By the early 1970's, Joe Sarno had become a legend of sexploitation sinema. After a rocky start with nudies like SIN YOU SINNERS and PANDORA'S MAGICAL BOX, Sarno developed his own brand of black-and-white seedy sex dramas which focused on performances, characters and the destructive after effects of intercourse. All of these are rare gems in the world of New York City-lensed exploitation, and kept him busy producing such tantalizing titles as SIN IN THE SUBURBS, PASSION IN HOT HOLLOWS, RED ROSES OF PASSION and ANYTHING FOR MONEY, among over a dozen others. His first major nationwide success was with 1967's INGA, which made Jerry Gross a fortune and Marie Liljedahl a star. From then on, he worked back-and-forth between Sweden and the United States, producing one classic film after another. However, he took a detour to Germany for producer Chris D. Nebe to direct three erotic films starring former model Marie Forsa, all of which have been collected together for this set, the ultimate RetroSeduction Cinema Joe Sarno love letter! Gorgeously packaged in a fold-out digipack and spread across four discs, THE GIRL MEETS GIRL COLLECTION is a must for any fan of Sarno and 70s sexploitation.
For his first film with Nebe, Sarno wrote and directed VAMPIRE ECSTASY (a video title, the original release title was VEIL OF BLOOD, which it will be referred to from here on) on-location in a gorgeous Bavarian castle. Three beautiful girls of the same family (two sisters, one cousin) arrive at the mysterious castle of their descendants for the reading of a dead aunt's will. A couple of paranormal investigators whose car has broken down in the mountains soon join the guest list. Helga, a blonde nymph, is soon targeted by the spirit of a vampiric baroness who inhabited the castle years ago. The servants in the castle have formed a lesbian vampire sex cult to worship the dead bloodsucker, and seduce Helga into the fold through the use of spells, drums and nude dancing in the dungeon. She becomes a perpetually horny vixen and Peter, the supernatural expert, must fight to save the soul of the woman he loves.
Tied with Sarno's SWEDISH WILDCATS for his weakest film, the reason why VEIL OF BLOOD is tough to appreciate is because it is completely absent of any of Sarno's touches of brilliance. The script is barely there, almost impossible to follow and with no intriguing dialogue because of the cast's battles with the English language; the color photography doesn't allow for the shadowy tableaus of black-and-white; and frequent Sarno themes of incest, sexual repression, shattered taboos and sinful secrets are thrown to the wind. At times, the film resembles the works of Jean Rollin, with somnambulistic performances, dark static photography, and beautiful women often in the buff. The most Sarno-like moment of the film is ceremony where the members of the cult worship candles in the shape of human penises! A vampire orgy with a chained muscleman and lots of breast-squeezing lesbianism is another stand-out sequence. It's best to approach VEIL OF BLOOD not as a Sarno film, but as a standard erotic vampire film a la VAMPYRES. The atmosphere of the film is superb, the sex liberally sprinkled but never overpowering, and though most of the performances are wooden, all the women are beautiful and appear topless frequently. If only the film made sense...
This would be Marie Forsa's first film for Sarno and it is also her least important. She is not the stunning blonde goddess of BUTTERFLIES yet, but here resembles a darker version of Marilyn Chambers and indulges in several hetero and lesbo sex scenes. As with most of her performances, she struggles with her dialogue but has no trouble dropping her drawers and shagging people silly. Stunning brunette Ulrike Butz will be familiar to fans of the SCHOOLGIRL REPORT films, and Anke Syring, the best actress in the film as Julia the descendant of a vampire slayer, appeared in some lesser SCHULMADCHEN rip-offs. Amusingly, Nadia Henkowa, who plays evil housekeeper Wanda, is the spitting image of what Arno Juerging (BLOOD FOR DRACULA, FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN) would look like in drag!! Peggy Steffans is credited with costume and set design, but I believe this was around the time she became pregnant with the Sarnos' son Matthew so she would soon bow out of working behind-the-scenes (save a few films like MISTY and COME BLOW THE HORN!).
