Thursday, May 13, 2010

Directed by Joseph W. Sarno: Butterflies (1974)

Shot in the early-to-mid part of 1974 in and around Munich, Joe Sarno's Butterfly (or as it is now more commonly known, Butterflies) has become one of the director's most popular works, even though it is finally an inconsistent piece that is only punctuated by moments of greatness. Starring Adult-Icons Harry Reems and Eric Edwards and featuring lovely Sarno favorite Marie Forsa (in her final film with Joe), Butterflies is a near great film that only really falters in its final act due to some regretful thematic inconsistencies.

Butterflies is, for at least the majority of its running time, a powerful and quite unforgettable production fuelled by the haunting Forsa (who goes through an astonishing transformation from fresh-faced farm girl to world-weary city swinger). Visually Butterflies also represents Sarno at his finest, with its vivid color photography of the Munich countryside providing a perfect counterpoint to the sometimes garish, but always interesting, interior settings.

The film is incredibly erotic and viewers seasoned on today's so-called 'steamy' mainstream productions will be thrown for a loop by Sarno's unapologetic scenes of full-on sexual intensity. Of course, one of the great things about Joe Sarno's films, that separates them from almost any so-called 'sexploitation' works you can name, is that they allow the viewer a full peek into the character's private desires and passions without seeming leering and voyeuristic. Much like Forsa at the beginning of Butterflies, Sarno's work is pure without being, for lack of a better term, innocent.

Cast-wise Butterflies is totally remarkable and it contains a few of the most memorable actors Sarno ever worked with including, of course, Forsa, Edwards and Reems. Tall, charismatic and mustached Harry Reems, seen here just a few years after his legendary turn in Gerard Damiano's Deep Throat (as well as Sarno's unfortunate follow-up) is particularly good. Managing to be both sleazy and charming, Reems should have been a much bigger star than he became, and his turn as the manipulating playboy Frank in Butterflies is one of his great on-screen performances. Reems is, simply put, unforgettable here.

Ironically Reems might be a little too good here as Butterflies does slip up some, to my eyes, when Sarno switches too much of his attention from Forsa's character to Reems in the film's final stages. Film Historian Michael Bowen points out in his excellent liner notes to the film's DVD that this noticeable change in the film's point of was, "possibly the result of a reflex on producer's Nebe's part to convert Reems into its star attraction." It's a pity as it does hurt a film which, frankly, was more than big enough for two star turns.

Minor issues aside, Butterflies is a startling film and it is thankfully available on DVD in a solid special edition from Retro Seduction. Along with Bowen's always excellent notes, the disc contains a documentary (featuring Sarno), some stills and a commentary from its producer Chris D. Nebe. Butterflies is available as a part of the terrific Girl Meets Girl collection (which combines all three of the Forsa-Sarno films) and as a limited edition double-disc set where it is paired with a rare hard (insert happy) version of the film.

1 comment:

dfordoom said...

I've wanted to see this movie for quite a while. Unfortunately the three-movie set is a little out of my price range at the moment.