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Saturday, December 8, 2018

SIN IN THE SUBURBS (1964) -- Movie Review by Porfle

SIN IN THE SUBURBS (1964) is writer-director Joe Sarno continuing to come into his own as a filmmaker who takes the genre of naughty, softcore sex potboilers and invests it with an unusual dramatic heft and interesting characters who trade dialogue that's sharp and fun to listen to.

Not to say that the obligatory sleaze and tawdriness of such films are missing here--it's the sort of world Sarno's characters exist in, whether they be conniving lowlifes using sex for gain or well-to-do hypocrites posing as model citizens while indulging forbidden sexual perversions behind closed doors.

The term "when the cat's away" really fits this normal-looking 60s suburb in which lonely, sex-hungry wives, feeling neglected by their working husbands, have it off with various neighbors, workmen, or, in the case of Mrs. Lewis (Audrey Campbell, THE SEXPERTS), her teen daughter Kathy's high school friend.

Meanwhile, we see local sex-bomb Yvette lounging around the house in lingerie and paying the furniture bill by seducing the collector.  Yvette lives with her supposed "brother" Louis (W.B. Parker), and together they're hatching a scheme to start an illicit sex club which they hope will have frustrated neighbors shelling out hundreds of bucks for.

What starts out a bit like a sex comedy (the bill collector guy is funny) soon veers toward the dramatic as the sexual vortex so many of the characters seem caught in starts to spin out of control.  Lisa, left alone while husband Henry is at work, starts guzzling booze and luring abusive workmen into her home. Mrs. Lewis has daytime swingers' parties with friends in her own house, one of which is walked in upon by a her shocked daughter Kathy.

Kathy, it seems, has the wildest life of them all when she's molested by her would-be boyfriend and then seduced into a hot lesbian affair with Yvette. Judy Young plays her with just the right balance between still just a kid and becoming a troubled, sexually-confused young woman.

It's almost the stuff soap operas are made of, but it's all so edgy (for its time) and starkly compelling that we're constantly transfixed by what's going on and eager to see what happens next.  Sarno's evolving as a director with an instinctive talent for staging interesting shots and bringing out the best in his cast.

The story content is strictly adults-only for 1964, with elements such as adultery, attempted rape, lesbianism, and other sensitive subjects that were still taboo.  It feels like we're watching something on the shady side, getting a voyeuristic glimpse at these desperate sinful lives.

Sarno's screenplay goes beyond simple sexploitation and builds to an emotionally jarring ending after one of Yvette and Louis' illicit sex parties, which is staged remarkably and with lasting effect.

Sarno's black-and-white photography is crisp, noirish, and constantly interesting to look at.  The print used for Film Movement's Blu-ray edition is very good, even with the occasional scratches, specks, etc. which, for me, give it a nostalgic feel that recalls the well-worn prints we used to see at the local theater or on late-night TV.

Having just watched the original Star Trek episode "I, Mudd" the night before, I was surprised to see the actor who played the android "Norman", Richard Tatro, as the dangerous guy Lisa foolishly opens her front door to.

Yvette is played by none other than Dyanne Thorne (billed here as Lahna Monroe) of "Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S." fame, looking almost unrecognizable with her jet-black bouiffant hairdo. The film's one bit of actual nudity is a fleeting glimpse of her bare breasts.

SIN IN THE SUBURBS ends with a shadowy, poignant shot that looks like it might be straight out of early David Lynch.  And with it continues my fondness for Joe Sarno's exquisite black-and-white early films, which are unlike anything else I've seen.

Read our reviews of other Joe Sarno films HERE


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