(Isadora Edison), a nude model, returns to her home town when
she learns that her Aunt Cynthia (Tina Tyler) is involved with
her old boyfriend, Nelson (John Jordan); Nelson, meanwhile, is
also sleeping with his older sister, Judith (Katy Kirtland)...
You've got to hand it to Joe Sarno
the veteran writer/director with a taste for the erotic, now in
his 80s, has lost none of his flair for staging steamy, yet tasteful,
sex scenes. Directing his first feature in twenty years, Sarno
lives up to his formidable reputation where the sex is concerned.
Unfortunately, this lurid variation on soap operas like Peyton
Place falls short in just about every other respect.
Unlike many sexploitation mavens, Sarno is
as concerned with character and plot as he is with the steamier
aspects of his films. This is where Suburban
Secrets falls short, though he is to be commended for bucking
the trends evidenced in contemporary erotic cinema in virtually
every other respect. The emphasis on strong female characters,
and a genuine attempt to focus on eroticism that can appeal to
women as much as their male counterparts, are typical of Sarno's
films. In this respect the film makes a desirable alternative
to many male-oriented erotic films which objectify their female
characters. Sarno's depiction of women exploring their sexuality,
fully in control of their own impulses and desires, gives the
film a palpable erotic quality. The sex scenes may not be explicit
there is no penetration or explicit genitalia shots
but they are far more intense than the average bump and grind
set-piece. The director's appreciation of the female extends beyond
a visible admiration of their anatomy, meaning that they are not
just lovingly photographed but allowed a decisive role in the
proceedings. For once, the actresses are more than mere window
and for this, Sarno deserves proper recognition.
the film never springs to life outside of the boudoir. Despite
Sarno's attempts at creating multidimensional characters, the
trite, often dated dialogue and inept performances work against
the material at every turn. In the supplementary booklet for the
film, Sarno notes that he intends for the dialogue to be "above
reality," but in truth it merely sound sounds trite and artificial.
Having supposedly worldly characters referring to sex by such
quaint terms as "diddling" and "shtupping"
doesn't exactly add to the verisimilitude, but nobody fares worse
than A.J. Khan
her character is clearly intended as a kind of Greek chorus and
while the actress is attractive enough, her inept line readings
grate on the nerves. At one point Khan makes a 'witty'
reference to the Charleston, as if we are to believe she even
knows what the Charleston is, but she is also saddled with the
majority of the film's worst dialogue. That she makes such a poor
impression is hardly surprising, though she compensates during
her only sex scene. The actresses are all extremely attractive,
notably statuesque redhead Edison and sultry veterans Tina Tyler
and Katy Kirtland, true MILFs in the best sense of the term
and skin flick aficionados will be pleased to note that none of
them appear to have been surgically augmented. All this adds immeasurably
to the film's erotic appeal, but in trying to go beyond being
a 'mere' sex film it bites off way more than it can chew. Clocking
in at a whopping 153 minutes (!) the film offers a solid hour
or so of sex... and an excessive amount of filler destined to
test the viewer's patience.
Cinema's two-disc special edition release of Sarno's comeback feature
is a winner. The first disc contains the 2½ hour director's
cut of the film. Presented in its proper 1.78 aspect ratio and enhanced
for widescreen TVs, the image is sharp and colorful. There are no
mastering flaws in evidence, though the occasional cheapness of
the photography is an outgrowth of its digital video origins. Audio
quality is crisp and clear, and free of distortion. A short documentary,
Inside Suburban Secrets (11 min.), gives some insight into
the problematic production, originally set to star the luscious
Misty Mundae (her sister Chelsea appears in a supporting role).
Disc 2 includes the "Hot Cable TV"
edition of the film. Running under 90 minutes, it corrects the excessive
length of the director's cut and reduces the interminable dialogue
scenes, but it also trims the film's main attraction, the sex scenes.
Picture and audio quality is on a par with the director's cut, and
it is supplemented with a behind-the-scenes featurette (it's a hoot
seeing a spry Sarno instructing Edison and Tyler on how to play
a sex scene) and a featurette on the film's reception at the Lake
Placid Film Festival. Trailers for other Sarno titles available
from Seduction Cinema are also included, as is an informative insert
booklet of liner notes by Ed Grant of MediaFunhouse.com.