Director: Joseph W. Sarno
Film Movement

The fourth volume of Film Movement's Blu-ray Joe Sarno Retrospect Series exposes suburban lust and hypocrisy with SIN IN THE SUBURBS and CONFESIONS OF AYOUNG AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE.

SIN IN THE SUBURBS: With bills mounting up ever her husband walked out on her, Yvette Talman (Dyanne Thorne, ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE SS) has taken to seducing bill collectors at the urging of her layabout brother Louis Muse (W.B. Parker, OLGA'S HOUSE OF SHAME). Yvette is resentful of the neighborhood women for looking down on her as a divorcee while carrying on with their boyfriends in their husbands' absence during the day, and this insight inspires Louis to a moneymaking enterprise: a swinger's club with the promise of anonymity through disguise and a constant supply of partners for the paying members who would be unable to distinguish them from one another. He targets housewife Geraldine Lewis (Audrey Campbell, OLGA'S GIRLS) whose perfidy while her husband is at work has been revealed to him via Geraldine's daughter Kathy (Alice Linville, FLESH AND LACE) who seeks comfort in Yvette as confidant, surrogate mother, and lover after her boyfriend Jimmy (Wayne Roberts) slaps her when she refuses to go as far as her mother has with him. Rather than turn Kathy against her mother, she helps her understand her mother's needs as well as her own. The secrecy of the club, however, may be exposed when Louis orders his sister to cut Kathy loose.

Sarno's earlier SIN YOU SINNERS! was a pivotal Sarno film in that it introduced not only some of his obsessions with both incest and the stifling of one's sexuality by that of a relative as well as supernatural talismans, but also the hypocrisy of an insular small town setting with regard to their sexual practices and perceptions of others. SIN IN THE SUBURBS is nevertheless Sarno's first major work to explore some of these ideas in the suburban setting he would return to in his later 1970s work. The setting is not merely one of economical convenience, it is powerfully employed to explore show the ways in which people are similar and the ways in which they attempt to distinguish themselves from others' more negative aspects. The houses are of the same design (although they do not seem to be the same location redressed), everyone can hear their neighbors airing dirty laundry from next door, and what the wives get up to almost seems like an open secret. This is most apparent with regard to the Lewis' neighbor Lisa (Marla Ellis, PANDORA AND THE MAGIC BOX) who is starved for affection from her workaholic husband (Joseph Garri, NIGHT OF EVIL) and takes to the bottle after surrendering to the advances of a road worker (Richard Tatro, WARM NIGHTS AND HOT PLEASURES) only to accept an invitation from Geraldine who then suggests that she bring her new beau along. Geraldine is ultimately undone not by exposure but the realization that she has missed her daughter's childhood and the woman she has become is a cold stranger because of it (Linville would succeed Campbell in MME. OLGA'S MASSAGE PARLOR). The score by Sam S. Fiedel features sleazy jazz saxophone, a couple twist numbers, and one jazzy track that becomes vertiginous as it builds upon itself underscoring sex scenes.

Released and reissued several times throughout the mid-sixties into the early 1970s as an A- or B- feature, SIN IN THE SUBURBS was hard to see until Something Weird Video released it on tape. That earlier transfer was a composite of more than one print – is it rumored that only eighteen prints were struck – with one or two obvious jump cuts that was also evidently the source for Image Entertainment's SWV double feature with THE SWAP AND HOW TO MAKE IT. It appears that the same elements were used in part for Pop Cinema's 2016 restoration – which certainly qualifies as such because it runs three minutes longer than the DVD edition – that was the master for Film Movement's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen encode. The fullscreen framing seemed more suited to the look of the film, but the widescreen version does not crop anything ruinously (and actually lends some focus to some low angle shots like a twist scene with the record player in the foreground and dancing bodies in the background). The jump cuts are still present but the choppy nature of the climax is explained on the commentary track as cuts imposed by Sarno along with some optical enlargement rather than the substitution of an inferior element for missing footage. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track boasts clear dialogue and scoring. There are no subtitles or captions.

