty Peaches 3 is a light enough way to capitalize on de Renzy’s successful franchise, and it’s definitely nice to have all three in high definition in one convenient package.
Vinegar Syndrome’s Pretty Peaches collection doesn’t port over any of the extras from its prior DVD release, but the prints themselves look great. The work that VinSyn is doing to preserves these otherwise obscure releases should be highly commended, as there’s just no way anyone would imagine the films of Alex de Renzy receiving this much love and attention. The skin tones and color palettes look bright and sharp, while the audio mix is also without issues. There are moments when the mumbled dialogue in Pretty Peaches is difficult to make out, but this was probably an issue on set, and nothing to do with VinSyn’s mastering job. All in all, this is yet another definitive presentation from the weird and wild world of adult cinema from the 70s and 80s.