Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Things From the Attic: THE LOVE REBELLION (1967)

"Porno Games with Stick and Whip"
1967, Candybox, 79m 58s, E21.71, DVD

Reviewed by Tim Lucas

This German import is a lovingly restored release of Joseph W. Sarno's THE LOVE REBELLION, evidently the first film ever distributed by Cannon Films and long considered lost. Unusually, it resurfaced a year or two ago as a dubbed German-language print released in a strictly limited, numbered edition of 500 copies. The upswing of this anomaly is that the spoken dialogue plays with more dramatic inflection than Sarno's live soundtracks usually have. It's a shame the original track is lost, but in this case certainly not detrimental to the film.

The story begins with one of Sarno's trademark "returns," as Wendy Fletcher (Gretchen Rudolph acting as "Ginger Stevens") returns to New York City after completing college to live with her widowed mother Jo (Melissa Ford), who runs an industrial supplies shipping company. Jo is having a guilt-ridden affair with her head of sales, Don Halleck (Nick Linkov as "Nick Dundas"), which becomes more difficult to manage once Wendy occupies the other bed in her oddly barracks-like bedroom. Jo's employee Barbara (who conveniently occupies the apartment above hers) soon invites the friendless, sullen Wendy upstairs to her parties, which unabashedly feature dancing, stripping and orgiastic lovemaking. Wendy is soon deflowered on a bed full of gawkers by young, orphaned artist Bill Carpenter (Jeremy Langham), but she catches the eye of beefy, goateed Hank Wiggins (Alan Hoff), who's in an intense sadomasochistic relationship with Nancy Near ("Cleo Nova" aka Peggy Steffans - Sarno's future wife) and won't accept Wendy's lack of interest. Unrequited love proliferates as the needy Bill succumbs to the dusky maternal charms of Jo, affecting both Don and Wendy, who seem poised to embark on their own adventure when the deranged Hank shows up at the office to terrorize his heartthrob with a gun.

While this DVD represents an important and exciting recovery, the film itself is not one of Sarno's best. Like his other 1967 pictures, BED OF VIOLENCE (presently lost) and MY BODY HUNGERS, it underplays his trademark psychological content in favor of some uncharacteristic and not particularly persuasive "roughie" content. It's also economically produced to a fault, with nearly every scene's camera set-up having an exact counterpart somewhere else in the picture. While it's hard to judge the performances in this context, the cast is generally attractive and intriguing. Bruce Sparks' shadow-mottled monochrome cinematography, on the other hand, is properly moody and Pir Mirini's dance music works well. This German print credits only "Ginger Stevens" (Rudolph, who bears a mild resemblance to Rebecca Brooke, had made a half dozen earlier films with Sarno, sometimes acting under the name "Jan Nash") and the erotic content shows Sarno still harping on the burlesque aspects of earlier 1960s Adults Only cinema, with topless twist parties, while starting to move toward the sexual candor and experimentation of his post-INGA pictures.

Packaged in a nifty clamshell case designed to resemble a sordid paperback, this DVD (which unfortunately does not include the original English track as an alternative) is available from A copy or two may yet linger at Diabolik DVD, priced at $28.99.

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