Made in 1973 when porno chic films like Deep Throat and Behind The Green Door were at their peak in terms of popularity, sexploitation master Joe Sarno was still pumping out softcore sex films, reluctant to go all the way into the realm of XXX hardcore movie making at this point in his career (he'd later cave and do it under a couple of different pseudonyms). Possibly in an attempt to cash in on some of the success that hardcore pornographic films had found at the box office, however, Sarno shot Abigail Leslie Is Back In Town using a cast of known adult film stars, which gives it some novelty value and proves that a few of them (notably Jamie Gillis of Waterpower fame) could actually act, as well as frolic in the nude in front of a camera.
Shot in the director's hometown of Amityville, the film follows the story of the titular Abigail Leslie (Sarah Nicholson, a.k.a. Jennifer Jordan of Anyone But My Husband) who returns to her hometown after leaving some time ago after she had an affair with a married man named Gordon (Jamie Gillis). Gordon's wife, Priscilla (Rebecca Brooke, a.k.a. Mary Mendum of The Image and Max Pecas' Felicia), is none too keen on the fact that the women who bonked her man has returned to her old stomping grounds and she has absolutely no problem whatsoever telling anyone who will listen to her how she feels.
Not one to worry about much of anything, Abigail soon gets back to her wild ways once more, laying anyone, male or female, she pleases – when you look as good as Abigail does, it isn't often that anyone tries to resist you and if, say, one of the women you want to bed decides she's not into girls, you can always let your fingers do some very convincing walking and sway her your way, right? Right! Abigail also finds her way into bed with the local Mr. Fixit, a handyman named Chester (played by Eric Edwards of Afternoon Delights) and even her own aunt, Drucilla! The more Abigail seems to get around, the more the townsfolk come over to her way of thinking and before too long everyone is doing everyone else, shedding their former uptight skins and enjoying all the pleasures of the flesh that this world has to offer, even Priscilla.
Casting seventies porno stars gave the movie a pretty realistic look. Back before silicon took over the industry, porn stars were considerably more unique looking and a lot more realistic in how the acted in front of the camera. Everything might have looked a little seedier because of their appearance, but sex is, let's face it, dirty by nature and having someone like Jamie Gillis in your film does go a long way towards making the sex believable – and when the majority of your movie is made up of sex scenes strung together by a loose but interesting soap opera plot, you'd best make that sex as realistic as possible if you want your movie to work. Luckily, Sarno has no problem in that regard this time out. While you're not going to find any Oscar winners in here, most of the main performers do a perfectly fine job with the material both in and out of costume and Mary Mendum in particular shines as her character experiences what is literally a sexual re-awakening thanks to her experiences with Abigail and Chester.
When the movie finally gets to the inevitable group sex scene, it makes sense that it closes that way, it's almost like this is what these characters have wanted all along and been unable to own up to until Abigail showed them how. It might not always go down that way in real life but in the context of the melodramatic world that Sarno has created for the film, the middle class suburbanites too hung up to enjoy themselves, this shedding of clothes (and in a sense, skin) seems the only resolution possible. Look for lovely blonde XXX performer Jennifer Welles in a supporting role and Sonny Landham of Predator fame as her boyfriend!
While the elements for this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer obviously weren't in the best of shape, for an older low budget sexploitation picture, Abigail Leslie Is Back In Town looks pretty decent. The framing and compositions are nice and look dead on (not surprising since Sarno approved the transfer himself) and the color reproduction is strong. Black levels are solid and there aren't any problems with mpeg compression or edge enhancement and only a slight trace of aliasing is present. In terms of print damage, well, it's there and the grain is heavy in some spots but nothing is so harsh as to render the film unwatchable or anything like that. There are a few scratches, some dirt and some specs here and there as well as the odd cigarette burn, but the image remains fairly decent. Unfortunately, EI didn't bother flagging the transfer for progressive scan playback so depending on what kind of hardware you use, you might notice some saw tooth effects during motion.
The English language Dolby Digital Mono sound mix isn't half bad. There's some mild hiss present in a few scenes and the levels do fluctuate a tad but dialogue remains clean, clear and concise and the sound effects and background music are well balanced and don't over power the performers. No alternate language dubs, subtitles or closed captioning options are provided for this release.
EI has done a nice job with the supplements on this release. First up is a full-length audio commentary with director Joe Sarno, spurred on by a moderator throughout. Sarno doesn't remember a lot of the specifics about the film and so having the moderator on board helps things quite a bit, and while this isn't the most detailed commentary ever recorded, Sarno remembers enough about where and with whom he made the movie to make sure it's at least an enjoyable discussion. Sarno's in a good mood throughout, joking around a fair bit and pointing out interesting details about the locations and performers when he can.
In addition to this, there's a video interview with Joe and his wife/collaborator Peggy that clocks in at about six minutes. Peggy's memories of the film are a bit sharper than her husbands but she isn't given a whole lot of time to go into a ton of detail here. They cover shooting the film in Amityville, how locations were arranged, and where the film sort of fits within Sarno's interesting body of work. Rounding out the extras on the DVD are a selection of trailers for other Sarno movies available through EI/Retro-Seduction Cinema, including Swedish Wildcats, Vampire Ecstasy, Inga, and many more.
Included inside the keepcase is a booklet of liner notes from Sarno historian Michael Bowen that detail the bizarre production history of the movie and that include some stills and poster artwork from the advertising campaign made to promote the film.
While the story isn't really anything to write home about, Abigail Leslie Is Back In Town benefits from some interesting and quirky characters, some lovely ladies, a solid cast of instantly recognizable golden age adult performers and a few interesting twists. Retro-Seduction Cinema's disc could have looked better but as it stands it's a decent presentation for an obscure film and it comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.