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‘Flesh Gordon,’ the ‘Space Age Sex Spoof’ of the Seventies that’s ‘out of this world’
08.16.2017
11:14 am
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People, we’re in big trouble.

On the far distant planet of Porno, Emperor Wang the Perverted has his sex ray pointed at Earth and every time he shoots the damned thing everyone goes plum sex-mad crazy. People are fucking in the street. Orgies are piling up everywhere. No one is safe. And the cry goes up, “Is there a hero out there who can save us?”

Too right there is. Name’s Flesh Gordon—who is somehow unaffected by Wang’s porny ray.

That’s just the opener for Michael Benveniste and Howard Ziehm’s schlocky sexploitation flick Flesh Gordon from 1974. If you are cognizant with the original 1930’s Universal serials or have seen the big screen version of Flash Gordon, then you’ll know just exactly how the story goes in this “outrageous parody of yesterday’s superheroes.”

Flesh (Jason Williams) teams up with a young woman called Dale Ardor (Suzanne Fields) and a scientist Dr. Flexi Jerkoff (Joseph Hudgins), who just happens to have a rocket ship ready to blast off to beat the evil Wang (William Dennis Hunt). This unlikely trio zoom off into space, land on Porno, and combat Wang and his band of “raping robots.” Along the way, they encounter Prince Precious (Mycle Brandy) the rightful king of Porno and his band of merry men, Queen Amora (Nora Wieternik), and the Great God Porno—a Ray Harryhausen-type monster voiced by none other than Craig T. Nelson. Thrills, comedy, and sex ensue.

The storyline for Flesh Gordon was so close to the original that Universal Studios at one point actively considered suing the filmmakers for blatant copyright infringement. Benveniste and Ziehm avoided this calamity by simply stating that their film was intended as an “homage” to the original source material. They also had all the advertising material labeled with the caveat that their movie was “Not to be confused with the original Flash Gordon.”

Flesh Gordon was originally intended as a hardcore space age romp with full-on sex but unfortunately “the filming of such material was illegal in Los Angeles at the time it was made (hard as that may be to believe now)”

...to prevent their prosecution for pandering, the filmmakers were forced to surrender all such footage [to] the L.A. vice squad, and Flesh Gordon was released without explicit pornographic content.

The end result was a rather tame sophomorish comic sexploitation movie that somehow managed to win over its audience with its likeable schlocky charm. It’s fair to say that films like Flesh Gordon along with the likes of John Boorman’s Zardoz or Ken Russell’s Lisztomania or even Car Wash and Saturday Night Fever say as much about the free-wheeling hedonistic zeitgeist of the 1970s as gritty films like Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Get Carter, and The Conversation reflect the converse.
 
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More ‘Flesh,’ revealed after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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08.16.2017
11:14 am
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Master of Mischief: The brutal horror and cheesy sexploitation movies of Pete Walker

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“For Men Only” (1968) and “School for Sex” (1969).
 
Let’s talk about Pete Walker—the sexploitation and horror movie director whose grand body of work includes such cult classics as House of Whipcord, Frightmare and The House of Mortal Sin.

Walker had a highly successful and equally controversial twenty-year film career as producer and director with his company Peter Walker (Heritage) Ltd. He started out in the early sixties making 8mm stag loops of busty models and finished his career on a high in the early eighties when he directed his last movie the big-budget all-star cast horror film House of Long Shadows (1983).

Walker describes his film career as “making mischief.” His movies (in particular those written by David McGillivray) take a well-aimed boot to the flabby rump of the British establishment. Walker has said he was interested in exposing the established order’s hypocrisy and “abuse of authority.” This he highlighted in films like House of Whipcord which exposed the depraved brutality at a correctional facility and House of Mortal Sin where a psychotic priest carries out his kind of final judgment on a few parishioners. Walker was inspired by what he saw going on all around him as he said in an interview from 2005:

“At any given time at my school, 50% of the masters had their hands down boys’ trousers,” he claims. “Prison wardens must have an in-built sadism, otherwise why would they do that job? Judges do a holier-than-thou act every day. How dare these people pontificate to the rest of us? They’re getting off on it!”

