Being Bored at Home Turns into an EVIL Enterprise! “Moonlighting Wives” reviewed! (Dark Force / Blu-ray)

They’re Housewives.  They’re bored.  They’re…”Moonlighting Wives.”  Now Available at!

Unsatisfied with her distressed husband’s meager wage as a third shift switchboard operator, Joan Rand strikes up a new Stenography business to bring in a little extra cash for the household.  When her new boss makes salacious advances toward her, she explores the opportunity of making more money than just on a stenographer’s wage.  Roping in her only contracted typist, Joan begins to bring in beautiful, bored housewives seeking to earn dough no matter how sexually scandalous and instead of perfecting their short hand skills or their ability to read back letters aloud without error, the determined entrepreneur revamps her stenographic business as a front for perfecting prostitution.  Infiltrating her way into every bar, hotel, and country club, even partnering with the country club’s golf pro, Joan’s call girl ring rides a profitable high and expands into new men-oriented territories but how long can the lucrative venture last when two vice cops are inching to bring down the elusive ring and one of her girls become scorned by the affectional eyes of love. 

Sexploitation has come a long way since 1966 when director Joe Sarno helmed the scene-efficient and bored housewife subversion “Moonlighting Wives.”  Before embarking full-fledged into the adult industry, Sarno blazed the trail for the economically friendly dicey skin flicks of the 1960s through the 1970s, retrospectively finding a cult base amongst observers and academics of subversive cinema and underground exploitation. “Bad Girls for Boys” producer Robert M. Moscow serves as associate producer on the Morgan Picture Corporation production, founded by George J. Morgan, producer of “The Thrill Killers” and “The Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Monster.”

Credited as Diane Vivienne, Tammy Latour (“The Naked Fog”) plays the business savvy Mrs. Joan Rand turning her dictation craft as a storefront for a more provocative and promiscuous profession to keep men happy and her pockets plush.   Latour’s a cool and calculating in her performance that makes Mrs. Rand a pragmatic kingpin of her quick-to-success prostitution ring but in doing so with her performance, that is much like everyone else’s in the film denoting a sign of the time period in which the story is constructed, Latour comes off extremely monotone like her large 60’s hairdo houses a little green man at the control of her cerebral center, calling out commands flatly, coldly, and without a slink of emotion behind her absent inflections or thousand yard stares.  Instead, much of the emotion, if any, is produced by her ashamed-driven to alcohol abusing husband and emotionally exploited bored housewife (Gretchen Rudolph, “The Dicktator”) brought to shambles after cheating on her husband and losing her paramour at the same time due to Rand’s scheming into the operational fold to rake in more rakes and cash.  We’re treated to Mr. Rand’s bottoming out as he’s no longer the bread winner and he’s suspicions overwhelm him to drink himself into a stupor.  The emotional pull that the Rand swindled housewife goes through is callously cut deep when her country club lover, Al Jordan (John Aristedes, “My Body Hungers”), becomes in cahoots with Mrs. Rand, taking her own as not only a business partner but a side-by-side lover, and coaxes his former mistress’s desire for him into doing naughty things with other men to keep him out of a deceived lie of debt.  A rollercoaster of fear, doubt, acceptance, and emotional evolution goes to full arc spectrum with the one cog in the machine that ends up breaking down the whole organization into a crumbling heap.  Aforesaid, the other performances don’t stray too far from Tammy Latour’s matter of fact and is more just a sign of the times in which “Moonlighting Wives” is produced, especially on a microbudget as early sexploitation couldn’t break into mainstream or even with welcoming arms in a more accepting niche public as a more right-wing, puritanical society was starting to be on the brink of uninhibited free love model.  “Moonlighting Wives” has a sexploitation friendly cast with June Roberts (“The Pink Pussy:  Where Sin Lives”), Marla Ellis (“Sin in the Suburbs”), Joe Santos (“Flesh and Lace”), and George Winship (“Teenage Gang Debs”).