The fullscreen transfer for the film is not so hot. While this appears to be the correct aspect ratio (the credits say it was shot in "Eastmancolor and Widescreen," though), the image is often too dark to make out the night scenes (especially the finale as the heroine runs around the unlit castle). Colors are still accurate and balanced, blacks solid. The mono English audio is quiet, and since this is a dialogue-driven film, you'll have to crank the volume to hear everything.
The extras for VEIL OF BLOOD include a featurette interviewing director/screenwriter Joe Sarno and producer Chris D. Nebe. Nebe explains how he became involved with distributing Sarno's 60s product, which led him to ask the director to shoot some films for him in Germany. His uncle was the owner of the 1200-year-old castle where the film was shot and he also notes this is the first film shot IN ENGLISH in Germany. Sarno has little to say, but does chuckle at the thought of German peasants trying to peek into the windows of the castle trying to see the dirty goings-on being shot. He recalls discovering Marie Forsa on the streets of Stockholm. Both men share their memories of the provocative Nadia Henkowa, and achieving the beautiful sex scenes by allowing the actors to cross the line of softcore into hardcore. Nebe also contributes a feature-length audio commentary, where he elaborates on his stories and additionally reveals even more behind-the-scenes stories. Problems with the owners of the castle complaining about shooting nude scenes there, casting a Mr. Germany muscleman who had hard-on problems, the women spending time together offscreen in each other's beds, Ulrika Butz dying of a drug overdose a few years later, revealing stories like these keep on coming! The sound quality of the commentary is a bit muffled, but the historical value of it makes it worth listening to, and Nebe cuts no corners, using profanity, talking about his dislike for silicone tits and revealing who was sleeping with whom on the set. One disappointment revealed in the commentary: Sarno is still in touch with Marie Forsa, but apparently she wouldn't be interviewed for this set of her finest films. Like Laura Gemser and scores of other starlets of the 1970's, Forsa is now happily married with kids, so revisiting films where she did heaps of nudity and had sex on-camera is probably not something she'd like to do. Also included on the disc is the Joe Sarno trailer vault, with previews for INGA, SEDUCTION OF INGA, SWEDISH WILDCATS, VAMPIRE ECSTASY, GIRL MEETS GIRL, BUTTERFLIES, LAURA'S TOYS, ABIGAIL LESLIE IS BACK IN TOWN and Sarno's latest LUST FOR LAURA.
After VEIL OF BLOOD's successful release, Joe Sarno reunited with Chris D. Nebe, Maria Forsa, Nadia Henkowa, and Anke Syring to create BIBI, called GIRL MEETS GIRL here. Since GIRL MEETS GIRL is a title created solely for this company's video release, I will refer to the film as BIBI from here on. Instead of the fish-out-of-water horrors of VEIL OF BLOOD, Sarno is more at home and back in his element with BIBI. Marie Forsa stars as Bibi, a beautiful Swedish teen who comes to visit her aunt Toni, a set-up similar to INGA. Except in this scenario, Bibi is a sexually insatiable teen who sets her sights on every man or woman in sight! She jumps from one sex partner to the next: a handsome man in a yellow convertible, her aunt's lesbian lover, a prudish woman and her husband, the prude's sister and her redheaded friend who are into orgies, a go-go dancer at a local club, a trio of nude girls at a local sauna. But Bibi learns the hard way you can screw as many people as you want, but somewhere along the line, feelings are hurt and enemies are made...