Walker made films quickly and cheaply. The son of the actor and music hall performer Syd Walker, the young Pete Walker raised enough cash from making stag loops to help finance his first feature I Like Birds in 1968. Shot over eight days on a tiny budget, I Like Birds was a minor hit and made a profit. It set the template for all of Walker’s future films—the “kick, bollock and scramble” school of filmmaking.

At a time when the British film industry was on life support, Walker was single-handedly making independent movies in guerilla fashion. He eschewed traditional narratives with their preachy moral undertones, instead opting for evil characters defeating the heroes and heroines or debauched couples have their “degenerate” behavior bring them happiness and reward—as can be seen in Cool It Carol!. Walker had a “fuck it” attitude and was shooting British cinema the bird.

He could have continued making soft core movies, but Walker decided in the early seventies to move into horror films with his first low-budget thriller Die Screaming, Marianne (1971). This starred Susan George, Barry Evans, and veteran actor Leo Genn. It’s an okay movie but doesn’t hint at what was to come.

The Flesh and Blood Show (1972) was his first proper horror movie in which a brutal psychopath terrorizes a group of young actors in an old abandoned seaside pier. It’s a thrilling tale well constructed and the kind of story writers like Richard Laymon would make a career out of penning in the 1990s.

Ignoring the rather poor comic strip sex romp Tiffany Jones (1973), it is the next three horror films that are his best work and define Walker’s career.

First up was House of Whipcord (1974) which was written by McGillivray and starred the greatest British horror actress ever Sheila Keith as an evil and sadistic prison governess. This was devilishly good entertainment that subverted the genre’s expectations. The film was heavily criticized and damned by many who saw it as some kind of far-right moral finger wagging. This was mainly because of Walker’s ironically subversive opening dedication “to those who are disturbed by today’s lax moral codes and who eagerly await the return of corporal and capital punishment.”

Then came Walker’s greatest film Frightmare (1974) which once again starred Sheila Keith this time as a seemingly ordinary neighborhood cannibal. Famed for its brutal splatter scenes—in particular one with an electric drill—long before Abel Ferrara made The Driller Killer—has led Frightmare to be described as:

A depraved, shameless and morally bankrupt depiction of the modern British family….

Frightmare is one enjoyable hell of a ride which benefits from Keith’s stunning performance and some well-judged acting from the supporting cast which included veteran actor Rupert Davies—who was best known as TV’s Maigret.

The final of this grand mid-seventies triumvirate was House of Mortal Sin (aka The Confessional) which starred Susan Penhaligon, Dynasty‘s Stephanie Beacham, Sheila Keith and Anthony Sharp as seriously deranged priest Father Xavier Meldrum.

Walker was raised a Catholic and gleefully uses the church’s sacraments in blasphemous fashion to kill people. The film was reviled by critics, though proved to be another box-office hit. However, Walker wasn’t completely pleased with the response:

“I was really hoping to get into trouble on that one. I mean, he kills people with a communion wafer, which is meant to be the body of Christ in Catholicism. I made that film because I went to a Catholic school where hellfire and damnation were rammed down my throat. I was waiting for a blasphemy charge from the Vatican. But it never came.”

Walker continued to make movies but the returns weren’t so good. Apart from House of Long Shadows, the best of his later work was slasher movie The Comeback (1978) starring singer Jack Jones. Walker retired from movies in his early forties and moved into the construction industry.

You’d think after making some of the best British horror films ever made, Pete Walker might have received a few prizes or honors or maybe a couple of initials after his name. But all the dear man ever got from working in movies was hemorrhoids.

Now having had the intro, here’s a quick taste of the posters (and some movie stills) from Pete Walker’s movie career.
 
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“School for Sex” (1969).
 
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Italian poster for “School for Sex” (1969).
 
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Combo poster for “Cool It Carol!” (1970) and “Man of Violence” (1969).
 
More posters from Pete Walker’s back catalog, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.17.2017
12:40 pm
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‘The Sinful Dwarf’: Four feet of pure, deranged, nightmare-inducing evil
09.17.2015
06:01 pm
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In a way I feel kind of bad about calling your attention to what I am about to call your attention to. Normally I prefer to highlight unusual “gems” of the outsider arts here, you know, marquee things we feel positively about.

