Blu-ray Review: Joe Sarno’s Vampire Ecstasy and Sin You Sinners

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Softcore horror classic Vampire Ecstasy comes to Blu-ray coupled with early Joe Sarno exploitation gem Sin You Sinners

In Tim Lucas’ liner notes for Film Media/Film Movement’s Blu-ray double feature release of Vampire Ecstasy and Sin You Sinners, he mentions that director Joe Sarno (Deep Throat II) has often been referred to as “the Chekhov of soft core”. It’s amusing allusion and it’s appropriate in the sense that as Chekhov was the master of the short story, Sarno was the master of the smut film. The T&A auteur has also been compared to Ingmar Bergman and that comparison is particularly relevant in the case of the moody, minimalist and unyieldingly erotic international co-production Vampire Ecstasy, Sarno’s first foray into quasi-horror filmmaking.

Previously released on DVD via Pop Cinema under the title The Devil’s Plaything (in a softer cut) and theatrically as Veil of Blood, Sarno’s Vampire Ecstasy begins with nude and semi-nude females gyrating in some sort of medieval castle, engaged in a bloody, lesbian-heavy ritual while tribal music pounds in the background. This excessive bit of “go for it” smut juxtaposed with sumptuous Gothic atmosphere never quits throughout the film’s running time. What plot there is concern Mrs. Krock, the evil housekeeper at Castle Varga, who uses young women in said rituals in order to bring her lesbo-vamp Queen, the dreaded Countess Varga back from the grave.  Tons of same-sex bloodletting ensues along with some straight shagging when a curious ghost hunter arrives to the castle for visit.

Sarno’s approach to sex vamp shenanigans differs slightly from that of his Euro contemporaries Jean Rollin and Jess Franco in that Sarno is less obsessed with the environment he sets his carnal carnage in and instead just goes right for the girls, staying locked on them and their titular ecstasy and tip the sex horror scale firmly in favor of the latter element. Vampire Ecstasy is not scary at all. But it is stylish and filled with a weird sense of dread and doom and exemplifies Sarno’s talent for making softcore fare  feel more dangerous and explicit than hardcore (though Sarno would go on to make scores of XXX features as well).

Many of the extras on the back-end  of the disc are indeed ported over from that previous Pop Cinema release, including a great interview with Sarno discussing the genesis of Vampire Ecstasy and there’s a fun and funny new commentary with producer Chris Nebe who cites that the action off-screen between cast memebers was even raunchier than the stuff that stayed in the picture.

Also on the disc is the curious early Sarno sex film (though there is no nudity in the picture) Sin You Sinners, about a young woman who finds evil empowerment when she gets he mitts on a cursed Haitian amulet (amulets and totems would become a staple of Sarno shoots). Shot in grimy black and white, this is lurid, nasty stuff and feels even dirtier than Vampire Ecstasy because the actual sex and rudeness is left more to the imagination.

Vampire Ecstasy/Sin You Sinners is the first in a proposed series of Sarno films that Film Media/Film Movement plans to release and if they can keep up the quality of presentation displayed here, then smut cinema scholars are in for a real deal, dirty and delicious treat.