• Joseph W. Sarno Retrospective Series 3: Deep Throat Part II/Pandora And The Magic Box



    Released by: Film Movement
    Released on: October 25th, 2016.
    Director: Joseph W. Sarno
    Cast: Linda Lovelace, Harry Reems, Jamie Gillis, Marc Stevens, Chris Jordan
    Year: 1974/1963/1974/
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    The Movies:

    The latest in the Joseph W. Sarno Retrospective Series brings together four of the director’s more obscure efforts across two Blu-ray discs.

    DISC ONE:

    Deep Throat II:

    Directed by Sarno in 1974, this rarely seen sequel to Gerard Damiano's 1972 XXX smash finds Linda Lovelace playing Nurse Lovelace in a noticeably less racy follow up film. The film beings when Linda wakes up. We see the Damiano Films Presents logo hit the screen as her naked body glides across the floor to the tune of some fun disco music.

    Once she leaves the house, Linda's followed on her way to work where she's employed by Dr. Jayson (played by Harry Reems), who periodically indulges himself with Linda's considerable talent. Soon enough some feds have chased her down – it turns out that they need her to serve her country! At first she thinks she's been drafted but soon she finds out that there's a Russian karate expert running around causing problems. All of this is much to the dismay of the horny Dr. Jayson who just wants to get laid.

    The government, represented by Jamie Gillis, enlists Linda as Agent 0069 so that she can help them put a stop to the communist threat. Thankfully she's got a super computer (who happens to get an erection when she talks to him) to help her, as well as a few fellow U. S. Agents... or does she?

    While Jamie Gillis has a decent sized role, fellow porno stars, Steve Tucker, Mark Stevens, Roger Caine and Tina Russell all show up in in bit parts. For some reason, Harry Reems spends a lot of the film bouncing on the spot. I guess it's supposed to mean he's horny but it's hard to tell if that's the case or if he's just on speed or something. Either way, it's odd. Lovelace looks quite healthy in the film though, with a lot of nice color in her cheeks and a healthy glow to her that isn't present in all of her work.

    Sarno's direction is decent, with some nice framing in a few sequences. The editing looks like it might have played a part in excising the sex scenes but supposedly the film was never meant to be a hardcore picture. Sometimes when things start to heat up, which isn't really all that often, the action ends quite abruptly. There's certainly nothing in here that would cause the film to get anything harsher than an R-rating. Nothing even remotely resembling hardcore is in this film, and the nudity isn't even particularly plentiful leading one to wonder what the point of it all was. It’s an R-rated comedy/spy spook spun off from a mob funded movie about blowjobs? There’s a lot here that just doesn’t make sense!

    That said, the film is quite interesting as a curiosity item. It's not a good movie, at least not in the traditional sense, and the comedy in it is pretty mundane (save for Reems and Gillis, who are always reliable and always entertaining). However, the sheer weirdness of it all helps the film, much like it did in Linda Lovelace For President (another R-rated comedy vehicle that Linda was cast in, released in 1975).

    Pandora And The Magic Box:

    Made in 1963, this black and white cheapie – the first comedy film that Sarno would direct – is a bizarre mix of burlesque performances and really corny borscht belt humor. The film takes place on Mount Olympus where Aphrodite (Judy Young, a.k.a. Alice Davis) herself tells us the tale of how Theseus (William Donaldson) and his crew of noble warriors have gone to retrieve King Minos’ (W.B. Parker) daughter, the heir to all that he owns.

    As Theseus and company go about their mission, they run into those who would prefer it if Minos’ daughter were never found at all. This obviously makes this quest a bit more difficult what with the constant meddling and all, particularly when the lovely Pandora (Ria Milan) is about and proving a constant distraction.

    Shot on a soundstage for peanuts using costumes that look like they were taken from the storage room of a high school drama class, Pandora And The Magic Box is interesting, if not necessarily good. The humor is fairly terrible but there are moments where you can’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Pretty much every female member of the cast does a dance routine of some sort, they’re all quite fetching and it’s interesting to see Alice Davis show up here before Sarno would cast her in Sin In The Suburbs along with W.B. Parker. She also pops up in Olga’s House Of Shame and Madame Olga’s Massage Parlor, again with Parker co-starring. Sarno would also use her in 1965’s Flesh And Lace. She’s got some impressive screen presence and is quite alluring. Ria Milan, in what may be her only screen credit, is also fun to look at. She, and everyone else in the film, plays her part with tongue placed firmly in cheek.

    The black and white cinematography doesn’t hold a candle to the more evocative pictures that Sarno would soon become better known for, but it’s a reasonably handsome looking film given its obvious miniscule budget. Hardly a classic in the director’s filmography, but a fun time killer.

