Something Weird Video presents
Flesh and Lace / Passion in Hot Hollows (1964/1969)
"You little tramp! You act like butter won't melt in your mouth!"- Joan (Alice Linville)
Stars: Heather Hall, Alice Linville, Uta Erickson, Lola Valentine
Other Stars: John Aristedes, Joe Santos. Norman Lind, June Roberts, Alex Mann, Monique Drevon, Linda Boyce
Director: Joe Sarno
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sexual content)
Run Time: 02h:37m:27s
Release Date: 2004-06-29
DVD ReviewIn the world of the 1960s sexploitation/nudie genre, writer/director Joe Sarno is still considered something of an auteur. While wildly prolific, releasing well over 50 films in a 20 year span, a Sarno film was always a step above the typical grindhouse fluff, centering more on oddball characters than simply relying on blatant skin for the sake of skin. That's not to say a Sarno film didn't feature any sex and nudity—far from it, in fact—it is just that he worked to try and draw viewers into a story first, often a foreign concept for the genre, before showcasing the required lurid goodness.
Something Weird has gathered up a pair of hip, yet very different, Sarno titles for this double bill: Flesh and Lace (1964) and Passion in Hot Hollows (1969). Though Sarno gets a mention on the cover art—his name appears over the bared breasts of June Roberts—I kind of wish his name had been given more prominence. (Would the Joe Sarno Collection have been so wrong?) Generally, Something Weird releases match up a couple of thematically related pulp films, but this time, since they're focusing on Sarno, as they are with Sin in the Suburbs/The Swap,it would have been a really nice touch to have given him more of an appropriate royal treatment on the artwork. Dare I say 'boxed set'?
Flesh and Lace
From its opening title sequence featuring a couple of lingerie-clad "bar girls" dancing to some slow sax tune to its inevitable cat fight, Flesh and Lace is a cool bit of pseudo-noirish nudie fun, and one of my Sarno favorites. Bev (Heather Hall), a clueless blonde with a bad case of repressed nymphomania, spends her time letting men grope her at the smoky club owned by Dop (Norman Lind), a guy who puts the "horn" in horn-rimmed glasses. Bev's best gal pal at work is the street-wise Joan (a Christina Ricci-ish Alice Linville), and though the two ladies share a bed(!), they do more than that when Joanie's square-faced thug of boyfriend Rook (John Aristedes) shows up looking for love in all the wrong places. In between bouts of skin, sex, and fighting, Bev eventually develops an odd relationship with squirrely loan shark/toy store owner Julius (veteran character actor Joe Santos).
Sarno is really on his game with Flesh and Lace, filling his characters with terrific noir/exploitation dialogue that is campy and cool at the same time, with the right amount of dropped tops, predictable shoot-outs and two grown men unnaturally fascinated by a wind-up robot.
Passion in Hot Hollows
Made just before Sarno hightailed to Sweden to begin his string of kinkier erotica titles, Passion in Hot Hollows is a decidedly darker and less campy title, when untamed nastiness—in the form of sexually liberated tough chick Norma Sue (Lola Valentine)—comes to a sleepy small town and proceeds to shake it to the ground, fully nude and quivering. The shaking occurs the harshest to kindly innkeeper Joan (Uta Erickson), who just happens to be the straightlaced (aka virginal) sister of Norma Sue, and by the end of the film rampant sex and frequent bouts of lesbianism are the order of the day. It's downward spiral time for all involved, and Sarno notches up the taboo meter here by showing off the steamy repressed underside of smalltown America.
Passion is a coarser, grittier Sarno (even the print itself is a bit rough around the edges) and his habit of filming all of the sex sequences using heavy shadow and small bits of light give the scenes a weird arthouse feel. In direct contrast to Flesh and Lace, which was comparatively more frothy, the sex here is pretty active and wild; though he keeps most of the naughty bits in shadow, there are times when things almost seem more graphic than they really are, and the cast really, really seem to be enjoying their work.
