voracious Laura (Rebecca Brooke) encourages her archaeologist
husband (Eric Edwards) to have an affair with his pent-up assistant
(Cathja Graff), hoping for an eventual ménage à trois...
softcore filmmaker Joe Sarno has earned a well-deserved cult
following for his tastefully erotic brand of cinema. Resisting
the push towards more and more clinical approaches towards eroticism,
Sarno's films can best be described as a study of the human
face in its most intimate moments of arousal and satisfaction.
Laura's Toys, which he helmed in
Sweden in the summer of 1975, remains one of his most satisfying
The story is conventional
enough: a woman engineers a situation enabling her husband to
have an affair — he doesn't realize that she's essentially pulling
the strings, but neither does he object when it becomes clear
that she's looking to fulfill a fantasy of her own. Within this
basic framework, Sarno again explores the sexuality of his female
characters while pushing the traditionally male-dominated pornographic
spectacle to the background. The character of the husband is
something of a dullard and he comes off as faintly ridiculous,
posing with machismo while trying to convey a sense of being
an intellectual. In contrast, the characters of Laura and the
demure assistant, Anna, blossom and take on genuine interest
as they open up and explore their fantasies. The husband is
less a driving force than a pawn in a game, while the female
characters are for once allowed a chance to speak their mind
and function as something other than eye candy. This is an unusual
approach in American erotic cinema, which traditionally objectifies
and even minimizes females as little more than slabs of meat.
In adopting this approach, Sarno gives vitality to what could
have been a hackneyed wish-fullfillment scenario.
Similarly, in his
refusal to go in for gynecological close-ups, the director creates
a palpably erotic climate. In forcing the viewer to use their
imagination, Sarno skillfully avoids the repetition that mars
so many films of this ilk, which tend to fall into a predictable
pattern of foreplay, unlikely sexual acrobatics and inevitable
popshot finales. The approach works: the close-up of Cathja
Graff's face contorted with pleasure is far more sexually dynamic
than the usual close-up of Eric Edwards groping at her genitalia.
Sarno also has the benefit of an appealing cast. Graff, Edwards
and Rebecca Brooke (as the title character) are all immensely
likable, and unlike many performers in this genre they are as
at home with dialogue and emotion as they are romping in the
sack. Brooke (whose real name is Mary Mendum) is the prototypical
sexy blonde, but it is newcomer (if you'll pardon the term)
Graff who really catches one's attention. With her petite build
and olive complexion, Graff — who bears a passing resemblance
to British starlet Jenny Agutter (An American
Werewolf in London) — looks gorgeous without the aid
of much makeup. She plays her role in English very well, and
her sex scenes are all the more effective because she is so
obviously aroused: when she says the porn staple "I'm coming!,"
for once we really believe it.
The exotic locales and pretty cinematography
add to the film's appeal. Unlike so many directors of erotica,
Sarno knows how to make a film — the end result is well paced
and professionally lensed, and only the sometimes trite dialogue
gets in the way. Kudos go to Sarno, too, for resisting the urge
to score the sex scenes with sleazy elevator music: the use
of natural sound and heavy breathing are more than enough to
set the mood.