Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

Latest Posts

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Feb 14, 2007


As part of a new feature here at SE&L, we will be looking at the classic exploitation films of the ‘40s - ‘70s. Many film fans don’t recognize the importance of the genre, and often miss the connection between the post-modern movements like French New Wave and Italian Neo-Realism and the nudist/roughie/softcore efforts of the era. Without the work of directors like Herschell Gordon Lewis, Joe Sarno and Doris Wishman, along with producers such as David F. Friedman and Harry Novak, many of the subjects that set the benchmark for cinema’s startling transformation in the Me Decade would have been impossible to broach. Sure, there are a few dull, derivative drive-in labors to be waded through, movies that barely deserve to stand alongside the mangled masterworks by the format’s addled artists. But they too represent an important element in the overall development of the medium. So grab your trusty raincoat, pull up a chair, and discover what the grindhouse was really all about as we introduce The Beginner’s Guide to Exploitation.


This week: Director Joe Sarno uncovers the seedy underbelly of scandalous suburban sex games.

Sin in the Suburbs/The Swap and How They Make It



On this quiet street in this exclusive neighborhood, the bored housewives are having a heavy petting field day. Mrs. Geraldine Lewis loves her workaholic husband, but the beefy martini drinker just doesn’t show her enough affection. So when he goes to work and her daughter heads off to school, Gerry invites friends over for drinks and naked debauchery. Next door, Lisa Francis is an equally efficient elbow-lifting lonely heart whose spouse won’t quit his job and stay home with her. She has to find a way to uncork her carnality, and random workmen off the road crew—or a full bottle of Jack Daniels—seem to do just fine. Further down the block, Mrs. Talman and her deviant brother Lewis look in on all the secret sexcapades and decide to make a mint off the salacious socialites. They start an exclusive swingers club and invite the entire borough to join in. All goes as planned until the partner swapping leads to those notorious “strange bedfellows.” Then taboos are broken like so many promises. It’s all part of the scandal, the shame, the Sin in the Suburbs.


Elsewhere, Mona and Karen are new in town and bored out of their gourds. Their aluminum-extruding husbands work all kinds of long hours, and the sequestered sweethearts are just squirming in their Capri pants. They need satisfaction and they need it now! While Karen jumps into the arms of a college jock joke, Mona visits her next-door neighbor, the bawdy Brooke, who tells her about the arrangement she has with her horny hubby. They both belong to “The Exchange,” a canoodling couples cooperative where marrieds make bargains for bonking with other like-minded enlightened lovers. All it takes is a phone call, and you can trade in your usually tame tryst for one night of naughtiness. After you join, the monthly parties consist of dancing, drooling, and dignity demoralizing. At first, everyone is in for the sin, and lovin’ every lewd minute of it. But when Karen cuts off Joe College, he gets all blackmail-ly and wants in on the sexual switcheroo. What our university-educated boy toy doesn’t understand is that adults like to protect their proclivities from prying eyes…and they are about to teach the silly student the real rules of The Swap and How They Make It.


With titles suggesting a sleazy peek into the sordid lives of salacious suburban swingers, and a gritty black-and-white style that further emphasizes the nasty noir of it all, Joe Sarno was, and remains, the Sultan of Sophisticated Smut. Sin in the Suburbs is one of his best films, a bold experiment in style and subject matter that would still be branded as borderline scum, even in today’s so-called tolerant environment. An exceptional exposé of the then-popular swingers’ scene of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, this perfectly plotted masterwork of story and shot selection is more like a post-millennial walk through the seedy side of society than a standard early exploitation film. There is barely any nudie and hardly any cutie to the events and individuals populating this perverted Peyton Place.


Fans will focus far too much attention - as lovers of exploitation usually do - on the Olga-meets-Ilsa dynamic in the movie (Audrey Campbell, the infamous Olga, plays Geraldine Lewis, while the She Wolf of the SS herself, Dyanne Thorne, essays the sleazy seductress Mrs. Talman). But this would be doing a disservice to the utter greatness of Sin. Long before Bob and Carol met Ted and Alice, Sarno was dealing realistically and effectively with the issues of swinging, swapping, and sex clubs. His details ring true, and his attention to tone makes everything feel authentic. Even with minimal nakedness, this movie absolutely sizzles with sensual Eros. When Thorne and another famous Olga, Alice Linville (playing daughter to mother Campbell) play their seductive game of lesbian suggestion, there is sure not to be a dry seat—or free hand—in the house.


On par with the perfection of Sin in the Suburbs, The Swap and How They Make It is another carnal classic from Sarno’s sour brain. Instead of the cult-like convolutions of the sex club scene, complete with masks and miscreant rituals, the focus this time is on an organized version of that water cooler joke source, wife swapping. With another excellent script full of character insight, and a dandy cast of performers, this movie matches Sin in intricacy and intimacy. Sarno employs a new kind of camerawork here, a mostly medium and close-up concept that renders the backdrops and settings insignificant. We never fully get our bearings as to where we really are, and the feeling of being lost lends a very dramatic air to the proceedings. Whenever actors interact, they come toward the camera and play out their scenes as if the lens was another witness, an innocent party to the prurient planning. The performances are again sublime, each individual finding that faultless balance between disconnected and dispirited to make his or her overripe desire seem that much more palatable. The narrative never sways—it builds to a climax of criminal corruption that is as shocking as it is shrewd.