After the disappointing VEIL OF BLOOD, BIBI is a welcome return to form for Sarno. Voyeurism, sexual coming of age, masturbation, sapphic delights, outdoor sex, and incest are themes and elements which Sarno had utilized before and they're presented here shot in dazzling color with a cast of German lovelies. Where the film fails is the writing. While Sarno's camera is an ever-probing participant in the sex scenes and the flesh on display is all of top quality (additionally, the sex is with most certainty hardcore even if penetration isn't graphically shown), the dialogue scenes between characters suffer from the stagnant delivery by the foreign actors. The character of Bibi combines several traits from Sarno's favorite female leads: the innocence of INGA, the manipulation of the vixens in ANYTHING FOR MONEY and THE BED AND HOW TO MAKE IT, the inquisitiveness of the young girl in SIN IN THE SUBURBS. Sarno also creates some beautiful scenes of forbidden love and whispered dialogue in the shadows of the night, with sparse lighting and great tension. And you have to love the great German rock score, which thankfully doesn't intrude on the well-done sex scenes (another Sarno trademark: all the sex is "scored" with sounds of orgasms, heavy breathing, and other all-natural sounds of lovemaking).
While she showed no signs of becoming one of the best international sex stars of the 1970's in VEIL OF BLOOD, Marie Forsa is given her first star vehicle with BIBI. The Swedish lovely still has some trouble delivering dialogue, but has improved since her last film and she really does a great job in the finale. And most importantly, she really gets into her sex scenes with a wild abandon which would reach its peak in BUTTERFLIES and her Mac Ahlberg films, FLOSSIE, MOLLY, and BEL AMI. One of her stand-out scenes is crawling into bed with Pauline, Toni's lover, and waxes poetic about her sensitive breasts, forcing Pauline's hands to touch them and send her into orgasmic panting. Ever the aggressive one, Forsa also whips Pauline with a branch repeatedly during a countryside excursion! Sarno's camera, when not scoping the beautiful bodices of the sex participants, loved planting the frame on the face of the people having sex. Forsa remains the best face caught in this frame, the Sarno frame of fornication, because her orgasms were volcanic and genuine. Nadia Henkowa, previously seen as a pale lesbian villainess in VEIL OF BLOOD, is a very tan lesbian aunt in BIBI. She isn't given much to do, as this is Forsa's show, and neither is returning VEIL OF BLOOD heroine Anke Syring as Greta, Toni's best friend from college who is dating Bibi's sole male love interest. Henkowa and Syring develop a lesbian love affair subplot, but this part of the film detracts from Forsa's sexual escapades so viewers will more than likely skip past these scenes.
The fullscreen transfer for BIBI begins with a squeezed almost 1.66:1 opening credits sequence (which unfortunately also has video-generated titles for GIRL MEETS GIRL: THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF A STUDENT ABROAD instead of the original BIBI title) then opens up to the Academy ratio and looks appropriately framed from there. The finale also becomes windowboxed for some reason. It's a much brighter transfer than that of VEIL OF BLOOD, but does contain a slight amount of debris and dirt during reel changes. The color palette of this film is much stronger and more pleasing than VEIL as well, with Forsa's platinum blonde locks radiating and the various costumes filled with pinks, reds and blues. The pastoral settings also bring out gorgeous greens. The English mono audio is stronger than VEIL, making this a vast improvement over disc 1 all around.
Peggy Steffans is credited on BIBI as assistant director, and with her sharp memory, it would have been wise to include her in the disc's accompanying featurette. Alas, only Sarno and Nebe are on-hand to discuss the film, but they still share some great stories between the two of them. As with the previous featurette, Nebe dominates. He reveals BIBI and BUTTERFLIES were shot in Munich and makes the accurate mention that Forsa got better and better as her Sarno films progressed. Sarno talks about the psychology in his films and the character relationships and working with Forsa after discovering her. Nebe returns for another feature-length audio commentary discussing the genesis of BIBI and its intentions as a vehicle for Marie Forsa. Nebe talks about the shooting locations, the various actors and their backgrounds before shooting, Sarno's unique shooting style, points out cameos of crew and family members, and never runs out of things to talk about! The Joe Sarno Trailer Vault is carried over to disc 2, but also present is a Seduction Cinema Trailer Vault, with previews for ROXANNA, PLAYMATE OF THE APES, LORD OF THE G-STRINGS, SPIDERBABE, SEXY AMERICAN IDLE, SIN SISTERS, SEXY ADVENTURES OF VAN HELSING, PLEASURES OF A WOMAN, FLESH FOR OLIVIA, THE SEDUCTION OF MISTY MUNDAE, EROTIC DIARY OF MISTY and NEW YORK WILDCATS. Of these contemporary efforts, only SEDUCTION OF MISTY MUNDAE is worth your time.
