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Confessions of a Young American Housewife / Sin in the Suburbs / Warm Nights Hot Pleasures
Film Movement continues their line celebrating the work of Joe Sarno with this latest entry in the ongoing series.
Confessions Of A Young American Housewife:
Like Abigail Leslie Is Back In Town, Joe Sarno's Confessions Of A Young American Housewife finds the director working with a stable of talent that will probably be better known to those with an affinity or appreciation for seventies XXX films than more traditional exploitation fare.
The film focuses on a married couple, Carol (Rebecca Brooke) and her husband Eddie who enjoy swinging with another married suburban couple, Pete (Eric Edwards) and his wife Anne (Chris Jordan). These four happily spend their spare time swapping partners and boinking one another to their hearts' content. Things are going swimmingly for these armchair orgy enthusiasts until Carol's widowed mother, Jennifer (Jennifer Welles) comes calling one afternoon.
While Jennifer may be a little older than the four, she's not at all an unattractive woman, a quality which does not go unnoticed by Pete, Eddie, and even Anne. She might look a little frumpy and proper on the outside, but the three soon find a way to loosen her up. This trial by fire puts Jennifer on a journey of sexual self-discovery and where she was first at odds with her daughter's lifestyle choices, she soon finds herself drawn to the less inhibitive ways she once looked down her nose at. What Pete, Eddie and Anne don't realize, however, is that there are some fairly twisted issues that have left some deep and kinky scars on the mother and her daughter.
Despite the presence of some notable hardcore film stars, Sarno's picture is strictly softcore material, even if at times it comes a little closer to crossing over (though not nearly as close as some of his other softcore pictures) than other sex films of the era. Like a lot of hardcore material, the sex scenes are longer than they need to be and at times come across as a little too clinical, but Sarno's movie does at least have some character. While the picture teeters on the edge of soap opera style melodrama (a common trait in the director's filmography), the story does feature some fairly well fleshed out characters and a few interesting twists. The film also features a playful side to it, with an obvious sense of humor and a few scenes that show the two couples simply enjoying one another's company in more ways than one.
Like most Sarno films, Confessions Of A Young American Housewife is well-shot and well-directed. It features some nice (and sometimes poignant) camera work as well as some above average performances from its cast. The acoustic/folk music score from Jack Justis accents things nicely even if the music dates the film, and the picture moves at a decent pace. The humor is hit or miss and at times it's a little too campy for its own good but all in all, this is a decent offering from Sarno and company. Those who like their sex mixed with melodrama and plenty of seventies style soap operatics will certainly dig the picture.
Sin In The Suburbs:
Geraldine (sexy stone-faced Audrey Campbell of the Olga films) looks to have it all on the outside but her life isn't nearly as chaste or perfect as the neighbors might think. Her daughter Kathy (Alice Linville) and husband look to be normal but the fact is that he's at the office more than he's home with her and her daughter isn't as innocent as it appears. When Geraldine and the equally bored wife who lives next door, Lisa (Meg Ellison), get together they decide it might be fun to entertain a pair of hunky dudes during the working day hours to help kill some time. This plan goes well until Kathy busts mom doing the dirty deed. When a new couple move into the neighborhood Yvette (Dyanne Thorne of the Ilsa films) and her ‘brother' Lou (W.B. Parker), things take a turn for the worse as they start uncovering the secrets of the bored wives and decide to turn this into a business opportunity by running a secret club for all of the swingers who live in the area. Geraldine gets pulled into this lifestyle fast and quick, not realizing that in many ways the apple doesn't fall far from the tree…
This one is a lot of fun, a moody, atmospheric and fairly kinky piece of low budget sexploitation made with some nice visual style and featuring a fun cast. It is very much a product of its time but half the fun of a movie like this stems from that. Campbell is great here, while Ellison and Thorne are a blast to watch as well. It also benefits quite a bit from a great jazz score composed by Sam S. Fiedel
Warm Nights And Hot Pleasures:
Never before released on home video and, until recently, thought to be lost, 1964's Warm Nights And Hot Pleasures was the one and only Sarno film to have ever been distributed by the late Radley Metzger's Audubon Films. The film is set in update New York where we meet a pretty coed named Cathy (Marla Ellis). She's a pretty girl, thought a little on the naïve side, so when a supposed talent scout asks her to come to his hotel room for an audition after seeing her dance, Cathy is gullible enough to go for it. He sends her off to visit a talent agency in Manhattan and, excited about her prospects, she talks her two roommates, Marsha (Eve Harris) and Vivian (Sheila Britt), into coming along for the ride.