You can sense Sarno’s intention to remove the focus from the acts and onto the people partaking in them. He knows that true drama derives from thoughts and personality, not bare butts bouncing around. The Swap also has one of the greatest sequences of obvious double entendres in the history of skin flicks. When Karen discusses “Dick” with her friend Mona, only using the name and no other personal reference, the implied explicit humor is hilarious. Along with a mostly drumbeat soundtrack (a truly novel and deranged choice) and an equally emotional tone to match its mattress machinations, Sin in the Suburbs and The Swap and How They Make It provides a one-two punch that will give any lover of the tawdry and the tainted right to rejoice.


 


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Feb 14, 2007
by Harlem Shakes

Harlem Shakes w/ Deerhoof
Diary #2


On Tuesday, North Carolina—land of Blackbeard, Michael Jordan, and prose-master Allan Gurganus—welcomed us with open arms. After a satisfying set at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, we said goodbye to our bearded, Ashkenazi guardian angel, Jon Natchez from the band Beirut, who had been playing bari sax, French horn, and flute for us. After the show, our friend Daniel from 8088 Record Collective kindly lent us his floor.


We met his neurotic timberwolf, Treebeard. Daniel told us: “I swear, the wolf is more afraid of you than you are of it!”  We tried to tell the animal, “dude, you’re the wolf here, we should be afraid of you—in fact, we’re totally goddamn terrified of you! Oh my god! Oh Jesus Christ! It’s a wolf!!”


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Feb 14, 2007
by PopMatters Staff
Placebo

Placebo


MedsVirgin Records is re-releasing Meds, the newest album by London-based alternative rock trio PLACEBO on January 23, 2007, the label announced. The album was originally released in the U.S. earlier in 2006 through the Astralwerks label.


The Virgin Records edition of Meds, described by the band as a back-to-basics project with the elemental feeling of a first album, will add three songs not on the Astralwerks release: “Lazarus,” “UNEEDMEMORETHANINEEDU,” and a cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.” R.E.M.‘s Michael Stipe duets on the track “Broken Promise” and Alison Mosshart of The Kills is a guest on the title track.


Along with the growing alternative radio coverage of title single, the band has racked up over 4 million streams of the songs posted in the PLACEBO MySpace.com page. “Running Up That Hill,” the trio’s cover of the Kate Bush mid-‘80s classic, has been recently featured on two U.S. television series, Bones and The O.C. - Virgin


Stream “Meds (She Wants Revenge Remix)”


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Feb 14, 2007

Shame on me for focusing on the Grammys and not adding my two cents or less about that other music industry phenom that insiders mostly care about: the Village Voice’s annual Pazz and Jop poll.  Though I did vote in it (and admittedly got quoted twice there), I didn’t have high hopes for it this time.  Other than losing Chuck Eddy and Robert “the Dean” Christgau, a number of writers said that because of these loses (and related changes at the Voice), they weren’t going to participate in it any more.  But just like the Grammys, I was pleasantly surprised by P&J.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Feb 14, 2007

Via Scott McLemee at Crooked Timber comes these slogans from the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, ready-made for inscription on a card to your beloved (that is, if you are enough of a reactionary bourgeois to enslave another spirit in a property-based relation that negates the unbounded potentiality of your comrade for partcipatory joy):


  Proletarians And Oppressed Peoples,
  1. Progressive And Revolutionary People Everywhere, Resolutely Uphold The Militant Bolshevik Spirit And Revolutionary Romanticism Embodied In Comrade Valentine!
  2. Decisively Smash Retrograde And Joyless Ultra-Left Lines Which Disparage Proletarian Love And Desire!!
  3. Warmly Celebrate The 20th Anniversary Of ACT-UP, A Militant Organization Which Attacked The Bourgeois State and Big Capital On Behalf Of LGBTQ People And All AIDS-Affected Oppressed Communities Worldwide In 1987 And Has Remained On The Offensive For Two Decades! ! !


Ah, the inimitable tone poetry of Maoist jargon. Note how (1) every word is capitalized, (2) no verb can be left unadorned without an adverb to amplify it. The earnestness is extremely poignant, yet it brings out the reactionary bully in me who wants merely to mock it. I need to practice some revolutionary self-criticism and purge myself of my capitalist-roader ways.


If you go to the FRSO’s site looking for more Valentine’s Day fodder, I recommend you also read “Loving in the Movement: Revolutionary Task or Unity Crusher?” The post asks this essential question: “Does the person have to be a hard-core Marxist-Leninist for you to love them, or is anarchist, or simply anti-capitalist, enough?”  And this is useful advice when it comes time to extend the praxis of radical critique to your relationship: “The important thing to remember in all cases is that the person is someone you love or once loved. They are probably not intending to take power from the people or cause oppression (though they may be doing so). Please be very kind to each other even as you raise your criticisms in a principled way.”


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements
PopMatters' LUCY Giveaway! in PopMatters's Hangs on LockerDome

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.