Now we come to BUTTERFLIES, the best of the three Sarno-Nebe films and probably the sexiest "softcore" film he ever made. If BUTTERFLIES could be called “softcore"...the film was shot hardcore and then the penetration cut out to focus on the reactions and intense chemistry between the performers. Some fleeting moments of hardcore are still present, but this qualifies more as a hard softcore feature which would still be rated X today. Marie Forsa returns as Denise, a beautiful country girl whose life is filled with joy and love for her handsome boyfriend, Freddy. But living in an idyllic existence soon bores her, and she is off to the big city to experience the glamour and glitz for herself. She meets Frank, a dashing nightclub owner who takes her under his wing. But she doesn't take kindly to the fact that she's just one of his stable of women and must choose between the big city life and her dreary farm life.
Among Sarno's 70s softcore outings (yes, he did do hardcore under a pseudonym and some of them were really good!), BUTTERFLIES is perhaps his very sexiest film (many say CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE is hotter, but I disagree). Like his other films, the sex is played without music and just allowing the sounds of man and woman having great sex to inform the audience of how erotic sex can be without the gynelogical close-ups and cumshots. The mix of European starlets and American porn stars is a good one and the sex is never short of explosive! Marie Forsa, who was dynamite in BIBI the previous year, had by now worked with Mac Ahlberg and had the sex act down to a refined art. Her facial expressions of pain, pleasure and ultimate ecstasy will never be duplicated and are the best Sarno ever captured. While the other sex scenes with the other actresses aren't bad, it is Forsa's scenes with her American co-stars which are the film's highlights.
Imported to Munich to appear in the final collaboration between Sarno and Nebe were New York porno studs Harry Reems and Eric Edwards (my two personal favorites). Edwards, who was often cast as romantic leads and heroes of his adult films, is the most genuinely nice actor the industry has ever seen. He has said that he and Marie Forsa had a torrid love affair while shooting the film and even afterwards. From Linda Alexander's book Dorothy from Kansas Meets the Wizard of X: "I found it a great joy to be flown to Europe, put up in a hotel and get paid to have sex also. Those were softcore films though I couldn't help myself with Maria. I did it hard anyway. Maria and I had a fling. It was wonderful. She was just my style. Whenever I'd go back to Europe, we couldn't help ourselves. We screwed everywhere - out in the bushes, in the Jacuzzi, anywhere we could, even in dangerous places where you could get caught such as in a public pool where people could walk in any time. We'd do it five or six times a day. Those were my good ol' days." He must have been proud of this film, because he used his real name on it (Rob Everett).
Reems didn't do the same, but apparently had a grand old time, too! Reems had this to say about the production in his book Here Comes Harry Reems: "It was one of the pleasantest, most relaxed experiences of my whole life....Marie was cute as a button and despite her tender years, was a wild woman in bed. She loved to ball. She didn't practice any sexual discrimination. She loved both sexes equally—and really a lot...Her sexual interest in anybody was satiated after one go. She couldn't be bribed into any further involvement with that same person....'Stay away from Marie,' Joe warned me. 'Don't forget. Your scene with her isn't coming up for eleven days. If you ball her before, she'll drop you and won't do the scene.'...Staying away from Marie was, I think, the greatest challenge that has confronted me in my professional life. My heart longed for her, my fly bulged for her. She knew it and went out of her way to make it as hard for me as she could." Reems goes on to describe Forsa inviting Reems over to have sex with a German girl while she watched and they gave each other oral sex at the top of a mountain which got them both off, and allowed her to want more from their scene together.