How does a racy U.S. cinematic story beat the odds of staying out from the sleazy cinemas, like the sheltered exterior and tacky carpeted 42nd Street of the 1980s, and from being blackballed from the blue balled public looking for a little titillating release?  Innuendo in film became a thing of the past once the film boards ruled film nudity was no longer to be considered obscene a few years before 1960 and this opened up an opportunity for filmmakers to tap into the salacious half of the American population, experimenting with primal carnalities depictions that burrowed into the deepest of desires.  Since financing was scarce as the newly appointed sexploitation genre was too much of a risk for return, movies like “Moonlighting Wives” were made for next to nothing and director Joe Sarno quickly became quickly an expert in churning out licentious cinema commodities on a dime at the turn of the decade.  Having completed moderately successful films of this nature with “Warm Nights and Hot Pleasures” and “Pandora and the Magic Box,” Sarno built a rapport with actors and actresses who would return film-after-film.  John Aristedes, Joe Santos, June Roberts, and Tammy Latour, to name drop a few, regularly frequented Sarno’s casting call – and, hopefully, not his casting couch. Much like the rest of the lot, “Moonlighting Wives” serves as a lesson learned, a steep cost if you will, when morals mingle with perversity and blur the lines of right and wrong.  However, these types of films didn’t come tense action either, or rather much of any type of action because of it’s hand-to-mouth (or in related terms – any orifice to mouth) leanness in funds.  Sarno masters the exposition scene with what I like to label as high school sexual education discourse in where talking heads explain in detail every single action and do it in a tone that’s somewhere between mundane and deadpan.  Objectively, “Moonlighting Wives” is a cold-hard look at cause-and-effect with the loosening of standards jeopardizing what’s most dear to you after the deed is done. 

As a 2k restoration from the uncensored 35mm original negative, “Moonlighting Waves” has been paradoxically upgraded by adding back in original content that initially hit by censors with the lost nude scenes, a summation of 5 minutes’ worth of film, has be reclaimed for the Dark Force Entertainment Blu-ray release.  Yet, Dark Force’s release also competes with a Sarno double feature in “The Naked Fog” from Film Movement that was coincides with a similar market date.  Unfortunately, we’ve yet to land our hands on the Film Movement version to compare.  The Dark Force Blu-ray is AVC encoded with high definition 1080p resolution and presented in the letterboxed 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Back cover lists the ratio at 1.33:1 but also list an anamorphic widescreen and while I concur with the anamorphic lens, the presentation is firmly in a square box of 1.33:1.  Prefaced with a black title card warning regarding the additional image quality, more than just the additional footage has weathered under the test time to sometimes appearing more yellowish and with vertical scratch lines and speckled dust. For the most part, the overall image presentation makes the grade with an unimposing, yet steady color grading and most of the frames free from visual blights. If there were any digital enhancements done during the restoration, DNR appears to be the present culprit as facial features often appear too smooth for 35mm stock that should be developed with a fine layer of grain. The English 1.0 audio mix furnishes the appropriate single channel output for an exposition heavy feature. Distinct sound relativity is shot and the Stan Free score is lounge music 101 with rhythmic snare and hi-hat raps but the dialogue fairs rather strongly with forefront, clean, and clear conversing. Film historian Michael Bowen bookends a pair of included special features with an audio commentary track and an on-webcam interview discussing Sarno’s life coursing the newfound sexploitation genre pre his adult industry tenure. Also included is a deleted nude scene that involves no familiar actors from the trunk narrative in a seemingly out of place couple swap of the topless kind. I’m a little taken aback by the loss of some of the special features that were a part of the Alternative Cinema DVD release that are not present here on the Blu-ray, such as the Joe Sarno interview before his death. What’s neat about the physical features of the Dark Force release, aside from the clear Blu-ray snapper, is the retrograded, stark yellow and black, low-key cover art that builds up the hype with exclamational points about how obscene “Moonlighting Wives” is and not recommended it for the modestly shy and most prude moviegoers. The bold marketing attempt really perks up interesting in checking out the title that ultimately finishes with antiquated impressions, but the idea is neat, and the word heavy front cover is very representational of the exposition drenched dialogue in the narrative. Disc art is pressed with a wanted ad for young attractive women, which is also a nice touch. the region free release comes not rated and has a runtime of 86 minutes. Without a doubt scandalous in any decade, “Moonlighting Wives” encapsulates the seedlings of sexploitation with Joe Sarno at the helm of cultivating ripe, round melons out of barely any dirt and succeeding with a lust-heavy pursuit under a profession that now, ironically enough, only exists mainly in law-abiding courtrooms.

They’re Housewives.  They’re bored.  They’re…”Moonlighting Wives.”  Now Available at!

EVIL Follows the Virtuous. “Justine” reviewed! (Blue Underground / 4K UHD & Blu-ray)

Own Your Piece of Virtue with this 2-Disc “Justine” set from Blue Undergrounda and MVD Visual!  