This isn’t one of those times. This is one of those “This smells like shit, here, smell this” kinda posts. No, I’m not exactly being “a good person” by posting here about the oddball/disgusting 1973 Danish cinematic trash epic known as The Sinful Dwarf... but here it is anyway!
 

 
The Sinful Dwarf, as you might have already gathered from the title alone, is not high art. It’s not low art either, it’s just appalling on every level. But funny, too! The plot, as relayed via a very brief synopsis on IMDB is… simple: “Olaf and his mother run a boarding house and a white slavery ring. They also smuggle heroin to keep the addict girls happy so they do not try and escape. A young couple move into the house and the evil landlords take a liking to the female.”

Olaf is one sick fucking dwarf. He would pretty much have to be with a title like this one, no? That’s about all you really need to know about The Sinful Dwarfother than the heroin comes in teddy bears (via a sleazy crook who calls himself “Santa Claus”) and that the mother is a bit Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
 

 
Here are a few more salient details courtesy of Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies: The Blog back in 2008:

I know the LPA hates this kind of stuff, but if there is an apotheosis of the deranged, nightmare-inducing dwarf that haunts the dreams of little children everywhere, brother, I just spent 90 minutes with him. I’d like to think that’s a testament to Torben’s acting skills. Because if he’s not acting…*shudder*...

The set-up goes a little like this: Olaf’s mother is a former showgirl who was scarred in a cataclysmic fire that consumed the dance hall where she was the star, the same year that little Olaf was born. “I don’t want to think about that year,” she tells a friend. “First the terrible fire—then Olaf—one disaster after another.” Love you too, Ma.

Since the horrific end of her showbiz career, Mom has been hosting tea-parties for the Horrible Women’s Auxiliary and pining for the good old days, periodically breaking into ultra-disturbing, Nora Desmond-style dance numbers to relive her former glory. To make ends meet, she and Olaf kidnap young girls, lock them in the attic, get them hooked on smack, and pimp them out to a series of faceless johns. It’s a real cottage industry.


 
According to one tidbit I read online, Torben Bille, the best-known little actor in Denmark, had a good time making the film, but was ashamed that his poor sainted mother knew that her son had made a porno film, basically! (The Sinful Dwarf is not really a porn film per se, but rather something that exists in a cinematic continuum triangulated by porn, Joel Reed’s repellent grindhouse classic Bloodsucking Freaks and John Waters’ Pink Flamingos.) The freaky mother is straight out of a David Lynch film, if not Grey Gardens.

It continues, after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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09.17.2015
06:01 pm
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Yoko Ono was in a sleazy sexploitation movie called ‘Satan’s Bed’ (and it looks totally bonkers)
06.23.2015
12:35 pm
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Devil’s Bed has got to be the most fascinating footnote in Yoko Ono’s career (or at least one of the most obscure). I’m not not knocking the things we do on our way up, but this is some serious grindhouse smut, and Ono was never hurting for cash! The Michael Findlay sexploitation flick features Ono as the innocent fiancee of a drug smuggler trying to turn his life around. The sweet and delicate Ono is subjected to all kinds of sleaze (at one point she is referred to as an “Eastern delicacy”), and of course, she is kidnapped by her fiancee’s supplier. Throughout the movie there is a series of totally unrelated scenes of heroin addicts gang-raping random women. Was it for context? Did they just need more footage? Who knows?!

Three years later, Yoko and John would co-write and co-direct Rape, an experimental film in which a cameraman chases a terrified woman through city streets for 77 minutes before knocking her down to the ground in a metaphor for the invasive brutality of the media. It was obviously more art house fare than Devil’s Bed, but you really have to give those old exploitation movies credit for pushing the boundaries of what you could see on film—even when they were just total trash!
 

 

 

Posted by Amber Frost
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06.23.2015
12:35 pm
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There’s a Roku channel just for cheesy old sex-ed and exploitation films
05.22.2015
08:39 am
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When streaming players boast about their huge numbers of channels, I’m generally even less impressed than I am by the “wealth” of offerings on the grossly overpriced wasteland that is cable TV. I have absolutely no use for thousands of impossibly granular channels like The Christian Comedy Channel, Firewood Hoarders, NRA Women, and Cruise Addicts. Those are all real. But in their favor, I don’t have to pay $75 a month to not watch them.

