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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "The Sarnos: A Life in Dirty Movies" )


directed by Wiktor Ericsson
Sweden 2013


A LIFE IN DIRTY MOVIES is a documentary on erotic filmmaker Joe Sarno (MARCY) who has in the last decade enjoyed new recognition as "the Ingmar Bergman of porn" (as described by actress Annie Sprinkle). Beginning as a director of training films in the army, he was approached by a friend to do a "sex film" (which at the time meant a flash of breasts). His subsequent sixties filmography was definitely not aimed at the raincoat crowd - despite the outrageous titles like VIBRATIONS, PASSION IN HOT HOLLOWS, THE SWAP AND HOW TO MAKE IT, SIN YOU SINNERS, MY BODY HUNGERS, THE YOUNG NOTORIOUS FANNY HILL, THE SEX CYCLE, and WALL OF FLESH - with their emphasis on human relationships, suburban secrets, and equal attention to pleasures and consequences of sexual liberation and breaking taboos over mere burlesque and cheesecake thrills (with SIN IN THE SUBBURS widely regarded as his masterpiece in this respect). In the late sixties, he divided his time between filmmaking in New York and Sweden where he had first been sent by Jerry Gross' Cinemation to make INGA to cash in on the American perception that Scandinavian cinema was more explicit. Sarno resisted going into hardcore filmmaking and found it difficult to procure distribution for his later softcore films like ABIGAIL LESLIE IS BACK IN TOWN and MISTY (the theatrical play of which was extremely limited). When he did move into hardcore - after making a trio of softcore films in Germany where softcore still had a market (once of which was augmented with hardcore inserts when it was released here) - it was mainly in unsigned or pseudonymous works like INSIDE JENNIFER WELLES and INSIDE SEKA or lame comedies like A TOUCH OF GENIE before his last hardcore work in 1990.

Around this time, a number of his sixties and seventies works started appearing on video from companies like Something Weird Video and Alpha Blue Archives, followed by some HD remasters of his lesser-seen seventies work by E.I. Independent Cinema where his participation in the DVD extras also lead to the 2004 throwback production SUBURBAN SECRETS. In the ensuing years, he and wife Peggy Steffens (frequent costume designer and supporting actress in his earlier works) attended retrospectives (including one a BFI one in 2009) and also worked strenuously to get another project off the ground. Although there had been a resurgence in softcore independent filmmaking - both inspired by and spawning the retrospective interests in filmmakers like Sarno and Nick Phillips (SATAN'S BLACK WEDDING) - reduced and changing distribution venues (legitimate or otherwise) turned out to be just as much a barrier as hardcore. True to the original title THE SARNOS: A LIFE IN DIRTY MOVIES, the film is not just about auteur Sarno but also about the him and wife/costume designer/supporting actress Peggy Steffens as a couple. We learn of how they met, her parents strong disapproval of Sarno, their yearly trips to Stockholm where they kept an apartment (and a storage unit full of sex props and miscellaneous reels from their productions in that country), her input into the productions (and continuing discoveries about the idiosyncrasies of his working methods), as well as her struggles to manage both his failing health and their disastrous finances since Sarno owned none of the films he worked on for hire (with Peggy feeling that she had perhaps shielded him from too much of reality throughout the years). In the lean years before Sarno relented and directed a string of hardcore films, Peggy's father had himself financed ABIGAIL LESLIE IS BACK IN TOWN and her mother has continued to help her (although they seem to have reconciled, their filmed meeting here betrays the lingering presence of some old hurts). Although Sarno never got to make another film before he passed away in 2010, we see that joy that mainstream appreciation had brought him and the vindication it brings his widow who continues to keep his memory alive along with the documentary's other contributors from the aforementioned Sprinkle, the late Jamie Gillis, producer Arthur Morowitz, editor Kemper Peacock, and gaffer Myron Odegaard to cult filmmaker John Waters (A DIRTY SHAME), producer Michael Raso (G-STRING VAMPIRES), adult film historians Michael Bowen, Jim Morton, and Ed Grant, festival programmer Giulia D'Agnolo Vallan, anti-censorship film scholar Linda Williams.

Eric Cotenas


Theatrical Release: 19 September 2014 (USA)

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DVD Review: Film Movement - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Film Movement

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:21:51

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.7 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English Dolby Digital 5.1; English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Film Movement

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Featurettes:
• - 'Young Playthings' segment (16:9; 2:17)
• - 'Fäbojantan' segment (16:9; 6:05)
• Interviews:
• - actor Tod Moore (16:9;4:46)
• - actress Annie Sprinkle (16:9;2:51)
• - actor Jamie Gillis (16:9;2:50)
• - actress Katinka (16:9;4:33)
• - actress Sarah Denby (16:9;3:10)
• Biographies
• Trailer (16:9;1:10)
• Film Movement Trailers
• About Film Movement

DVD Release Date: November 25th, 2014

Chapters 12



Film Movement's dual-layer disc is a suitable encode given the variable quality of the interview footage, B-roll, and the film clips (the earlier ones are cropped to 16:9 and seem to have been upscaled from DVDs even though some have been mastered in HD in the past). The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is very front-oriented (a 2.0 track is also included). There are no subtitle options, but the disc does have closed captioning (which is sometimes inconsistent in identifying voice-over speakers under their names or as "Man #") but they appear accurate without paraphrasing.

Extras consist of an expanded segment on the obscure film "Young Playthings" - including some outtakes - and a longer one on the film "Fäbojantan" that includes a visit to the cinematographer's house (in the finished film, we know the Sarnos are taking the car out to visit friends in Sweden but we never meet them), as well as extended bits with actors Jamie Gillis and Annie Sprinkle, as well as unused bits featuring actors Ted Moore, Katinka, and Sarah Denby. The disc also includes text biographies for documentary director Wiktor Ericsson and the Sarnos, as well as a trailer for the feature and other Film Movement titles.

  - Eric Cotenas


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Film Movement

Region 1 - NTSC


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