With a career that spans fifty years, Joe Sarno is one of the grandfathers of modern day adult film having created works in hardcore, soft-core, and exploitation genres. With a skilled eye that captured far more of his subjects than just their nakedness and a taste that was always a few years ahead of its time; Sarno’s work is often regarded as deep; psychologically intriguing as well as visually striking. One of the first directors to ever successfully marry pornography with plot, his contributions to the genre are too numerous to mention. This 3 disk set is his Inga collection, one of the first adult movies ever made. INGA/SEDUCTION of INGA is the two film series detailing a young seventeen girl’s strange development into sexual awakening and womanhood, even as everybody else in her life is a manipulative fiend who secretly wants a piece of her for some reason or another, (many of them for reasons far more sinister than seduction). Also included is the incest laden film THE INDELICATE BALANCE which teaches us that all attraction is strictly relative…Let us take a look back at these ancient films and ponder at the age of innocence, not just of Inga but perhaps of adult film itself.
Filmed entirely in Sweden, Inga is the story of a young girl who comes to stay with her aunt Greta after the untimely death of her mother. What should have been a loving, heartwarming testament about the power of love and the cohesiveness of family love never congeals because it appears Greta isn’t such a nice woman after all. Not only is she money obsessed and yet somehow broke since the death of her husband, but she is dating a much younger man, an aspiring writer named Karl who she placates with boats and cars to maintain his always wandering eye. Yet, as many desperate people do, Greta has a plan. By taking Inga into her home and under her wing, she will be able to groom her to be the lover to Einar, an affluent friend of the family who likes to date young girls, especially virgins. If Greta can secretly manipulate Inga into becoming Karl’s lover, she will be paid the princely sum of three hundred a week for as long as the situation will continue. From then on, Inga is sent to spend time with Karl as much as possible, from nights at the opera to long getaways at his cabin. But even though Inga is naïve, inexperienced and very beautiful she somehow survives these double dealings and exacts a terrible price upon her evil aunt, an act she accomplishes innocently, perhaps unintentionally with no malice whatsoever. When Inga finally heeds her aunts love lessons to heart and finally chooses a lover all her own this single act of lost innocence not only frees her from her terrible living situation at once, it dooms her Aunt to likely spend the remainder of her life in abject poverty, more alone than perhaps ever before. This is an absolutely gorgeous erotic film, and even the black and white doesn’t detract too much. While technically tame and soft core, the plot is solid darker and far more menacing by its implications than most modern adult films can accomplish by showing full penetration. The scenes where Aunt Greta is negotiating; selling her nieces maidenhood away like so many homemade pies is chilling, evil and contributes greatly to her “CRUEL INTENTIONS” style comeuppance at the end. Soft-core, but satisfying, two words I rarely believe can inhabit the same sentence when it comes to erotic film, but they surely apply here.
Seduction of Inga (1969)
Two years older and none the wiser, Inga now lives in a dilapidated apartment waiting for her lover to return to her as he promised. Of course with a title like “SEDUCTION OF INGA” you just know that she isn’t going to wait forever, thankfully for the viewers of this film, Inga discovers she has needs; urges and luckily for everyone’s sake she soon starts to indulge them. It is ironic after the last film that Inga narrowly would seek the touch of a much older male lover instead of a young man her age, but this is exactly what she does as soon falls for Stig, her boss. Stig is a remarkable mentor figure of an older man except for the fact that he often makes her dress up in the clothes of his ex, Greta. Perhaps this is why, when he goes overseas on assignment, Inga starts hanging around with Rolf, a guitarist who lives in the same building as her and often composes endearing (and annoying) songs about her ever since the moment they met. Of course, what young girl could resist such shameless hijacking of the soundtrack in her name? Rolf quickly becomes her lover as well. But wouldn’t you know it, her rich boss Stig is due back in town so she races over to his place in order to dutifully greet him when he comes home only to find out that his ex-lover, Greta is not only very much alive, but his stepdaughter from his long dead wife. Of course, we all know Greta by now as the pretty blonde chick that has been secretly stalking Inga throughout the bulk of the film and has been more obsessed with her than any man ever has (more on this in a bit). Of course Inga doesn’t want to admit that Greta is not only alive, but was apparently the reason (all along) why Stig dressed Inga up in strange and juvenile clothes before they made love. Yet after secretly eavesdropping on Stig and Greta having particularly incestuous sex talk before engaging in physical relations themselves she has no choice but to rethink her newfound love of “father figures”. From there Inga pulls back from all her sudden soft-core experimentation and pauses almost reflectively as she contemplates who her life’s love will REALLY be. Will it be Rolf, the guitar player who has nothing but dreams, a bad haircut and a musical style that makes this entire flick seem even more dated that the black and white footage from the last film did? Will it be Stig, the guy who gives new meaning to extended family if not “rearing stepchildren”? Or will it be Greta herself; a late entry to this love quadrangle, Greta later professes her undying love for Inga (shortly after almost slicing her face up with a bottle).
