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Something Weird Video presents
Sin in the Suburbs / The Swap and How They Make It (1964-1966)

"Sometimes I wish I were married to someone who quit work at 5:00, and was sitting in his underwear by 5:30. Like a truck driver or something."
- Geraldine Lewis (Audrey Campbell)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: December 13, 2004

Stars: Alice Linville, Audrey Campbell, Lahna Monroe, Patricia McNair, Stella Britton
Other Stars: Louis Waldon, Richard Tatro, John Aristedes, Pat Davis
Director: Joe Sarno

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexual situations)
Run Time: 03h:09m:25s
Release Date: June 29, 2004
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-B-B- C+

DVD Review

In the 1960s, the sexploitation genre was in full swing, with an untold number of skin-filled titles known affectionately as "grindhouse" films; these were loaded with nudity, sex and plot lines that generally went against the moral grain of middle America. Writer/director Joe Sarno was part of that crowd, but he was sort of like the Orson Welles of his contemporaries—a director tried to push the envelope, and who actually gave a hoot about telling a deeper, more twisted story amidst the dropped tops and frantic couplings. Characters in a Sarno film were generally more troubled than most—but in more relatable ways—and he doled out the sex scenes in careful portions, which as a result give his films more legitimacy and helped to make them stand up even today. These were low-budget quickies, of course, but Sarno has his own style.

Something Weird, in what I hope is a trend, has once again placed two Sarno titles on one disc, though I still think he's getting the short end of the stick by not having his name featured more prominently on the cover (in this example it doesn't appear at all). This time around it is Sin In The Suburbs (1964) and The Swap and How They Make It (1966), a pair of films that both explore the world of frustrated suburban housewives—an exceedingly popular storyline of the genre, by the way.

Sin In The Suburbs

Sin In The Suburbs features a pre-Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS Dyanne Thorne—here billed as Lahna Monroe—as Lisa, the evil influence who, along with her "brother," creates a sex club designed to capitalize on the frustrated longings of a group of neighborhood women who all have an itch needing to be scratched. The problem is that none of the participants seem to have a grasp on the downside, and in true Sarno fashion, things dip into glorious weirdness. Audrey Campbell (dominatrix star of the Olga films) plays Geraldine Lewis, a woman with a confused teenage daughter Kathy (Christina Ricci look-alike and Sarno regular Alice Linville) and a work-fixated hubbie, and who just happens to "entertain" men during the day with the help of a loose friend and a few bottles of booze.

Crazy stuff abounds her, whether it be wide-eyed young Kathy walking in on her mom taking part in a four-way (minus her father), gratuitous lesbianism or the very close relationship between Lisa and her brother. But all of this builds to the big toward the sex club payoff scene, and Sarno lets us know it is going to go badly, and all we can do is sit back and cringe as things fall into place. Sarno goes into Eyes Wide Shut territory during the big sex club scene, where all the participants don black robes and masks before having some fun, and when Geraldine and her daughter both end up at the same bash it is time for the moral walls to fall down hard.

The Swap and How They Make It

Ok, maybe it's not the suburbs, but Sarno takes on small country life in this outing, as a group of sexually ignored women try to find a way to kill the hours while their husbands are busy working. The exploration of the sexy dark side all starts when one character wonders "What's wrong with a little flirting?". A lot, that's what. Mona (Patricia McNair) is the good girl lead, a newly married woman struggling to keep her boredom in check by not succumbing the rampant libidinous actions of her friend Karen (Stella Britton), a free spirit who frequently beds down with a hunky college boy. Boozy pal Brooke (Pat Davis) is part of some kinky swapping club, and she does her darndest to draw in cute Mona and her horny friend Karen.

The odd thing about The Swap and How They Make It is that it almost plays out like a straight drama; the sex is rather minimal and the nudity is even less frequent. For a genre title, Sarno drives this one more down the mainstream line, relying on the whole "will she or won't she?" angle to propel the story along, and the thing is that even though we think Mona is this pure, sweet woman we can see her slowly falling apart, becoming increasingly more frustrated and curious. Like Sin In The Suburbs, Sarno's final act features yet another masked sex ball, only here the mood is darker and just plain wrong.

The bored housewife plot was a popular subset of the whole sexploitation genre, and in these two examples Joe Sarno shows that it doesn't always require constant nudity and sex to work.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Both of these black-and-white films are offered in 1.33:1 fullframe, and while neither are perfect, they are as good as its going to get for any of these type of low-budget titles. A few nicks and scratches, a few jump cuts here and there, but overall an acceptable presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is provided in a respectable Dolby Digital mono mix; dialogue is clear, and there aren't any major problems with hiss or crackle.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Case of the Stripping Wives, Drop—Out Wife, Matinee Wives, Suburban Wives, Suburban Confidential, Swedish Wife Exchange Club
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Joe Sarno, Peggy Sarno, Mike Vraney, Frank Henenlotter
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Sin In The Suburbs sports a commentary track from Joe Sarno and his wife, actress Peggy "Cleo Nova" Sarno, along with Something Weird's Mike Vraney and Basket Case director Frank Henenlotter. If you're looking for a quick history of the genre, hearing the comments from Sarno and the input from rabid fans Vraney and Henenlotter will shed some new light on the whole sub-culture of sexploitation. Sarno is a bit vague about the alleged "true story" origins of the film, but otherwise the content is crammed with a groovy kind of specialized insight.

Also included is a stack of bored housewife-themed trailers, and a Joe Sarno nudie short entitled A Sneak Peek at Strip Poker (05m:49s), in which two couples play an equal amount of losing hands before doffing their duds, all set to a hipster Daddy-O score. One of the guys looks like a greasy Frank Gorshin, and one of the women has a habit of bugging her eyes out a bit too crazily, but even with those minor distractions this one is good more for a chuckle than for a tease. This same short also appears on Something Weird's other Sarno double-bill, Flesh and Lace/Passion in Hot Hollows.

Each film is cut into 9 chapters, with no subtitle options.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Something Weird has hooked up another two engaging Joe Sarno-directed sexploitation titles from the mid-60s, this time focusing less on flagrant nudity and fixating more on the mental and emotional anguish of bored suburban housewives. The storytelling is tighter than on most of the usual grindhouse entries, and the suburbs have never looked more horny, baby.


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