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Monday, November 30, 2009


After seeing trailers for some of Joe Sarno's 70s sexploitation flicks on another Retro-Seduction Cinema DVD, along with a brief retrospective of his work, I was eager to see one of them for myself. I got my wish when CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE (1974) fell into my hot little hands, and I wasn't disappointed. It's a prime example of good filmmaking on a low budget, displaying a certain class and style that transcends the cheap sleaze this genre is often known for while still generously indulging our more prurient interests.

The simple storyline involves a pretty young housewife named named Carole (Rebecca Brooke) and her husband Eddie (David Hausman), who have a wide-open sexual relationship that includes their ultra-horny neighbors Anna (Chris Jordan) and her hubby Pete (Eric Edwards). When Carole's straight-laced, widowed mother Jennifer comes to visit, the young swingers are immediately fascinated by the gorgeous blonde mature babe whose repressed sexuality is just waiting to explode.

As the initially-shocked Jennifer lets down her inhibitions and begins to take part in her daughter's free-love lifestyle, each participant is so deeply affected by her that their relationships with each other are threatened. Not only that, but Carole herself is dangerously close to giving in to long dormant incestual feelings and going ga-ga for her own mom. Complicating things even more is the fact that Jennifer is forming her own relationship outside the group with a handsome young grocery delivery guy who is yearning for love after being abandoned by his wife.

They may not be great thespians, but the actors are appealing and play their characters well. Rebecca Brooke is a fresh young presence as Carole, while David Hausman plays her husband Eddie as a grown-up version of Greg Brady. As Anna, cutie Chris Jordan (Eric Edwards' real-life wife at the time) keeps things light with her comedic performance; aside from her sexual voracity, Anna is constantly stuffing herself with food without gaining an ounce and swooning over Jennifer's baked goods. Eric Edwards, of course, is a familiar face to 70s porn fans, one of those rare examples of the X-rated actor who can really act.

The main attraction here, though, is the stunningly gorgeous Jennifer Wells. Not only a skilled actress, she's also a first-class knockout, and it's easy to understand how the others could be so helplessly attracted to her. Voluptuous and natural (no plastic, no tattoos, no shaved pubes), her transition from apron-wearing mom baking pies in the kitchen to hot-blooded sexual animal is pretty exciting.

This is how you do softcore without making it boring. The sex scenes are hot and the actors are convincingly passionate and enthusiastic. Chris Jordan in particular seems to be literally having orgasms out the wazoo in some scenes. Sarno directs the sex sequences as logical extensions of the dramatic scenes instead of just letting the camera roll while actors boff each other. This looks like one of the better hardcore films of the 70s (without the more graphic shots, of course) when directors like Gerard Damiano were still trying to make actual movies instead of just extended sex scenes linked by minimal dialogue.

The fact that these sequences don't go on forever with endless, numbing closeups of ping-ponging genitalia sustains our interest and arousal levels while maintaining our awareness that a story is taking place. As film gave way to video in the 80s and porn became more of an assembly-line product churned out by increasingly lesser talents, such concerns were either minimalized or abandoned altogether, as shown in Paul Thomas Anderson's BOOGIE NIGHTS.

Joe Sarno's script keeps the melodrama moving along while delighting us with some occasionally kooky dialogue. After their initial meeting with Jennifer, Eddie remarks to Pete, "You know, her tits intrigue me...she never wears a bra" and Pete responds "Yeah, we were sitting there and her old tits were crying for my mouth." Later, while coming on to Jennifer for the first time, Pete gushes, "Your tits drive me outta my bird!"

Sarno makes the most of his $25,000 budget, giving the film a distinctive look with its soft-hued, color-saturated cinematography and artistic lighting. The print used for this DVD is fairly good, though there are quite a few patches that have that choppy, scratchy look commonly associated nowadays with "grindhouse" films. (I grew up watching battered film prints in theaters and on TV, so I hardly notice such things myself--in fact, it gives me a nice nostalgic feeling.) Jack Justis' groovy acoustic-guitar score, which compliments Sarno's subtle, introspective style, is included on a bonus CD. Extras also include an interview with Sarno, a few deleted scenes, an illustrated booklet with "making of" information and some sexy nude photos of Rebecca Brooke, and several of Retro-Seduction Cinema's well-produced trailers.

Retro-Seduction Cinema is doing a great job these days of bringing back the erotic films of yesteryear, and this DVD is no exception. If you're into that kind of stuff, then chances are you'll enjoy CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE as much as I did. I'm looking forward to seeing more of Joe Sarno's films.

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