The Films (4/5 - Vampire Ecstasy 2.5/5 - Sin Your Sinners)
The name Joseph Sarno is one I've heard mentioned with fair frequency for the almost 2 decades I've spent in underground horror and cinema circles, and yet until this Blu-ray of Sarno's Vampire Ecstasy and Sin You Sinners appeared in my mailbox, I had not begun to explore his cinema. Having now watched the 2 films in this set, I find this mind-boggling, because though Sarno was known primarily for his erotic works, Vampire Ecstasy shows him as a director that is comfortable with the abstract and bizarre. This is a world that I personally love to dwell in, and home to some of my favorite filmmakers such as Jean Rollin and Jess Franco, whose work Vampire Ecstasy could be easily compared.
This Blu-ray set which was put together by the folks at Film Movement in conjunction with E.I./Pop Cinema brings together Sarno's Vampire Ecstasy which has a reputation as one of his finest with Sin You Sinners, which was one of his first, but also an overlooked entry in his oeuvre. Vampire Ecstasy takes place hundreds of years after the death of Baroness Varga, a vampire who was executed for her horrific crimes, but swore to come back. It is now the early 1970's, and the current occupants of her former castle, who constitute a cult of vampires are now working to see to her return. They plan to achieve this by using the blood of some recent occupants of the castle who have arrived on a recent rainy evening.
Vampire Ecstasy is light on plot, but heavy on bizarre visuals. One of which is the frequent use of vampiric hippies dancing to loud bongo tunes in the castle basement in order to enact curses. The film has some great atmosphere, that is sure to please fans of the aforementioned Rollin and Franco. It is packed with softcore sex and nudity throughout.
Sin You Sinners was made about a decade before Vampire Ecstasy in 1963. This film has elements of the supernatural, mixed with a domestic drama, but is much different in it's approach that Vampire Ecstasy. It shows a filmmaker really beginning to put his style together at the beginning of his career, and you can certainly see elements of what Sarno would later become.
The film tells the story of Julie and Bobbi a Mother and daughter who are also strippers (Bobbi is also a fortune teller on the side). The amulet apparently keeps Mother Bobby young, but ends up in the wrong hands, and so begins a struggle to get it back. Sin You Sinners is a bizarre ditty, that reminds me of something one would watch on a Something Weird DVD release in the 90's or early 2000's. It's not exactly a great film, but it's weird enough to be fun, and it's always interesting to see the evolution of a great film artist.
Audio/Video (3.5/5 - Vampire Ecstasy, 2/5 Sin Your Sinners)
Film Movement have presented both Joe Sarno films in 1:78:1 1080p AVC encoded transfers. Vampire Ecstasy looks decent. There is moderate grain, and softness, but decent detail at times, and some natural color. It looks mostly filmlike, black levels are solid, but there is some noise to content with, and minor issues with compression. There is also some damage from the source. Sin You Sinners, does not look great at all, but that is expected the source was not up to the same condition as VE. There are some compression issues, lots of damage, but contrast is decent, and detail is occasionally fine.
Audio for the most part is fine. Both tracks are Dolby Digital Mono in English. There are some notable moments where hissing is heart, but it's not distracting, and dialogue and score are audible throughout.
We get liner notes by Tim Lucas, a commentary by Chris Nebe on VE, and some interviews with Sarno and Nebe. There are trailers for each film.
The Film Movement Blu-ray release of Vampire Ecstasy is sure to please fans of abstract European genre fare. Vampire Ecstasy looks quite decent on Blu-ray while Sin You Sinners does not quite reach those heights. There are some decent extras included. RECOMMENDED.