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Storefront Theater: Vol. 1, All Night at the Po-No
Vinegar Syndrome releases a three disc set featuring twelve adult films that would have screened at LA's Po-No theater.
Published on May 26, 2016 | Filed under Review
No-Po

The first release under the new “Storefront Theater” banner from Vinegar Syndrome features 12 films that would have screened at LA’s Po-No theater. The films were all shot and shown on 16mm, appearing (and legitimately being) much cheaper than other bigger-budget fare of the porno-chic era like The Opening of Misty Beethoven or The Devil In Miss Jones. The result is a package of films that offer a glimpse at what a very different type of adult cinema production and consumption was, both in an industry at large and at a very specific time and place.

With any set that manages to include a whopping 12 titles, the content – as well as quality of it – is rather varied. Disc one’s crown jewel is Porno Mondo, a sort of white coater assembled from what appears to be other features. It runs about an hour and offers some amusing anecdotes – although plenty may not be based on fact – about sexual mores and work in the porn industry at the time. It’s plenty amusing and would pair nicely with something like History of the Blue Movie or even a Kroger Babb program. The also hour long Homer… the Late Comer is pretty silly stuff, with an oafish male lead dreaming about being involved in a Roman food and sex marathon. It’s not erotic in the least, but it has its charms. Girl Acrobatics is a very brief four minute long film featuring sex while having a handstand. It could be considered instructional. Erotic Point of View is likely the film that will seem the most similar to viewers of contemporary porn, with the title telling you exactly what you’re going to be watching. It runs the gamut of content, with our POV source having all sorts of encounters including one with a blind girl. It’s something. Disc one concludes with Sex Before Marriage, an overly long feature where a young couple get really fucked over by their VW bug that breaks down. It is sort of like Godard’s Weekend, only featuring sloppy kitchen sex and actors that look more like they belong in the extras cast of a Fellini film.

On to disc 2, my favorite of the bunch is easily Suckula, which it was always going to be based on that title alone. Make no mistake, this is no Dracula Sucks, with an apparently much smaller budget and in the hands of Anthony Spinelli. It doesn’t really have much of a plot, with Dracula out in LA and a newscaster presenting some footage, including hardcore riffs on television ads. It’s a lot of fun, albeit a total mess, and should please fans of irreverent comedy as much as those here for more salacious thrills. Then there’s The Playboys, featuring John Holmes which sort of works as a character driven comedy but wears out its welcome fairly early on. Orgy in the Woods is short and to the point, you know what it is already. Probably the roughest film in the whole set, The Big Snatch, is actually pretty good if you’re into this kind of thing. Really grimy and featuring such charming sights as an extensive shooting up sequence and some raping, all culminating in some rather ghastly violence. It’s certainly not the cheeriest of the bunch. The final title of disc 2 is the borderline avant-garde The Erotic Adventures of Hercules, with no real adventures to speak of, just a sex party. It’s pretty abstract and not all that great, but it has its moments.

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Disc 3, our final disc, begins with Shot On Location, which many may have seen before elsewhere. It’s a legitimately fun film, taking place behind the scenes on a western porn flick. It’s likely the sole film in the set that you’ll want to show your friends. The Touch is more involved than most of the offerings here, taking place in the drug trade business and featuring John Holmes as a drug dealer turning young girls into mules. Carnal Go Round is basically an excuse to have couples switching beds, and at doing that it succeeds, but don’t expect much more. Finally, we close with All American Hustler, which pairs well with The Touch in its more serious tone. This one is sort of a downer, but it feels more like a full film than most of the other titles in this set, you probably just don’t want to save it for last.

As expected, the A/V quality is all over the place here with some titles looking great and others looking like they are as old and worn down as they are. But these new scans from VS present them in the best possible way, with everything being clear – including the bright emulsion damage on some titles – and looking as good as they’re going to. Having these available at all, on one set, is a pretty incredible treat for fans of this type of material. Sitting somewhere between the stag films collected on the 42 Street Forever: Peep Show Collection discs and the titles that VS typically include in their Peekarama line, this first entry in the Storefront Collection offers a unique look at an industry as well as a particular mode of exhibition that is seldom discussed. Highly Recommended.

Justin holds degrees in film preservation from the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation and film studies from Keene State College. He writes the Geek Weird column for Geek New Wave and is currently writing a book on XXX parody films. He is a projectionist at Jacob Burns Film Center and regularly haunts NYC movie houses showing any type of genre/trash cinema.
Justin LaLiberty

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