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May 14, 2014

Movie Review: Deep Tango (1974) and The Young Secretaries (1974)

Directed by Zachary Strong and Richard Kanter, respectively

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Both Deep Throat (1972) and Last Tango in Paris (1972) entered the American consciousness at roughly the same time. Last Tango in Paris was a dead serious drama about one man's existential dilemma and starred Acting icon Marlon Brando and was directed by world-class filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci. Deep Throat was a cheerful skin flick shot in around a week, actors culled off the sidewalk and was directed by nudie cutie veteran Gerard Damiano. What was fresh in the public's mind was that both films starred curly-haired brunettes (Maria Schneider in Tango; Linda Lovelace in Throat), and since both were rated X, people lined around the block to see all the rampant sex and nudity. Tragically, the film that had the most lasting impact on American culture and cinema was … Deep Throat, a pity.

Vinegar Syndrome has culled two authentic pop cultural items for their latest flesh-colored double feature Blu-Ray with Deep Tango, a San Francisco-lensed hardcore feature that is a hilarious mash-up of Deep Throat and Last Tango in Paris, and The Young Secretaries, a Los Angeles soft-core tale of office politics.

Deep Tango follows the plot of Last Tango closely. Our putz hero (Keith Henderson) checks into a woebegone tenement and quickly becomes involved with freewheelin’ Mona (Mona Walsh), a domineering hippie chick who wears a nurse's uniform in a visual reference to Lovelace's naughty nurse in Deep Throat. Lots of sketchy sex scenes follows, which true to films of this era, opt for cheerful vulgarity in lieu of anything genuinely erotic. Hardcore porn hailing from the Baghdad by the Bay at this time always played by its own set of rules: Performers in these features were usually long-in-the-tooth hippies en route to becoming homeless drug addicts. Deep Tango fills its running time with lots of atmospheric shots of the BART system and scenes of San Francisco that belies its far seamier side. Perpetually overcast skies, Victorian structures with more than a whiff of decay and frankly ugly modern architecture. The film even throws in some cackling in-jokes about Daly City, a nearby blue-collar 'burb that very few people put on their vacation itineraries.     

Deep Tango is less a narrative than a series of raunchy vignettes. A suicidal girl kills herself in a bathtub by slicing her wrists with the lids of tomato soup cans. She's revived in a wacky funeral that throws in incest and more than just a dash of necrophilia to shock the rain coaters. Deep Tango even mixes in Last Tango's infamous “butter scene” – with our hapless hero being on the receiving end. There's an extended gag involving a famous margarine TV commercial that older viewers will recognize and enjoy.

Ending on a similar downbeat note as Last Tango, Deep Tango is far and away more ambitious than the typical skin flick of its era. There are extended comedy sketches, perversely funny scenes and better-than-average performances. An out-and-out parody of Last Tango – Last Foxtrot in Burbank in 1973, directed by exploitation maestro Charles Band and starring Michael Pataki – has yet to be released in any home entertainment form, to the best of this reviewer’s knowledge.

The Young Secretaries, the co-feature on this disc, is likewise ambitious with lots of non-sexual scenes that hinge on plot development. John Barnum (Robert Cameron) is the macho, no-nonsense boss of an advertising agency staffed by a parade of buxom bimbos. He cheats on his wife, and his wife (played by porno veteran Colleen Brennan under the name of Sharon O’Hara) likewise cheats on him. Employees of the ad agency boff each other with carefree abandon. There is a slender story about a rival ad agency, but the thing on most viewer’s minds is … are receptionist Michelle's (big tit icon Roxanne Brewer) ample assets on the level? Putting the average Russ Meyer starlet to shame, Michelle hides her torpedoes under a scanty, stretchy top. Male viewers will wonder – are they for real? In The Young Secretaries' climactic poolside orgy scene, the answer is YES! YES! The leads to an extended sex scene with Michelle and the office nebbish, and the film ends on a painfully dated “fag” joke.

The Young Secretaries has far better-than-average actors for a skin flick. It must be noted that the film is remarkably, uh “soft” for a film of this budget in a world now inured to hardcore. Frequent shots of male frontal nudity in the film attest to the fact that … there's nothing going on there. Huh.

Both Deep Tango and The Young Secretaries are way above average for similar sex films from this time period. If you have time to blow, this Vinegar Syndrome disc is not a bad way to go --

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