Far from ever having been a household name but certainly known to fans of the genre, Joe Sarno is finally getting a proper homage from Something Weird with this double feature of two disparate films made at the opposite ends of the 1960s.
Kinky, sexy, and very cool.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Both black-and-white films are presented in a 1.33:1 transfer, with Flesh and Lace certainly looking the better of the two; though made on the cheap in 1965, the contrast and sharpness levels for that particular title are very solid. The print is relatively clean, and for a grindhouse flick it has held up rather well.
There is a disclaimer stating that Passion in Hot Hollows was struck from an original print, and "because of technical limitations and film printing conditions of the time, some irreparable imperfections and film-related defects may exist." In short, it looks fairly low-rent, but those limitations result in a noticeably soft and blurry print, marred by heavy specking and moderately oversaturated white levels.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Both films feature tolerable mono tracks, but as with the image, Flesh and Lace is the clear winner. Dialogue is clearer and dramatically more audible throughout, though with the usual limited dynamic range one might expect from mono. All in all this one is quite good for a grindhouse roughie. Passion in Hot Hollows, on the other, has a significantly harsher presentation, with more clipping and distortion evident, and most voices have an unpleasantly flat timbre to them.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
11 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Love Merchant, The Swap and How They Make It, Abigail Leslie Is Back In Town, Red Roses of Passion, Marcy, To Ingrid My Love, Lisa, My Body Hungers, Ride The Wild Pink Horse, Bed of Violence, The Sex Cycle, Scarf of Mist, Thigh of Satin
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Joe Sarno, Peggy Sarno, Mike Vraney, David F. Friedman, Frank Henenlotter
Extras Review: Something Weird has included a feature length commentary track for Passion in Hot Hollows, featuring none other than writer/director Joe Sarno, actress Peggy Sarno, moderated by Basket Case director Frank Henenlotter, Something Weird's Mike Vraney, and David F. Friedman, the self-titled "mighty monarch of the exploitation film world".
If you're into the whole 1960s exploitation genre (why else would you be watching this?) then the vibe of this track (recorded in Henenlotter's apartment) should be rather appealing. Tons of obscure grindhouse titles get tossed into the ring, as does a fairly in-depth chat about Joe Sarno's Swedish films, along with plenty of discussion of casting, locations, and why Peggy is listed as producer. Peggy does a lot of speaking for Joe on this track, which made me wonder if perhaps he was in ill health, though when he does proffer a comment or two he sounds just fine for somebody that has to be pushing 80 or 85.
Also included are a pair of black-and-white Joe Sarno nudie shorts, commencing with A Sneak Peek at Strip Poker (05m:49s), in which two couples play an equal amount of losing hands before doffing their duds, all set to a hipster Daddy-O score. One of the guys looks like a greasy Frank Gorshin, and one of the women has a habit of bugging her eyes out a bit too crazily, but even with those minor distractions this one is good more for a chuckle than for a tease. Slightly less fascinating, oddly enough, is A Peeling We Go-Go (08m:52s), a more traditional striptease piece, with a trio of dancers individually gyrating uncontrollably down to toplessness.
As with most Something Weird titles, this disc features a pornucopia of skin-filled bump-and-grind trailers (11 in all), and a kinky Gallery of Exploitation Movie-Magazine Covers (08m:43s), showcasing a montage of lurid rag covers featuring all sorts of nude women in various states of frolic. Yeah, baby!
Flesh and Lace is cut into 11 chapters, and Passion in Hot Hollows has 9 stops.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsThere is definitely something groovy going on here; while Joe Sarno may not be a household name, his stark mid-1960s exploitation work is less about blatant skin than it is about sleazy pulp full of tough guys and tougher chicks, both with itchy libidos.
There is a slutty retro hipness to these films, and Something Weird should do all of us exploitation aficionados a favor and come out with a well-stocked Sarno boxset.
Certainly not for every taste, but an easy recommendation for genre fans.
Rich Rosell 2004-07-21