Joe Sarno, born in 1921 in Brooklyn, had a very successful career in sexploitation a genre that he widely contributed to before becoming a mainstream porn director in the 1980's.
His films examined very real questions about hypocrisy and desire among men and women. Sarno's seemingly bizarre takes on romance concern the place of sex in cultural identity by voicing the questions that were being asked by 1960's American counter-culture to their parents - parents who came from a generation that fought World War Two and whose own parents had survived a ravenous Depression.
This generation gap combined with wide spread political corruption, political upheaval, and an unjust war raging in southeast Asia created a need for a dialogue. What better place than the movie theater?
Sarno, a Navy photographer on South Pacific bombing runs during WWII, became a sexploitation director with his first official feature Sin In The Suburbs (1964). His movies catered to the wilder side of square audiences in the "softcore" market. Sarno's early films confronted sexual frigidity and traditionally accepted hypocrisies about love, women and power by shining a high-powered light into an exaggerated version of mainstream American culture - right were it got it on at.
He did so with unusually well crafted films using stark lighting, long takes, and a purposeful focus on character development. This type of rigorous staging achieved a powerful effect with his actors.
|"The big thing with films — a film is the result of a human relationship, and when you write it to begin with, it's got to be about a real human relationship ... that's the whole secret of the thing. Without that, you have nothing."|
|- From an interview with Joe Sarno in RE/Search #10: Incredibly Strange Films.|
After spending many years in a tumultuous American culture as a sexploitation director Sarno moved on to the hardcore porn market simply because popular culture had accepted the place for softcore porn in theaters and collectively yawned.
The Love Merchant directed by Joe Sarno in 1966.
As a contemporary of Roger Corman said: "Tits are the cheapest special effect in the business..." and although tame by today's standards Sarno used sexuality with a brilliance that was often mishandled by many of his peers including Corman and Russ Meyer - and undoubtedly is continually mishandled today.
Sin You Sinners (1964)
My Body Hungers (1964)
Red Roses of Passion (1966)
The Love Merchant (1966)
The Love Rebellion (1967)
The Indelicate Balance (1969)
The Young, Erotic Fanny Hill (1970)
Deep Throat 2 (1974) (Rated R!)
Confessions of a Young American Housewife (1974)
Inside Little Oral Annie (1984)
Coming on America (1989)
Screw the Right Thing (1990)
Before his death, at age 89 in 2010, Joe Sarno's work was the subject of many gallery and film fest retrospectives including the New York Underground Film Festival, the Torino Film Festival in Turin, Italy and the Cinémathèque française in Paris.
IMDB, Joe Sarno
RE/Search #10: Incredibly Strange Films
Mondo Digital, Films of Joe Sarno
Jah Sonic, Joe Sarno
RE/Search #10:Incredibly Strange Films Edited by V. Vale, Andrea Juno, Jim Morton RE/Search Publications San Francisco October 1986
Facebook, Red Roses Of Passion