Written by: George Pacheco on May 19th, 2016
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1970-1973
Cast: Rene Bond, John Holmes, Sandy Dempsey
DVD Release Date: April 26th, 2016
Approximate Running Time: 740 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Vinegar Syndrome
Region Encoding: Region Free NTSC
Retail Price: $34.98
The dedicated film restoration gangstas from Vinegar Syndrome have done it once again with this latest excursion into the dirtiest depths of early adult cinema industry.
The first installment in the company’s “Storefront Collection” is titled All Night at the Po-No, taking its name from one of the small storefront theaters which inhabited cities like Los Angeles in the 1970s. These were essentially a converted retail space used to screen 16mm soft and hardcore prints from this wild period of cinema, an even darker reflection of the larger scale theaters which populated New York City’s Times Square district during the same decade.
What VinSyn has done is essentially replicate the experience of visiting one of these storefronts, only without the sticky floors, folding chairs and trenchcoat clad clientele. Each disc in this triple set is labeled with its own hours of operation for an all night sit, and launches immediately into a marathon twelve film collection. The examples in this collection vary in quality, length and presentation, with one connecting thread being that they were all shot quick and on the cheap.
Another aspect of All Night at the Po-No is how intrinsically un-erotic some of this material is, with much of the viewing interest lying in how obscure, bizarre or humorous these films can be, when seen so many years since being filmed. One example of this also serves as the highlight of the set, a dreary drug drama on disc three titled All American Hustler. The sex here is comparatively joyless when placed against other films of the era, serving more to drive home the narrative of a drug addicted woman forced into prostitution.
There are moments of (arguable) comedy here with the strange feature Homer the Late Comer, as well as a humorous take on the Italian mondo documentary films of the day with Porno Mondo. This latter entry even goes so far as to include Italian music on its opening titles, and a directorial credit to someone named “Federico Schwartz,” although there are some excellent shots of 70s L.A. to be seen in this one for eagle eyed viewers. Elsewhere, Erotic Point of View is an interesting docu-drama shot in an experimental first person style, even going so far as to have its characters watch a stag film IN a stag film.
There’s plenty of mystery when it comes to exactly who made many of these films, with one of the very few known names appearing with Anthony Spinelli’s Suckula, a vampire comedy intercut with parody knockoffs of typical commercial tropes of the day. There is some chum to wade through on this, however, as Sex Before Marriage, The Playboy and especially the awful “epic” film The Erotic Adventures of Hercules serving as some of the more lackluster films in the set.
The good thing about this varying quality, however, is that most of these films are short, and easily skipped with the remote. This makes Storefront Collection #1: All Night at the Po-No a mixed bag, sure, but never a boring one, offering a fascinating look into the maverick minds of those at the dawn of adult cinema in the 1970s.
The films included in this three disc set are beyond obscure, and were likely rescued by Vinegar Syndrome from the brink of extinction, and as such should be forgiven their often haggard and damaged appearance. That being said, the company should also be praised for making these films look as clean as they do, with some, like Homer the Late Comer, cleaning up rather well, while others (The Playboy) suffer the most in terms of AV quality.
The audio is similarly blown out on some titles, but again, this is the best any of these will likely sound in this day and age, and honestly probably sound better than they did projected on dirty and faulty equipment back in the day. All American Hustler and Suckula were both known for their less than stellar AV quality when released earlier by Alpha Blue Archives, yet the VinSyn crew have lifted these films leagues beyond their previous home video presentations. These films certainly aren’t for everyone, but this set still receives plenty of love from Vinegar Syndrome, and serves as a warts ‘n all look back on early adult exploitation cinema from a company who, at this point, are the leading restorative voice for the genre.