But sometimes, that nanoscopic specificity does pay weirdness dividends. The Shout Factory channel proffered by the music/video label of the same name holds some treasures, as do the handful of channels that compile old cartoons that have passed into the public domain. And not so long ago, I ran across a channel, called Stop It Or You’ll Go Blind!, devoted exclusively to old sex ed films, with some “educational” exploitation thrown in. (Why is “Sex Ed-sploitation” not a term? It’s a thing, it needs a word…)
 

 

 
Unsurprisingly, a lot of these are a riot. There’s “Miracles in Birth,” a graphic depiction of live births shot in grainy black and white so blown-out it looks less like a miracle and more like outtakes from Begotten. There’s “Dance Little Children,” a creepy VD scare flick directed by Carnival of Souls auteur Herk Harvey, which teaches us all a valuable lesson about not letting slimy rich dudes boink us on the first date. The 1938 Sex Madness, Dwain Esper’s follow-up to Reefer Madness is streaming, as is the bizarre Test Tube Babies, a tale of swinging and sterility. And the ‘60s classic “Perversion for Profit” is there, the notorious and INSANE 30 minute anti-indecency screed in which L.A. newsreader/talk show host (and, later, NewsMax columnist *shudder*) George Putnam blames pornographers for everything from juvenile crime to child molestation. The brilliant thing about “P4P” is that if anyone actually held on to even half of the smut rags displayed for *ahem* viewer edification, they could be an eBay millionaire today.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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05.22.2015
08:39 am
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Rude, nude and lewd: Lurid 1970s Sexploitation posters
05.20.2015
10:29 am
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When I was a kid growing up in Edinburgh during the 1970s, I became aware of a cinema called the Jacey on the city’s main thoroughfare Princes Street. It was difficult not to be aware of the Jacey—with its brightly lit foyer, white-painted exterior and beautiful French-styled windows—it looked like some kind of respectable brothel or a dodgy gentleman’s club—which wasn’t too far away from the truth, as the Jacey was an adult cinema showing imported Scandinavian porn and American sexploitation movies.

Outside, directly visible to all passing trade, were small framed windows where customers could view the promotional photographs, lobby cards and posters for the forthcoming attractions. Like many inquisitive schoolboys, I stopped here on the way home from school (for purely educational purposes, of course…) to view the photos of scantily clad men and women in black & white or garish colors frolicking as nature intended. This display became like a kind of barometer for me as it reflected the “atmospheric” changes in public taste for adult entertainment. At first, there was the innocent healthy lifestyle documentaries on nudist camps with fit youngsters playing games, stretching muscles and touching their toes. Then the more specialized films from Sweden with young blondes quieting their existential angst with spontaneous sexual adventures with strangers. Then American movies that mixed bad sex with bad acting and bad dialog. On occasion, there were screenings of arthouse films by Pasolini (Canterbury Tales) and Fellini (Satyricon)—perhaps the titles had suggested more than these films delivered? The Jacey closed around May 1973, its last double-bill was I Am Sexy and Do You Want To Remain a Virgin Forever?

As this “golden age” of seventies blue movies waned there arrived the awful British sex comedies that regularly starred Anthony Booth (father-in-law of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair) and a host of respected character actors (including Beryl Reid, Roy Kinnear and Richard Briers), and even employed the writing skills of Monty Python’s John Cleese and Graham Chapman.

The audiences seemed to change too—from old men to liberated and progressive young couples to teenage boys their first flush of lust. This was a time when virginity was still considered “sacred” and sex before marriage was generally discouraged—which made having a porn cinema on Edinburgh’s most famous and busiest street an odd comment on what was deemed acceptable. Edinburgh was then a very genteel city, and “sex” for most of its middle class citizens was what the coal was delivered in.

Then again, apart form their saucy taglines, most of these films rarely had anything as explicit than can be found on the pages of Tumblr today. This collection of 1970’s sexploitation posters covers all the bases—from nasty stag films, to smut movies starring Batman‘s Adam West, to the saucy comic Brit flicks.
 
