All the Sins of Sodom / Vibrations (1968) Blu-ray Review: The Dawn of Erotica

If you’ve ever found yourself sitting in a darkened room with only the light of a saucy softcore selection flickering away before you, you have Joe Sarno to thank for it. A true pioneer of sexploitation cinema, the late New York City native was one of the first filmmakers to chip away at the barriers which had previously separated us from such taboo elements as birthday suits. And two of his many contributions to what would eventually go on to be known as “softcore” are on full parade here in this titillating double feature from Film Movement, both of which have been mastered in 2K High-Definition.

While most nudie movie makers of the era were just out to show off a few bouncing breasts and little else, Sarno’s low-budget endeavors went a step further, adding in elements which reflected the time rather than exploit it. And All the Sins of Sodom and Vibrations ‒ both of which were produced back-to-back in 1968, filmed in producer/photographer Morris Kaplan’s small NYC studio (near 47th and Broadway, next door to Hotel Edison and the Rum House) and utilizing a cast of unknown, amateur (and usually anonymous) actresses and actors ‒ capture the hidden fears and anxieties anyone curious to sexually liberate themselves may unwittingly encounter in their quest for personal freedom.

The first film in the set, All the Sins of Sodom, follows the plight of a philandering photographer Daryl (who, according to the IMDb, is played by a feller named Dan Machuen) with excessive body hair. Determined to bed every model that comes (ahem) along, Daryl soon finds himself falling hard (oops, I did it again) for one of the most gorgeous lasses to ever sport a pixie cut, Leslie (Maria Lease, who would later work on the other side of the camera). But that new development (because he’s a photographer, you see) soon turns negative (OK, I’ll stop with the terrible puns now) when mysterious drifter Joyce (Sue Akers) moves in and starts to upset the already delicate balance of things.

Vibrations, the second outing in this release, explores the psychological aspects of sexual exploration once more. Featuring much of the same (largely uncredited) cast and crew (and vibrating props), this tale centers on an aspiring writer named Barbara (Marianne Prevost) who is frustrated in more than one way. Especially after her promiscuous sister (Maria Lease, again, not that I’m complaining) moves in and begins to host strange soirees in her boudoir ‒ complete with a music score that is, quite appropriately, a grinding organ. Unable to resist the temptations any further, Barbara finally looks through the crack (I mean the door!), only to find liberation has its price.

The very genesis of ’90s era cable TV softcore thrillers, All the Sins of Sodom and Vibrations arrive on Blu-ray from Film Movement, and are just as impressive to behold in HD as they are to admire for their “cosmetic” attractions. The excellent B&W cinematography and inventive lighting (which you’ll hear about in an included interview) is endlessly appealing, as is seeing vintage NYC in the late ’60s. Each film is presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio with LPCM Mono Stereo. No subtitles are available for this release, which is something of a pity, as writer/director/editor Sarno’s dialogue is far above the norm (even by today’s standards).

Special features for this sizzling two-fer (which features a steamy fivesome, by the way) include an audio commentary for All the Sins of Sodom with the late Joe Sarno’s widow, actress/producer Peggy Steffans and biographer Michael Bowen. Vibrations features a commentary by Tim Lucas, and a second, partial commentary by Peggy Steffans. Also included here is an archival interview with Joseph W. Sarno himself (whom, it may interest you to know, was a cousin of Rockford Files co-star Joe Santos!). Lastly in this tasteful slice of classic erotica are promos for the featured films and theatrical previews for Deep Throat II and Vampire Ecstasy (both directed by Sarno) and a collector’s booklet with liner notes by Mr. Lucas.

Highly Recommended.

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Luigi Bastardo

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