Unable to continue their religious education, left with a meager currency to afford room, board and food, and holding no station or options for social pursuit, Justine and her sister Juliette are put out to the streets of 18th century France.  While Juliette recruits herself into a Madame’s established brothel for money, shelter, and sleight of hand opportunities, leading a life sinful in flesh, murder, and exploit that reaps luxurious benefits into high society, a more chaste Justine finds her path to be far less desirable.  Her virtue becomes the object of obsession, lust, and is taken advantage of for other’s personal gain.  No longer protected by her parents or the convent’s shelter, Justine is exposed to the wickedness of the world in every form and fashion with only slithers of bliss here and there as a reward of her decency only to be immediately snatched from her grasp before she can even enjoy a second.  Accused of stealing and murder, tortured and branded, imprisoned and convicted, labeled an escaped enemy of France, and with her virtue corrupted by a cult of pleasure seekers, Justine questions a life led in chastity and overall goodness that has brought her nothing but pain and strife. 

On the heels of my own personal overseas trip to France, a trip for pleasure if you must know, I found it timely and fitting that the Jess Franco directed film, the Marquis de Sade’s “Justine,” would be the next celluloid critique of enticing pulpy obscura.  A part of a pair of Marquis de Sade-themed productions from producer Harry Alan Towers, the other being “Eugenie,” the Eurotrash sexploitation is based off Marquis de Sade’s 1791 novel Justine, or The Misfortunes of Virtue and is adapted for screen by Towers from an original treatment penned by Arpad DeRiso (“Death Steps in the Dark”) and Erich Kronte. “Justine” is one of Franco’s most ambitious visual epics with ornate time period customers, elaborate and grand locations, and an anthology of sorts of the titular character’s misadventures through France that disenchant her chastity. Corona Filmproduktion and the Aica Cinematografica S.R.L. served as the co-productions of this Italian-Spanish 1969 film.

Perhaps the most recognizable and most notable adaptation of Marquis de Sade’s novel, “Justine” is also popularized by its identifiable cast with big names in not only Europe but also in America. The opening scenes with Klaus Kinski, in a wraparound narrative as the Marquis de Sade himself imprisoned and suffering visions of bloodied and bound naked women, immediately draws you into the “Nosferatu the Vampyre” and “Schizoid” actor’s character plight and muted damnation into writing about virtue, a misfortunate respectability. The other famous face in the film, one that spans from Europe to the U.S., is Romina Power as the titular “Justine.” Power, daughter of actor-songwriter Tyrone Power, was, in her own right, a well-known Eurovision singer after the release of the Franco film, but it was her father’s musical talents who landed the sweet-faced Romina into the denigrated young woman role. While Kinski acts on pure facial expression alone, using his iconic, distinct facial features, Power offered a more rigid approach like a child locked by confusion and while unintentional and usually not what any filmmaker wants in a devoid of relaying vicarious expressive emotions, Power naive innocence proves key to Justine’s, well dare I say it, naive innocence. Power’s beauty alone could have stood ground in making the attack from angles perversity film work like a charm. One of the more surprising casted members is Jack Palance. Yes, Curly from “City Slickers” or Jake Stone from “Cops and Robbersons” outlines the formidable pleasure-seeking cult leader Brother Antonin with such gusto flamboyance, the must-see and most-enjoyable performance seemingly feels alien to the usual stoic and stern typecasted actor who could rival Clint Eastwood with a fierce thousand-yard stare. Having co-starred in the Franco-de Sade film “Eugenie” a few years later, Maria Rohm, aka Harry Alan Towers wife, plays the role of Juliette and while the story is ultimately a dichotomy of virtue and sin, there’s an imbalance between the two characters for screen time. The Marquis de Sade’s novel was named “Justine” after all. For her alotted screen time, Rohm provides a suitable sinful scarlet woman climbing the aristocratic ladder by cheating, stealing, and killing her way to the top. The cast fills out with Harold Leiptnitz (“The Brides of Fu Manchu”), Horst Frank (“The Cat o’ Nine Tails”), Gustavo Re (“Horror Story”), Sylva Koscina (“Uncle was a Vampire”), Akim Tamiroff, Rosalba Neri (“The French Sex Murders”), and “99 Women’s” Mercedes McCambridge in an unforgettable role as a nasty gang-leading woman whose high-velocity cruelty rockets are so homed in on Justine it’s explosively devastating to watch.

