Seduction Cinema // 1974 // 73 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // May 1st, 2008
When a frustrated woman's innermost fantasies become a reality.
"You're a swinger? My little girl? My baby is a husband-swapper?"
In the 1960s, Joe Sarno and his stable of stock players made middle-class soap operas featuring the kind of melodrama you might find in a big-budget Hollywood production, only with (for the time) explicit sexuality and nudity. These were not grinders with a barely-there plot and arbitrarily topless women, but story and character heavy morality dramas in which sexual exploration carried a heavy emotional price.
In the '70s, Sarno found a new group of actors -- many hardcore porn stars -- and his films became more sexually explicit and less dramatically ambitious than masterworks like Sin in the Suburbs and The Swap and How They Make It. Confessions of a Young American Housewife marked Sarno's first collaboration with these actors.
Made in 1974, Confessions of a Young American Housewife gives us Carole (Rebecca Brooke, a.k.a. Mary Mendum, Laura's Toys) and her husband, Eddie (David Hausman, The Switch or How to Alter Your Ego), who enjoy mate-swapping and orgying with their neighbors, Pete (Eric Edwards, Butterflies) and Anna (Chris Jordan, Misty). The foursome fears disruption when Carole's mother comes to visit, but Jennifer (Jennifer Welles, Abigail Leslie Is Back in Town) is one hot mama. Just widowed at the ripe old age of 37 (meaning she must have been around 11 when she birthed Carole), Jennifer is at first shocked at the debauched foursome, but Eddie and Pete find her mature charms to be irresistible, and soon our group becomes a naked quintet. As Jennifer proves that old age (37?!?) is no deterrent to sex appeal, long-simmering mother/daughter tensions start to boil.
Like most Sarno films, CYAH is told from the female perspective. The men are fairly interchangeable and not especially interesting. Jordan has some funny bits as a randy housewife who enjoys food as much as she enjoys sex, but the film belongs to Brooke and Welles, both of whom are not only beautiful but bring reasonable acting chops to their roles.
Welles gives us a nice rendition of a conflicted older woman (37?!?) trying to "get with it" and deal with the "new morality." While her "awakening" happens pretty quickly -- this is a soft-core porn movie, after all -- she brings a mature grace to the part that makes her attractiveness to the "kids" believable.
Rebecca Brooke doesn't have as much to do dramatically -- Sarno doesn't really pursue the issue of mother/daughter rivalry, and the incest angle is only briefly touched on -- but the camera absolutely adores her. This woman has no bad angles. She can also deliver a line decently and has good chemistry with "mom" Welles.
The sex scenes -- and there are a lot of them -- play out very well, particularly for a "soft-core" film. Everybody looks good, and the couplings (and triplings and quadruplings) are believable and erotic.
Sarno, unfortunately, scrimps a bit on the story here. Most of the action is confined to Carole and Eddie's apartment and a nearby woods where Carole and Anna take long walks and engage in girl talk, most of which consists of what new sexual adventure they're going to introduce to Jennifer. Some business about Eddie falling in love with Jennifer is brought up out of nowhere and immediately dropped; there's really not a lot of dramatic tension. Unlike Sarno's earlier films, there's no devastation in the wake of all these sexual shenanigans. Everything ends on a happy note, with Mama taking a new, young lover, the four "kids" making some jokes, and the gorgeous Brooke posing in front of a window while the camera lovingly records her.
The "Retro" arm of Seduction Cinema once again comes through with a terrific disc. The transfer -- "new digital telecine from 35mm film elements" -- looks rough in spots, but for a 35-year-old film that wasn't carefully preserved, it's pretty good. The mono audio track overmodulates here and there, but overall, it's fine. In the extras department, we get a booklet featuring another excellent essay by Michael J. Bowen, along with some beautiful still shots of Rebecca Brooke. There's also an interesting 12-minute interview with Sarno, who basically talks about his relationship with the cast, some deleted scenes (which are really extensions of existing scenes), a trailer vault of other Sarno films, and a bonus CD of the music of Jack Justis, who scored many of Sarno's films. The CD is a groovy little addition that will come in handy at your next swap party.
While not Sarno's finest work, Confessions of a Young American Housewife is a fun, sexy soft-core offering and far more intelligently made and better acted than most of its brethren. Seduction Cinema's package makes this an easy recommendation.
Get with it, this is not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Seduction Cinema
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 73 Minutes
Release Year: 1974
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Interview with Joe Sarno
* Essay by Michael J. Bowen
* Jack Justis Music CD
* Deleted Scenes