Retro Porn Review – The Joy of Letting Go

August 2, 2015
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Retro Porn Review - The Joy of Letting Go

Usually, when we do these reviews we focus on movies that were either readily available before, or that have had recently remastered releases. Some of the old films that weren’t box office hits are not in great shape, so the only copies publicly available tend to be worn out VHS tapes. This is still the case with today’s review, The Joy of Letting Go, an obscure and criminally unknown adult film from 1976 that could definitely use a restored digital release.

The Joy of Letting Go turned out to be the product of a rare one-off for the majority of its creators and performers. It was the only film by director John Gregory, screenwriter Cynthia Holm and most of the actors involved. This, however, didn’t feel at all like your average rookie porn film.

Loosely based on the classic Joseph Kessel novel (and Luis Buñuel movie) Belle de Jour, the story focuses on Michelle Martine (Dominique St. Pierre), a bored rich housewife with a mostly absent husband who turns to prostitution for the excitement. The subject obviously is nothing new, as several other adult movies of the time (most notably The Violation of Claudia) tackled the same situation. It used to be kind of a classic blueprint for porn plots.

Annette (Pamela Strasser), a woman working as a talent scout for a known pimp, recruits Michelle at the gym and invites her to meet her boss. The man, named Dancer (James Kral), is every bad stereotype of a white pimp: Obnoxiously douche-y attitude, aggressive, misogynistic, abusive, exploitative and — perhaps most annoying of all — often talking about himself in the third person.

Dancer, however, manages to talk the beautiful Mrs. Martine into a little test drive of what working for him will be like. To seal the deal, he sends her to Topaz (Desiree West, one of the few performers who had a career aside from this movie), another one of Dancer’s hookers and the one in charge to show her the ropes — and have a cool lesbian scene with her, of course.

But not all experiences are equally pleasant for Michelle. Her next trick happens to be at a trailer park, and her customers are a couple with a little less elegance than she would have expected. Michelle, still a trooper, fucks the woman with a vibrator, while the tied-up guy watches and climaxes without direct touch.

Mrs. Martine starts to get the hang of her new profession rather quickly, and begins to see business everywhere. She tricks gas station employees into bathroom sex and gives handjobs to dudes in porn theaters. She charges every single time, but that’s never why she does it.

Dominique St. Pierre’s tall and slim frame looks like it belongs on a runway, and in fact she was a fashion model for Halston before deciding to do this film. The Joy of Letting Go would be her only credit. The non-sexual role of her husband, Mr. Martine, is played by Clint Hughes — also known as “The Marlboro Man.”

The plot is nothing groundbreaking, but it’s solid and well executed. Their budget was higher than average, and it shows: It’s well shot and it features (mostly) decent acting performances, with a greater emphasis on the actual story. If anything, the sex scenes come in second place at times.

It’s a shame The Joy of Letting Go is a bit lost in obscurity, because it feels right at home with some of the porno chic era’s biggest titles.

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