Thursday, November 15, 2012

Joseph W. Sarno - Abigail Lesley Is Back in Town (1975)


DVD Drive In:

After wowing the exploitation world with their super-duper special editions of Joe Sarno’s INGA, SEDUCTION OF INGA, SWEDISH WILDCATS, and the Marie Forsa trilogy VAMPIRE ECSTASY, BIBI, and BUTTERFLIES, RetroSeduction steps up to the plate with arguably their finest Sarno release to date, the official home video debut of ABIGAIL LESLEY IS BACK IN TOWN. Long thought lost and appearing on a handful of grey market lists, this unique feature was almost wiped completely off the face of the earth due to a distribution snafu by the notorious Allan Shackleton, ABIGAIL LESLEY is one of the crown jewels of Sarno’s career and is a must-own for any self-respecting DVD Drive-In reader.

In the small seaside town of Bay Point, lovely Priscilla’s life is thrown into a tailspin when a mysterious name from her past reappears on the scene: Abigail Lesley, a promiscuous nymph who successfully seduced and bedded Priscilla’s husband Gordon years before. Shunned by most of the town and whispered about in hushed tones, Abigail still manages to work her sexual wiles on a number of willing recipients. Though Priscilla fears that Abigail will once again jeopardize her marriage, she soon realizes that she may have found a better partner in Chester, a handyman from the wrong side of the tracks.

Viewers who haven’t yet experienced a Joe Sarno film could probably start with a better example of what makes Sarno such a brilliant master of the genre. Those expecting a bump-n-grind sexploitation vehicle like, say, BUTTERFLIES, should…well, go watch BUTTERFLIES. Died-in-the-wool Sarno fans will find it easy to see why this gem is one of his finest. Other than a few brief moments of sex and a healthy dose of nudity, ABIGAIL LESLEY is a film about people, their emotions and interactions, and the psychology behind sexual desire. Sound heady for a grindhouse flick? It is, which is why I’m giving fair warning to those who are thinking of picking up ABIGAIL LESLEY. It’s a thinking-man’s sex film, as with most of his masterworks, and unlike other movies by his contemporaries, it plays like an actual FILM, with an intense script, well-written characters, and impressive technical specs.

Sarno’s scripts featured several key elements which were recurring throughout his career: sexual frustration, incestuous desires, sexual awakening with the help of an older confidante or a same-sex peer, the joys of lesbianism, one sexually active character acting as a catalyst to stir the loins of those around him/her. All of these can be found approached with maturity and care in ABIGAIL LESLEY. The film is dialogue-driven, and in typical Sarno fashion, it’s all captivating and believably delivered by a uniformly excellent cast. It’s illuminating to watch the interaction between his characters, feel the thick tension between men and women who desire one another, yet hold back for fear of what society will think, and thrill at the aura of another PEYTON PLACE unfolding before our very eyes, complete with naughty sex acts performed behind closed doors. Around the middle mark, the plot takes a backseat to the sex, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, either when the scenes feature Rebecca Brooke, Jennifer Jordan, and Jennifer Welles.

ABIGAIL LESLEY also has a sort of tragic quality to it. Populated by actors and actresses hand-picked from the world of XXX, everyone is so damn good in their roles that it’s a real shame they would never move past the surly world of exploitation and into more “respectable” fare.

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