Two Erotic Classics

Amos Lassen

 A pioneer of sexploitation cinema, American film director and screenwriter Joseph W. Sarno’s (1921-2010) was a pioneer of sexploitation cinema. “All the Sins of Sodom” and “Vibrations’’ were shot back-to-back in 1968. “All the Sins” of Sodom” has long been considered one of Sarno’s most captivating films and was thought to be lost.

Preacher’s son Daryl Henning (Dan Machuen) makes a living shooting erotic photographs of young ladies for his eager female publisher Paula (Peggy Sarno). He falls for pretty young brunette Leslie (Maria Lease), and they quickly end up having an affair. After sex, Leslie poses for semi-nude photographs while Henning tells her how he never usually wants to see women again after sleeping with them, but feels smitten with her. She’s delighted, and poses some more. However, when Paula walks in on this, she shares her concerns that Henning’s infatuation with Leslie will distract him from his work.

Henning argues that Leslie is his muse and that she has the perfect face his shoot about the Princess of Babylonia and Sodom. This doesn’t impress Paula who arranges for Joyce (Sue Akers) to pop round Henning’s apartment that evening and applying for the job as the princess. Henning is not interested but takes pity on her and lets her stay at the studio while Leslie continues to visit for photo and sex sessions. Events gradually escalate as Henning grows increasingly dissatisfied with Leslie’s posing, often berating her for not managing to be “evil” enough. Even his lovemaking to her becomes distracted by his lack of artistic fulfillment.

Paula sees Joyce as an obvious solution and Henning resists initially, even though he is taken by Joyce’s naked frame when spying on her as she changes clothes. A tryst with Joyce seems inevitable. When he finally realizes that she is the face of ‘evil’ he is looking for, Paula changes her tune and warns him away from her. But by this time, Henning is enraptured with Joyce and intent on capturing her, both on his camera and in his bed. We do not see most of the outrageous sins we can think of. However, we do get lots of extramarital sex and some light lesbianism. Sarno avoids overt nudity for much of the running time. Even so, the sex scenes are sensual and erotic. The photo shoots are sexy, aesthetic and the highpoints of the film.

Thematically, the script alludes heavily towards Biblical references throughout, fleshing out what is ultimately a tragedy that warns against the temptations of the flesh. The tone of the film is surprisingly dark and the film is a bleak tale without much prospect of a happy ending. The tight, intelligent script and committed performances are what holds our interest.

In “Vibrations”, aspiring writer Barbara (Marianne Prevost) moves to Manhattan to jump-start her career and sex life, but ends up typing manuscripts.  Alone at night, she listens to her sexy neighbor as she entertains herself and her friends with the aid of her vibrator.  When Barbara’s extroverted sister, Julie (Maria Lease), comes to town, Barbara is forced to confront her repressed sexual desires.  During the night, Julie hears a lot of moaning coming from next door. She sneaks into the room for a wild romp and tries to encourage sexually frustrated Barbara to join her. 

It seems that Barbara’s next door neighbor Georgia (Rita Bennett) is a bisexual libertine who stages small-scale orgies in her apartment. Barbara, at the same time, finds herself attracted to Park (Dan Machuen), another aspiring writer who has hired her to type up his stories. But before Barbara can get her romance with Park off the ground, Julia seduces him and leads Barbara into Georgia’s circle of revelry.

The film starts off promisingly with an intense lust/hate relationship between two sisters and their fascination with the sex cult next door. However, after the initial activities begin, we get a lot of repetition. The uncredited cast is attractive and frequently nude, but only the repressed “good girl” sister comes close to a natural performance, sharply contrasting with her sexually voracious sister. Sarno’s statement here is about sex as a freeing ideal rather than a corrupting concept. Julia sees nothing wrong with expressing her physical needs while Barbara has something of a predilection toward perversion. But once she let’s go and discovers the original joys of sex, she’s finally able to stand on her own two feet, and become the strong, independent career gal she claimed she was. The movie closes with Julia tied to the bedposts and Georgia satisfying her with a vibrator.

Bonus Features include an interview with Joseph Sarno, commentary by film historian Tim Lucas and Joe’s wife, Peggy Steffans-Sarno and a booklet featuring liner notes from Tim Lucas.

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