Its not clear what Joseph Sarno thought he was doing when he wrote and directed this “film” in 1965. Pandora And The Magic Box is equal parts Gypsy Rose Lee, Henny Youngman, and Homer. If those references are too dated for you it’s a little like Kim Kardashian, Jerry Seinfeld, and RR Martin. Throw it all in a blender hold your nose and wait for the screaming to stop before you pour it out. The storyline is a disordered jumble of Grecian history and mythology cobbled together in a hopelessly complicated soap opera that the audience didn’t pay to see. They came to see naked ladies but they don’t get that. There is a lot of sheer cloth and glittery pasties but nothing explicit.
The film seems to belong to the nudie cutie genre but it does not live up to that name. Instead of nude scenes strung together by a rudimentary plot, it is a hopelessly disjointed story punctuated by occasional appearances of scantily clad women.
The film does however have three of the four requisite elements of the nudie cutie: cuties, a plot, so that it qualifies as a film and not stag porn, and lastly a string of horrible one-liners. Nudie Cuties often include these terrible borscht-belt-style comedians that harken back to the burlesque club days when strip clubs could claim to be legitimate “night clubs” by including Z list comedians. Pandora and The Magic Box includes such groan-worthy zingers as, “She’s so wrinkled that when she smiles she looks like a Venetian blind.” “She’s so used to getting her own way she writes in her diary four weeks ahead.” “It’s rumored he’s so crooked that every time he counts his money he stands in front of a mirror. He doesn’t trust himself out of his sight.”
The film does have some interesting details. Zeus seems to be a Jew from Brooklyn. Most of his lines end in a question mark and a shrug. He has a cheap strap on beard and a floppy, cardboard lightning bolt he uses to punctuate his sentences.
Pandora doesn’t have much of a role in the film. Mostly the film is centered on Theseus who seems to be experiencing Odysseus’ Odyssey and Hercules’ Twelve Labors simultaneously. The whole mess is narrated to us by Aphrodite who breaks the fourth wall and addresses us directly from her chaise lounge. She watches Theseus as he encounters the infamous Amazons but gets bored. In an effort to spice things up she sprinkles “lust dust” on everyone but the Amazons find that some of Theseus’ men are not tempted by their charms.
In an unexpected turn of events, the film includes a subtext about Greek sexuality. Using vanity as a stand-in for being gay, some of the sailors are so obsessed with working out and preening themselves that they are not “interested” in the buxom female warriors. It is easy to tell when someone in the film is horny because arousal is always announced by a comical “boing” sound effect. There are a few slide whistle pratfalls as well.
The sets are comprised of a curtain, a few columns, and some branches. There are only so many ways you can rearrange such sparse elements, but most of the film takes place in semi-darkness so it doesn’t really matter. In the end, Pandora marries Theseus? In the canonical version, he marries Phaedra. It might have been a clerical error both ladies are filed under P.
It ends of course with Pandora opening the box and releasing a whole bunch of trouble-making, half-naked ladies who tear the place apart. Again in the traditional version, the last thing in the box is hope. In this version, the last thing in the box is Theseus’ new mother-in-law. I don’t know what the symbolism of that means but the film closes with a final message from Aphrodite, “I’m sure somewhere this story must have a moral but I’m sure you’d like it better if it had immoral.”
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