Slap and Tickle: Sins of Desire (1993)

Matty revels in the blue humour of Jim Wynorski’s barmy erotic thriller.

Adamant her sister’s suicide was the result of some weird therapy she’d undertaken, Kim (Tanya Roberts) goes undercover at a bizarre sexual wellbeing clinic, with raunchy and, of course, dangerous results…

Kind of like David Cronenberg as done by Viz, Jim Wynorski’s robustly made SINS OF DESIRE is an off the wall excursion into the psychosexual that occupies a strange space between disturbing sci-fi and kinky comedy. Don’t be fooled by its deceptively classy key art: this raucous T&A programmer is less ‘how’s your father’, more slap the randy old git in a gimp suit and send him to the swingers’ club. Imaginative, outrageous, and at times genuinely crotch stirring, Wynorski never quite manages to totally balance the film’s clashing tones — a symptom of the lopsided script — but his high-spirited juggling act makes for an extremely entertaining, enjoyable, and salacious late night watch. Besides, it’s always nice when Wynorski tackles material that allows him to noodle around with various altered states between the drama. It’s not quite in the same league as any of them, but, as the Chopping Mall (1986) maestro’s other oneiric epics The Haunting of Morella (1990), 976-EVIL 2 (1991), and Sorceress (1995) prove, he’s got a real knack for conjuring dreamy fugues and heady passages of reality-warping weirdness.

A large part of the fun rests on the stupendous mugging from Sins’ mostly game cast. Though Roberts (a nightmare to work with according to Wynorski — so much so that he passed on a proposed second pairing with the star, on a vampire flick called ‘Princess of Darkness’) and Nick Cassavetes (as the PI Roberts teams with) are ineffective and bland, the rest of Wynorski’s players really get into the decadent and unashamedly kitsch spirit of things. Having honed their wicked, plucky chemistry in Fred Olen Ray’s Haunting Fear (1990), Jay Richardson and Delia Sheppard are a hoot. Bringing to life the oversexed quacks in charge of the dubious Callister Institute with broad, earthy strokes, they’re bawdy, creepy, and hilarious in roughly equal measure. Jan-Michael Vincent — another Ray/Haunting Fear holdover — is similarly mesmeric. Nuanced and rigidly straight in style and delivery, it’s his presence as a cartoon-y visual entity that tickles a rib. Replete with flowing, blonde-streaked hair and big jam jar glasses, the scene in which he bursts into Cassavetes’ motel room and lets rip with a submachine gun is a glorious moment of bombastic silliness. Rent-a-babes Becky LeBeau and Monique Parent’s full-frontal frolicking; a brilliant, limelight-hogging cameo from Wynorski regular Ace Mask; and Richardson snaking through a barren soundstage in the film’s exciting and sharply cut finale are further standouts in this tasty, end-of-the-pier treat.

USA ● 1993 ● Erotic Thriller ● 90mins

Tanya Roberts, Jay Richardson, Delia Sheppard, Jan-Michael Vincent, Nick Cassavetes ● Dir. Jim Wynorski Wri. Peter Liapis and Mark Thomas McGee, from a story by Jim Wynorski

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