Plot: Carla (Patricia McNair) visits a tarot card reader, hoping for some insight and if nothing else, perhaps a little excitement. After all, her life is pretty dull and she feels kind of trapped, living with her uptight aunt. Even if she wanted to cut loose, she’d be judged pretty harshly for any kind of fun, risque or otherwise. She is just asked why can’t she be more like her sister and find a nice man, but Carla knows there is more in life than just that kind of lifestyle. At the tarot reading, she is amazed by the knowledge of the reader, who tells her all kinds of personal insights. She is so impressed, she wants to get more involved with the other ladies who frequent the reader, as she has learned they have a weekly group session. Known as The Cult of Pan, the women live just the kind of lives Carla dreams of, with excitement and pleasure. The passion of roses is harnessed to give the women immense pleasure, but the members are also held to a strict code, one which isn’t taken lightly. At first Carla is enamored with the group, but then she starts to see some potential darker elements…
Entertainment Value: A beautiful film shot in stark black & white, Red Roses of Passion is one of erotic cinema legend Joe Sarno’s most beloved productions. The story is a brisk and enjoyable one, as a pent up young woman becomes involved in a cult and realizes things might not be as they appear. The movie is certainly sexploitation driven, but it also has a kind of innocence, which helps it work so well. This is not a graphic, balls to the walls erotic piece, instead it is subtle, at least in terms of sexual content. You do see a good amount of naked flesh, but it feels tasteful and inherent to the narrative. Not so subtle are the performances, which embrace the melodrama and give us some great exchanges. These women have a lot of attitude and that means cattiness galore, with some terrific lines. There is some camp value here because of the wild melodrama, but it rarely feels excessively over the top, riding that balance just right. Patricia McNair has the lead and does well, as the bored young woman in search of excitement, only to find herself with more than she can handle. The supporting cast is fun too, with sharp tongues and melodramatic mania. I had a blast with Red Roses of Passion, it more than deserves the reputation as one of Sarno’s finest and for fans of erotic cinema and sexploitation, it is a must for any collection.
A number of lovely breasts can be seen here, most often slightly veiled by sheer tops, but still fully visible. A bare ass pops in now and then as well, but the sex scenes aren’t graphic or gratuitous. I do love the scenes where the women orgasm over the roses, it is so absurd, but played so straight. No blood. The dialogue is so fun in this one, with so much melodrama and catty banter. Of course, melodrama isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it works so well for Red Roses of Passion. The women play up the drama and this leads to sharp barbs and overly serious moments, all of which entertain greatly. I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of super memorable one off lines, but the movie has a consistent stream of fun, melodramatic exchanges, which is perhaps even better. There’s also some light cult lingo, but not too much. In terms of craziness, the sheer avalanche of melodrama is enough to earn some points, let alone the idea of women thrown into orgasmic fits by the touch of a rose. When a mother and daughter wrestle on the ground to fight over rose petals, you know you’re watching golden cinema. Plus you know, the creepy voyeur who spies on all the flower powered sexiness. This is just super fun, super sordid melodrama that never fails to entertain.
Overall Insanity: 5/10