Young wives Carole (Mary Mendum, here credited as being Rebecca Brooke, THE IMAGE) and Anna (Chris Jordan, THE TAKING OF CHRISTINA) sit enjoying an afternoon coffee together round Carole's house, when she suddenly remembers she has an appointment to keep.
But this coincides with a knock at the door. Carole answers the door to a pretty young brunette who asks for Eddie (David Hausman). Carole lets the brunette in and an awkward silence ensues as the two women stare the teenager up and down while she waits for Eddie to arrive.
When Eddie arrives, he takes the girl to his bedroom and they proceed to make love. Downstairs, Carole decides she no longer wants to leave for her appointment, and joins Anna upstairs to spy on the couple through the bedroom door. It's at this point that we learn that Eddie is in fact Carole's husband - and that they, along with their neighbours Anna and Peter (Eric Edwards, DEBBIE DOES DALLAS; BABYLON PINK), are swingers!
The following day, Carole meets with Anna and tells her that her mother is coming to stay for a while. She insists that her mother, the priggish Jennifer (Jennifer Welles, MISTY), must not find out about their swinging lifestyles. Indeed, when Jennifer turns up at Carole's house, she does seem a little draconian: she recoils when Anna attempts to kiss her on the cheek by way of greeting.
That evening, Anna and Peter pop round Carole and Eddie's house for a meal. Jennifer cooks the food, while Peter noticeably leers after her and Carole tells the group about how her mother once won a 1963 contest to be voted the "Young American Housewife of the Year". This amuses the group but, feeling humiliated, Jennifer retires for the night.
While Jennifer undresses for bed and begins to caress her naked form, the other four get it on downstairs, arousing each other by discussing what Jennifer's breasts might look like.
But Peter is not content with trying to imagine what Jennifer would look like naked, while settling for gang-banging his wife and neighbours. He needs to find out what Jennifer feels like for himself, and so the next day pays her an afternoon visit while Carole and Anna are out enjoying a stroll through the nearby woods. He only half-succeeds in seducing her, before she pushes him away.
But that night, when Jennifer is disturbed from her slumber by the sexual noises coming from downstairs, she witnesses her daughter and three mates at play, and climbs quickly back into her bed hoping they did not see her spying on them. Only Peter, it seems, spotted her, and decides to sneak up the stairs for another try and seducing the middle-aged temptation …
Before long, Jennifer's sexual yearnings are reawakened and pretty soon no-one is safe - Anna, Peter, Eddie, the delivery boy …! All of which builds to an ending that thematically is quite taboo, and is handled in a surprisingly mannered, subtle way by writer-director Joe Sarno (DEEP THROAT 2; INGA).
HOUSEWIFE is a softcore sex film from 1974 that pays as much attention to it's cast and script, as it does to the tame - if drawn-out - sex scenes. Sarno clearly wants us to enjoy what he sees as the fun aspect of swinging, but also digs a little deeper to examine a quietly disturbing relationship that builds between mother and daughter, in light of a sexual reawakening in the former that - although her daughter allowed to happen - becomes problematic for the latter.
The script is a decent one for the main part, handling the more sensitive moments well and offering an unexpectedly mature denouement. At other times, however, it does indulge in moments of weak humour that threaten to destroy an otherwise well-sustained mood.
Sarno's direction is solid if unremarkable throughout, the pacing feeling fluent, the story neatly contained in a 70-minute time frame and the camera enjoying the delights of a cast he clearly has a lot of affection towards.
The male performers are generally poor-to-average, so it's a good job that the superior females get most of the dialogue and screentime. In particular is a treat to watch, lending a pathos to a role that should by rights be unsympathetic and alienating.
Some will no doubt be disappointed to learn that film does not contain hardcore material, despite the presence of Edwards and Welles. But it would have only slowed down the pace of an otherwise relatively tight little script that doesn't really say much, yet doesn't quite outstay it's welcome. It's harmless fun, in other words, despite bordering on some dark subject matter in its last moments.
On a visual level, the film is shot much akin to your average 1970's porno: static and uninspired camera work for the linking scenes; red-hued soft-focus psychedelia for the sex sequences.
All in all, HOUSEWIFE is a mildly diverting though not entirely memorable foray into adult drama from the prolific Mr Sarno.
Retro-Seduction's 2-disc Special Edition offers the film uncut in it's original 1.33:1 aspect ratio - a "new digital telecine from 35mm film elements".
While images are generally sharp with strong colours and balanced tones, there are numerous specks on the print used and - most glaringly - at 58 minutes into the film, a Retro-Seduction logo appears in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. It's only for a few seconds, but still a tad disappointing.
The English mono soundtrack is a good, reliable and clear mix throughout.
There's no scene-selection menu offered, but the film can be remote-accessed via 11 chapters.
Extras begin with a 12-minute interview with Sarno, who speaks to an offscreen interviewer about his recollections on the shoot. He's clearly very fond of his cast, in particular Mendum/Brooke.
Three deleted scenes are easy to see where they were cut from the film - the first is a 1-minute clip which would have extended the scene where Anna, Peter, Eddie and Carole get it on together; the second shows exactly how Peter seduced Jennifer in her bed (just under 2 minutes); the third is an elongated lesbian session enjoyed between the women and a strange fortune teller-type hippie chick who crops up in the latter stages of the film (7 minutes).
Then we have the usual trailer vault of goodies, which in this instance includes teasers for 7 Sarno films, including MISTY and GIRL MEETS GIRL.
There's a second disc, which is actually an audio CD of 27 tracks by late composer Joe Justis. This includes his laid-back, folky instrumental score for HOUSEWIFE, as well as music he wrote for other Sarno films - some of the tracks here aren't even titled.
Finally, the package is completed by an excellent 12-page booklet that not only boasts some attractive nude colour photos, but great liner notes from Michael J Bowen. Going into the background of the film's production, Bowen's notes are actually a lot more use than Sarno's thoughts on the video interview!
One of Sarno's more interesting efforts. Not a great film, but a competent and agreeable one nonetheless. And Retro-Seduction have done a good job with the extras. It's a shame about that blip on the transfer front though …
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Retro Seduction|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|