Director: Joseph W. Sarno
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome beats Film Movement's Joseph Sarno Retrospect Series to its second release with a Black Friday Blu-ray/DVD combo exclusive of ALL THE SINS OF SODOM!

The son of a Midwestern preacher man, fashion photographer Daryl Morton Henning (Dan Machuen, Sarno's THE WALL OF FLESH) – or just "Henning" as he prefers to be known – has grown up obsessed with capturing wicked women and their corrupt ways to the point where he often does not want to see a woman again after he has slept with her. He seems to find something deeper with model Leslie (Maria Lease, Sarno's VIBRATIONS) but she is unable to embody "Eve, Salome, the priestesses of Bala, the princesses of Sodom, Gomorrah, and Babylon all rolled up into one." His infatuated agent Paula (Sarno's wife Peggy Steffans) sends him model Joyce (Sue Akers, DAUGHTERS OF LESBOS), but the homeless girl seems too naïve and innocent for him. Instead of photographing her, Henning offers Joyce the use of his backroom until she gets back on her feet with no strings attached. Henning remains blind to Joyce's true nature as he tries to get what he is looking for out of Leslie, but Paula tries to warn him that the girl is the "daughter of Satan." Behind Henning's back, Joyce seduces and intimidates his models. When Henning draws Joyce into a photographic session with Leslie, he realizes that the pair embodies his ideal of wickedness and evil. Henning pressures Leslie into more sessions with Joyce, but he is unaware of Joyce's own intentions to come in between the couple.

Somewhat of a companion-piece to Sarno's VIBRATIONS (made the same year with some shared locations and cast members), ALL THE SINS OF SODOM is unusual in the Sarno oeuvre in foregrounding a male character's sexual hangups against the usual backdrop of predatory lesbianism and sexual manipulation. Performances are uneven but it is the real sex scenes (shot mostly above the waist) where the men are as robotic as the vibrators but the women are most revealing and uninhibited. Henning's obsession never affects his "performance" and the string of sex scenes make for a listless middle as far as forward momentum in the story goes, but there is still much to appreciate. Apart from a couple out of focus shots, the monochrome photography of Sarno's brother-in-law Steve Silverman has a richness that contributes to the director's reputation as the "Ingmar Bergman of porn." Scenes of lesbian seduction are accompanied by frenetic tribal drums like those that drive the victims to orgasmic distraction in Sarno's later VEIL OF BLOOD/VAMPIRE ECSTASY. Producer Morris Kaplan has a recurring role as an elevator operator mugging for the camera with each appearance (but often outside the static camera's field of focus).

Previously released on DVD by Retro Seduction Cinema in an anamorphic transfer with commentary by Peggy Sarno and an interview with the director, Vinegar Syndrome's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray lacks extras but the company is still to be commended for the most visually and aurally sensuous presentation of a Joseph Sarno film yet on home video. Restored in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative, blacks are deep, whites gleam, and the textures of hair (head and body), clothes, and studio walls sport almost tactile detail. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono track boasts not only clear dialogue but a sense of depth created by the live audio shooting on location in which street noises and building sounds intrude on the tension of the mostly interior-set drama. Optional English SDH subtitles are included. The lack of extras may keep this from being the definitive release of ALL THE SINS OF SODOM, but it is a wonderful Black Friday treat and will slot the Retro Seduction DVD into the position of companion edition for Sarno completists. (Eric Cotenas)