Jaded Carla drugs her stuck up aunt and her daughter with mind-altering aphrodisiac concocted from a rose by an ominous Pan sex cult. The women become crazed nymphos and the only way to cure them is for Carla to give herself to "Pan".
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A man-hungry suburban woman feels frustrated since she lives in the home of her prudish aunt and cousin, who interrupt and criticise her amorous liaisons. A co-worker brings her to a tarot-card reader, who introduces her to a club of women who meet occasionally to share an intoxicating brew, tease each other erotically with long-stemmed roses and honour the heathen god Pan. The occultist manages to corrupt the aunt and cousin, and lure the woman into full-fledged membership so she might participate in its climactic ritual.Written by
No accounting for taste, but this ludicrous Joe Sarno film fails in both the porn and fantasy/suspense realms. I've watched it several times, and have yet to be hypnotized by its nonsensical plot & direction.
Quite bluntly, it's about getting even, with an indigestible dollop of fake-spiritualism and mumbo jumbo added. Had Sarno gone for a more straightforward (and appropriate) voodoo plot line, I suspect fans would have rejected it outright.
Instead he has blonde heroine Carla (Patricia McNair, appearing using a pseudonym and punished with 9th billing) bamboozled by her co-worker Enid (tall but unattractive Carol Holleck) to become mixed up with Cult of Pan leader Martha (big-bosomed Helena Clayton). (This is hardly at the level of classic fantasy writing on the subject by Arthur Machen.) It's established early on, killing suspense stone dead, that Martha is using her retarded brother as part of the Quarter Moon rituals held by scantily clad priestesses of the cult. Of course there's a brother/sister incest scene inserted (but tame) by Sarno, as is his wont.
Ridiculous fantasy involves an aphrodisiac, one of Sarno's lamest and most oft-used plot ploys. In this case it becomes a fantasy motif. Carla is angry with her relatives who repress her, Aunt Julie (Bella Donna, equally lousy in Sarno's MY BODY HUNGERS) and Julie's daughter (her cousin) Tracey (blank 1-shot thesp "Laura London"). She uses Martha's magic potion to turn them into uncontrollable nymphomaniacs.
Key element, and you have to be a card-carrying Sarno sycophant to buy it, is the title roses (black & white hardly does them justice), which are not just the cult's chief fetish but the nympho trigger. They are delivered like clockwork to the victims, triggering the unquenchable lust in conjunction with the aphrodisiac potion. They also come in handy at the rituals, for sexual stimulation by rubbing them all over the woman designated as Pan's chosen one, after drinking the wine of Delphi. I much prefer Sarno's explicit lesbian dramas to this sublimation approach.
Watching this asinine nonsense, mainly played with a straight face, though fortuneteller Martha occasionally recites cliché howlers like "It was in the cards" or "The moon waits for no one", is a chore. I'm not sure whether RED ROSES qualifies as high camp or low camp, but an adaptation for the stage by Charles Busch might be in the cards.
The scenes of aunt and daughter going sexually mad are not titillating but merely stupid, as they attack the rose-delivery-men with a "me first" attitude. Incest between the two is also implied, this being a Sarno film. For ultra-cheapness, the first delivery boy is played by the film's assistant gaffer! Also cheap is the use of a crummy library music score, and basically two under-dressed sets: the dim-lit ceremony room where the gals get freaky with nights of wine & roses, and the desultory apartment where Carla's family lives. Supposedly ironic ending has little impact -Sarno could have taken a few lessons from William Castle before treading on his suspense "shocker" territory.
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