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More after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.20.2015
10:29 am
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Sex, Sadism & Swastikas: Psycho ‘70s Nazi sexploitation cinema cycle
04.20.2015
11:10 am
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In the mid ‘70s a whole slew of World War Two-themed sexploitation films were churned out (most coming from Italy) in the wake of the highly successful Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS. Most of the films, typical ‘70s softcore porn pieces with swastika-sporting actors, followed the standard “women in prison” film formula—the locale having been transferred to the Nazi death camps and field brothels. In Italy these films are known as part of the “il sadiconazista” cycle, the bulk of which were influenced as much by Ilsa as they were by three controversial Italian art-house films: Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter, Tinto Brass’ Salon Kitty and Passolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. The entire genre can be traced back to 1969 when Bob Cresse and Lee Frost created the depraved “roughie,” Love Camp 7, which set the standard for all others to follow.
 

 
The SS-ploitation film-makers had discovered that it was far easier to get violently sexual situations past the censors if they were presented within the context of being based on the historical facts of Nazi war atrocities. Of course, none of these films had any interest whatsoever in being historically accurate. The producers were making bank by exploiting 1970s movie audiences’ craving for weirder and wilder psycho-sexual delights and justifying it all as supposed statements against war crimes.  Producer Dave Friedman (under the pseudonym Herman Traeger) put this written notice in the first shot of Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS:

“The film you are about to see is based on documented fact. The atrocities shown were conducted as ‘medical experiments’ in special concentration camps throughout Hitler’s Third Reich. Although these crimes against humanity are historically accurate, the characters depicted are composites of notorious Nazi personalities; and the events portrayed, have been condensed into one locality for dramatic purposes. Because of its shocking subject matter, this film is restricted to adult audiences only. We dedicate this film with the hope that these heinous crimes will never happen again.”

These films pushed the boundaries of bad taste to their lowest limit.

It’s difficult to pin down the continued appeal of these films. Any first year psychology student could interpret these films’ appeal in relation to dominance and submission, bondage fetish, rape fantasy, or basic misogyny. The likely fundamental appeal for many viewers is simply the fact that a whole slew of beautiful women get naked frequently. For others, the appeal of a film like Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS stems from the audacity of the images and the bad taste campiness of the acting and direction.

One thing is certain, these blatant exercises in cinematic depravity make no apologies and force their contents upon the viewer on their own moral terms. Unquestionably, the majority of these films are in the poorest of possible taste, yet they present material in a manner which pulls no punches—a spectacle which would never fly in today’s age of obsessive outrage. These films blur the lines between good and evil when they present Nazi atrocities in a manner that may not only repulse, but also spark the prurient interest of the viewer. To most, the thought of this is an absolutely unacceptable identification with the films’ antagonists, yet there can be a very fine psychological line between repulsion and titillation—and as such, for some, these films hold a certain power, if not vulgar charm. There are those out there who simply worship outrageous schlock, and some that just want to see a pair of boobs jiggle across the screen, and still others who are truly sick, deranged perverts. For better or worse (probably worse), there’s an audience for this shit.
 
A top ten list of Nazi sexploitation depravity after the jump…

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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04.20.2015
11:10 am
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‘Sin in the Suburbs’ & other cinematic delights: Joe Sarno’s life in dirty movies
02.09.2015
10:50 am
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Poster art for
 
There is nothing more inspirational, beautiful and harrowing than an artist who takes true risks. Being an artist, especially an independent filmmaker, is hard enough. It’s not like things like job security, steady paychecks and any sort of proper retirement are going to be a constant. Couple that with being a filmmaker who works within a genre that is often critically maligned and life is suddenly a much more harsh trek to cut through. But none of that ever stopped Joseph Sarno, whose cinematic trail began in the 1960’s, with such arty and dramatic forays like Sin in the Suburbs and Inga, then segueing firmly into being one of the most notable cult directors of the 1970’s and 80’s. His legacy was first covered in print thanks to RE/Search’s seminal Incredibly Strange Films book. However, it was only a matter of time for an enterprising filmmaker to come along and do a documentary on the man and his work.

