Vinegar Syndrome’s Taboo Blu-ray Release
"The ultimate sin" should not be missed by anyone interested in vintage erotica.
Published on September 2, 2016 | Filed under Review

Cinema has a history with films titled Taboo (or titles that at least phonetically sound the same). From F.W. Murnau’s 1931 Tabu: A Story Of the South Seas chronicling young, forbidden love to Nagisa Ôshima’s 1997 gay samurai film Taboo – the title tends to evoke an idea of sin, which is paramount to the advertising campaign of Kirdy Stevens’ 1980 adult cinema shock-fest, Taboo.

The first entry in a series that now features twenty three films, Stevens’ film utilized an advertising campaign with the bold tagline “THE ULTIMATE SIN!” – a tactic that wouldn’t have felt out of place in the heyday of the exploitation hucksters. That ultimate sin so prominently highlighted is incest – which is far from a spoiler – a topic that also made its way onto multiplex screens the same year thanks to The Blue Lagoon. And Taboo fully commits to its sin – the incestuous relationship(s) on screen rarely seem designed to shock (at least not moreso than anything else on screen) and the cast is all in top form, especially Kay Parker in the role of the mom who lusts after her teenage son (Mike Ranger).


Taboo doesn’t only have incest to offer though – all manner of “sin” is fair game, with plenty of couplings scattered throughout its scant 86 minute runtime, including a centerpiece orgy sequence that may even go beyond the Tobalina threshold. Coming in at #21 on the AVN list for the top 101 greatest adult movies of all time (as of 2001), time has been kind to Taboo. It isn’t just a strong contender for the best adult film of 1980 – a year that included titles like Insatiable and Talk Dirty To Me – but for one of the best erotic films of that decade, hardcore or not. In a contemporary adult cinema climate that features countless incest themed series, Taboo‘s sin may not seem as ultimate as it once did but the filmmaking, cast and, yes, the sex is all as good as it gets.

Vinegar Syndrome has brought Taboo to Blu-ray for the first time and it’s a stellar debut. Put out on DVD by Standard Digital a few years ago (with a number of its sequels) in an edition dubbed The Mothers Edition, this new 2K scan from original vault elements is a clear improvement on anything we’ve had of Stevens’ film on home video before. There is some noticeable wear at times, but for the most part this is a clean, organic presentation that faithfully replicates the 35mm photography with a nice layer of film grain and that vibrant late 70s color palette intact. The mono soundtrack comes through clear, with no issues present. The soundtrack for this one is great, so if nobody nearby minds the incessant moaning, turn it up! Another top-notch presentation from Vinegar Syndrome!


Well, this is certainly a title that I never expected to get FOUR audio commentary tracks. Starting with the new tracks, the first one is with Kay Parker. She has a lot to say about the film and is casual and anecdotal. Anyone pressed for time that can only listen to one track should be safe with this one. The second, and last, newly recorded track is with writer/producer Hellen Terrie. This is a bit more of a focused (and at times dry) talk which will likely be of more interest to those who are students of adult cinema history or just want to know as much as they can about Taboo. It’s absolutely worth a listen for anyone with the time for both tracks. Then we move on to the two archival tracks, both of which I only sampled. The first is another solo track with Kay Parker. She’s as conversational as she is in the new track and there seems to be some overlapping information/stories, but I will return to it in the future to listen to all of it for sure. The second archival track has Terrie returning but is now accompanied by Kirdy Stevens (who passed away in 2012). Like the first track with Terrie, this is more technical but the presence of Stevens makes this a must listen for anyone with a strong interest in adult cinema. There is also a short archival interview with Parker and an image gallery.

Taboo is one of the best adult films ever made and Vinegar Syndrome have brought it to Blu-ray with a gorgeous presentation and a strong batch of supplements. This is on par with their treatment of other adult feature mainstays like Pretty Peaches and Sex World and should not be missed by anyone interested in vintage erotica. Highly Recommended.

Justin LaLiberty holds degrees in film preservation from the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation and film studies from Keene State College. He is the Creative Manager at Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers and is an itinerant projectionist, ready to run reels if you've got 'em.
Justin LaLiberty