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17 November 2014

Vinegar Syndrome goes direct with HOT SUMMER IN THE CITY (review)

Director: Gail Palmer (as "The Hare")

Besides their Blu-ray and DVD releases of exploitation obscurities, Vinegar Syndrome has also provided free high definition digital downloads in their Gratis section of otherwise unavailable titles (with the exception of THE NIGHT HUSTLERS which they subsequently released on DVD in SD and SILENT NIGHT BLOODY NIGHT whose master was used by Film Chest for their DVD edition).  Vinegar Syndrome have now introduced VS Direct, a streaming/download service available freely for two months at a time with each purchase from the site.  They are launching VS Direct with a high definition transfer of Gail Palmer's incendiary HOT SUMMER IN THE CITY (1976) which actually uses The Lovin' Spoonful's song for the main titles.
Wanting to remain a virgin until after marriage, Debbie (Playboy Playmate Lisa Baker) rebuffs her fiancé's overtures in favor of turning in early. She comes home to find her mother (Linda Hoffman) not sleeping off all she had to drink at dinner but being double-teamed by her fiancé's father (Bill Murphy) and a family friend (Dan Timens). The fact all three have visible herpes scabs suggests this is not a new development. An upset Debbie runs out into the night only to be abducted by a car full of stereotypical jive-talking black militants : leader Duke (Duke Johnson), interchangeable beta males Shorty (Shorty Roberts) and Coke (Coke Cain), and developmentally-disabled Stitch (Stitch Jones). They have their way with her in the car, take her back to their cabin, rough her up some more, and then put her to work as cook and maid. They further degrade Debbie by betting her body over a poker game. Shorty wins, but Duke doesn't want her marked; so Shorty has to wait until Duke goes to sleep before he can whip Debbie. Stitch tries to get in the action, but is once again shoved away and left to masturbate on his own.
The next morning, a sleazy white businessman – billed as "The Man" (Tony Rizzi) shows up along with Duke's girl Jody (Black Orchid) who takes an instant dislike to Debbie. For all out militants talk about civil rights and how their rape of Debbie is the closest she has come to "racial integration", it turns out that their violent act of revolution involving Molotov cocktails and gunning down policemen is just a front for "The Man" to collect on insurance when his business is set alight in the fracas. When a jealous Jody attacks Debbie, Duke punishes her by giving her to Shorty, who also lets Stitch have a go on her. Meanwhile, Duke takes Debbie to the bedroom for a more tender encounter that has her inexplicably falling for him. She still tries to escape, but is caught and tied up in Duke's room. Duke has to attend to some business with "The Man", leaving a bound Debbie at the mercy of a horny Stitch and a vengeful Jody.
A thoroughly ugly "roughie" with hardcore sex and an offensively racial (if not racist) angle – all of the black performers are credited with pseudonyms and who could blame them for not wanting to achieve motion picture immortality with this film – HOT SUMMER IN THE CITY is pretty much indefensible. Its sexualized violence and extreme characterizations seem less like pandering to rain-coaters with a rape fetish than galvanized to reactionary white audience members who really do think black men are out to get their women and that civil rights demonstrations are just an excuse for criminal behavior (even with the twist of the quartet working for "The Man" and Duke having qualms about their plan when "The Man" says some black onlookers will inevitably be hurt or killed as collateral damage). This one is either best forgotten or watched once and struck off the list (and it's availability as a streaming download from VS Direct makes that much easier) as it offers no guilty pleasures or anything particularly insightful about adult film history. Set in 1967, the soundtrack also includes the unauthorized use of The Doors' "Light My Fire", The Shangri-Las "Leader of the Pack" (while Duke is establishing his dominance over Debbie), The Four Tops' "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch" (with the "can't help myself" refrain accompanying a penetration insert), The Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations", and Robert Knight's "Everlasting Love".
Vinegar Syndrome's high definition MPEG-4 AVC 1.33:1 (16:9 pillar-boxed) transfer of HOT SUMMER IN THE CITY without doubt looks better than the film has ever looked before on bootleg video, but it probably also looks as good as it can in high definition given the original photography (I have no problem believing this might actually have been made by Gail Palmer unlike the slicker Bob Chinn efforts she is credited with helming). Colors are bold, the shag carpeting is as well-delineated as the strands of seventies hair, all skin blemishes stand out in sharp relief, while the night scenes are grainier. There are a couple of mid-frame splices, but no apparent missing footage (at 68 minutes, it's ten minutes longer than IMDb's listed running time). The AAC 2.0 mono audio has a layer of hiss but the music and dialogue comes as well as the mono mix allows. On my computer (using the Firefox browser) the film streamed in 720p24 with HD on and in 360p24 with HD off, but this may be a limitation of the browser. VS Direct members can also also download the file as a 5.25 GB 1080p24 file via a BitTorrent link.

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  1. I want to buy this but am confused as it doesn't show up. Do I have to buy two other cuss and then I can get it free? I can't just buy it? Thanks.

    1. It was streaming on VS Direct. You get access to those streaming titles with a website purchase, but they swap out the titles. You might email Vinegar Syndrome themselves and ask if there are any other digital download options for that title. Music rights are the reason they have not released it on physical media.


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