Streeting the same day as previously reviewed and highly recommended Joe Sarno double feature FLESH AND LACE/PASSION IN HOT HOLLOWS is this pairing of two suburban behind-closed-doors sexploitation masterpieces, both breaking down sexual mores and peeking into the secret sex lives of housewives and bored businessmen.
Stone-faced Geraldine Lewis (OLGA herself, Audrey Campbell) seems to have the perfect life: a successful husband, a beautiful home, and a popular cheerleader daughter, Kathy (Alice Linville, who Campbell beat the shit out of in OLGA'S HOUSE OF SHAME!). But her husband spends more time at the office than he does at home and Kathy has begun exploring the boys in her class, leaving poor Geraldine at home by herself twiddling her thumbs.....or so you would think....Geraldine and Lisa Francis, her unhappily married next-door neighbor, invite over two men at a time during the day, trading them off for hot sex romps, until Kathy comes home early one day and catches Mommy getting felt up by a sleazy fella in her bedroom, voyeuristically watching Lisa get buckwild with her stud of the day! Enter Yvette Talman (ILSA herself, Dyanne Thorne, who only shares one scene with her fellow dominatrix) and her slimy brother Lou (W.B. Parker, who was Campbell's partner-in-crime in OLGA'S HOUSE OF SHAME!). Discovering all the dirty little secrets of their neighbors and desperate for cash, they begin a secret sect of sex-swappers, with neighborhood couples attending donning silver Kato masks and Monk robes. But as Geraldine falls deeper and deeper into the spell of the random sex coupling, she neglects her young blooming daughter...who holds a deep dark secret of her own...
Hailed as a sexploitation classic of the 60's, it is hard to argue that widely regarded opinion. In a historical context, SIN IN THE SUBURBS is a ground-breaking masterpiece; it was the first in the "suburban sex secrets" subgenre, predated several films which have been said to be the first "roughies," and raised the bar for well-written, well-acted, and still very sexy grindhouse films. Not only that, it's a vastly entertaining sordid expose, reportedly based on a true story! Sarno begins the film by introducing the slutty Yvette seducing and bedding a repo man so she can keep her expensive furniture (!) and then proceeds to show the average everyday life of her uptight neighbors. But are they really that normal? On the surface perhaps, but scratch underneath and you have a hotbed of lust and desire which must be quenched, whether it be with the local handyman or a high school senior skipping school! In addition to the clever script, everyone gives a very good performance here. I have already sung the praises of Alice Linville in my FLESH AND LACE review, and I'll do it again here. According to Joe Sarno, she was 19 here, which would also mean she was 19 in FLESH AND LACE. Taking this into consideration, she is simply amazing in both films, in two incredibly different roles. In comparison, Audrey Campbell is good, but not great. She has trouble with line delivery and shows her origins as a model with her posture and facial expressions, but still leaves a lasting impression as the frustrated housewife. Dyanne Thorne, a dark-haired vixen in juxtaposition to her usual blonde or red locks (but still with that incredible bust), would improve over the years (she was an exotic dancer around this time), but W.B. Parker is sinfully brilliant as the mastermind behind the sex-crazed cult. Another standout performance is Meg Ellison (billed here as "Marla Ellis") as Lisa, the next-door neighbor who becomes insatiable and when she can't get a man, she turns to the bottle and kicks her job-obsessed husband out, calling up anonymous members of the cult to invite them over for a little lovin' to their infuriation. Sarno says he still keeps in touch with Meg and she calls him every year on his birthday.
As much as I liked SIN IN THE SUBURBS, I thoroughly enjoyed THE SWAP AND HOW THEY MAKE IT even more! This very similar tale features several of Sarno's stock players from 1966-1967 (Lorraine Claire, Peggy Sarno aka "Cleo Nova," Judson Todd) and best of all, the transfer is culled from the original negative! In a snowy upstate New York village, two unhappily married women bide their time with each other's company. The husbands of beautiful blonde Mona (Lorraine Claire, who was usually cast as a frigid Frau with passionate urges) and big-haired brunette Karen (lovely German Sheila Britt) are busy developing their own company, with their love lives suffering in the process (Karen's husband is played by Warhol Factory actor Louis Waldon!). Mona's next-door neighbor Brooke suggests the girls join the area's most happening club, "The Exchange." Rather than the usual men-swapping-wives routine, this time round it's the horny wives who switch husbands for a night of sexy fun!
If you liked SIN IN THE SUBURBS, you'll love THE SWAP! Quite a cliché recommendation, but it definitely applies here. Where there was an uncertainty in some of the performances and camerawork in SIN, any apprehension Sarno may have had lensing a virtually sexless exploitation film has disappeared. He had developed his own brand of sexy melodramas by this time, and THE SWAP is a perfect example of what makes his movies work so well, even today. All the performances are perfect, especially Lorraine Claire as the inquisitive young wife who bursts into tears when her husband's too tired after a busy week for an evening of marital bliss and finally takes the plunge into "The Exchange," becoming addicted to its forbidden delights. For another marvelous Claire film, check out THE BED AND HOW TO MAKE IT, where she plays a bitchy hotel owner whose marriage is thrown on the rocks by her visiting niece. Of course the cast had a superb script to work with, with smart dialogue, impressive characterization, and an emphasis on sexual psychology and its translation to the screen rather than the usual bump-n-grind that frequented 42nd Street. THE SWAP is simply superb, I give it my highest possible recommendation! Plus it has an incredible garage band rock theme that pops up at all the right moments!
