Twenty years or so after his last film, Joe Sarno returns to the director’s chair for Suburban Secrets, a modern day drama that returns to subject matter he explored in the 1960s and 1970s. So, Joe: what’s it like to return to the set? Says he, “It was like I had never left!”
The story of how this prodigal return came about is described in a DVD featurette. Seduction Cinema head honcho Michael Raso had been acquiring classic Sarno pics for his Retro-Seduction line when suddenly it hit him: Sarno’s still around and living in New York—why not invite him to direct a movie with some of our Seduction girls? Raso had already made The Seduction of Misty Mundae, which was basically an homage to Sarno.
At this point in the early 2000s, Sarno was in his 80s, but more than ready to get back into the swing of things. Raso asked why it had been so long since his last softcore film (1976, by my count), and Sarno responded, “Nobody asked me!” Raso signed him up to write and direct a movie for Misty Mundae and Julian Wells. Unfortunately, both backed out before shooting began. Although the current cast is very capable, you can only wonder what it would’ve been like with Misty and Julian.
Instead, Seduction bit player Isidora Edison takes the lead as Laura, a New York model who learns from her sister Winifred (Chelsea Mundae) that her aunt Sylvia (Tina Tyler) has taken up with Nelson Nyland (John Jordan), Laura’s ex-boyfriend and Winifred’s shady lawyer boss. Nobody is happy about this relationship. Nelson’s sister Judith (Kay Kirtland) sees competition for her incestual feelings for her brother; Winifred is worried about her nosy coworker Louise (A.J. Khan), who’s secretly writing a juicy novel about the affair that could get them both fired, and Laura is so shaken by Cynthia’s bad judgment that she quits modeling to go back home to podunk Walden Springs to talk her aunt out of it. Well, uh, let’s just say that the plot is a lot more convoluted than necessary. It’s a soap opera interspersed with sex. Perhaps I should just mention the sex?
Isadora and Andrea Davis mutually masturbate then scissor each other. Tina Tyler rides John Jordan’s visage, afterwards naughtily offering to “kiss that glazed doughnut off of your face.” Jordan’s character fingers his sister, then licks his fingers. Later they consummate their familial bonds in full-on sex scene where sister rides brother for a good five minutes. Sister then fucks Isadora Edison, who then gets some doggie-style with the brother; Tina Tyler, who at one point claims to “worship at the altar of her orgasms” lies alone and masturbates, sniffing and licking her fingers afterwards. Chelsea and A.J. get it on as a sort of afterthought, and are joined in by Chelsea’s boyfriend. If that’s not all, then we get some aunt and niece action. Aunt and niece! Is there even a name for that?!
The sex is definitely shot “Sarno-style.” Meaning, no MTV jump cuts to be found. The pace is… languid. For the plot, that’s not a good thing, but for the sex, it’s superb. The sex is conveyed in long shots usually focusing on the woman’s facial reactions and their very audible moans and groans. “This film is my ode to the feminine orgasm,” claims Sarno in the featurette. “It comes over loud and clear.” His women are sexually demanding. They narrate their own orgasmic responses, telling their guys (and gals) how to get them off. They are usually on top, controlling the action and the pace of their lovemaking. (Unfortunately, sometimes the guys are reduced to nothing more than a pair of disembodied hands reaching up from out of frame to tweak some nipples.)
As far as I know, Sarno shot this as a softcore. However, the scenes are so realistic as to make you think. There is one scene between Tina Tyler and John Jordan where the dialog hints that he was back at his old habit of shooting hardcore just out of camera range. Since Tina Tyler has a list of porn credits longer than your arm, it’s entirely likely that this scene (and possibly some others?) are secretly “extra-mile,” by the classic Softcore Reviews definition.
The movie is a hoot for Sarno fans such as myself because he picks up right where he left off some 30 years before. All the trademarks are there. There’s the woman who returns to her childhood hometown (Abigail Leslie). There’s an incest theme (Daddy Darling). Within the first five minutes, there’s a trademark over-the-shoulder conversation. Andrea Davis plays her photogropher role butch with a backwards baseball cap just like Chris Jordan (Abigail Leslie). Female rivals fuck each other (Laura’s Toys). Masturbation in see-through lingerie occurs (Inga). The aunt-and-niece combo may be a new element!
So. We have here a 2 1/2 hour softcore. If you fast forward a bit, I won’t be mad. But do stop and enjoy the sex scenes, because the master is back! This DVD edition comes with 2 discs, one with a shortened television cut (83 minutes) and one with the full director’s version. Seduction has done something very clever with the full version—they’ve made it available in their online VOD service, chopped up into 23 minute episodes, as if it were a 6 part late night series. There’s definitely enough sex and nudity to make it worth streaming all six parts.