Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger considers this flick a teaser for My Body Hungers.
Filmed in Color…As It Really Happened!
If you told me I'd watch and enjoy every minute of a Joe Sarno film without nudity in it, I'd have laughed in your face. Oddly enough, that's what happened with Moonlighting Wives.
Ironically, the self-conscious lack of nudity made that possible because Moonlighting Wives is not a good film. It's a mediocre film at best: a tawdry tale of suburban prostitution filled with scheming women, hapless men, and a pair of bumbling detectives that have no impact whatsoever on the story.
The main plot is a compelling character study of an ambitious stenographer who sees an opportunity for crime and seizes it. In a sense, Moonlighting Wives is successful for the same reasons that Goodfellas is: We like watching a small-timer work the system and emerge as a crime lord, only to get what's coming at the end. Of course, Moonlighting Wives lacks the gravitas of a real crime flick like Goodfellas, but as a campy lark it works well enough.
Other than the character study of Mrs. Joan Rand (Tammy Latour), stenographer/madame extraordinaire, Moonlighting Wives doesn't have much going for it. Gretchen Rudolph is fetching in a snub-nosed, brunette firebrand kinda way. Jim Rockford's buddy Joe Santos is mildly interesting as the inept cop. Otherwise, Moonlighting Wives is a hum-drum tale. Yet it had a quirky, "can he pull this off without naked chicks" charm to it that kept me watching throughout the movie.
To be fair, Moonlighting Wives has more to it than rubbernecking. Joe Sarno's skin flicks earned their reputation by being more interesting than the crap in their cohort. Sarno always tries to provide motivation and a compelling setting for his characters. In this, Moonlighting Wives is more successful than most of his films. The acting is better, the characters are better developed. The conversations have more interest than "when is the next nude scene coming up?" Joan Rand is a clever, detail-oriented madame, and her cruel manipulations have teeth.
Joe Sarno followed up Moonlighting Wives with My Body Hungers, also featuring Gretchen Rudolph, John Aristedes, Tammy Latour, and Joe Santos. If the chemistry in Moonlighting Wives is any indication, and if My Body Hungers is a straightforward nudie flick, and if Retro Seduction puts it out on DVD…I'm all over that puppy.
The provided extras are in line with other Retro Seduction releases of Sarno's work. Bowen provides his usual comprehensive peek at the film in extensive liner notes (which smell vaguely of burned, acrid plastic, by the way.) Joe Sarno is as informative and amusing as ever, pimping the positives of his work without coming across as a shill. The trailer vault is here, too, as well as a couple of featurettes on DVD restoration.
Moonlighting Wives is Sarno's first color film. The print is faded, but the exploration of color in the film is fascinating from a historical perspective. The term "mod" comes to mind, though Moonlighting Wives is not as mod or expressive as Radley Metzger's work. This DVD release features a periodic Retro Seduction logo, which suggests that the film is in the public domain. Companies will usually put a watermark on their transfers of public domain works to keep other companies from directly copying their transfer.
Sarno is a capable director who focuses on the human story behind his lurid tales. Though Moonlighting Wives is low on lurid and high on exposition, it is still a Sarno film and therefore more interesting than it should be. If it had nudity in it, Moonlighting Wives would have been a slam dunk recommendation. As it stands, it is a novelty that will interest Joe Sarno fans.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Seduction Cinema
• Interview with Joe Sarno
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