Saturday, February 7, 2015

Joseph W. Sarno - The Layout (1969)


Sarno is also responsible for THE LAYOUT, which follows a manipulative woman (Rene Howard) who systematically seduces the housewives in her cousin's (Suzan Thomas) Florida community, resulting in a suburban lesbian orgy.

Pam is a well-known interior designer and she works with her live-in platonic partner Wendy. While Pam takes to her bed alone each night, Wendy goes out and "handles the affairs" with their building contractor, Robb. She loves the dirty, dangerous things he does to her. When college-age cousin Ellen and her Honduran playmate arrive for a visit, they sense something unsettled in The Layout of the household. The young girl remembers inappropriate intimacy with Pam and is aroused by the notion that an electric bedside "buddy" is her relative's new carnal companion. One night she overhears Pam getting it on with the spouse of Wendy's paramour and the "vibrations" are so vehement they get Ellen all hot and very bothered. She is determined to prove that Pam is a lesbian and begins an elaborate set of sex games that include seducing her Hispanic roommate, confronting Wendy, emotionally blackmailing Robb's sheepish spouse and teaching everyone the joys of the handheld "massager." It all ends up in a way-out orgy filled with self-love and self-loathing, with Pam both aroused and disturbed by what has been awakened inside of her.

If, on the other hand, you enjoy your exploitation loaded with DiVinyls-style goodness, look no further than The Layout. This mad, mad, mad, mad, mad, masturbation-fest is a tantalizing self-touch-athon, a literal love letter to the pleasures of pleasing oneself. While it may be impossible to believe, the last 40 minutes of the narrative are actually taken up with various combinations of ladies all electrocuting their loins with an extraterrestrial-looking sex toy. There are a couple of scenes where good Christian love is explored, but that's about it. Indeed, The Layout contains one of the first references to anal sex this critic can remember in the exploitation realm. Interestingly, one of the more striking aspects of this production is the feeling that nothing is being faked. Usually in softcore situations, the actors have to fudge the fun. But here, Sarno walks a fine line between authenticity and art. When these ladies get down to diddling, one honestly can sense some real vixen vibing. The actresses sure sell the shockwaves and Sarno adds a little aural element—a grinding and groaning vibrator "buzz"—to increase the realism. Though the typical telling dialogue is kept at a minimum and the plot plays out in ways rather similar to other Sarno films, one might get the impression that The Layout is a lesser effort in the director's canon. Actually, the opposite is true. By brazenly exploring a certain fetish, and fleshing it out rather nicely, Sarno delivers a serious, satisfying scenario. You may not remember the narrative once it's over, but the sound of that diving and surfacing "marital aid"will haunt your most wanton dreams for days to come.

- DVD Verdict