• Red Roses Of Passion

    Red Roses Of Passion
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: August 22nd, 2017.
    Director: Joe Sarno
    Cast: Patricia McNair, Judson Todd, Jean James, Carol Holleck, Helena Clayton, Frank Spencer
    Year: 1966
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    The Movie:

    Carla (Laurene Clair, or Patricia McNair if you prefer) is a typical sixties style American suburban middle class woman who doesn’t seem to feel that she has all that much to live for. She shares a home with her very puritanical and conservative Aunt Julie (Liz Love, a.k.a. Bella Donna). Carla generally just lacks excitement in her day to day existence. The presence of her stodgy cousin Tracey (Laura London) doesn’t help. Carla needs a man!

    Her life changes when she and her friend Enid (Carol Holleck) decide to go to a reading with Tarot card expert Martha (Helena Clayton), who before Carla’s arrival has to deal with her own brother’s strange behavior in the basement of their home. Regardless, Carla hopes that Martha will be able to release her from the humdrum existence she has. What she doesn’t realize is that Enid and Martha have basically conspired behind her back to induct her into The Cult Of Pan, a sect of female pagans who use the sexual power of red roses to trap men and make them do their lusty bidding! At first Carla isn’t interested, but as things get worse with her aunt, well, she figures why not give this a try…

    A weird mix of sixties softcore sex (very soft, really, there isn’t much serious nudity here – but if you enjoy watching attractive women walk around in black slinky things, this’ll float your boat) and screwy occult themes, Red Roses Of Passion is pretty great stuff. The kind of movie that could only have been made by a filmmaker like Sarno in a decade like the sixties, it deals with a lot of the fillmmaker’s typical themes – a sexually repressed woman coming into her own, a suburban setting with a secret, strange familial relations and a healthy dose of melodrama.

    Beautifully shot by Anthony Lover, the film is very atmospheric. Plenty of high contrast black and white shots, nicely lit to create an evocative mood, showcase the various women in their sixties lingerie gathered around tall, lit candles as they sip their sacred wine and use the titular roses to arose and intensify themselves. It’s odd, but it works. Many of these scenes happen with very little dialogue, which kind of gives the audience some voyeuristic kicks, we feel like we’re watching something that we’re not supposed to be watching, something private and not meant for our eyes. This adds to the movie’s sense of intrigue and, yes, even suspense. In fact some of the imagery here is genuinely eerie – not terrifying or particularly horrific, but ethereal enough that it’ll definitely get your attention.

    The performances here are okay. Not great, not terrible, but okay. There are times where some of the actresses are a little wooden with their line delivery but once they’re in full on Pan worshipping mode, you won’t notice so much (that lack of dialogue comes in handy in these scenes). But it works. This is definitely one of Sarno’s more unique films!


    Vinegar Syndrome presents Red Roses Of Passion, which is limited to two thousand copies, on a 25GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer taken from a new 2k scan of the film’s original 35mm negative and it looks excellent. Contrast is spot on, with nice clean whites, dark inky blacks and plenty of grey to fill in the mid-tones. Detail is quite strong here, not just in close-up shots but medium and long distance shots as well and the picture is remarkably clean showing very little print damage outside of the odd speck here and there. Grain appears naturally, never overpowering the image or distracting, it looks just fine. There are no obvious issues with noise reduction nor are there any problems with edge enhancement or compression artifacts.

    The only audio option on the disc is a DTS-HD Mono track, there are no alternate language options though English subtitles are offered. Dialogue is clean and clear and easy to follow and the levels are well balanced. This isn’t a fancy track but it suits the movie just fine and it sounds quite good.

    The main extra for this release is an interview with Sarno historian Michael Bowen. Over the span of twenty-one minutes Bowen gives us as much insight as he can into the film’s scattershot history and theatrical run as well as some interesting facts about who did what both in front of and behind the camera during the production. Interesting stuff. Aside from that we get menus and chapter selection, however this is a combo pack release and so tucked away inside the clear Blu-ray keepcase is a DVD version of the movie taken from the same scan.

    The Final Word:

    Red Roses Of Passion is a strange film in the way that the best sixties Sarno films are – it’s dreamlike, almost surreal in spots, and if it lacks the more explicit content that would come to be associated with his later work it never wants for style or mood. Part arthouse, part grindhouse, it’s all Sarno and Vinegar Syndrome has done an excellent job bringing this one to Blu-ray.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!