The San Francisco-set third act of Bob Chinn’s original script to White Gold makes up the entirety of Liquid Lips, a true blue sequel to Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here but released into theaters first due to due to Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here’s more complicated set of post-production tasks which delayed its release. And although the balance of the action for White Gold feels more naturally tilted to the plot of Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here, Liquid Lips is a pretty terrific execution of concept. It has so many nods to the first one, you really wouldn’t be able to properly follow the story as it was released to the public as, along with 1980’s Sadie, Liquid Lips may very well be Chinn’s most story-heavy hardcore picture. Excluding the softcore tryst that runs under the opening credits, there are but but four sex scenes spread throughout the length of the film. Luckily for Freeway Films, this was enough for audiences in 1976 because not only was Liquid Lips a big hit, nobody took to the streets to riot over the non-chronological rollout.
After upending Travis Elliott’s narcotics plant in Mexico, Johnny Wadd (John Holmes) is recruited by the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs to travel to San Francisco to make contact with Agent Charlie Hammond (Monique Starr) and infiltrate Elliott’s distribution connection, Tony Sorrento (Michael Weldon), attorney and candidate for lieutenant governor, who is helped in his nefarious scheme by local crime lord Auggie Valentine (Vernon Von Bergdorfe) and Elliott’s former henchman Frankie Funai (Bob Chinn).
Given how much daylight Chinn has between the sex scenes, Liquid Lips gives some of the previous Wadd trademarks a real spit and polish that really display the graduation in style underwritten by its proper bankroll (proportionately speaking, of course). As was also the case with the beautifully captured coastal highways of Baja California in Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here, Liquid Lips has Johnny Wadd cruising about in his convertible amid the bright daylight of scenic San Francisco. Wadd’s visit to a strip club while in an exotic location harkens back to Tropic of Passion but in Liquid Lips, it’s much more integral to the plot opposed to the Hawaiian adventure which was more akin to a fascinating aside in a travelogue documentary where the shots were quicker and unbridled. Likewise, the climactic moments that devolved into fisticuffs between John Holmes and Bob Chinn in both Flesh of the Lotus and Tropic of Passion get an upgrade with the smoother effort that was also afforded to the fight scenes Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here.
Liquid Lips is also the last of the Johnny Wadd films to utilize the music of Ennio Morricone and it is put to its best use during during a moment when Wanda (Enjil Von Bergdorfe), Sorrento’s black widow hitwoman, goes to work on Special Agent Paul Ballard (John Seeman) by giving him a heroin hot shot with a happy(ish) ending chaser. One of the series’s darkest sex scenes, Morricone’s “L’uomo dell’armonica” from Once Upon a Time in the West, no doubt chosen specifically for its dreamy fatalism, helps the scene along immensely by finding the right frequency between hot and morbid and keeps the overall tone of the scene intact. Ballard getting held hostage and force-addicted to smack is a nice nod to French Connection II but, not for nothing, if I were given a choice to be Gene Hackman and forced by Bernard Fresson to go cold turkey and live another day, or John Seeman in Liquid Lips and die in a blazing, junk fueled haze at the hands of Enjil Von Bergdorfe, I’d probably have to request to sleep on the decision.
Twice-pulled gag in Liquid Lips is the gag of the unleashing of John Holmes’s dick to unsuspecting, wide-eyed women which is reflective of Holmes in peak superstar mode (the best of the two moments has shady masseuse Melba Bruce uncovering his member from beneath a towel and exclaiming “Jesus Christ… I don’t know whether to charge you double or pay you!”). Using his power for good, Holmes is loose, engaging, funny, and seems to be having a ball hanging back on a sofa and waiting for women to roll into his Holiday Inn hotel room and fuck him. Holmes also contains a remarkable skill in gracefully repositioning his partners with a smoothness that boggles the mind and is a visual reminder that the older a body gets, the more one appreciates the kind of marvelous physicality on display in adult films. So if there was an actual plus to be had in releasing Liquid Lips before Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here, it was that audiences got to see the slightly more relaxed Holmes performance of the two.
Monique Starr is in fine form as BNDD agent Charlie Hammond, the hardcore take on the Hawksian woman of action who employs a mix of both fraternal and sexual relations with her male friends. And Hammond coming in to lend an assist to Johnny Wadd means Chinn ends up accidentally beating James Fargo’s The Enforcer to the punch by several months by replacing Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here’s male buddy partner with a tough-as-nails female much in the same vein as Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan gets paired with Tyne Daly’s Kate Moore (though Wadd is less cantankerous about the situation than Inspector Callahan would show to be). In a non-sex role, Michael Weldon puts in the work as Tony Sorrento and wins first place in the Michael Findlay Soundalike Contest, and the icy, angular, and blanched Vernon Von Bergdorfe gives a delightfully strange performance as Auggie Valentine.
Special mention should be extended to Enjil Von Bergdorfe, Vernon’s wife and, with him, the second half of a live sex act that could be caught in San Francisco’s red light district in the halcyon days of adult entertainment. Not only are her two sex scenes in Liquid Lips winners, there is something to be said about her final scene with Starr. A fantastic scene of expository banter that melts into the film’s final sexual coupling, the first half is captured in one take and is both very well-acted by the two and it keeps a very good and snappy rhythm. All the more impressive that the scene required both gals to memorize scads of dialogue to push the scene along and there is absolutely no way there was a lot of time afforded to rehearsals. Cups up to the two of them.
Though, as previously mentioned, one of Liquid Lips’s four hardcore scenes has a dire end, the other three completely lie on the erotic side of the dividing line and completely deliver. Holmes only puts in 50% of the physical effort that he did in Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here but with such great clutch work by Starr and Von Bergdorfe, some slight nods to then-contemporary neo-noirs such as Michael Richie’s Prime Cut and Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye, and all wrapped up in a satisfying yarn to cap off one doozy of a two-part epic, absolutely no one who ever watches Liquid Lips will ever feel cheated in the slightest.
(C) Copyright 2023, Patrick Crain
2 thoughts on “LIQUID LIPS (1976)”
Really enjoy your review son cult cinema from this era…nice job
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Thank you!!! Much appreciated!
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