Forget her toys...Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger wants to play with Laura.
Our review of Abigail Leslie Is Back In Town / Laura's Toys, published February 26th, 2010, is also available.
She played a swapping game where three wasn't a crowd…
Michael Raso's crusade to bring Sarno to the masses continues with this DVD release of Laura's Toys. Though Sarno is highly regarded within some circles as a master of American softcore, the average American has little chance to see his work. As Michael J. Bowen points out in the extensive liner notes included with this DVD, Sarno's film negatives are difficult to obtain because of the whims of the film industry. This makes Laura's Toys (along with her sister DVD, Abigail Leslie Is Back in Town) an unpredictable rarity.
Facts of the Case
Laura (Rebecca Brooke, Abigail Leslie Is Back in Town) sits naked and alone on the beach of a tiny Swedish island. Her husband Walter (Eric Edwards, Great Sexpectations) is deeply involved with archaeological research, assisted by his alluring grad student, Anna (Katja Von Graff). Though the two don't seem to act on their mutual attraction, the oversexed Laura is wary of Anna.
Boredom wins out over jealousy. When her best friend and former lover Hanni (Anita Eriksson) comes to town with an entourage of their old Private Girl School chums, Laura leaves the island to indulge in fond remembrances—and lots of orgasms.
Speaking of orgasms, Laura's absence has freed Anna to have her own—with Walter. When Laura returns, will her lust be sated enough to forgive and forget? Or will she bring Hanni to the island in an apocalyptic orgy of dildos and orgasmic bliss?
Sarno has often been praised for his female-centric approach to softcore and the chemistry in his sex scenes. I watched Laura's Toys and was impressed. Then I watched it with a female friend, and she gave her approval as well. This is encouraging; maybe Sarno's reputation isn't all marketing hyperbole and there is hope for couples erotica.
Like some of Sarno's other films, Laura's Toys is high on the soap opera factor. Rebecca Brooke is the biggest offender, staring with mantis-like eyes and thrashing her head to accent her every phrase. That's okay, though, because Rebecca's body was made for softcore. Surprising what a stunning figure will help you overlook. Meanwhile, Laura's school friends underact so egregiously that I hesitate to call it acting at all (particularly the wretchedly dubbed Gabrielle).
In contrast, porn stud Eric Edwards and newcomer Katja Von Graff are pleasant surprises. Their chemistry is genuine, which helps their acting. Katja Von Graff is the daughter of a noted Scandinavian archaeologist, so her scenes resonate with authenticity. This authenticity carries over to the bedroom (or forest floor, to be precise). Sarno directed a hardcore porn film, but shot it as softcore. The sex is real, the chemistry is real, and presumably Katja's orgasms are real. This leads to a couple of scenes which Peggy Sarno calls the best representation of a female orgasm in film history. Although that statement assumes much, it is hard to dispute: her scenes are hot.
At risk of overshooting the mark, Laura's Toys also has an interesting plot. It achieves with grace what Emmanuelle studiously attempted, but failed, to do: tell a compelling story about sexual freedom and open marriage. The relationships in Laura's Toys aren't believable, precisely, but they are interesting and natural. Though the dialogue is stilted and meant to shock, there's something honest in Laura's clinical descriptions of candle humping and teacher raping.
Abigail Leslie Is Back in Town and Suburban Secrets shared a simple, effective technique: the camera draws no attention to itself. Unlike the highly stylized, neon-saturated fluff that passes for erotica these days, Sarno's films let the actors' bodies do the talking. Laura's Toys follows the same style, with a predominately mute camera and all natural lighting. This stoicism makes the schoolgirl orgies more staid than Sarno was shooting for. It is obvious that he'd carefully composed the actors to give the impression of sinful excess. This is highly effective during one reveal to the left, when an obviously aroused woman comes into the frame. But in general, these scenes feel claustrophobic. In contrast, the outdoor love scenes are exceptional, largely because Sarno avoided trickery in favor of a stable closeup on Anna's face.
Retro-Seduction Cinema has yet again delivered a feature-laden DVD to honor Sarno's reputation. Bowen's liner notes are enthusiastic and thorough, with cover art that evokes the grindhouse vibe of the day. Joe and Peggy Sarno are as forthright and brassy as ever (respectively) in their interview. They understand where Laura's Toys fits into the grand scheme of things and effectively discuss its merits.
Eric Edwards is heavily featured, both in an interview and a commentary track (along with Bowen and Raso). Like the track on Abigail Leslie Is Back in Town the audio quality is uneven. But you can hear everyone this time, which goes a long way towards making the track work. Bowen comes armed with a detailed knowledge of Sarno's and Edwards's histories, which he uses to prompt Eric's memory. He hardly needs prompting, though. Edwards is lively and lucid, filling the air with fond recollections and honest evaluations of himself and his coworkers. He discusses the rustic island they were on, the sexual freedom of the Swedish people, and Sarno's easygoing directorial style. His candor carries over to the interview, where he reveals surprising opinions on working with Rebecca Brooke and Katja Von Graff. The extras package provides everything you could hope for considering that Laura's Toys is a virtually unknown film.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Jack Justis presents his debut film score. "Debut" is a nice way of saying "problematic." Though he creates a haunting vibe that makes the scenes feel more meaningful, he repeats the main theme endlessly. Reinforcing themes is one thing, but hearing the same song 95 times in a row gets old. The dialogue is often hard to hear, which is a side effect of the low-budget, outdoor shooting.
The first few minutes and some of the later scenes are peppered with scratches and dirt. The transfer also goes soft periodically. Otherwise, the transfer is impressively sharp and detailed, with decent coloration. Some flesh tones are greenish, but the overall effect is pleasing.
As a total package, Laura's Toys falls short of Sarno's erotic masterpieces. Nonetheless, Rebecca Brooke's exquisite features and the palpable chemistry between Eric Edwards and Katja Von Graff make it a winner.
The court will allow Laura's toys as evidence. Label them Exhibit X.
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