Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Moonlighting Wives (1966)
Retro-Seduction Cinema | Review by James Greene

MOONLIGHTING WIVES starts off with a title card warning viewers that the same kind of prostitution ring seen in the movie could be happening in their community “RIGHT NOW!” Sure, why not? I mean, it’s got to be happening somewhere. I’m sure it didn’t get to be the world’s oldest profession by not popping up in weird places like the neighborhood hardware store or your grandparents’ retirement village. Do I believe the daycare center down the street from my apartment complex is really a high-end brothel? For the purposes of this critique, yes, I do.

Set in the mecca of repression that is Long Island, MOONLIGHTING WIVES centers on Joan Rand (Diane Vivienne), a woman who only wants to provide the best she can for her son – a few mink coats wouldn’t hurt, though. When it becomes clear her low-level management husband isn’t bringing in enough dough, Joan cleverly decides to turn her fledgling stenograph business into an escort service. A local golf pro helps deliver Johns to Joan while she tries to keep her illegal activities a secret from the fuzz and her boozing, increasingly emasculated husband.

If it sounds pedestrian, that’s because it is. MOONLIGHTING WIVES is barely a step above driver’s ed training film, a half-baked fever dream that fails to serve up satisfying style or sex. Strange, considering this is an entry from Joe Sarno, master of the erotic sex romp. Is this really the same guy who gave us such sizzlers as LAURA’S TOYS and SLIPPERY WHEN WET? Who knows, maybe for a brief period Joe was trying to go legit.

Diane Vivienne looks kind of like Arianna Huffington in this movie; unfortunately, she lacks the Huff’s bubbly charm. Vivienne plays Joan Rand straight and stiff, giving the character as much appeal as a block of knotty pine. Only when she breaks down at the end of the film do we realize she’s not an android or mannequin cleverly brought to life by Ray Harryhausen. Aren’t madams supposed to be free-spirited and fun? Let me tell you, it isn’t much fun following Joan around this film as she sets her whore business up. Every character she meets is forced to sit through her “my stenograph service isn’t your ordinary stenograph service” spiel, meaning we have to sit through it at least five times (you’d think Vivienne was getting paid by the number of times she could say “stenograph”). Therest of the cast is equally unremarkable, including future “Rockford Files” regular Joe Santos (hard to believe, I know).

MOONLIGHTING WIVES does feature plenty of girls cavorting in their bras and panties, sexily dancing for their clients, but there is nary a nipple or bare bottom in sight. The film only implies the horizontal monkey dance, cutting around the hot n’ heavy sheet wrestling we insatiably desire. Truly a tease from Sarno, whom the extras on this disc lead me to believe was not above putting girl-on-girl oral in trailers for his later films. At least there’s the jazzy MOONLIGHTING WIVES theme song, composed by Rosemary and Jimmy Heineman. The tune’s got a real sleazy, boozy charm, one that the film itself is sorely lacking. It echoes in the background as images of Diane Vivienne saying “stenograph!” dance through my mind.

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