In their last batch of releases, the fine folks at restoration and reissue label Vinegar Syndrome dropped three films from director Roberta Findlay: a double-feature disc with the Satanic shocker, Prime Evil, and strange haunting flick, Lurkers, along with her “tribute to Repulsion,” A Woman’s Torment. They’re all quite unique, and ably display why the company refers to her as “the queen of exploitation cinema.”
Points to consider in all three films are: glorious amounts of blood, ample nudity, and strange plot twists and turns which see the female leads going mad. Given that Findlay’s most famous/infamous film is “the film that could only be made in South America… where Life is CHEAP,” Snuff, made with her husband, Robert, this should come as no surprise. Snuff took a cheapo gore flick, added an ending which made it seem like the preceding events had all been real, and watched the free press roll in.
The films are all enjoyable in their own way, although Prime Evil is probably the best of the bunch. The general consensus online is that it’s pretty middle-of-the-road, but I found myself really enjoying it. It’s helped along by the fact that this is probably the most tightly-plotted of the three Findlay films Vinegar Syndrome put out. Running at 87 minutes, there’s no extraneous mood-setting scenes or anything like that. Everything exists to move the story along. It’s plot point, death, repeat, and does so at such a clip that you’re gasping in either horror or delight before you’ve had a chance to wonder why a nun would go undercover, renounce her faith, and join a Satanic cult.
The modern-day Satanic cult hiding out in the basement of a church is a nice touch, as is the weird touch that these Satanists are only granted immortality for 13 years before they have to sacrifice a family member again. It seems kind of strange, but it really does do a solid job of explaining as to why all these folks in robes have to keep offing folks to whom they’re related.
The second film of the double-feature disc, Lurkers, doesn’t make much sense at all, even with this plot summary: “When Cathy was a girl, she saw her deranged mother murder her father and only narrowly escaped with her life. Haunted by memories of her macabre childhood, her nightmares turn into a terrifying reality when she’s lured back to her childhood home, only to be transformed into a ‘lurker;’ members of the vengeful dead who seek to terrorize those who wronged them.”
That’s kind of literally spoiling the movie on the back of the box, because that shit doesn’t happen until pretty much the end of the movie. It’s basically The Sentinel, but with way more creepy kids than weird adults. That’s not to say there aren’t weird adults. As a matter of fact, pretty much every character in this film that isn’t the protagonist, Cathy, is creepy and weird.
It’s not bad, but if you’re not into moody atmospherics and a billion and a half flashbacks and hallucinations, this might not be your bag. Paired with the blazing pace of Prime Evil doesn’t help its perceived slowness, either, but the last 15 minutes pick up with a party scene that’s the most unnerving thing this side of the man in the bear suit in The Shining, so at least give it one shot for that, if nothing else.
A Woman’s Torment is a strange, strange, watch. It blends a crazed female killer plot with domestic couples’ issues — the killer being the sister of one half of one of the couples — along with a lot of hardcore sex. Really boring hardcore sex, too. It’s astonishing to think that a film featuring so much penetration could be seen as anything other than shocking, but either I’m beyond jaded, or the film’s sex scenes are just shot so poorly, they deserve being skipped. It’s mostly static shots of pumping genitals in closeup, along with lots of licking.
Can someone explain to me all of the licking in ‘70s erotic horror? It’s like nobody knew how to do anything, so they just licked each other like my cats when they’re trying to be friendly. It’s not sexy; it is, in fact, super-gross, and I cannot for the life of me figure out why films like Don’t Look Now or Vampyres feature so much tongue-on-body action, rather than regular kissing or screwing.
Anyhow: couples fool around on one another, people have hairy ‘70s sex, couples bicker, people have hairy ‘70s oral sex, crazy sister disappears to the beach, people have creepy ‘70s finger-banging, sister kills a few folks, movie ends. Ta-da. There’s an R-rated version of this X-rated oddity, as well, which replaces a lot of the sexually-explicit imagery with plot and character development, meaning that the “cleaner” version is actually a better movie.
All three of the latest releases have been newly scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm negative, and look pretty amazing, especially considering the age and relative obscurity of each title. They come as region-free Blu-ray/DVD combo packs, with reversible cover artwork, and as per usual, look really snazzy. Given that the original artwork for films like these is always so striking, it seems a sin to mess with it. So, I’m a big fan of the fact that Vinegar Syndrome uses as much of the original art elements for their releases as possible.
A Woman’s Torment is probably only of interest to genre aficionados. While Lurkers’ concept was done better by several other films, the ending is definitely worth sticking around for. Given the fact that it accompanies Prime Evil, which is incredibly fun for those who enjoy Satanic cults, rampant nudity, and absurd plot twists piled upon craziness, that double feature is something you should definitely consider picking up.
Vinegar Syndrome’s annual Black Friday sale hits on November 24, and in addition to 50% off nearly everything in their online shop, they’ll have the debut of a limited-edition release of Liquid Sky. The new 4K restoration Blu-ray will only have 3000 copies, and it includes a newly recorded director’s commentary, a 50 min making-of doc, never before seen outtakes, auditions, trailers, and more.
There’s also Bernard Hirschenson’s surreal and psychedelic sexploitation art film, Pick Up making its Blu-ray debut in its original cut under its original title, Pazuzu, alongside Hirschenson’s long-lost feature filmmaking debut, Orgy At Lil’s Place. No-budget auteur Andy Milligan’s masterpiece Seeds comes to Blu in its original director’s cut, unseen for nearly 50 years and paired with his controversial filmmaking debut, Vapors. And, finally — on DVD only — two absurd ‘80s romps from sex film master Paul Vatelli, Nasty Nurses and Let’s Talk Sex. There will also be two new t-shirt designs and a new hoodie. Save your pennies, kids.
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