When the film begins, Uta Erickson is laying in bed, dreaming of what it's hard to say. We hear her heart start to pump harder and harder as she sees herself leaning against a white wall. She sees a couple sitting on a bed, their faces covered in some strange scribbling. She approaches them but walks away to watch them make out. The couple start to go at it as the musical strings swirl on the soundtrack. They move into a sixty-nine and after a few minutes of that she rides him cowgirl style, Uta moving closer and then back away from them, intrigued but unsure if she should join in with them or not. The couple role over and he fucks her missionary style and once he ejaculates, Uta flees the room in terror.
She runs outside and finds herself on a fire escape. Looking straight down she sees a red dot. Uta carefully walks down the stairs and as she does her clothing changes from a nightgown to a formal dress and she's transported into a room where a party is going on and some woman are modeling clothes while an announcer (Darcy Brown) describes the outfits and a man plays an acoustic guitar. Freudian narration talks about fear, Uta flashes back to the fire escape, and then she sees a body in a coffin. We see her back on the fire escape before switching to some big iron gates. She tries to open them but they're locked. She tells the body in the coffin to let her in and they open up. A man comes into the room and grabs her and we hear the music from Psycho on the soundtrack. Cut to the party scene where Uta has some drinks and then talks to the body in the coffin, a man wearing a mask covering his full face. She then sees her self in the coffin and we then see her naked, thrashing around on a grave and weeping uncontrollably.
Two effeminate men lead her around a studio and then have Uta try on some new clothes. Cut back to the grave, the masked man (Stanley Camel) from the coffin appears and undresses and Uta does the same and approaches him. There's a lot of smoke swirling around as they kiss and then make love on the ground. He sucks her tits and eats her out and then she gives him head before riding him cowgirl style and letting him fuck her missionary style. The penetration shots in this scene look like inserts, shot after the fact and spliced into the picture later (the body hair on the male performer is a dead giveaway). As Uta climaxes, classical music swells up and we see images of horses and water.
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Cut back to the party room and cue up some go-go dancers. A man approaches Uta to help her find what she's looking for. He tells her that the man she just fucked is him and that he wasn't sincere with her, it was all a joke. Uta heads to the bathroom, sees the coffin, finds him inside and touches his face. She strokes him off and then screams. We see her running down the fire escape then and head back to the iron gate which is still open. She heads in and there are hands coming out of the wall (pre-dating a similar scene in a certain George A. Romero zombie movie by a few years!). She sees herself naked, blood running down her breasts, and then she sees herself in hell in a scene not unlike something out of a Coffin Joe movie. Some men, clothed in loin clothes, carry Linda Boyce (credited as Helga Ripp) out on a cart. Uta watches as the men bring her drinks, suck on her tits and then wrestle one another for her amusement. Uta tries to escape but she's stopped and forced to her knees where she watches Helga whip her boy toys as two people clad in white gowns wearing masks jump with glee. Helga fucks one of the guys up the ass with the end of the whip and then makes Uta drink out of a goblet with her. They caress each other and Uta lies down and they make out. As they do, two of the men in an opposing room also make out. As Helga's about to eat Uta out, a soldier appears, it's Uta's brother. He tells her he's alright and they talk about their past before he walks away. A montage of all the hardcore bits that have appeared in the film play out as Uta screams and the film fades to black for a moment. Dialogue between Uta and the masked man makes some sense out of the proceedings as Uta walks back up the fire escape to her room where she sees herself still asleep
Roberta Findlay, credited here as Anna Riva, can bee seen as one of the mourners at the graveyard. Shot as a softcore picture, the writing/directing team of Lem and John Amero went back and shot some hardcore inserts with some help from the likes of Jason and Tina Russell and Harry Reems. Bacchanale was obviously heavily influenced by the European surrealist films that were popular at the time it was made and it makes for a pretty wild viewing experience. The colors shift from tones of green, blue, red and purple to black and white to full color and back again throughout the film depending on the setting and the tone of the scene at any given time. The end does wrap the film up fairly well and does manage to make some sense out of the proceedings, enlightening us through no subtle means as to just what exactly it was that Uta and her brother were up to before he disappeared. Shot with a serious eye for artistic composition and intent, I can't imagine this one appealing to the stroke happy raincoat crowd despite the hardcore inserts. As a surrealist work of arthouse horror filmmaking it's a fantastic and unusual piece of work but you really do have to wonder just who the intended audience for this film was. As gorgeous and striking as it is at times, it's also pretty out there. It would probably be really awesome if you were high.
Bacchanale is presented in 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen, surprisingly enough, and while the transfer is far from perfect, it's not bad. As far as the aspect ratio goes, the film was shot on 35mm so this could be the right framing but some scenes do look a little tight at the top and the bottom of the frame. In regards to the authoring, there are mild compression artifacts evident throughout the though no problems with macro-blocking. The colors are a bit flat but some of this is obviously intentional on the part of the filmmakers. It should be noted that a 'copyright Cal Vista 2008' video bug appears at the bottom of the screen a few times throughout playback. The picture is interlaced but it's certainly watchable enough. Print damage shows up in the form of minor specks here and there and some aliasing is evident but overall the movie looks okay.
The English language Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack is acceptable enough though it too leaves plenty of room for improvement. There's mild background hiss throughout the picture but once the movie starts you won't have any problem following it. For reasons known only to VCX's authoring department, the sound on the menu is a lot louder than the sound on the feature itself - a common complaint with their DVDs. There is a sound drop out around the 58-59 minute mark during the 'wrestling in Hell' scene though it seems like this is intentional because the audio does return at a very appropriate moment. It should also be noted that the film's unauthorized use of music from Bernard Herrmann's score from Psycho remains intact on this DVD.
Extra features on this disc start off with the awesome original theatrical trailer for Bacchanale, touting it as 'The Ultimate Hardcore Film' and using all manner of odd choral and ambient music to sell us on it. The trailer is presented in anamorphic widescreen, unlike the feature itself and at four and a half minutes it's ridiculously long but I'm sure it blew a few minds when it played before more traditional films in theaters back in 1970.
VCX have also supplied a few minor supplements on this release starting with some bonus scenes, the first of which is from Eruption and features John Holmes getting a blowjob. A giant 'ERUPTION' logo appears on the bottom of the screen for the duration, which is really annoying. The second scene is from Sex The Hard Way and it stars Penny Morgan and Peter North. They make out at a horserace track, she gives him head, and he blows his load all over her face. The third scene is taken from Please Don't Stop and it features Amber Lynn as she visits her sister's house. She hits it off with one of her house guests, blows him, and then lets him fuck her, wisely choosing to leave her white cowboy boots on for the duration of the scene. The final bonus scene is from Suzie Superstar and it stars Shauna Grant and Ron Jeremy. Shauna takes off her top and drops to her knees to give Ron head. She sucks him off for a while and he strokes off onto her ample and lovely cleavage.
Rounding out the extras are trailers for Eruption (claiming to be the 'new wave of erotic motion pictures'), Suzie Superstar, Extreme Facials and Easy as well as some really loud and poorly designed animated menus and chapter selection.
Bacchanale may be out there but it's a pretty interesting and haunting experience. It's not going to appeal to those who need their pornographic films to exist solely for the purpose of titillation but anyone who can appreciate how surrealism, horror and the erotic can all blend together will certainly appreciate what the Amero's have done with this film. VCX's disc looks and sounds okay even if it isn't perfect and while more relevant extra features would have been very, very welcome, at least the mind blowing theatrical trailer is included. Highly recommended.