Having seen the elegance of interior architectures inside Paris’s Opera house, walked the cobblestone streets surrounding the monumental Eiffel Tower, and taking in the laissez-faire of the French way of life, I can honestly say Jess Franco captures France impeccably well for an self-exiled Spaniard known more for his sleaziness and horror than his efforts in cinematic expressionism.   Arching with one big showcase revolving around the idea that virtue will get you nowhere and will be nothing but trouble, ultimately putting to question the validity of the decency concept, the narrative is broken up into a mini-scenarios, mostly of Justine being completely subjugated to the wicked whims of others and a handful of Juliette erecting a better life off the backs of others she’s duped or snuffed.  Franco mastered false hope and misconceptions with each of Justine’s encounters as they lure her in with promises of salvation to then only kick her when she’s down and reap full advantage of her inexperience and gullibility that the world is full of good people.  Sordid and cruel, “Justine” is a contradiction of actionable cynicism in the foreground of depicted magnificence in location, costume, and cinematography choices that hews into the coarse callousness; one particular scene comes to mind involves Jack Palance’s Antonin arranged with hand positioning that abbreviates the name Jesus Christ and as Antonin is holding this hand arrangement, he seemingly glides or floats down the stone corridors toward Justine, demonstrating religious imagery as a form of abusive power or corrupted guidance to serve one’s own deviant devices.  Though labeled in some circles a sexploitation film and certainly full of skin from Romina Power, Maria Rohm, and Rosalba Neri amongst others peekabooing their assets through cut potato sacks during the sex slave orientation scene, much of the sex is heavily implied with a limited gratuitous outcome.  Before going fully into an Eurotrash market by the late 70s and all the way through to the 90s, Franco made every effort to be a considerable filmmaker for a broad audience in numerous countries and his dislike for censorship shines through to his work, despite the likelihood of costing him acclaimed fame as a director. 

“Justine” arrives on 4K UHD in a Blu-ray combo set from Blue Underground.  The two disc set is AVC encoded Blu-ray 50gig and a triple layered Blu-ray 100gig with 1080p (standard BR) and 2160p (UHD) high-definition resolution, and presented in the original European widescreen aspect ratio of 1.66:1.  The brand new 4K restoration from the uncensored original camera negative of the 35mm film with Dolby Vision HDR is a foremost upgrade to the highest power, an ultra-balanced grading that reels in a wide variety of colors from interior to exterior that helps bring the ornamentation of 18th century France to a vivacious life on screen.  The saturation is enriched and finitely retuned to deliver the best and naturalistic grading as humanly possible, or as current technology allows.  The Blu-ray offers a just as reasonable presentation but does lack that high attention to detail because of the lower pixel count.  Bitrate decades are a comfortable average in the high 30s to low 40s.  The UHD and standard Blu-ray offer a clean and free from compression artifacts with immeasurable format capacity to render an unimpeachable picture. Both formats come with an English DTS-HD mono, dubbed in English by voice actors and not the original cast. No hissing, popping, and only a slight interference hum. Dialogue is dub boxy but clean, clear, and right forefront without question of what’s being discoursed and is well-folded into the ambient and Bruno Nicolai epic vein-coursing score that triumphs a military march over a classical base. English SDH are optional. In regard to special features, both formats include a new audio commentary with film historians Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth and the French trailer, but the Blu-ray contains archive interviews with director Jess Franco and writer-producer Harry Alan Towers, an interview with author Stephen Thrower of Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco, a new interview with actress Rosalba Neri, in Italian with English subtitles, On Set With Jess, a newly expanded poster and still gallery, and a Jess Franco dreaded censored cut of the Americanized shorter version of the film under the “Deadly Sanctuary” title in HD and clocking in at 96 minutes, a nearly 30 minutes shorter. The physical features mirror the “Eugenie” 4k/Blu-ray release with a black Blu-ray snapper case with similar thickness. A shackled Justinne graces the front cover, as with the previous DVD Blue Underground release, and has the same cardboard slipcover with an oval shaped like mirror cutout to not block the half-naked Romina Power. Back covers are both the snapper case and cardboard cover have the same layout design but different still images on each. Inside, there is a disc on each side of the case held in by a push lock. The UHD is a sizzling infrared and sultrier posed version of the snapper cover while the Blu-ray, in the same red hue, is a composition of characters clustered together in a circular design. The film comes not rated, region free, and has the presentation feature with a runtime of 124 minutes. The Marquis de Sade divulges a sardonic, topsy-turvy belief that the more you stay virtuous, the more trouble follows as it’s the way of the world and the more you swindle, the more headway you make in life. Jess Franco brings the Marquis’s vision to cinematic life with a grand and sordid tale, dissevering the two ways toward their individual soul crushing path, and discovering morality within the immoral.

Own Your Piece of Virtue with this 2-Disc “Justine” set from Blue Undergrounda and MVD Visual!