Saturday, August 31, 2013

Blu-ray Review: THE TELEPHONE BOOK (1971)


Label: Vinegar Syndrome
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 87 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Audio: Dolby Digital English
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:10
Director: Nelson Lyon
Cast: Sarah Kennedy, Barry Morse, Norman Rose, William Hickey 

Here's a little know underground cult film directed by former Saturday Night Live writer Lyon Nelson and it's a quirky sex-laden arthouse film that is quite unlike anything I have seen before, at first glance I had little to no interest in what the description offered me but just a few minutes in and I was hooked. Sarah Kennedy plays Alice, a super-cute sexed-up hippie vixen in NYC, she's blonde, gorgeous and has a spritely charm about her, impossible not to fall in love with right away. 

One fine day she's laying about her apartment which is adorned with awesome x-rated wallpaper, she's seemingly bored and calling into a dial-a-prayer hot line until she receives a dirty phone call from "the world's greatest obscene phone caller" who so titillates the young cutey with his velvety smooth and vulgar charm that she falls immediately in love, juiced-up and horny she demands to meet the amorous voice on the phone, reluctantly he reveals his name to be John Smith (Norman Rose) and states he can be found in the phone book, which is true... alongside about 200 other John smith's I am quite sure. 

Sweet young Alice sets out to find her particular John Smith dialing every one of 'em in the telephone book setting off a series of fun and     intriguing sexually-tinged encounters with a series of weirdos and deviants.  The first encounter is with a stag film actor named Har Poon (Barry Morse) who coerces her into appearing in an on camera orgy with 18 other women, loved seeing Warhol's Ultra Violet as a whip-snapping beauty in this scene, yowza! Next Alice encounters a psychiatrist cum flasher on the L train who at first is a bit put-off when she in turn flashes him, eventually they end up at a diner where Alice spins the tale of her most sexually satisfying encounter as per her request, meeting a man with an eternal hard-on. In a flashback sequence we meet this super-erection and it's none other than William Hickey - Uncle Lewis from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) - very strange indeed! The head shrink listens intently, and as the story becomes hotter he sorta of metaphorically beats-off while furiously dispensing quarters from one of those change machines worn on your belt - it's fun stuff. 

Her further adventures in search of the world's greatest obscene phone caller bring her to the home of a lesbian where the duo explore the carpet-muncher's vibrator collection intimately. Alice is quite a sexual dynamo, definitely a free bohemian spirit and actress Sarah Kennedy completely owns this film from start to finish! She's so damn cute and perky, naive but sexually assured, and most frequently naked or in various states of undress, this is a pretty dirty little film but it has such a quirky sense of humor, it's a great balance and the result is that it's erotic but also a bit disarming. 

Spliced into the film are several weird vignettes documenting various obscene phone callers who confess their particular proclivity, it's very funny stuff, I especially loved the woman with a love of inserting bananas in her snatch while speaking with men on the phone about their wangs, it's gives the film a weird structure, it's quite arthouse in it's construction. this is definitely a quirky arthouse sex film with a fantastic sense of humor. 

Ultimately when she Alice does track down the reluctant object of her lustful affection, the world's greatest obscene phone caller, who in a nicely odd touch appears obscured behind a partial pig mask, I found it the least intriguing part of the film, but then were treated to a crazy explosion of acid-tinged animation and I was won over again, this was a great watch.

Blu-ray: Vinegar Syndrome have yet again dug deep and unearthed an classic underground film and given it a nice spit polish, presented in it's original widescreen (1.85:1) aspect ratio this stark, black and white feature looks great in 1080p with rich cinematography, it's wonderfully grainy with some very nice contrast, it does look a bit soft at times from scene to scene but nothing too hideous. The transfer was culled from the original 35mm elements, there are instances of minor print damage by way of speckles and dirt, and a few small scratches but at the end of the day this looks quite superb, once again Vinegar Syndrome impress with a great transfer of a previously rare film, love what these guys are doing for obscure and underground cinema. 

The only audio option is an English language Dolby Digital mono presentation, there's not a lot of spunk to it but it's mostly clean and free of distortion, it tends to sound a stifled and canned with not a lot of dynamic range but it's pretty decent, there are some minor instances of snap, crackle and hiss from time to time. Nate Sassover's score is light and perfectly suites the quirky, lighthearted nature of the production, there are no subtitles options. 

Special features include a fact-filled and anecdotal commentary with Producer Merv Bloch, it's a great listen. There are also 2 trailers, radio spots and a still image gallery. This 2-disc set includes a standard-def DVD of the film with the very same features, it's a nice addition but definitely watch it in 1080p - it's a fantastic looking black and white features. 

Special Features:

- Commentary by Producer Merv Bloch
- Theatrical Trailer (:38)

- Re-Issue Trailer (2:06)
- Radio Spots (3:32)
- Still Gallery

Verdict: I loved this oddball sexpoitation film, it's cute and smutty and quite a bit of fun. Star Sarah Kennedy is a super-cutey with a squeaky little voice, she completely won me over. The Telephone Book (1971) a weird little underground New York cinema entry, if you're looking for something strange, sexy and wonderful this definitely fits the bill, a very original slice of kinky arthouse cinema. 3 Outta 5