Monday, May 03, 2010

Joe Sarno, RIP

Joe Sarno--who may or may not have been the real-life Jack Horner--died last week. The NYT, funnily enough, carried a lengthy obit. A particularly dedicated Times watcher might be able to pinpoint the exact moment with the New York Times became the kind of paper that would run a 900-word obit on a semi-obscure soft-core porn director. My non-educated guess would be some time around July 1975. Whatever the case, here's a taste:

His early films were straightforwardly, even single-mindedly erotic, although flashes of nudity came only intermittently and the sex act took place outside the frame. Shot in a self-consciously artistic style, films like “Red Roses of Passion” (1966) and “Odd Triangle” (1968) explored the anxiety-haunted, tentative steps toward sexual liberation of middle-class suburbanites born too early to experience the uninhibited self-expression of the baby-boom generation.
“He was one of the pioneers of the American sexploitation film and a driving force in the sexual revolution of the 1960s,” Mr. Bowen said. “The films were gritty, down to earth, with a very distinctive style. At their best they were very dirty — they just did not have explicit sex.”
Mind you, I'm not judging. Sarno had one of those only-in-America lives:
Joseph William Sarno was born on March 15, 1921, in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, and grew up on Long Island in Amityville. His father was a bootlegger, and his mother was a socialist labor organizer. He enrolled in New York University but dropped out immediately after Pearl Harbor to enlist in the Navy. As an airman, he saw action in the South Pacific. . . .
After the war Mr. Sarno found work as an advertising copywriter and sold ripping-yarn feature stories to digest magazines like Coronet. His film career began when the Navy, mistakenly believing that he had filmed bombing runs during the war, asked him to direct training films. He accepted the offer and then headed off to buy a book on cinematography.
Over the next several years he made dozens of training films for the Navy and industrial films for military contractors. His first venture into feature films came when an independent producer approached him to write the screenplay for an erotic film, “Nude in Charcoal,” which was released in 1961 and shown, like all of Mr. Sarno’s films, in grind-house theaters.
Mr. Sarno wrote the screenplays for all 75 of the 35-millimeter films he made over the next 15 years, and for his subsequent hard-core films. The first film for which he received sole directing credit, “Lash of Lust” (1962), was never released. Atypically, it was an erotic costume drama about Gaul in the time of the Romans, shot in the forests of upstate New York.
Despite what the obit says, I'd like to think that he never shot on videotape.

Update: While we're talking porn, AICN has this trailer up for Vivid's Batman XXX. (Totally SFW, btw.) How excellent does it look? Very! 

Among the many questions it raises, however, is whether or not Vivid can hide behind the "parody" label and its legal protections against copyright infringement. 

No comments: