Code Red // 1969 // 80 Minutes // Rated X
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // May 20th, 2011
You can hear the whispers...you hear the screams...you see the truth about...Marcy!
I've been a fan of Joe Sarno for a while now. His somewhat soapy morality plays had dramatic pretensions beyond the exploitation genre, and the films had artistic qualities often lacking in soft-core erotica.
Much as I enjoy and appreciate his films, I realize they're not all gold. For every The Swap and How They Make It and Confessions of a Young American Housewife, there's a Deep Throat Part II or a Passion in Hot Hollows lurking in the bushes. Marcy, which is like a country cousin to the hollow Hot Hollows, is not Sarno's finest 80 minutes. Frankly, if Marcy had been the first Sarno movie I saw, I doubt I would have bothered to seek out another.
The lovely Marcy moves back to the rural village where she apparently grew up. Since she's renting an isolated farmhouse with the equally lovely June Rutland, tongues start a-wagging that Marcy and June might be more than just housemates. The idea is comforting to one woman, whose husband used to date Marcy in high school, and intriguing to another, who asks anyone who will listen, "What do two girls do to each other in bed?"
It's only a matter of time until she finds out.
In the meantime, despite tickle fights and late-night visits to each other's rooms ("Do you always sleep in the nude?"), Marcy and June carry on in a very unlesbian-like manner. Marcy takes up with her old boyfriend, and June starts a blazing affair with some other local lunk. In other news, the wife of Marcy's old boyfriend has vengeance intercourse with the hired hand, who's married to the bi-curious lady.
But we know from the longing looks June keeps shooting her roomie that unbridled lady lust is just a nocturnal visit away.
Marcy is lesser Sarno. This tale of rural bedhopping lacks the focus of his "suburban" stories. The characters are bland and barely developed, the banjo and harpsichord score -- which goes all blue movie for the lesbian seduction scene -- a bit grating, and Sarno's visual style seems lacking. The silly yet intriguing plot turns and old-school moralizing that marked many of his '60s films -- like Sin in the Suburbs and All the Sins of Sodom -- are all but absent. The actors -- some of whom you might recognize from Sarno's Passion in Hot Hollows, The Sex Cycle, and The Layout, as well as grinders like The Curse of Her Flesh, Submission, and Teenage Mother -- are a pretty undistinguished lot, lacking the appeal and the chops of other Sarno regulars like Patricia McNair and Joanna Mills. There's a lot of filler here, and lots of soft-core, above-the-waist sexual encounters, but very little dramatic push-through. This is more like a standard late-'60s sexploitation film than the kind of stylish and textured work that's gained Sarno a cult following.
It's possible that I'm being a little unfair to Marcy the movie and that I'm letting my opinion be colored by Marcy the DVD. I realize that the bulk of Sarno's films are "lost," and when they do turn up, the source material is often an old print that's been sitting in a moldy basement for decades. While Code Red gets credit for unearthing this bit of by-gone erotica, the technical presentation is appalling, rendering the film barely watchable. I've seen plenty of "rediscovered" films, so I'm used to the streaking and crackly audio.
But in the case of Marcy, the streaking and print damage isn't just distracting, it nearly obscures the visuals. Much of the film is very dark, with lousy contrast, so it often looks like Marcy and her pals are rutting around in the mud. There are tons of missing frames, so jump cuts abound, and dialogue is often drowned out by background noises or music, or just overwhelmed by hisses, pops, and cracks. It's a struggle to watch and listen, and since the story and characters are less-than-compelling, it all pretty much adds up to a miss.
Like a refugee from its Septic Cinema line, Code Red presents Marcy in "Deweyvision."
As you can see, Dewey has no eyes, which means he has a leg up on the rest of us as far as the visual quality of this disc is concerned. There's no menu screen, just Dewey, a text screen about the commentary, and then straight into the film.
About the commentary: this track with adult film veterans Gino Colbert and David DeCoteau is terrific and almost redeems the disc. Colbert has been in the business since the mid-'70s, and he worked with Sarno, as well as exploitation pioneers like Doris Wishman and Chuck Vincent. He's a wealth of information about the good old days of exploitation, and his stories -- along with a few by DeCoteau, who's been in the industry since the early '80s -- make for essential listening for anyone interested in the genre.
Marcy is middling Sarno, and the disc is lower-tier Code Red. The commentary makes it worth checking out, and Sarno completists will be happy to have it, despite the poor tech.
Review content copyright © 2011 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Code Red
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 1969
MPAA Rating: Rated X