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Altar of Lust/Angel on Fire

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Release Date: 
Vinegar Syndrome1971/1975
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Roberta Findlay
Erica Landers
Jennifer Jordan
Julia Shea
Bottom Line: 
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When porno is vintage enough it often comes in double feature form for one low special price.  Vinegar Syndrome seems to be establishing quite a name with its twofer assortments.  Let us go back to the early seventies and check out two adult films based on the influential directing efforts of Roberta Findlay? 

The Altar of Lust (1971)

As so many before her (myself included) a woman named Viveca sits in her psychiatrist’s office, trying to figure out where it all went wrong. We follow the stream of consciousness recollections of her life’s sexual adventures (misadventures really) as told to her shrink, perhaps the most snide, dangerously inept mental health professional ever to appear in a porno film (more on this in a bit). Through the use of vignette (flashback) and a soundtrack that it was composed entirely of knockoff of THE WHO’S song catalog we are treated to a steady stream of Viveca’s previous sexual experiences throughout her life, as reenacted on the screen. Some of them are sad (like being molested by her stepdad) some of them are touching, (like her first experience with a man named Don) and most of them are pretty weird, (like the peculiar porno affair instantly turned threesome between Don, Marie and herself).  Later Viveca experiments with lesbianism and develops thing for a girl named Laurie. It is only during the final moments of this film where Viveca has an epiphany; it seems she is into girls now because of unrelated issues with her late mother. No sooner is this Freudian developmental conflict named and exposed, than the therapist immediately has sex with her too in an attempt to “fix” her. I suppose this would be ten kinds of offensive if it wasn’t so scramble brained and stupid.  Not only is this film the directorial debut of Roberta Findlay, but it is one of the last popular adult films released before DEEP THROAT (1972) and as such, it is considered one of the final American X rated films that would not rely on constant close up scenes of penetrations and sticky finishes that have quickly become the porno standard, even unto this day. While it is an x rated film with scenes of oral sex and penetration by finger, when compared to the onslaught of incredibly lurid, abusive films of the early seventies that would flood the market in the coming years this flick is a quaint reminder of a softer touch and the measurable end of what I liked to call “the era of medium core” adult film in the late sixties/early seventies...

Angel on Fire (1974)

Jeff Williams is a jackass womanizer that has actual meaningless sex (for him) with a woman immediately at the start of this and then throws her out, half naked, after being told she is carrying his child. But unluckily for him, God is watching (sort of). Moments later, he is walking down the street when a hippie guy in a VW bus runs him over and kills him (because the driver was getting road head at the time).  Jeff immediately appears in a pretty decent no budget version of Heaven as a pretty angel (Angel #9 in fact) tells him he will be returned to earth in the body of a female named Stephanie (Darby Lloyd Rains) in order to understand the frailties of love, human relationships and how much it hurts to be used in an unfeeling sexual relationships of convenience. From there the film hits all the predictable and expected scenes that one might predict based on the premise of this. Can you predict them all? (I did).There is a masturbation shower sequence when he/she “discovers his new body for the first time” There is a lesbian sequence that happens, when Jeff/Steph meets his ex-girlfriend “Carol” and learns to love like he never has before, (perhaps in the most literal interpretation of the phrase). Finally, as can be expected, he meets a womanizer just like his former self (right down to the exact same crass dialogue) that not only seduces him/her, but consistently cheats, abuses and mistreats her onscreen in a variety of some admittedly raw, sexually explicit scenes. While the abuses suffered by Steph would never be repeated in a modern, mainstream adult film “which now must always glamourize healthy sexuality between loving consensual adults”, the ending of this, actually had a moral message about treating your lovers nicely and the scenes of sex were actually based on the plot.  Leave it to a Roberta Findlay to make a film every bit as visually filthy and wacky as any other flick for this mid-seventies era, yet to somehow make it meaningful, hot and logical with an actual ending. This film had softness in its heart and still generated no shortage of hardcore depictions on the screen which is no small feat for this plot-optional sub-genre of sleaze. Modern porn directors could learn much from this one.

Both of these films look nice and the transfer is clean (at least in the way you want it to be). Either of these films are worth owning; ALTAR OF LUST for its historical value, and ANGEL ON FIRE for its elaborate plot mechanics. But obviously, you must be in the mood for vintage which is an acquired taste, especially from 40 years ago.  Thankfully at $15.00 this collection is a solid buy, as are most of Vinegar Syndrome’s wares (thus far).

Special Features Include Nothing.

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