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Friday, December 21, 2018

WARM NIGHTS HOT PLEASURES (1964) -- Movie Review by Porfle

Another of Joe Sarno's delectable early black-and-white melodramas, 1964's WARM NIGHTS HOT PLEASURES is the torrid tale of three smalltown girls who drop out of college and head to the Big Apple with fervent (but slim) hopes of making it in showbiz.

Of course, the road to success is littered with just this kind of roadkill.  But singleminded Cathy (Marla Ellis) is too determined and blinded by ambition to be deterred even when every lead she follows turns out to be just one more horny, sleazy con man telling her to "show me what you got" before leading her to the casting couch.

Meanwhile, prim Vivian (Sheila Barnett) hooks up with Paul, a seemingly decent man who claims to have connections and assures her there are no strings attached.  (Paul is played by SIN IN THE SUBURBS's Richard Tatro, whom original-series Star Trek fans will recognize as the android Norman in the episode "I, Mudd.")

Paul's frustrated wife Ronnie (Carla Desmond) befriends simple, down-home girl Marsha (the cute-as-a-button Eve Harris) and offers to teach her some of the tricks to becoming a showgirl.  Ronnie will also develop a tragically one-sided infatuation with Marsha that adds to the story's substantial emotional gravitas.

The idea of a trio of naive girls striking out on their own into a world of fast sex and deceptive strangers seems a comfortably familiar one, and Sarno's lean, colorful screenplay, in addition to his endlessly inventive direction and expert handling of actors, allows us to settle back and enjoy the ride from one dramatic turn to the next.

Things get sleazy right away when Cathy's first surrender to a repugnant talent agent's sweaty sexual come-on leads only to one two-bit producer after another as she struggles to make her way up the food chain. She ends up dancing and hustling drinks in a bar run by Dick (played by familiar character actor Joe Santos in his film debut under the name "Joe Russell") who drags her sense of self-worth even further into the mud by also demanding dirty sex from her.

Welcome comedy touches enter the picture when the girls rent a room from a sassy, sultry nudie model who's constantly posing for fetish photos down the hall, in the apartment of a young Irving Klaw-like photographer.  While the big lug's constantly trying to get Marsha to pose nude for him, he's all business and becomes a valuable ally.

Fans of familiar vintage nudie model Alice Denham will be delighted to see her in the flesh (so to speak) as the landlady, who's equally adept at single-girl glamour pics or the kinkier bondage and S&M stuff.

As usual, the black-and-white photography is exquisite as the camerawork and staging consistently bring out the best in Sarno's typically expressive cast. The musical score is a cacophony of hepcat jazz, like one of Fred Katz's scores for Roger Corman, and I recognized at least one cue from the same library music used earlier in THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE.

Sarno admirers should scarf up this concoction of illicit sex, brief nudity, drama, tragedy, despair, debasement, disillusionment, and betrayal, with occasional bits of lighthearted fun to keep things from getting too heavy.  At least one of our our heroines will find a glimmer of hope that may lead to success, while the other girls' luck goes bad in ways that play heavily on our sympathy without ever getting maudlin.

The print used by Film Movement Classics has the usual wear and tear of these early Sarno films which we're lucky to have in any condition (this one has been lost since 1964) despite being cleaned up as much as possible for this Blu-ray release.

I think it looks great, and any imperfections only give it that unique grindhouse feel which, as I've stressed on numerous occasions, only adds to my nostalgic enjoyment of older films.  (I like a print that looks like it's been around the block a few times.)  No extras this time, but the film itself is its own reward.

WARM NIGHTS HOT PLEASURES finds the director continuing to wield his keen story sense and artist's eye to give us a nudie sex flick that feels as substantial and worthwhile as many Hollywood potboilers, but a lot more naughty, taboo-twisting fun.

Read our reviews of other Joe Sarno films HERE


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