It took Swedish director Wiktor Ericsson and his film, A Life in Dirty Movies to make this needed venture a vital reality and bless him for it.
 
Great Poster art for Sarno's amazing
 
Ericsson and company had the chance to delve into Sarno’s rich cinematic past, talk with a few of his key artists and associates, as well as portray a slice of life into Joe’s golden years with his former actress, wife/partner, the lithe juggernaut of a woman, Peggy Steffans-Sarno. But A Life in Dirty Movies is about more than just a man who who forged his own path in the worlds of sexploitation and hardcore cinema and even, to some degree, more about one incredible love story of loyalty. It’s about the heart and soul of an artist in his later years who has given so much of himself to something he truly believed in. There are few things more compelling than a creative person with a “damn the torpedoes” approach, especially when it is coming from someone as emotionally forward thinking and sensitive as Joe Sarno.

A Life in Dirty Movies is an interesting title for this film, since early on, it becomes readily apparent that Sarno’s approach to film was anything but dirty. In fact, a couple of commentators joke about how any raincoat crowd going to see one of Sarno’s moodier character studies would have been crippled when it came to having a private hand-party in the theater. (This all invokes one of my favorite film descriptors ever, courtesy of Eddie Muller and Daniel Faris’ book Grindhouse. The term in question is “a no hatter.” This was a term to describe a sexploitation film that failed to arouse the male audience, since they would often attend wearing hats for them to take care of business in.) But that’s the thing. Simple prurience can become boring quick unless there are other layers going on, which was something Joe often incorporated.
 
One of the best film titles ever.
 
With that, we get glimpses of his work, ranging from his exquisitely lit, black and white art-type 60’s films, like Sin in the Suburbs and Vibrations to his 1970’s color character-melodramas such as Laura’s Toys and Abigail Leslie is Back in Town. Former collaborators, ranging from editors to actors (including the fantastic Annie Sprinkle), noted film writers like Jim Morton, as well as admirers in the form of John Waters, are all interviewed and have similar observations of both Sarno the man, as well as the director. One of the biggest ones was Joe’s emphasis on female pleasure. In a world where male orgasm is king, while pleasure is relegated to borderline incidental for women, Sarno was indeed a rare bird in his time and, to a lesser degree, even now. He definitely paved the way for female-centric filmmakers in erotica, which would go on to include Eric Edwards (an actor who was in a number of Sarno’s films in the 70’s) and another ground breaker in the form of Candida Royalle, whose company, Femme, catered specifically to women. These were just two of many who were able to create what they created thanks to filmmakers like Joe. One impressive tidbit that is revealed within the film is that Joe wrote the scripts for every single film he ever directed and given that his filmography, including both his soft and hardcore work, is well over a hundred, that is no mean feat!
 
Soap Opera meets Sexy Art: Abigail Leslie is Back in Town
 
Sarno’s love and respect for women can also be summed up by his decades long marriage to Peggy. Well educated and born from a wealthy family in New York, Peggy’s an absolute lioness to her lion in twilight. Dark haired with piercing eyes and a throaty, yet feminine voice, Peggy’s most striking feature is her absolute fierce loyalty and belief in her mate. Especially given that it is not the blind, Hollywood-variety of faith. She talks candidly about the harsh realities of their financial situation and past deals that did zero to line their pockets. (Talk about the sad, blues-song reality of too many talented and notable artists in their later years.) Their relationship is, in many ways, even more notable than Joe’s impressive filmography because it is so intensely rare.

More sweetness that is captured is getting to see Joe enjoy the beginnings of the revival of his art while he was still here. (He passed away on April 26, 2010.) It is hard to not feel some tremors of heart ache when you hear him say, “I thought everyone had forgotten me,” which makes moments like seeing him enjoy his very own tribute at the British Film Institute all the more resonant.

Speaking of tributes, A Life in Dirty Movies is an honest and loving one to an American filmmaker whose craft was, to quote Peggy, “...in his blood.” It’s a great documentary for fringe film fans and the curious alike. You don’t have to be into adult-themed films to appreciate the real-life story of a director who truly worked hard and cared about his craft and people in general.
 

Posted by Heather Drain
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02.09.2015
10:50 am
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