A few years ago now, I came across a crowd funding campaign for The Lost Films of Herschel Gordon Lewis. Being a fan of the filmmaker and educated as a film archivist, I gave what I could to help fellow archivists put out what would hopefully be a quality product of newly accessible materials. That release would end up being the first for Vinegar Syndrome who have become quite the force since then (and more than lived up to their campaign for that release). Now, they have started another venture, this time in an attempt to preserve and distribute “unique, offbeat, and significant experimental films, documentaries and independent features” which is decidedly different than the XXX and exploitation content of VS. This label is Etiquette Pictures and their first release is James B. Harris’s 1973 Some Call It Loving.
I had heard of Harris’s film a few years ago when I became a big fan of his film Cop and started doing research into his other directorial work (he’s likely more famous as a producer for Kubrick on films like Lolita and Paths of Glory), but found Some Call It Loving virtually impossible to track down outside of poor quality VHS transfers. Naturally, when this release was announced, I became rather excited. The IMDB synopsis in itself was enough to intrigue me back then:
A woman who’s been asleep for years is part of a carnival that sells her kisses for a buck. A lonely jazz musician buys her. Once awake, the two of them and his two girlfriends hook up. But sometimes, dreams are better than reality
It involves some of my favorite things: carnivals, loners, and group sex. It also doesn’t hurt that it sounds like some inspired amalgam of Night Tide and Boxing Helena. And, after all of these years, Harris’s film didn’t disappoint me one bit.
Some Call It Loving stars soft-core mainstay Zalman King, 60s British cinema babe Carol White, Richard Pryor (with maybe the best performance in the film), and Mia Farrow’s sister, Tisa Farrow (who also appeared in genre stuff like Zombie and Fingers following this). The cast is all great, with King really carrying the film thanks to his brooding and off kilter performance. It gets quite erotic at times, though never becoming truly exploitative. It’s actually really impossible to place genre wise as it teeters between the comfortable (or maybe not comfortable at all) conventions of the fairy tale or psychosexual drama. When I thought that it sounded like an amalgam of Night Tide and Boxing Helena, I never thought it’d actually be one. But it sort of is one, though likely in a less demented capacity than you may initially believe. It’s sort of like watching A Canterbury Tale as directed by Peter Greenaway and then featuring a centerpiece, fully nude cheerleader dance sequence helmed by Tinto Brass. It’s all over the place, in the best of ways, and is the perfect first film for Etiquette Pictures to distribute.
As I mentioned before, I’ve never been able to track down a viewable copy of Some Call It Loving so I really have nothing to compare the presentation to. That said, I can’t imagine it looking better than this. It looks very film like, with a thick layer of grain present throughout, solid blacks and colors that really pop when they need to. I noticed no detrimental damage or degradation, making me assume that the source was kept in relatively good shape. Audio is in the form of DTS HD 1.0 and it’s a solid track that balances the dialogue and music really well. Stellar presentation here.
Not looking to limit the lengths of their presentation to what is on screen, Etiquette Pictures have really gone all out in every aspect of the presentation here right down to the packaging and included booklet. The two discs (one Blu-ray and one DVD) come housed in a thick, clear Blu-ray sized case very similar (if not the same) to those used by Criterion. Reversable cover art is included, with Some Call It Loving featured by default and on the flip side the alternate title Sleeping Beauty. A nicely detailed booklet is included with a long essay that’s best read after seeing the film for the first time. I’m really impressed by how clean everything is here, with a simple graphic design layout that I hope becomes uniform for all releases going forward.
And, back to what’s on the disc, we get some quality supplements too. Starting with an audio commentary from director Harris. It’s a seriously exhaustive track with everything regarding the production and reception covered. If you ever wanted to know anything about the film, you’ll likely find it here. If that’s not enough, there’s a 7 minute interview with Harris which is a bit more anecdotal, an 8 minute interview with cinematographer Mario Tosi which is also very casual yet informative too. Lastly, there’s some deleted footage which also has commentary by Harris and is a great inclusion for fans.
Etiquette Pictures have really outdone themselves for a first release. Some Call It Loving is some sort of bizarro proto-sexploitation masterpiece that defies classification yet warrants serious analysis and re-appraisal. I can’t help but think back to when I first got my hands on the Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis package from Vinegar Syndrome and knew that it was the start of something great. And here we are again. I’m very happy to see these guys preserving and distributing a different type of cinema alongside what they have been doing for the past few years and putting the same amount of quality and passion into it. I had high expectations going into this release and I can safely say that they’ve been surpassed. Highly recommended.