I really love a good porn/genre mash-up. Titles like Sex Wish or Cafe Flesh immediately come to mind not only as good porn titles but good genre films in their own right. Add to that list Anthony Spinelli’s Dixie Ray: Hollywood Star which is as perfect a send-up of private eye/noir conventions as one could hope for this side of Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. It’s so good at being a genre film, that its toned down, R-rated cut – titled It’s Called Murder, Baby – may even be superior to its X version. Lucky for us, Vinegar Syndrome have given us both versions on DVD and newly restored at that.
Dixie Ray: Hollywood Star is a strange adult film, not only in how flat out handsome it is but in that it even stars the likes of Cameron Mitchell who apparently had no idea he was acting in a porn film (according to IMDB). Mitchell is joined by adult film veterans like John Leslie, Lisa DeLeeuw and Veronica Hart who all ace their roles. This is pretty exposition heavy stuff – even more so in its R rated cut – for adult cinema, even if the sex does take up much of its 101 minute runtime. There is a legitimate narrative at stake, albeit a convoluted one that doesn’t always make sense, involving private detectives, police, a movie star, and a dead girl. I’m not going to attempt summary here, as it really deserves your attention, but it makes full use of its period, aesthetic and genre conventions. And then there’s the porn.
The X-rated version – which should be watched first – contains everything you’d hope for with this cast. With pretty much all bases covered and a good portion of the runtime devoted to getting sexy. It legitimately is, to its credit. As I mentioned before, this doesn’t just do the genre elements well, it does the porn well too. You should know what you’re getting into with John Leslie and Veronica Hart in the cast and they don’t disappoint. It never gets too kinky and if you’re hoping for some big Hollywood orgy scene, you’ll be disappointed. But, what’s here is good and there’s plenty of it to go around.
Now, you may think that the differences between the two cuts are the requisite edits to make the sex tamer for the MPAA. But, you’d be wrong. It’s Called Murder, Baby is practically a different film. The opening credits are different, the pacing is changed, there’s more dialogue and scenes are even extended. The runtime is a bit shorter (94 minutes here), but the result is a tighter and more engaging film. The sex scenes still exist, with different angles used, but they’re cut shorter and the moments before and after them are lengthened. If the story of Dixie Ray pulls you in, there’s a lot more of it in the R-rated cut. And Spinelli’s film is so damned good at what it does – outside of the porn – that, for my money, the R-rated cut is just the more rewarding of the two. If that’s not a testament to the talent of Spinelli and his cast, I don’t know what else would be. Great, great stuff here.
Vinegar Syndrome have done 2K restorations of both cuts – only available on DVD though – and they look really, really good. The X-rated cut looks marginally better, with a bit less damage and a healthier level of grain inherent in the source. The R-rated cut doesn’t look bad at all, but it is in noticeably worse shape than the former and isn’t quit as crisp at all times. Either way, both look damned good and it’s more impressive work from the VS folks. Audio is in the form of a mono track on both and it gets the job done. Only thing I noticed that was off was a bit of buzz/hiss in the R-rated cut, but it didn’t last long or take away from the experience.
The only supplement is a trailer for Dixie Ray, but the R-rated cut is practically a supplement in itself (it’s even listed as one on the package) so you’re getting a lot of content regardless. This is another diamond in the rough release from Vinegar Syndrome that should appeal to a wider audience than one would expect. The inclusion of It’s Called Murder, Baby makes this a great title to target to people who wouldn’t usually watch porn which makes me wish – if anything – that the packaging somehow reflected both titles/ratings. Regardless of who this reaches or how, it’s great to have it available and restored in this fashion. It’s another film to add to the great genre-porn cannon and I can’t wait to share it with everyone that I can.