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July 2, 2017

Movie Review: Babyface (1977)

Directed by Alex de Renzy

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Skin trade auteur Alex de Renzy pushes lots of buttons with one of his most famous -- and accessible films, Babyface, given the royal treatment by the fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome.

Hulking Neanderthal with a nice haircut Dan (Dan Roberts, in a singular film performance) is tooling about his job at the seaside docks when he is propositioned by vivacious 15-year-old Priscilla (Lyn Malone). Taking advantage of the situation, their affair is less than five minutes old when Priscilla screams “rape.” Pursued and shot at by a policeman, Dan jumps in the drink to later wash up on shore, where he is later given sexual healing by two foxy mistresses. Needing a place to lay low, they suggest Dan hide out at a local male brothel that services horny housewives. The shoe on the other foot, Dan and his fellow male prostitutes (one played by longtime porn actor Joey Silvera), become the objects of the female eye … slabs of beef for feminine approval. In the meantime, Priscilla’s vindictive mom has vengeance in mind.

De Renzy decided to capitalize on the then-concern of underage girls being lured into pornography and prostitution. The sandstorm of controversy that would erupt after one Tracy Lords (nee Norma Kuzma) would come forward as a video vixen and well below the legal age of consent was a few years of when this was made, but the concern at that time – with the burgeoning adult film industry in need of fresh flesh, was very real. De Renzy tipped his hand with actress Malone, who, in spite of her white knee socks and whiny disposition, is the least convincing teenybopper this side of Mink Stole as Taffy, Divine’s wayward daughter in Female Trouble (1974). Babyface remains a fascinating topography of male sexuality. Dan and his fellow hustlers come into contact with a wide variety of women – one of whom is out to fulfill a gang bang fantasy, who desire anonymous sex without obligation just as much as they do. It’s probably not a truthful depiction of the male-female dynamic, but an interesting one to ponder in the context of a Golden Age Blue Movie.

Porno auteur De Renzy remains popular to this day for his relentlessly politically incorrect view on human sexuality. One thinks of his Pretty Peaches where comical incest and rape is a given without repercussions.

Vinegar Syndrome has done up this Golden Age feature as best it could – as everyone involved in this film had done it up every which way beforehand. While there is some visible print damage, Vinegar Syndrome's 2K-mastered 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is probably the best that a film of this vintage will ever look.

The main extra to this release is an audio-only hour-plus interview with actress Molly Seagrim, who plays the vengeful mother in the film. Seagrim gives a long and peripatetic interview, with the such diverse influences as the Sixties counter-culture, the siren song of san Francisco and life as an academic in the realm of English literature all leading up to her brush with the Skin Trade. As conducted by fellow film fanatic Casey Scott – who, at a relatively young age has become the undisputed authority on Golden Age Pornography, the most fascinating tidbit revealed is that Marian Eaton – who left a never-to-be-forgotten impression of audiences as “Mrs. Gert Hammond” in Curt McDowell’s infamous Thundercrack! (1975) was the actress originally offered her part! We can thank our lucky stars that Eaton gave this a pass, because while a magnetic and charismatic performer, few would want to see more of her already in view in Thundercrack!

On top of everything else, De Renzy’s classic erotic short film Parochial Passion Princess (1975) rounds out the disc. Altogether, there’s no excuse not to plop this in the player for some one-handed observations!

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