I've wanted to see this film ever since reading a lengthy and in-depth essay about it in Re/Search's "Incredibly Strange Films" volume (still one of the finest books on the topic of cult and psychotronic cinema). After being finally able to track it down, I can honestly say it doesn't disappoint. The previous films I'd seen by Joe Sarno all had extremely ambitious ideas behind them and showed him to be an intelligent individual. However, often his directing skills themselves don't manage to live up to his ambitions, making a good deal of his output slowly paced and often seem lacking. "Young Playthings" though isn't beset by these issues. Its a fascinating exploration of human nature and sexuality with a wealth of ambiguity. There's a lot of subtext and symbolism on display here which demands the viewer watch the film several times.
The acting is also very good all around. I'm a huge fan of Christina Lindberg. Not only was she one of the most gorgeous women ever in sexploitation cinema, she also proved to be an extremely skilled actress when the film called for it. Even in her lesser films such as "Anita", shes never anything less than electrifying. "Young Playthings" gives Lindberg her finest role (yes, its even better than "Thriller"). Shes sexy yet naive and sympathetic. Eva Portnoff also does a good job as her seemingly knowing friend who isn't aware of what shes getting herself and Lindberg into. Margareta Hellström as the toymaker offers an ambiguous role which is frightening yet shows the attraction people have to the character. As with most Sarno films, the male characters are unimportant while the females are the main focus of audience attention (the man was quite progressive in his sexual politics). "Young Playthings" is a completely unique film, one of the most successful hybrids of softcore porn and art. It deserves a much wider cult following than it has obtained. Seriously, this'll appeal to intellectual film buffs as well as grindhouse addicts. (9/10)
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