Launching in 2013 with the release of the Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis, Vinegar Syndrome quickly cemented themselves as one of the most important and exciting companies in the recent boutique home video boom. Presenting high quality transfers — of which they create in-house — of rare and overlooked works, VinSyn put a loving touch into their work that sets them a step above many of their competitors.
In 2015, the company made a significant evolution and birthed Exploitation.tv. Exploitation.tv — “a subscription based streaming service focused exclusively on offering fans of exploitation cinema the largest online library of feature films, shorts and theatrical trailers, most of which are available in HD”— took VinSyn from the seedy, damp, and dirty aisles of 1970s 42nd St into the 21st Century, offering not only their catalog in digital form, but also a bevy of bold and strange titles.
With over 600 titles in their catalog (which continues to slowly grow), Exploitation.tv offers something new, even in the face of fierce competition with Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, as well as more niche platforms like Filmstruck and Shudder. But none of those other companies offer quite the same experience as Exploitation.tv. I mean, you’d be very hard-pressed to find any of those other platforms streaming a title like Sherlick Holmes, where Sherlick Holmes and his counterpart Dr. Watson find themselves in “swinging 70s NYC” (don’t worry a review in this column is soon to come).
That is why we devised “Exploitation.TV Party,”as a way to dedicate space each month to what Exploitation.tv has to (often exclusively) offer fans. Before, we jump into the first film, however, we thought it would be prudent to discuss the platform itself a bit, the pros and cons, and what prospective subscribers could gain with a membership.
First the pros: It will please many to hear that Exploitation.tv is available on your Roku, although you need to have a Roku 3 or newer for it to work. The catch? Because of the content, Roku won’t support Exploitation.tv in its store, so you have to add it outside your app (instructions here). The process is quick and isn’t a deterrent, but it would be nice if Roku could just add a maturity filter in order to bypass the very need. Another pro, already mentioned, is the catalog of titles. Those that assume that just VinSyn releases would be featured are mistaken. Its easy to get lost in the 600 offered titles, with plenty of stuff that I’ve never even heard of. It will take our team some time to get through these and that’s the way we like it. As for audio and video content, most titles are available in HD, which is great, and streaming quality — as experienced on my home setup — had no issues, drops in fidelity, or buffering problems.
Still a relatively young platform, there are a few bugs, but given their lack of resources (keep in mind, VinSyn is a small team), they are surprisingly few, and they are minor. The first thing that jumps out is the organization. While everything is neatly divided into subgroups, there doesn’t appear to be any way of viewing all titles alphabetically (or at least not an obvious way). It would be nice to see this function added for the future. Second, the Roku app is a bit slow to load titles, although once you are in the film, this speed issue goes away. Sometimes the Roku app would lock up while browsing titles, and I would have to reload the app as well. This wasn’t an issue that would happen every time, but, again, it’s something that would be good to see fixed in the future.
Overall, Exploitation.tv is worth the price tag, even if it is admittedly higher than the average streaming platform. With about 80% of their catalog being exclusive content, you won’t find yourself running into too many titles that you would see elsewhere, and some of these are films you may never be able to see otherwise (or even know about). If you like exploitation cinema, you can’t find a better place to watch films.
Now to the films!
To launch this column, it seemed fitting to cover a title that is featured that isn’t a Vinegar Syndrome release. Of course, plenty of people reading this will be largely familiar with their releases, but there is so much more to offer. Flipping through page after page, I eventually stumbled upon a simple title that intrigued me: Sextoons.
I’ve always had a love for traditional hand-drawn animation, and find it especially intriguing to see the underground work from the counter-culture era. Its a bit difficult to gauge where this film in particularly can be traced to — and to make matters more confusing, there are two collections on the platform under the same name, but they appear to be (if not completely the same) mostly the same film. The leader shows that it was distributed by “Films Incorporated,” although their IMdB only shows one release, so its uncertain as to why it would appear twice here.
The presentations are very hit-or-miss, and it looks as if “Films Incorporated” may have strung together a series of found materials themselves most likely to release to sex shops around the country. It’d be curious to know more about the backstory, but the film’s page only features a single-line synopsis. As for the shorts themselves, most are quite funny. The collection opens on a text-only sort of music video for a childish-but-admittedly-funny song I assumed is called “Do You Like Boobs A Lot.” From here, the film gets far more interesting. There are some more esoteric pieces, including one extended piece that is mostly line art, but the large majority are the depraved type of sexual humor you’d expect.
By and large, the best piece included is Buried Treasure or Eveready Harton in Buried Treasure, as it is also known. While the exact origin of the film is unknown, it is rumored that notable animators worked on the piece in secret in New York in the late 1920s. I’ve seen the film numerous times, including (oddly) in a series of ’20s French Erotica, as well as showcased inside of the Museum of Sex in New York City. While decidedly un-PC, the short follows Eveready Harton, who — as his name would suggest — is ever-ready for sex. In the world of this cartoon, everyone and everything is having sex — and they all have comically large penises. This is great for Harton, except every time he gets going, he runs into to trouble, and I mean TROUBLE, including crabs (actual crabs), his penis detaching and running away from him, jamming his member into a cactus, among other shenanigans. It’s a wild ride, and comes highly recommended for a good, late-night laugh.
There are a couple really fantastic claymation pieces too, from the lewd bit of counter-cultural humor in Little Genitalia to the more artistically inclined Jack in the Fox. Even if you aren’t necessarily interested in sex cartoons, the animation in many of the pieces is too good to write-off completely, and worth watching through of the 82 minute runtime.
Almost as funny as Eveready Harton is an extremely raunchy parody of Seven White and the Seven Dwarves, fittingly titled Snow White and the Seven Perverts (the title appears in German, but also features a lengthy anti-censorship voice-over that precedes it, so I am not sure the origin, but the animation looks as if it was very professionally handled). It’s not hard to guess where this one goes, but its a fun ride.
There’s a lot of great stuff in this to be discovered here, but it does take a lot of stamina to sit through it in a single sitting. That said, the editing and compiling choices usually alternate between more high brow and then low brow, so there’s never too long a wait between laughs. Fans of animation will get a great deal out of it, and, if you are already a member of the platform, chances are nothing in this will be able to scare you away.