Ported over from the Something Weird/Image DVD is an audio commentary with Sarno and his wife Peggy moderated by Frank Henenlotter and Mike Vraney in which they Sarno reveals that the story was derived from a series of interviews about a suburban sex club that he originally wrote as a story and then rewrote as a script. They discuss Sarno breaking into films – directing SIN YOU SINNERS even though it was credited to Anthony Lover who left the film – his other earlier films, including the unreleased LASH OF LUST (which Thorne has disparaged in interviews). Sarno reveals that he had watched some other sexploitation films around this period but went into it without really knowing the parameters of nudity. Henenlotter brings up the fact that the Archbishop of Denver closed down a screening of the film, which they all suggest had as much to do with the sexuality as its examination of moral hypocrisy. Vraney notes that the film was consistently in SWV's top ten releases, and how faults that were acceptable in VHS are magnified in the DVD transfer. Peggy Sarno provides more production anecdotes, including the fact that actor William Donaldson (who plays the bill collector Yvette seduces in the opening scene) later married production coordinator Irene Westen who was the previous Mrs. Sarno. Video Watchdog's Tim Lucas has also recorded a new track which draws on the previous one as well as his research for his upcoming Sarno book. He too notes that SIN YOU SINNERS was a pivotal work but SIN IN THE SUBURBS was Sarno's first major film, and that it was one of three films funded by banker Earl Bradley who embezzled money and fled to Tangiers. He provides background on the actors, from Campbell, Thorne, and Linville to Roberts who was actually Neil Bogart (later head of Casablanca Records). He also discusses the ways in which Sarno worked around the production code while also noting the choppiness of the finale and pointing out how the refiling of the ending without the extras almost seems to suggest that it is taking place on some sort of astral plane.

WARM NIGHTS AND HOT PLEASURES: When upstate New York college girl Cathy (SIN IN THE SUBURBS' Marla Ellis) gets noticed for her dancing at a local diner by a supposed talent scout, she is naïve enough to call at his motel room for an "audition" whereupon he gives her contact information to a New York agent. An excited Cathy convinces roommates – shy Marsha (Eve Harris) and engaged Vivian (Sheila Britt, DEEP INSIDE) – to come with her to the city to make a go at acting careers. Pooling their savings, they find a room at a boarding house whose landlady (Alice Denham, OLGA'S GIRLS) is also a nude model for boarder/photographer Dick. Far from being a big agent, Gary Farnham puts Cathy through the audition process and then agrees to take her on along with her even more naïve friends. At a party, Cathy is introduced to cabaret owner Lou (THE ROCKFORD FILES' Joe Santos) who schedules her to audition as a showgirl for his club, while Vivian is paired off with host Paul (Richard Tatro) and his wife Ronnie (Carla Desmond, SKIN DEEP IN LOVE) offers to train Marsha to be a showgirl. While Cathy's ambition and the hope of legitimate fame push her into more compromising positions, Vivian is falling in love with Paul and is pressured to help him drum up business with sleazy investors while Marsha is preyed upon by Dick and his choreographer client Olga and quite unaware of Ronnie's desires for her.

Previously unavailable on home video is WARM NIGHTS AND HOT PLEASURES which was part of a three picture deal with SIN IN THE SUBURBS. The scenario is much more ordinary as far as sexploitation goes, but Sarno's execution is surprising to make its rediscovery more worthy than the likes of PANDORA AND THE MAGIC BOX. The central trio of females are naïve but not stupid, with Cathy seeming to hope that each contact will take her seriously but resigned to being used until the one man she sleeps with for pleasure tries to pay her off like a hooker, Vivian believes she is in love with Paul, and Marsha is shocked to discover Vivian in bed with the husband of her new friend. She assumes that Ronnie's drinking and misery has to do with her husband's infidelity rather than her lesbian longings, but Marsha surprisingly turns out to be the only one who finds something like happiness in her new lifestyle. All of the men are users but by degrees, with Dick pressuring Vivian and Lou pimping Cathy out to so-called producers, while Dick charms Marsha into posing nude for him and then facilitates her meeting with lesbian Olga. The ending manages to be both cynical and optimistic. The film was photographed by the same DP as SIN IN THE SUBURBS and again show Sarno starting to develop his visual style while some of the fixed camera long takes are simply economical.

The only Sarno film distributed by Radley Metzger's Audubon Films, WARM NIGHTS AND HOT PLEASURES was long thought lost until an incomplete version was found among the Metzger's belongings upon his death last year. Fortuitously, a complete print also turned up more recently and that was the source for Film Movement's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen presentation. Considering its rarity, the presentation looks more than acceptable with no obvious removing of bits for the projectionist's personal collection. Scratches abound and the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack has some hiss, pop, and crackle, but the dialogue is always intelligible and the jazzy soundtrack sounds fine.

