A pioneer of the sexploitation genre, New York City native Joe Sarno emerged in the early 1960’s determined to breakdown the restrictions against eroticism in American film. Though much of Sarno’s work would be considered tame by today’s standards, context is important. Despite major social and political changes by the mid-sixties, film content was still tightly restricted, and influenced by religious leaders,”nudie” pictures were short on substance, relegated to seedy theaters, and largely ignored.
While both All the Sins of Sodom and Vibrations are soft-core by definition, and contain copious amounts of nudity, they have a discernible plot, and a professional look. It’s clear that for Sarno, the production side was just as important as the nudity. Both films in this set, All the Sins of Sodom and Vibrations, produced back-to-back in 1968, were shot in producer/ photographer Morris Kaplan’s small New York City studio.
All the Sins of Sodom follows the misadventures of a photographer named Henning (Dan Machuen, according to IMDB.com) who has a habit of sleeping with his models. He’s looking for a girl with a special kind of sensuality to be the star of a proposed photo book on the theme of Evil. When his first choice Leslie (Maria Lease), doesn’t meet expectations — she’s just too nice — Henning’s assistant and sometimes model (Peggy Stephans) advises him that Joyce (Sue Akers), a young, homeless girl whose been sleeping in the storeroom, has the lascivious quality he’s been looking for. As you might have guessed, when Henning starts filming Leslie and Joyce together, the sparks start flying! There’s trouble ahead…
There’s plenty of nudity, and Henning’s photo shoots are generally followed with sex. Joyce meanwhile, stirs things up by seducing both Henning and several of his models. While the acting certainly wouldn’t win any awards, it’s clear everyone involved was buying into Sarno’s vision, and not just another ‘nudie’ picture. That sense of commitment gives All the Sins of Sodom and several other works in Sarno’s filmography, a sense of realism.
Vibrations, the other film in this set, has a sense of realism as well. Set in the same studio, redressed to look like two different apartments, typist Barbara (Maria Lease, again) is less than thrilled when her sister Julia (Marianne Prevost) moves into her small Manhattan apartment. Barbara is concerned that her sister will want to resume the incestuous lesbian ‘thing’ they had as kids. Barbara has worked hard to put the whole incident behind her, and would like to keep it that way. As it turns out, Julia has other things on her mind. Namely, a sex club next door! Predictably, Barbara gets curious about Julia’s talk of “exquisite torture.” Eventually, both sister’s make it with one of Barbara’s writer clients. However, Barbara soon learns that such sexual freedom has a price…
Vibrations features the same cast of ‘actors’ as the first film. While some of their real names remain shrouded in mystery to this day, the very nature of these films makes it possible to label them nonconformists. At a time when taboo really meant something, sex is a kind of empowerment here. Sarno was making the kind of movies he wanted to make, taboo be dawned, with willing participants.
All the Sins of Sodom and Vibrations are presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Film Movement in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The superb Black and White cinematography, and inventive lighting truly shines throughout the presentation. There are no noticeable flaws in either film. The widescreen images are clean, and bright. Any shots out of focus appear to have been purposely done for effect.
The LPCM mono soundtrack on both films won’t blow anyone away, but it’s effective. Dialogue is properly balanced, and clear throughout. The music used in both pictures is decent, with the Proper ebbs and flows.
There are no subtitles included.
The following extras are available:
- Commentary on All the Sins of Sodom: Featuring associate producer and actress Peggy Steffans, the director’s wife, and Sarno biographer Michael Bowen. The two discuss the history of the film, and how it relates to Sarno’s other movies, his work with producer Morris Kaplan, the cinematography, locations, and more.
- Commentary on Vibrations: Featuring film scholar Tim Lucas. He discusses the effect of success, various cast members, locations, the distribution of the film, and more.
- Joe Sarno Interview (HD, 8:00) Recorded in 2009, Sarno discusses his time in Sweden leading up to these films, how he feels about the films, some 40 years after they were made, and more.
- Booklet: 14-page illustrated booklet featuring critic Tim Lucas’ essay “Sarno After Inga: A New Lease on Lust.”
Movie title: All the Sins of Sodom/Vibrations (1968)
Director(s): Joseph W. Sarno
Actor(s): Peggy Steffans
Genre: Erotic, Drama