I am not going to tell you who she ends up with as you probably should guess, I have told you too much already and it doesn’t matter anyway this is the last Inga film. While not dramatic plot wise as the first Inga outing, apparently our little lass has grown up and become quite a temptress, an openly promiscuous waif who is only seen as a moral figure of virtue when surrounded by strangers who are all ten kinds of sex offender or love-struck weirdo as is every other antagonist ion this film (most are both). In the end, much as in the first film, Inga’s wide eyed innocence (as played by Marie Liledahl) is the not only the key to her survival, but also the reason why you hope none of these freaks she has random sex with actually hurts her thus providing a surprising amount of emotional investment by the viewer into her character especially in an old grainy film with as much nudity and spontaneous sex as this.
The Indelicate Balance (1969)
While this is listed as a bonus feature it is a full length film on its own disk so I have decided to devote the usual twenty five lines to it. One of the more unsavory fixations of Joe Sarno’s erotic work was the topic of incest as appeared in the film DADDY DARLING another film released the same year as this that I reviewed here.
While incest was a subgenre of erotica that largely had (thankfully) fallen from use by the mid-seventies, many films including DADDY DARLING, THE SEDUCTION of INGA above practiced a type of fake incest where there were indeed “startling” themes of sexual exploration between family members but no “sex” between blood relatives. This is why in DADDY DARLING Katya fantasizes about her father but only ultimately makes love to him in dreams. Or in the case of THE SEDUCTION OF INGA, a stepfather has relations with his stepdaughter but they are not biologically related. Yet in THE INDELICATE BALANCE an entire Swedish family just can’t seem to stay out of one another’s beds. This is what makes the following film so screwed up and probably why it was ultimately unreleased even though it has an MPAA rating. It starts out innocently enough; a man named Harald comes home with his new bride Karin to see his family for the first time after many years. Despite the fact that Harald is a failed artist who has not only stopped painting, but no longer makes love to his wife whatsoever, it is thought that this trip home will cure their beleaguered marriage, though I am guessing not in the way they were hoping. It isn’t long before it is revealed that Harald was having an affair with his sister Ingrid as a teenager, in fact it is the reason he originally left and hasn’t been home for many years. The mother, Lena is noticeably upset with Ingrid for causing this rift in the family dynamic, especially since it all too obvious by mid film that she fancies Harald for himself, in fact always has. For much of the film Harald’s mother Lena spends an obscene amount of time obsessing over her long lost son, monopolizing his every spare moment usually behind locked doors of a creepy old barn on the farm which doubles as his crude art studio. Of course Karin is lonely, sad and understandably feels abandoned, but thankfully Ingrid is there to console her, offering advice, kind words and body massages which eventually lead to a lesbian affair between the two women. As much as I like a patently unnecessary girl on girl scene in an erotic film even I had to admit this was the most bizarre, ponderous if not circuitous route a film plot has ever taken to justify two women becoming unlikely lovers. In the end, all of this bed hopping is not pointless, at least Harald has started painting again, and I bet don’t have to tell you who is first painting is a picture of? Let me give you a hint, it is very Oedipal and ten kinds of mother-fucking creepy. In the end, Harald and Karan have a final, frank discussion about their marital problems to somehow overcome this ordeal and appear to be stronger than ever at the films conclusion. Good for them, opening up like that, for too long it seemed they tried to “keep everything in the family.”
As much as this last one troubled me, I have to admit that this is a pretty good set. As most adult films that were filmed before DEEP THROAT, considerable care was placed into developing actual plots, disturbing situations, and complicated storyline dynamics that didn’t even break an R rating yet told steamy stories of forbidden and evil intimacy. Yet for most modern porn purveyors who only want to see the extremely graphic exchange of bodily fluid over dialogue with the action rendered in startling close up detail of a modern digital camera over soft and artistic fade outs and misdirection of classic erotica, these films will seem ponderous, slow and completely tame. I personally would love to see a modern remake of this series in my lifetime, but I just know the new “Inga” would be played by a nineteen year old aspiring porn starlet “in her first appearance” with giant fake breasts, ten tattoos, six piercings and would ultimately be the modern tender “cumming of age” story of a girl’s first (gangbang) sexual experience played by a sweet young actress who inexplicably had a bleached rectum??? This final trait would be an odd but especially undeniable realization by the viewer as said sphincter would likely spend more time in close up than “Inga” herself, almost becoming the REAL star of the show, even somehow upstaging the actresses own face by the end of the film, whether by counting the amount of screen time it was featured in close up or merely by tabulating the number of things being inserted into it. Sometimes there is just no substitute for the slow, subtleties of classic erotica, and through the timelessness of film, Inga at 18 years old is a precocious enough portrayal for most any LEGAL age fan of adult film from whatever era.
Extras Include The Swedish version of INGA, trailers and outtakes, commentary by Joe Sarno and audio interviews with Marie Liljedhal (Inga herself) There is an alternate cut of SEDUCTION OF INGA and the whole thing comes with a color booklet that explains more than you ever needed to know about this product and its production. This set features the three different films on three separate disks which is a rare bit of production quality I seldom see anymore.
Inga is released on August 14, special thanks to Alternative Cinema for the advance copy.