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Suburban Secrets
cast: Isadora Edison, Andrea Davis, Kay Kirtland, A.J. Khan, and Tina Tyler

writer and director: Joe Sarno

153 minutes (18) 2006
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Seduction / Pop Cinema DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 0/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
I took Suburban Secrets for review based on the name of Joe Sarno. I had never seen one of his films and that was part of the reason for the selection. Sarno is a legend, the maker of 60 erotic low-budget films beginning in the early 1960s on through to the mid-1980s. His appellations include 'the Bergman of erotica', whilst you might also call him the Douglas Sirk of sexploitation. I was looking forward to something quaint, black and white or luridly coloured, on speckly 16mm, a gift from another time, another planet. Then I learned it was a double disc on the way. Surely a double bill of hullaballoo, flesh and fancy. The cruelest trick had been pulled on me. This is not some 1960s' skin melodrama but a new film from the director, a production funded by Seduction Cinema, whose Michael Raso, a loyal Sarno fan, had released a dozen or more of those old films to DVD on his Retro Seduction label. Hanging around with his hero he invited Sarno to write and direct something new, his first film in 20 years. The result was Suburban Secrets, a tale of sex and glamour and sex and incest and sex and talk and sex and oh, who cares? In three years of reviewing for VideoVista this is the hands-down winner for the most insulting waste of time. I am infuriated more with the lies told in the supporting material, as Sarno proclaims his stars good actresses when they are not, and performances convincingly real, which is also untrue. He could have cast it with sex dolls and gotten closer to life. Oh, I will attempt to relay as much of a plot as I can.

Isadora Edison is the full-bodied model Laura so concerned by news filtered back to her via sister Winnie (Chelsea Mundae) regarding the love life of her Aunt Cynthia (Tina Tyler) that she returns to her hometown. Auntie is the owner of a newspaper and is dating a younger man who, in turn, is under constant threat of seduction by his sister (played by Kay Kirtland). There, that just about sums up two and a half hours of film. Sarno will try to convince us that his soap opera has more content than that but it doesn't, though there is an inordinate amount of chatter in between the sex scenes. It feels a lot like a week's worth of Santa Barbara or Sunset Beach only with naked naughtiness taking the place of the advertisement breaks. Before the end of the film Isadora has had sex with the cute girl photographer (Andrea Davis), her Aunt, and the incestuous brother, and his sister, though not with the brother and sister together... that would just be wrong, even if the brother and sister do get it on at another point in the film. The producer had originally intended two of Seduction Cinema's house stars to head the cast, Misty Mundae and Julia Wells, but Misty chose instead to retire from the industry and Julia turned down the offer. The Seduction honcho couldn't fathom the disrespect that was being heaped on his idol. The cast settled for were a bit of an emergency bag of waifs, veterans and girls suddenly bigger than they were a short time before, thighs ahoy, stretch-marks and cellulite permissible.

Tina Tyler has industry history and appears deranged by the experience, most of her time a stupid, orgasmic expression on her face. A.J. Khan can recall a lot of dialogue for a long take and at least has aspirations to act, though not the talent for it. Kay Kirtland is the only exciting cast member. The rest of the girls cannot act and the endless simulated sex is pointless. Reader, I cannot tell a lie, I did not stay the course. I really would have to be a cretin to proceed (see, it has me using non-PC language! - bad film!). I was perfectly within my right to fast forward. It was like a 1980s' porn film without the money shots and terribly over-length at 153 minutes, and to what end? He's no David Lean, the story isn't Dickens and most of the shots are badly lit long takes. I could reproduce the sets on a smaller scale with a shoebox and, come to think of it... I could reproduce the rutting action with naked albino moles. Look, it's not like I was Michael Parkinson walking out during Verhoeven's Flesh + Blood because it was upsetting diddums.

I did return some days later and tackled the short form version, the 'hot TV cut', from the point deserted and still had cause to fall asleep or leave the antics running while I washed the pots and found other chores more interesting to perform.

Sarno regards this film as his ode to the female orgasm. He is proud of his script. He shouldn't be. "I know that you will always long for my body... and my nipples." Oh, nipples not part of the body, interesting anatomical fact, that! The girls really are a mixed bag of flesh and skin, and there is nothing wrong with that, in fact, I favour it in a day where clones populate everything from the fucking O.C. to boy/ girl bands and sex films. I saw a Hollyoaks calendar once and wasn't sure if it was one girl cast member or 12. Clearly, this pick and mix is what Sarno was used to in the good old days and it is one of the few decent traits that have been carried over. Unfortunately, real bodies don't guarantee convincing sex. Over the two discs there are five hours of material. This includes the aforementioned hot TV cut of the film, which runs 90 minutes and probably missing nothing of the dropped dialogue and sex. Inside Suburban Secrets, Lake Placid Film Festival and behind-the-scenes are featurettes and mini-docs, none of which break the 20 minute barrier.

A full colour booklet with liner notes is far more useful than the film and there is a rack of original trailers for Sarno's 1960s and 1970s films now available on Retro Seduction. The old films look interesting and I am still curious to see some of them in the certainty that they are probably a lot better than the shoddy new film. Pleasures Of A Woman (1970) and Fancy Lady (1971) are particularly garish and rude, with an almost abstract quality to them because of the exciting editing of potted sequences. Cannon's trailer for Inga is black and white and suggests a romantic, passionate period piece. Both the Inga trailers include a protracted sequence where Inga is in a room inspecting the toys on the shelves, a scene clearly stolen from Francis Ford Coppola's Dementia 13. Swedish Wildcats stars Diana Dors (and is double billed with New York Wildcats; and if you want to sample Sarno and fancy another double bill, The Seduction Of Inga apparently is quietly coupled with Indelicate Balance, another Sarno tale of incest). Veil Of Blood (aka: Vampire Ecstasy) is a vampire film, and all the films benefit from locations, exteriors, character and an eccentricity that has now been seemingly lost.

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