Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Press Release: It's Official


'The Baggage Claim' Will Begin Filming in Late July 2010 at Douglas Education Center

MONESSEN, PA., May 17, 2010 – On any ordinary day, walking into the The FACTORY Digital Filmmaking Program complex at Douglas Education Center (DEC) would be both exciting and imaginative - as students learn the building blocks to develop a positive career in filmmaking. These days the ambiance is absolutely electrifying as students and teachers gear up for this summer’s “The Final Product” production.

Golden Globe-winner Irene Miracle (director of DAWNLAND: CHANGELING as well as an actress noted for such films as MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, Dario Argento’s INFERNO and PUPPET MASTER) and students from The FACTORY Digital Filmmaking Program at DEC will team up to produce THE BAGGAGE CLAIM in late July 2010. The film is based on a screenplay by Tim Lucas, Saturn Award-winning writer/publisher of VIDEO WATCHDOG magazine, and the cult fiction favorites THROAT SPROCKETS, THE BOOK OF RENFIELD, and the epic biography MARIO BAVA – ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK. THE BAGGAGE CLAIM will be produced under the auspices of The Final Product - the last course students enrolled in The FACTORY Digital Filmmaking Program at DEC will take prior to graduation. “The Final Product exemplifies the Factory’s philosophy of immersing students in a real world production situation by teaming them with working filmmakers on viable projects,” said FACTORY director Robert Tinnell. Previous productions have been directed by Tom Savini, whose make-up effects school is part of Douglas Education Center, as well as by Tinnell, an industry veteran whose directing credits include FRANKENSTEIN AND ME and whose screenplay for THE LIVING AND THE DEAD will be directed by Brad Anderson in the coming year.

Irene Miracle is eager to begin collaboration with DEC. “What delights me about Robert Tinnell and The FACTORY Digital Filmmaking Program at Douglas Education Center is the feeling of being surrounded by an incredible number of like-minded poetic creators, and that together we’re all aiming for the stars. That may explain why this little film we are planning will be so crowded with people, quick scene changes, and a heart beat that takes the world into a quick dance.”

Screenwriter Tim Lucas notes, “I sat down and wrote THE BAGGAGE CLAIM in a single sitting, in longhand, hardly changing a word as I typed it up. Irene loved it, and when Robert Tinnell came aboard and we saw what was possible with his resources at DEC, we revised it together with an eye to those possibilities. It was one of the happiest writing experiences I’ve ever had.”

Lucas goes on to say, “In some ways, THE BAGGAGE CLAIM is an opportunity for a group of artists experienced in horror to speak more warmly to our audience by sharing what we’ve learned about life and relationships by this point in our lives, while telling a story in an unmistakably fantastic vein.”

DEC students enrolled in The FACTORY Digital Filmmaking Program will have a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a variety of positions during the creation of the digital production of THE BAGGAGE CLAIM. All aspects of filmmaking will be put to use while students work hand-in-hand with film industry professionals. Education and experience will be used in the field in a green screen environment.

“My students and I are thrilled to be working alongside this wonderful group of film professionals,” said Robert Tinnell. “There is a tremendous need for students to have practical, hands-on film-making experience prior to graduating into the real world of professional filmmaking, and I am very pleased that DEC is creating an atmosphere where creativity and learning are one in the same in achieving that aim.”

For more information, call 412-684-3684 or visit

Here's a link to the actual press release.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Joseph W. Sarno 1921-2010

Joe Sarno and his wife/assistant Peggy Steffans Sarno, photographed in 2002.

Michael Raso of RetroSeduction Cinema has contacted me with the sad news that writer-director Joseph W. Sarno passed away this evening at his home in Manhattan after a short illness. He was 89.

Sarno toiled in the sexploitation industry, but I dislike referring to him as a sexploitation or even an exploitation director, though his films were certainly sold this way. In films like SIN YOU SINNERS (1963), SIN IN THE SUBURBS (1964), RED ROSES OF PASSION (1966), CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE (1974) and ABIGAIL LESLIE IS BACK IN TOWN (1975), he introduced to American "dirty movies" new and serious dimensions of human psychology and a profound sensitivity to female sexuality in particular. He may well have been the erotic cinema's first proponent of sexual experimentation, which he explored not salaciously but as an exposé of human relationships, yearnings and frailties. His films deal with infidelity, group sex, paganism, sexual accessories, encounter group therapy and, most recurrently, "mind-fuck" situations -- the kind that come about when a free spirit visits a conservative village and liberates its pent-up energies. (I once asked Joe if Pasolini's TEOREMA had been an influence, and he not only hadn't seen it, he'd never heard of it.) Above all, his films are about how people change other people.

Most of his work was shot in the state of New York, with the exception of a trilogy of Florida works made in 1968-69, though he sent his biggest shock waves through the genre with the 1968 release INGA, which introduced Marie Liljedahl and commenced a whole series of films shot in Sweden, where he and his assistant wife Peggy (who, as Peggy Steffans, had starred in the 1963 Adolphus Mekas film HALLELUJAH THE HILLS) "vacationed" every summer.

INGA was historic for filming what may well be the first authentic female orgasm ever shot, and Sarno's insistence on authenticity was one of the secrets of his success. He once told me that, in several of his softcore films, the actors had actual sex below frame to authenticate the passion in their lovemaking scenes -- and it can be felt. (As I think back over his work, for me, the most erotic moment may be a pointed glance between two lesbians who haven't yet connected in THE YOUNG EROTIC FANNY HILL, a moment that makes an otherwise subpar offering rewarding viewing.) Among his Swedish films are THE INDELICATE BALANCE (1969), DADDY, DARLING (1970), THE SEDUCTION OF INGA (1971), YOUNG PLAYTHINGS (1972, with Christina Lindberg), LAURA'S TOYS (1975) and BUTTERFLIES (1975, with Maria Forsa), all of which offer production values wholly on par with the work Ingmar Bergman was producing at the same time.

Aspects of fantasy and horror entered Sarno's work with VEIL OF BLOOD (1973), the LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS-like A TOUCH OF GENIE (1974), the Jekyll/Hyde spoof THE SWITCH, OR HOW TO ALTER YOUR EGO (1974) and SACRILEGE (1988). Beginning in the early 1970s, Sarno also very quietly began directing hardcore sex films under a series of aliases, but they all contained telltale thematic ties to the work of which he was most proud. Notable titles in this grouping include THE TROUBLE WITH YOUNG STUFF (1977) and the INSIDE films devoted to sex-stars Gloria Leonard, Jennifer Welles, Annie Sprinkle and Seka.

I first discovered Sarno's work at the drive-in during the 1970s, and I knew it was different and important then. Andrew Sarris recognized Sarno's value nearly a decade earlier, praising it in the pages of THE VILLAGE VOICE. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to champion his work to a new generation of fans in the VHS and DVD era, and even more grateful that I had the pleasure of speaking with him occasionally by telephone. This is a great loss for real adult cinema and, for me, a personal loss.