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Secrets of Sex

Review by: 
Release Date: 
One 7
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Antony Balch
Richard Schulman
Janet Spearman
Dorothy Grumbar
Bottom Line: 

Just when I had thought I had (literally) seen everything when it comes to cult erotic films, along comes a movie whose very name is the “SECRET OF SEX”. How very precious is that? With no further ado, let us skip the  usual pretentious foreplay/forward to expose these secrets, and find out if it’s anything we didn’t already know.

The film starts out with an ancient tale about a very powerful and wise man that has just been informed by a trusted attendant that he suspects  his master’s wife may have a lover hidden in a trunk inside her bedroom. The old man removes his wife from the chamber, locks the trunk, and then stares at it for a very long time before deciding to bury it at once far from the castle and tossing the key into the ocean.  

This story ends as abruptly as you might expect, and suddenly a talking mummy (which I assume was the guy in the trunk) starts pontificating and postulating about the nature of sex, as attractive naked bodies of both male and female actors flash on the screen.  Meanwhile, the mummy suggestively (yet somehow rhetorically) asks us, the viewer, to “Imagine having sex with this girl/ Imagine having sex with this boy” every time a new body flashes onscreen, with the cadence of an announcer for a very strange game show. Next, the women are shown, naked together on some sort of stage and pelted with fruit. Suddenly the naked men are shown brandishing “Tommy Guns” as if ready to mow them all down St Valentine’s Day Massacre style in a hail of bullets. It is then the Narrator Mummy alludes to the fact that there has always been a war between the sexes, and, from there, we are treated to a series of short vignettes where men and women outdo (and sometimes do in) each other. 

The individual episodes are largely drawn out and uneven in quality.  While there is some sort of sexual element to all of them featuring the prerequisite unrated nudity that this film never seems to spare, it is hard to feel any sense of justice or vindication for the ultimate downfall of the male or female protagonists in any of these short films because, in most cases, they are innocent idiots done in by a much more cunning evil member (or members) of the opposite sex.  This is actually the exact opposite of how all tales of revenge and vindication are supposed to work in any sort of dramatic fashion and, as such, the stories are often short on excitement, any sense of justice, or emotional satisfaction.

As for the ultimate price paid for the victims in this estrogen vs. testosterone throw down, again, the results are as varied. A man is sliced in half under his own weight to grisly effect; another woman deliberately seeks to conceive a disfigured baby to punish her older husband and yet another women (a secret agent of sorts) is sealed up in a tiny safe that is said to hold 27 other secret agent women, each of whom were sent before her on the exact same mission. As anyone can see the tone all over the board, and I can’t honestly say whether this film was designed to get people to laugh, cry, think, or merely to wank.  At the end of this, the naked men from the intro drop their guns and roll around on the floor with all the naked women in a big sexual free for all, while the same orgy theme from CALIGULA plays. It seems that this “battle of sexes” ends where it always does; one minute of bliss for every ninety minutes of pointless perpetual fighting that passes for a relationship (how very deep and symbolic).

In the end, Secrets of Sex has  a TALES FROM THE CRYPT aesthetic to it, only without the focus, clever story of perfect retribution, or rapier wit of the latter's undead narrator. Look, this was pretty dumb, but it existed on a thematic,  symbolic Zeitgeist level like PINK FLOYD’S THE WALL where you either have to be from the exact era that spawned it, or chemically altered to the point where you can’t notice the passage of time (not even the evolution of cult film in several decades).  I found it to be a trip, but not to a place where I wanted to go again (even in flashback). As all empty, weak, or deeply esoteric flicks with rampant nudity, a two skull rating should come as neither surprise nor “secret” to this unrated film. 

Special Features include Audio Commentary with Executive Producer, Richard Gordon, and Film Historian and Author, Tom Weaver.  There is also a video interview with its writer, Elliot Stein. Also included is a Theatrical Trailer, Liner Notes, and two short films; “THE CUT UPS” and “TOWERS OPEN FIRE” by William S Burroughs.  It seems someone really loved this film, maybe you will too, if you don’t care that it is largely non-objective and lurid, lacking basic plot elements which are often synonymous with quality, even when talking about lowbrow sleaze.

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