    DISC TWO:

    A Touch Of Genie:

    Joe Sarno’s 1974 sex comedy, A Touch Of Genie, follows the exploits of a nerdy Jewish guy named Melvin Finklefarb (Doug Stone). Melvin is supposed to be running his second hand store in Manhattan but is far more interested in checking out the action at the nearby porno theaters than keeping his business going. While this upsets his mother (Ultramax) greatly, his life turns around when he winds up, completely by chance, discovering a bottle with a magic genie inside… which he jerks off into. The genie, named Amara (beautiful Sarno regular Chris Jordan using the alias Karen Craig), comes out and as genies are apt to do, she offers Melvin five wishes.

    So what does Melvin wish for? Surprise, surprise – he wants to be able to become his favorite porn stars so that he can live out all the action he’s been watching with such dedication in the theaters all this time. What Melvin doesn’t realize, while he’s ‘becoming’ porn stars and screwing porn starlets, is that the woman he’s longed for all this time may be closer than he realizes. Will Melvin find true love or is he destined to hang out in dirty porno theaters wearing a fake moustache and a raincoat for the rest of his life?

    Featuring cameos from an interesting array of New York City’s finest adult performers including Harry Reems, Tina Russell, Mark Stevens (wearing a Marc Stevens t-shirt no less!), Levi Richards, Eric Edwards, Sandy Foxx and Lynn Stevens among others, Sarno’s film is a fairly subversive picture that works far better than it probably has any right to. The film basically combines the type of Jewish humor that comedians like Jackie Mason made popular in their day with the traditional genie/wishes story and works it into the whole ‘film within a film’ concept. Doug Stone as Melvin never engages in any of the hardcore action, he simply turns into one of the male stars and gets his rocks off that way. With that said, Stone is pretty funny in the part (clearly channeling Woody Allen more than a little bit), hamming it up to the point where it feels like he walked out of a high school play or something and really letting his geeky side take over. We like Melvin enough, though, that we not only want him to get laid but we want him to find love as well – how can you not feel at least a little bit for the poor guy?

    The movie also features some great period footage of New York City, showing off a marquee or two and giving us a good feel for the grit and grim of certain neighborhoods. Most of the indoor locations are pretty minimalist but when Sarno takes his camera outside, it’s a bit of a treat.

    His overbearing mother, however, is the real star of the show. Played incredibly well by Ultramax, best known for appearing in mid-seventies classics like Dominatrix Without Mercy, Through The Looking Glass and immortalized as Marc Stevens’ mother in Shaun Costello’s Joe Rock Superstar, she really gets into her role here. Playing to Jewish clichés without ever getting nasty about it, she’s not only sexy in an odd sort of way but she’s absolutely hilarious in the part. Between her performance here and Harry Reems basically just playing Harry Reems, there are some pretty effective gags, some playful sexual humor and some surprisingly hot sex scenes. All of this works together well enough to make A Touch Of Genie one worth watching and a film that proves (more so than Deep Throat 2!) that Sarno actually had a knack for comedy.

    The version of the film included on this release is the softcore version. The uncut XXX version was recently released on Blu-ray by Vinegar Syndrome.

    The Switch:

    One of Joe Sarno’s most obscure works (the liner notes that were included with the previous DVD release – as part of the Deep Throat II Sex Comedy Collection - state that there’s no known US release to be documented anywhere, nor have any bootlegs ever shown up), this is a strange take on the old Jekyll & Hyde story shot using some pretty interesting cast members.

    Rebecca Brooke (a.k.a. Mary Mendum and credited here as Veronica Parrish) plays sexy but nerdy Dr. Shirley Jekyll. She works as a chemist whose research uncovers a perfume formula that turns her into an unrestrained sex maniac who calls herself Sherry Hyde. As Sherry gets into the groove of things, she more or less wanders around and makes it with as many men and women as she can get her hands on. Eventually she winds up at a gang bang that takes place in a swanky seventies apartment. As Sherry’s addiction to her perfume sets in, she finds that she can’t get enough and her libido gets her into some increasingly dangerous situations. Before the film finishes, she lands in a very hot spot indeed as this fairly predictable softcore sex comedy smacks you in the head with an ending that comes completely out of left field.

    Featuring supporting efforts from Jennifer Welles, Sonny Landham and Eric Edwards this was obviously made fast and cheap and to be honest, it isn’t particularly funny in the traditional sense. The movie is strange enough that it has some entertainment value, however, particularly if you enjoy cheap laboratory sets, thick accents, bad acting and fog machines. There’s not much in the way of sex or nudity for the first chunk of the film but the latter half delivers some decent skin and the orgy scene comes perilously close to hardcore in a couple of shots (though these are fleeting). Sarno shoots the film well, capturing some great old locations.

    While not a particularly riveting film, it’s worth a watch, especially if you’re a fan of Sarno’s style.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Deep Throat II looks quite a bit better here than on the old DVD release that Alpha Blue Archives put out years back. That transfer was tape sourced and full frame while this 1.78.1 widescreen presentation is taken from a print and transferred in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. There’s quite a bit of print damage here, there’s no getting around that, but detail and color aren’t bad. Pandora And The Magic Box was also taken from a print and a reasonably battered one at that. It’s also framed at 1.78.1 and in AVC/1080p. Black levels are good and contrast is fine. Detail is decent given the elements used for the transfer. These films take up about 20GBs each on the 50Gb disc.