CONFESSIONS OFA YOUNG AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE: Carol (Rebecca Brooke, 1000 PERVERSIONS OF FELICIA) and her husband Eddie (David Hausman, HAPPY DAYS) enjoy a sexual foursome fellow suburbanite couple Ann (Chris Jordan, THE MASSAGE PARLOR MURDERS) and Pete (Eric Edwards, CORPORATE ASSETS), but a visit from her mother Jennifer (Jennifer Welles, EXPOSE ME LOVELY) upsets their arrangement. While Carol wants her husband and lovers to cool things down, they immediately take to Carol's voluptuous thirty-seven year old mother… and not just because of her homemade pies. When Pete makes a move on Jennifer, she decides to leave early so as not to hurt Ann, forcing Carol to reveal that her "baby is a husband-swapper." Jennifer agrees to stay and accept her daughter's lifestyle but she becomes hot and bothered listening to them and eventually accepts Pete and then Eddie into her bed. When even Ann admits being drawn to Jennifer, Carol starts to feel overshadowed by her mother and deeply disturbed by a long-repressed attraction. Meanwhile, Jennifer finds herself falling for Ken, a young man whose life fell apart after his wife left him and who could only find a job as a delivery boy in the aftermath.

CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE may not be as sexually explicit as Sarno's other 1970s attempts at staying this side of the softcore/hardcore line – the others being ABIGAIL LESLIE IS BACK IN TOWN, LAURA'S TOYS, and MISTY – contains copious nudity and hot if inexplicit sex scenes, but it may also be the most psychologically complexed and accomplished of Sarno's latter day softcores, the flipside of SIN IN THE SUBURBS. Like SIN and ABIGAIL LESLIE, it looks at suburban swinging, albeit with less of an emphasis on hypocrisy, while also utilizing the INGA/THE LAYOUT/BIBI TEOREMA-esque device of a comely catalyst; however, it is repressed mother Jennifer rather than a naïve virgin, while her sexuality overshadows that of daughter Carol who is here the more experienced and less inhibited. Carol, however, expresses jealousy when Eddie strays outside of their foursome, and is shocked when Jennifer reveals that she is less likely to get married again than to just live with a guy. Jennifer parts with Ken with the philosophy that "nothing is permanent" although the fifth wheel nature of her relationship with the foursome is not quite as toxic as the relationship between sisters in ALL THE SINS OF SODOM that has one deciding to run off with a man who is unlikely to remain faithful to her (and neither are as naïve as poor INGA). The topic of incest of is breached here, but even in Sarno's world of sexual exploration some lines should not be crossed (at least if relationships are to be maintained as potential or realized father/daughter incest is portrayed in a negative light in some of Sarno's other films). Some light-hearted comedy prevents the film from being a dreary drama, with some overt touches by Jordan and Edwards, while Brooke brings out her comic chops in a series of exaggerated model poses during the end credits.

Theatrically released by Associated Film Distributors in an R-rated version, CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE had some of its clipped erotic footage restored for cable and home video. This longer version turned up on unauthorized DVD in the United Kingdom (they also got the R-rated version theatrically) and unauthorized VHS stateside from Alpha Blue Archives. When Surrender Cinema struck a new transfer for their 2008 fullscreen DVD (which also included a CD soundtrack), the only print source was the R-rated version, so the deleted scenes were included as a video-sourced extra. That is the same situation with Film Movement's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen transfer. Colors are slightly richer and shadows are not as blocky. The fullscreen version occasionally revealed a bit of frontal nudity, but the widescreen compositions are more balanced. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is clean, delivering clear dialogue and the acoustic score of Jack Justis – who also scored ABIGAIL LESLIE and MISTY – nicely.

Tim Lucas provides another commentary here in which he discusses the film's continuation of various Sarno themes while also noting how they and Sarno's attitudes towards them have evolved in the decade since SIN IN THE SUBURBS. He also discusses the complex dynamics of the character relationships as well as the ways in which the comedy not present in the original script was not only genuinely funny but balanced out the drama. A seventeen-minute mini-commentary draws from a video interview Sarno recorded for the DVD edition in which he discusses the cast, the central conflict between mother and daughter, and the theme of incest and the observations he made of such relationships among people he knew growing up (noting the disconnect between those involved in it who abhor the idea in others). The deleted scenes (10:23) seem more extensive than they already are. They are three scene extensions with slightly more bumping and grinding during the foursome, a slightly longer version of the Pete and Jennifer scene, with the bulk of the time extending the tantric sex scene which is the most explicit and also makes clearer Jennifer's reaction at the end of it (especially as it relates to Carol's explanation at the end). There are no trailers for the films, but the case includes a booklet by Tim Lucas in which he discusses both films, noting that SIN IN THE SUBURBS initially played along more mainstream films in arthouses and even as an A-feature to some of Harry Novak's raunchier films as late as the early 1970s. (Eric Cotenas)