Upon their arrival, they're able to scape up enough cash to rent a spot at a boarding house run by a woman who works part time as a nude model for a photographer. Eventually they meet the agent, Gary, who convinces all three girls that they've got what it takes to make it. Soon enough, Cathy is working for a nightclub owner named Lou (Joe Santos) while Vivian and Marsha wind up in their own slightly sleazy predicaments. As Cathy works harder and harder to take her shot at stardom, Vivian falls for a married man and Marsha winds up getting taken advantage of all over the place.
This one is quite well done. The basic plot of naïve girls going to the big city to be taken advantage of isn't exactly fresh or new but Sarno makes it work. He creates interesting characters with all three of the girls in question and the actresses do a fine job of playing their parts with enough believability to make it work. It's also a nice time capsule of mid-sixties New York City, featuring some good location photography and a solid score as well. This is one that fans of Sarno's output should be happy to finally get a chance to see, it's a solid low budget sex picture with a strong plot, good writing and fine performances from an interesting cast.
Confessions Of A Young American Housewife arrives on Blu-ray framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. The previous DVD edition was 1.33.1 fullframe but widescreen seems to work better here (even if some may lament the fact that the cropping of the top and the bottom does result in the loss of some nudity!). The print used here wasn't in perfect shape but it's decent enough. Colors look quite good and black levels are fine. Detail, depth and texture receive noticeable boosts over the previous DVD issue. The black and white Sin In The Suburbs was previously released by Something Weird Video in 1.33.1 fullframe but is presented here in 1.78.1 widescreen. The framing generally looks fine, maybe a little bit tight in spots but free of any major issues. Detail is improved over the previous DVD edition and black levels look better too. Warm Nights And Hot Pleasures is also presented in 1.78.1 widescreen, making what appears to be its home video debut with this release. Again, it isn't a spotless presentation but the image is generally quite solid and it's nice to get a chance to see what appears to be a proper uncut presentation of the film.
Each of the three movies gets an English language Dolby Digital Mono track, there are no alternate language options offered nor are there any subtitles provided. Obviously, a lossless option would have been preferable but what's here is fine. The limitations of the source material are evident from time to time, which is understandable. Warm Nights is the worst offender, as it has a fair bit of hiss throughout, and that isn't surprising given the elements that were available. Still, if the audio is imperfect it's serviceable enough.
Extras for Housewife start off with a new commentary track from Tim Lucas. It's a well-researched piece that finds him talking quite a bit about how this particular film shows some interesting growth from the director. Of course, we also hear about the importance of the relationships between the different characters in the film, the backbone of most of Sarno's better pictures, as well as learning about the backgrounds of the different cast members that appear in the film, the score, the locations and more.
There's also a ‘mini-commentary' from Sarno included here. Running seventeen-minutes in length it's culled from older archival interviews that he did for past DVD releases. He speaks about casting the film the themes that it deals with including the incest angle, and how the relationships in the film form its core. Also carried over from the DVD are three deleted scenes originally shot for the film. These scenes have appeared before in the steamier alternate version of the film that was available on VHS but do not appear in the vastly superior looking print used for the transfer on this Blu-ray edition and the restored DVD edition that came before it. These don't affect the flow or story much, they're more or less just extensions of some of the sex scenes. Combined, these scenes run roughly ten-minutes in length.
Extras for Sin In The Suburbs include a commentary originally recorded for the Something Weird Video DVD release of the film. Here joe Sarno and his wife Peggy are joined by moderators Frank Henenlotter and Mike Vraney for a detailed discussion of the film and its history Sarno's tracks are almost always very interesting as his memory is quite sharp and his recollections intelligent and interseting. The moderators coax a sort of ‘Sarno 101' class out of the director by getting him to talk about his early films and what made them unique. Everyone is quite amicable and Sarno definitely shares some interesting stories ranging from casting choices to ‘where are they now' type anecdotes about various players through to shooting locations, who he worked with, his thoughts on other exploitation move moguls and more.
There are no Warm Nights And Hot Pleasures specific extras on the disc.
Included inside the case alongside the disc is a color insert booklet containing an essay from Tim Lucas.
Film Movement's Blu-ray release of Confessions Of A Young American Housewife / Sin In The Suburbs / Warm Nights Hot Pleasures brings together three solid efforts from the late Joe Sarno in nice high definition presentations. You can't expect these to look like they were made yesterday, and they don't, but both of the previously released titles look better than they have in the past and it's great to finally get to see the previously lost Warm Nights And Hot Pleasures. 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.