The storyline of BUTTERFLIES is another departure from the usual Sarno themes, and is reminiscent of THE SEDUCTION OF INGA (a young girl in the big city trying to make it). But Marie Forsa is a different kind of sexual animal than Marie Liljedahl. She is what drives BUTTERFLIES and the film simply wouldn't have been successful without her on-board. Sadly, this was to be the last time Sarno and Forsa worked together, as she graduated to working with Mac Ahlberg, and she would also be the last starlet whose career he would launch. There is a bizarre comic scene thrown in where Denise hitches a ride with an underwear salesman and decides to have him pull over for her to try on some of his wares, the very tan Nadia Henkowa returns as the lesbian co-owner of Frank's club, and another great German rock score keeps things swinging. Of the three films presented in this set, BUTTERFLIES is the bonafide masterpiece
RetroSeduction Cinema has preserved the original director's cut of BUTTERFLIES. They also offered a "grindhouse cut" with the XXX inserts shot in the US, but this version preserved on DVD is the preferred edit. The fullscreen transfer once again looks accurate and aside from a decent amount of grain and some speckling at reel changes, this is a fine-looking restoration job! The colors of the outdoors scenes are beautiful, as are the costumes and lighting in the nightclub sequences, which could well have been filmed in light-filled OC apartments. All of the fleshtones are accurate, which are important during the many sex scenes. The English mono is decent, but really shines during the sounds of sex.
Nebe and Sarno are on-hand again for another featurette discussing the idea behind shooting a hardcore film as softcore and flying Harry Reems and Eric Edwards to Munich to shoot the film. This featurette strangely sets up the history of Sarno's sinema, from his beginnings in cinema to his meeting with Nebe, perhaps because BUTTERFLIES is the best film the pair produced together even if it was their last. It's been established in previous Sarno interviews that almost all the sex in his films, even some of those in the 1960's, was real or as real as possible, and Sarno explains the reason for this. Reems' stud reputation is still intact after hearing tales of him giving the actresses the best lays of their life, all on-camera! Rather than a feature-length audio commentary, Nebe appears again in the form of an audio interview with Sarno biographer Michael J. Bowen. Introduced by RetroSeduction Cinema president Michael Raso, the interview covers Nebe's beginnings as a film producer and working in exploitation over the decades, film dubbing, the production schedules of his films with Sarno, the music which appears in the films, the various cast and crew members and shooting in Germany. It's a very good interview and is actually slightly better than the previous commentaries because Bowen knows all the right questions to ask and it never digresses into the frank sex talk of the other discs' audio supplements.
Disc 4 is a very special treat, containing a selection of soundtrack music from the three films! There is no listing of the contents of the disc, but tracks 1-5 are from BIBI, tracks 6-17 are from BUTTERFLIES and tracks 18-27 are from VEIL OF BLOOD. "Baby Love" from BIBI (Track 1) and "Baby Tramp" from BUTTERFLIES (Track 6) sound so much alike it's ridiculous, but both are really great soft rock songs and I'm glad to have them on CD!
Inside the gatefold is a 15-page booklet of amazing liner notes written by Sarno & Wishman biographer Michael J. Bowen (note to Bowen: when can we expect these books? I'm dying to read them!). Bowen follows the history of the partnership between Joe Sarno and Chris D. Nebe, the backgrounds of many of the actors, quotes from Peggy Steffans and Eric Edwards on the films, the production schedules of all three features, and behind-the-scenes tidbits which somehow didn't manage to pop up in the featurettes or commentaries! Sprinkled among the text are rare behind-the-scenes stills of Sarno at work on the set of BUTTERFLIES! Strangely, Bowen says Forsa didn't "lend herself to hardcore footage," but it should be noted that Eric Edwards can be clearly seen penetrating her in their romantic sex scene in the first half of the film and that Forsa was known for having real sex with her co-stars even if the films didn't reveal it. For the best essay on Forsa's maybe-hardcore sex scenes, follow this link: http://www.cinebizarre.com/essay_forsa.htm. (Casey Scott)
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