Butterflies is one of three movies that legendary American sexploitation writer-director Joe Sarno made in Germany in the mid-70s. The first of the three was Vampire Ecstacy which was a bit of a departure for Sarno. Butterflies is less interesting, but still it’s a Sarno film. All three movies were shot in English.
Denise (Marie Forså) lives on a farm and she’s bored. She dreams of being a fashion model. Even the regular sex with her boyfriend Freddie (Eric Edwards) isn’t enough to break the monotony of rural life. So she decides to head to Munich to try to get her modeling career started. She hitch-hikes and develops a simple but effective technique for getting lifts. She lifts her skirt, and since she never wears underwear it works pretty well. First she is picked up by a rather creepy guy who sells kinky women’s underwear but she soon ditches him. Then she gets a ride with Frank (Harry Reems).
Frank is exciting and she figures he’s the sort of man she needs to meet. He runs a club in Munich and lives a glamorous lifestyle revolving around women, booze, women, expensive clothes, women, night-clubs and women. Frank already has a live-in girlfriend named Verena but he doesn’t let that cramp his style. The sex with Frank is hot, and Denise enjoys sex. Verena warns her she’s going to be just one of a long line of women that Frank picks up and then discards but Denise convinces herself that that won’t happen to her.
Frank doesn’t do much to further her modeling career but he does provide her with the lifestyle and excitement she craves.
Of course Verena’s warnings soon turn out to be all too true. Frank is chronically incapable of keeping his pants zipped up. When Frank meets the glamorous Natascha Denise finally realises what the score is.
It’s not much of a plot but in Sarno’s hands it has a rather bitter-sweet quality to it. Like his earlier American sexploitation movies Butterflies has a dark edge to it. Sarno’s movies never explode into violence but the passions aroused by the pursuit of pleasure do have their price. The idea that you can pursue sex and pleasure without becoming emotionally entangled always proves to be an illusion. It’s not that Sarno’s movies are conventional warnings about the wages of sin. He avoids simplistic moral judgments but he’s always at his strongest when dealing with emotions and when emotions are aroused people do get hurt.
The acting is reasonably impressive. Marie Forså is quite effective at portraying Denise’s odd blend of overwhelming sexuality and rural naïvete and she’s also able to make Denise a real person. Denise wants sex but she wants love as well, and she’s not going to get that from Frank. Forså has to do real acting and she manages pretty well. One might also add that she’s rather stunning.
Harry Reems (best known as the star of Deep Throat) was a major star in hardcore films in the 70s. This time he has to do some real acting as well and he’s quite adequate. Frank is exciting but he’s not a nice guy, although in his defence he never really pretends to be anything other than he is - a man completely devoted to the selfish pursuit of his own pleasure. Reems has to work on some actual characterisation here.
The movie is basically softcore but it was shot hardcore - in other words the sex is not simulated but most of the more graphic hardcore elements were edited out. Still, it does cross the line into mild hardcore territory at times.
As usual in Sarno’s 1970s softcore offerings the sex is actually erotic, the women (and the men) are attractive, and the sex scenes are filmed with a certain amount of care so it’s more than just the dreary mechanical couplings you’d expect in a hardcore feature. And, typically for a Sarno movie, the focus is on the emotions of sex rather than the mechanics. The sex is however rather stronger than in a typical 1970s softcore film so if that’s a problem for you you have been warned.
The Swedish DVD release from Another World in is English with optional sub-titles in all the Scandinavian languages. And since it was made by Joe Sarno you do need the dialogue! It’s a very good transfer in the correct aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and the two-disc DVD set includes both the director’s cut and the less interesting XXX version as well as a commentary track (in English) and various other extras. This is a case of an erotic movie that really does deserve the kind of DVD release usually reserved for art movies and happily it gets it here.
Not as good as Sarno’s best 1970s movies (such as Confessions of a Young American Housewife and Abigail Leslie is Back in Town) but still streets ahead of what you expect in this type of movie.