Accompanying SIN IN THE SUBURBS is another astonishingly educational audio commentary with director Joe Sarno, his wife/leading lady Peggy Steffans (who is quieter this time around, as the film was shot before she became associated with Joe), and moderators Mike Vraney and Frank Henenlotter. Unlike the PASSION IN HOT HOLLOWS commentary on the previous disc, this commentary focuses on Sarno's early years, from his first feature SIN YOU SINNERS! through his lost film LASH OF LUST and offering plenty of anecdotes on the true story the film is based on (!), his thoughts on his contemporary filmmakers like Russ Meyer, Barry Mahon, Bob Cresse, and Dave Friedman, memories of Alice Linville, Audrey Campbell, and Dyanne Thorne, and also finds plenty of time to talk about more of his amazing filmography (MOONLIGHTING WIVES, RED ROSES OF PASSION, YOUNG PLAYTHINGS, working with Harry Reems and Sonny Landham). Vraney and Henenlotter once again make a great case for appreciating their rare finds (SIN IN THE SUBURBS had a 15 print count, and this is one of two prints that have surfaced since 1997!) and getting over less-than-perfect video quality. You also get some fabulous background noises typical of New York City (the commentary was recorded at Henenlotter's Village apartment) like barking dogs and blaring police sirens. Even worse, the two SWV head honchos claim they can't release MOONLIGHTING WIVES because of print condition! I say bring it on!! However, on the flip side, good news is that Mike hints at acquiring MISTY, ABIGAIL LESLIE IS BACK IN TOWN!, and several other color Sarno films...
Billed as a "Swinging Double Feature" rather than a Sarno double feature, the extras platter have a wife-swapping them to them rather than present more examples of Sarno sinema. You do get the trailer for THE SWAP AND HOW THEY MAKE IT, which isn't half as good as the feature, but the majority of the previews are for some really great 70s sexploitation gems! Best of them is MATINEE WIVES, a recently unearthed Southern California sex romp starring lovely brunette Barbara Mills (currently an artist in Venice, CA) and bewitching European blonde Allessanora. I reviewed this awesome flick for the Mobius Home Video Forum and I hope Something Weird gets around to releasing it on DVD soon! THE CASE OF THE STRIPPING WIVES is an L.A. nudie cutie (late in the game in 1966) directed by Manuel Conde, the cinematographer of many 70s sinema favorites like THE ALL-AMERICAN GIRL. It looks like a Barry Mahon film (gorgeous color scheme) and a Harry Novak film (buxom stripper cast) rolled into one, and the trailer is narrated by Joel Holt! Now it is reportedly still missing, but I could have sworn I saw a clip of Natasha (the tall brunette from KISS ME QUICK) giving a stripping class SWV's KISS ME QUICK disc. Perhaps STRIPPING WIVES is just a collection of loops compiled into a feature film, which would explain how the Natasha short is still around in another form? DROP OUT WIFE is one of the better films by infamous sexploitation master A.C. Stephen (aka Stephen Apostolof); written by Ed Wood, the dialogue is pure trashy genius! And look at this cast: Angela Carnon, Christopher Geoffries, Candy Samples, Sandy Dempsey, Rick Cassidy, Kathy Hilton, Ric Lutze, Foreman Shane, and Terry Johnson! WOW! Hopefully SWV will get around to releasing an AC Stephen collection, with commentaries by the man! SUBURBAN WIVES is a British sex comedy with a cast of nine beautiful women; one of them looks just like a porcelain doll, with cheekbones that could cut glass! SUBURBAN CONFIDENTIAL is another AC Stephen sexploitation flick, but this time in black and white and the sex is some of the most unerotic, uninteresting scenes you'll see. Even the novelties of a transvestite (Ed Wood must have written this one, too) and a foot fetishist thrown in wouldn't drive me to see this one. The narrator proclaims, "From the man who gave you ORGY OF THE LIVING DEAD! [sic]". SWEDISH WIFE EXCHANGE CLUB is a puzzling one: half of the movie is a badly dubbed German film, while the other half is new footage shot in Hollywood by a completely different cast! And I don't mean sex inserts, I mean dialogue and plot developments and everything! Blink and you'll miss a young Sybil Danning in one of her first film appearances! The complete uncut version is HAUSFRAUEN-REPORT 1, which isn't even a Swedish film!!
Also included with the trailers is "A Sneak Peek at Strip Poker", the boring strip poker short shot by Joe Sarno for an unknown producer to include with shorter features for theatrical runs. The requisite Something Weird image gallery is unfortunately the same gallery that has been making the rounds with the repetitive BOOBY TRAP theme (it's a shame there wasn't a strictly Sarno gallery created, especially considering Vraney notes on the commentary how much press material he has for lost Sarno films!). An Easter Egg on the Extras menu allows you to view the trailer for OLGA'S HOUSE OF SHAME, reuniting the three stars of SIN IN THE SUBURBS a year later! It's kind of bizarre seeing "Mom" beat up "Daughter"... (Casey Scott)
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