    The films on the second disc fit handily on a 25GB disc. A Touch Of Genie, framed at 1.78.1 and taken from what we can probably guess is the old DVD (upscaled, it looks like) release that After Hours put out a few years ago, looks okay but never amazing. The Switch is sourced from the only known source, and that’s a tape with burned in foreign subtitles. Keep your expectations in check, it’s fairly faded and while watchable enough, it doesn’t look particularly good. Understandably, it’s presented in standard definition.

    The audio for all four films are presented in English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, there are no alternate language options or subtitles provided. There’s minor hiss here and there throughout all four presentations but the dialogue stays audible enough. For the most part the levels are properly balanced. A lossless option would have been preferable here, but that didn’t happen (nor did it happen on the either of the first two volumes in the series so at this point we should probably just expect it).

    Extras? The first disc features an excellent commentary track. While the packaging states that it’s with Richard Livermore alone, he’s joined by moderator Michael Bowen with periodic input from After Hours Cinema head honcho, Mike Raso. Then, about twenty minutes in, Joe Sarno walks in the room. This all happens on tape and it’s rather amusing as it doesn’t sound like Richard and Joe had seen each other in a while. Regardless, on to the commentary which is quite good despite some fluctuations in the levels (any time Bowen laughs, which is frequent, he’s really loud). While much of this track is simply random scene specific anecdotes, Livermore does give a good rundown of his career in the adult film industry from how he got his start doing magazine layouts on the west coast to how he wound up becoming one of Sean Costello’s regulars. He and Sarno both speak quite fondly of Lovelace and apparently enjoyed working with her quite a bit. Sarno points out that Judy Tenuta has a brief cameo in the film and finally lays to rest the stories about whether or not this film was actually shot as a hardcore feature. For years fans have suspected that this was originally meant to be a XXX film and for whatever reason it wound up getting cut. Sarno confirms that although more sex footage was shot than what appears here (some of it has turned up on an Italian DVD release of Deep Throat II and on a compilation called The Confessions Of Linda Lovelace) that the film was never intended to be a hardcore movie and he states that he shot all of the performers from the waste up. No hardcore footage ever existed for this film. Livermore also confirms that he specifically remembers shooting a sex scene with Lovelace and that she had clothes on when they did it. All in all, this is a good track and it’s interesting to hear the two finally dispel one of porndom’s longest running rumors.

    The first disc also contains a video interview with Joe Sarno (11:19). The always amiable director speaks here about how he came on board the picture, what it was like working with Lovelace, and what it was like following up what is undeniably the most successful adult film of all time. He also talks about the advent of hardcore, what it was like watching Deep Throat in a theater with Lovelace sitting between he and his wife Peggy, and how XXX films made it harder and harder to make a living shooting softcore movies. Sarno’s got a pretty good memory and he always makes for an interesting interview subject. While some of what he discusses here is repeated in the commentary, it really doesn’t matter, this is still definitely worth watching.

    Disc one also includes trailers for both features, menus and chapter selection.

    Disc two also features some interesting extras starting with a Sarno ‘comedy interview’ (9:58) in which he talks about his forays into funny films, his thoughts on how some of them turned out, the cast that he worked with and more. Also on hand is an interview with Douglas Stone (4:36 who played Melvin in A Touch Of Genie (and still more or less looks exactly the same!). He talks about his character a bit and gives his thoughts on the picture and some memories of his experiences making it. In the Touch Pioneer Screening featurette (5:33) we travel back in time to 2007 to check out footage from a theatrical screening of A Touch Of Genie for which Sarno was in attendance. Various attendees give their thoughts on the film, Peggy Sarno shows up to throw in her two cents, and Pop Cinema’s Michael Raso shows up to discuss the film and its director as well. In The Switch Sarno Interview (8:04) Joe shows up to wax nostalgic about the making of the film, the actors he worked with and it’s history.

    Inside the clear Blu-ray keepcase is an insert booklet containing credits for both films and an essay from Tim Lucas that essentially serves as a primer to Sarno’s world.


    The Final Word:

    Film Movement’s third Blu-ray volume in the Joseph W. Sarno Retrospective Series brings together a mix of films that have been released before in varying degrees of quality in one nice two-disc Blu-ray set. The transfers aren't going to floor anyone, the elements are what they are, but this is never the less an interesting look back at just how quirky and varied Sarno's filmography really was.


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



































































































    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      Which is better? Having a shirt of yourself or a poster of yourself?
    1. agent999's Avatar
      agent999 -
      I've seen Deep Throat Part II three times in the last thirteen years. I still have no fucking idea what the plot is. I've resorted to buying the novelization in a last ditch attempt to follow it. Not even Ashes of Time took me this many viewings to understand.
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    Jason C

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    Wow. I need this.

    Amazing review. Thanks

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    Jason C 05-22-2018 02:20 PM
    John Bernhard

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    Confirmed here
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