THE RIBALD TALES OF CANTERBURY
(dir: Bud Lee, 1985)
We’ve all been there at some point. A long journey with nothing to do. All of a sudden, someone comes up with the idea of sharing stories and laughs to help pass the time. Yeah, maybe not everyone has been there, but I had to set the scene somehow right? The first film on this double feature release from Vinegar Syndrome follows the journey of a group of noblemen and women headed by the Hostess Hyapatia Lee (Let’s Get Physical) en route to Canterbury. She proposes a wager with her fellow travellers. Each places the grand sum of 20 pence in to a small pouch and whoever can recall the best erotic tale on their journey wins all. It’s certainly a novel way to pass the time! The stories range from a humble knight having a surprising (in the best sense of course) encounter with a pilgrim to mother and daughter having some fun with a couple of dashing students. There’s even a story involving the summoning of The Devil himself! Yes indeed, there’s stories a plenty! When they aren’t sharing stories, the travellers are often sharing each other. What a frisky bunch we have here! Who will win the wager? Will they even make it to Canterbury? All I can say is these folks sure have stamina, even the gold old monk gets graced by the hands of… You know where I’m going with that.
Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is a classic piece of literature. It’s also been adapted to stage and screen countless times. From Pasolin’s 1972 film, to Alan Plater’s television adaptations. Not only that but they’re even referenced in films like Se7en. I must confess, I have never read Chaucer’s original work, but from what I gather, Bud Lee and Hyapatia Lee (who actually wrote the initial screenplay) have done more than just use the literature as reference or to capture audience interest. There are alterations such as using financial incentive rather than the prospect of a free meal as seen in the original story. The pair clearly understand the source material and it does genuinely stand up as a solid adaptation (you get brownie points from me if you use this as an example if you’re studying Film Adaptation). I’m sure those more familiar with the work will be able to dissect this film, but I can’t see many people having too many complaints.
On an aesthetic level, the film looks tremendous. It’s clear the film had a much bigger budget than most. This is one of the last films to be shot on 35mm. The industry was going through a big change with video being a much more accessible and affordable way to produce adult films. Instead of going for cheap thrills, we have actual scope. Illustrious set design and costumes are used throughout. Exterior locations actually look natural as opposed to just looking like they’re being shot gonzo in the local park, there’s even horses goddamnit! To top it off, we also get a proper score, even if some of the more light hearted songs sound like they’re from Banjo Kazooie (don’t worry, I found that to be quite charming). This isn’t just one of those films that has a theme and loses it when the sex comes along. Of course, the sexual content is of high quality and aside from maybe one or two scenes that go on a little too long (for my tastes anyway), the feature length runtime fits the film perfectly. The cast also put in a great performance when they’re not getting their jollies. The likes of Jon Martin (Oriental Madam), Mike Horner (Champagne Orgy) and Colleen Brennan (Supervixens) have great screen presence and prove that stars of the genre can act. In fact, there’s not really a ‘bad’ performance from any of the cast. Overall, it’s an accomplished piece of film that has a genuine cinematic feel.
(dir: Bud Lee, 1985)
The second film (shot directly after Canterbury Tales) sees Hyapatia Lee return, this time as Tasty, a radio DJ with a show on 96 KNUT. Unfortunately for the station, one of their main advertisers isn’t happy. Unless there’s a drastic change and ratings go up, they’re going to pull their ads. The station manager Mr. Connors, played by Jesse Eastern (First Time at Cherry High) is a total jerk at the best of times, but the current situation makes him want to fire Tasty and her coworkers even more. With nothing else to lose, Tasty and her fellow disc jockeys decide that they want to go for broke and make things a little more interesting on the radio station. This involves taking the traffic reports to the whorehouses, setting up a sex advice show, holding contests and even setting up a simulcast (ooh, fancy!) to debut the Sextet’s smash “Hit Me With Your Wet Shot”. Yes, Pat Benatar fans will definitely have something to say about that! Of course, there are more kinky shenanigans abound both on air and behind the scenes. Can KNUT rise from the ashes? Will Connors keep his blood pressure in check? You’re gonna have to tune in and drop out yourself!
There’s an obvious change of pace with Tasty. We have gone from the middle ages to the sun kissed and neon mid 1980′s. Yep, the hair is bigger and the fashion is brighter. Tasty is a much more conventional piece of adult cinema, but still maintains a level of high quality. Once again, the sets are good and there’s a wonderful synth score to accompany the film throughout, even with more original songs (love the 96 KNUT ditty!). Once again, it’s a light hearted affair and the comedy works. It’s just as well written as Canterbury Tales. A high quality production overall, with some great talent on display, especially the cute blonde haired Gail Force (Love Bites) and Patti Petite (For Your Thighs Only). All put in a good performance for the most part, but there’s nothing too terrible to take you out of the movIe. Even Bud Lee himself makes a small appearance as the frustrated advertiser. Going back to sex quickly, don’t let Jesse Eastern’s birth marks stop you from enjoying the film (oh trust me, you’ll know when you see them!). All in all, this an entertaining flick that oozes style. I friggin’ love the 80′s! By the way, if you are a fan of Last Tango in Paris, there’s a nice homage for you to enjoy!
In terms of presentation, Vinegar Syndrome have once again done a stellar job. Both films are rich in colour and the restoration and hard work really make the colours pop off the screen. Even if the budgets for both weren’t as high, the films would still have looked great. The sound is equally great, I very rarely, if at all detected any popping or distortion. Even though Tales of Canterbury is the main attraction and Tasty is something of an extra, you never get that impression at all. On the disc itself you get a directors commentary for Tales of Canterbury, an interview with Bud Lee and trailers for both films. This is definitely release worth owning. Both in terms of the films themselves and a historical document. For those interested in checking out the final films to be shot on actual film before the video boom, give these a watch.
The Ribald Tales of Canterbury is available on DVD through Vinegar Syndrome.