Rising out of this was the birth of the exploitation film of the fifties and sixties. Exploitation became linked with the evils of drugs and alcohol, the pregnant out of wedlock pre code films and the cheap programmer designed to fill a bill. Everyone has watched or seen bits of REEFER MADNESS (1936) or NARCOTIC (1933). My personal favorite is the lost film HUMAN WRECKAGE (1923), staring the real addict Wallace Reid who soon died. Hence enjoy excursion into Joseph Sarno’s SIN YOU SINNERS (1963).
These stories could be taken from any of the forbidden cheap pulp novels that floated around in the back rooms with lurid covers and secret stashes to be read under the covers at night with flashlights along with horror and crime comics.
An aging stripper/fortune teller Bobbi (June Colbourne) uses a magical Haitian amulet to keep young. She controls men and kills them later, such as her current lover and bongo player Dave (Derek Murcott) who does her bidding. Bobbi and Dave work a scam where they charge rich people for fortune telling ceremonies.
Her daughter Julia (Dian Lloyd) wants out of the life yet is trapped. Dian wanders the streets at night and meets boys at the local soda bar.
One meeting leads to a desperate relationship with Ben Furman (Charles Clements) and his boozy cigarette smoking, sexually alive friends. Dave also has eyes for any woman, especially Julia. He simply asks if she will let him make love to her.
SIN YOU SINNERS (1963) has some over the top performances, horrid acting and an odd mixture of female power and mystics. The picture functions at its height when there is no inane dialogue. The producers thought the audience was not interested in character, but rather in the underwear clad dance sequences and hip shaking. The picture has a ‘fly by night’ look to it yet has as sincere quality of showing that is a visceral power story. Women rule the men and the men go willingly.
SIN YOU SINNERS (1964) and films like it are an important link to B picture horror film and science fiction pictures to come. Explotation is what Roger Corman built a career on; although in his case with craft and sense to tell a story economically. SIN YOU SINNERS (1964) is a direct line to what became the porn industry and the darker aspects of that, including the underground splatter films and series like the hideous FACE OF DEATH. I remember seeing the FACES OF DEATH video box set and the MONDO series behind video story counters. You had to ask for them. Certainly not for everyone as there is much pain, suffering, addiction and dehumanization in what was the porn or exploitation film.
Today, SIN YOU SINNERS (1964) and Joe Sarno’s other works, along with film makers like Russ Meyer, Herschell Gordon Lewis and others are the subject of film festival retrospectives and serious studies. There works are featured in box sets and their poster art and stills are much sought after by collectors. Their influence in style and story do creep into other film, not just trying to emulate, but to create their own way. The film world beyond Hollywood will often not see the other aspects of what some film makers are trying to say when they use this genre. Liliana Cavani, who directed and co-wrote the 1974 film THE NIGHT PORTER, mentioned in an interview that when first released, some people failed to grasp the sad operatic story of her film and instead concentrated on a single, slightly explicit, sex scene.
We have rules for accepting oddities on film. The more accepted oddities in Classic Hollywood are Tod Browning’s FREAKS (1932), or Humphrey Bogart playing a vampire in THE RETURN OF DOCTOR X (1939).
These works can obscure the other slightly darker pictures made in the Hollywood at the same time. I speak of the infamous ‘stag’ films that Joan Crawford and others were said to have appeared in simply for the money. Sleazy? Sure. That was went on underneath some of the glitz and glamour.
Today in the post (insert scumbag mogul or actor name) world of Hollywood has it really changed? More horrid goings on to have come to light. It remains a fact that these films were made and they are a part of Hollywood history.