Secrets of Sex (1970)

Genre: 70’s British Sexploitation

Secrets of Sex… Well, what a weird film!

This 1970 British sexploitation comedy has the ingredients to being quite interesting and I don’t mean just for the London’s Soho dirty raincoat brigade, if you know what I mean… nudge… nudge… wink… wink. Although they would be happy with what’s on offer here. There is another reason and that is because this whole film is quite surreal.

The film opens in ancient Egypt where a woman is caught by her husband with a large trunk in her bedroom. Could there be a secret lover inside? Another woman? The husband doesn’t want to know, so without opening the trunk, he has it buried.

We now come forward to the present day - well, 1970 - where the unlucky occupant of the buried trunk has resurrected as an Egyption Mummy. He then continues to narrate the remainder of the film (voiced by Valentine Dyall) on the eternal struggle between men and women.

This film is an anthology of short stories on the topic of sex and to me, this film is similar in feel to the horror anthologies produced by Amicus Films which were popular at that time.

Some of the stories even contained a horror element, such as the first two. The first story is about a female photographer who is photographing her male models in various states of S/M. This results in a rather uncomfortable death for the poor model.

The second story, which is in fact quite creepy, concerns a young female scientist who becomes pregnant from a 69 year old man. The resulting baby, although barely seen, is quite disturbing.

On a lighter note, the story about a guy who catches a female burglar in his house is predictable, but still fun and quite erotic.

Two other good stories is the mini spy spoof about a female secret agent called Lindy Leigh. This was supposedly based on a comic strip which appeared in the popular British men’s magazine, Mayfair. The other  is about a sexually repressed man who phones for a prostitute and once she arrives, asks her if his pet lizard could watch while they both have sex.

Directed by Antony Balch, who was a friend of William S.Burroughs. Balch started his film making career by making two William Burroughs’ shorts and eventually became a legendary distributor in the 60’s and 70’s. He would often distribute European films while giving them catchier English titles, such as Weird Weirdo.

He only ever made two features, this William Burroughs inspired film and the black comedy, Horror Hospital (1973).

Is Secrets of Sex a good or bad film? Well, I would say it's both. Some of the vignettes, as mentioned above, were fun, but in other places it seemed weak.

What was good about this film is the off-kiltedness of the whole thing, especially the beginning of the film before the vignettes take place, which was very experimental. This experimentalness continues interspersed throughout the remainder of the film, leading to a bizarre ending.

This is definitely a product on the early 70’s - with even a feel of the late 60’s. The girls are all pretty and are dressed in the hight of fashions for those times – white go-go boots and mini skirts and the interior sets are great with early 70’s décor.

As was popular at that time, people were trying to pseudo-scientifically analyse sex in Freudian terms, notably Wilhem Reich, which was brought to the big screen in the Yugoslavian/West German co-production WR: Mysteries of the Organism (1971).

Secrets of Sex pre-dates that film by one year, but includes a few similar characteristics, notably one scene where girls strip while the men brandish and caress sub-machine guns. This was maybe also in response to the radicalization of the hippie movement at the end of the late 60’s and their call for the violent overthrow of the establishment through the likes of radical groups, such as the Weathermen.

Although not a classic, this film is still worth watching for its oddness and there are also plenty of pretty “dolly birds” to keep the dirty raincoat brigade happy, including myself. Now I just need to get hold of some early 70’s issues of Mayfair… nudge… nudge… wink... wink…

You can find this film on DVD under it's US title of Bizarre.

Dragstrip Girl (1957)

Genre: Hot-Rodding Teenage Delinquents

Buxom blonde Louise Blake (Fay Spain) is new in town with her '28 Model “A” Roadster hot-rod. She has no qualms about drag-strip racing through the centre of town against the neighbourhood boys, rich kid Fred Armstrong (John Ashley), whose father owns “half the town” and his school rival, the son of a builder, Jim Donaldson (Steven Terrell). Be prepared for lots of bad rear projection.

Always one step ahead of the law, when not racing their hot-rods they hang-out with their gang at an Italian restaurant where they obnoxiously retort the visiting cops or break into impromptu dancing as soon as a record is played.
Fred and Jim soon fall for the charms of Louise as she flirts between the two. This leads to friction between the two rivals. Fred is adamant that he’ll destroy Jim to win over Louise’s heart and he’ll do this by winning the USA Regional Sweepstakes Race. Jim had his sights set on winning this so that he could get a scholarship to go to college.

To win the race, Fred borrows Rick’s (Tommy Ivo) hot-rod which is a chopped and channelled Model “A” Roadster.

In the meantime, Louise is the perfect 1950’s daughter to her loving parents, who’s only unusual quirk is her father’s interest in hot-rods. Unlike the usual doubting parents found in these types of movies, they actually encourage her with her hot-rodding.

The parents hope that Louise will choose Fred as her boyfriend because of his parent’s money and social standing, but unbeknownst to them, Jim is the sensible one of the two. After a near miss when a hot-rod nearly hits a baby’s pram, it is Jim who decides to follow the cop’s advice and form a regulated hot-rod club.

Fred and Jim’s rivalry comes to boiling point when Fred dares Jim to a “chickie run”. Jim loses and everything now rests on the USA Regional Sweepstakes Race, but not before Fred and Rick steal Jim’s hot-rod to find out how fast his car can go. This leads to a hit-and-run accident leaving the victim dead in the road.

The police discover some clues to the accident and are hot on the trail of the car’s owner, Jim. Arriving at the racetrack, the police find the gang there with Fred and Jim about to take part in the big race.

This American International Picture is great fun and especially for the hot-rods used. As well as being an actor, Tommy Ivo is also real-life drag racer and he supplied his own hot-rod for John Ashley’s character to drive in this film.

As is typical of these movies from the 50’s, all the cast are in reality much older than the characters they play.

Fay Spain is pleasing on the eye, but the character is lost slightly in the story when at the beginning she is a carefree and reckless bad-girl, especially after narrowly avoiding the babies pram, but later in the movie is completely the opposite.

John Ashley is great with a very cool 50’s look.

Other members of the hot-rod gang are Frank Gorshin and Marilyn Monroe look-a-like Judy Bamber, both in a '27 Model “T” Roadster.

Directed by Edward L. Cahn, who also directed such great 50’s sci-fi movies as The She-Creature (1956), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), and It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958).

If you like vintage hot-rods, buxom 50’s blondes and a cheesy script, you’ll love this film.

Dr. Satán y la Magia Negra (Dr. Satan versus Black Magic) (1968)

Genre: Mexican Horror

In this Mexican horror movie we start with Dr. Satan who is deep down in the caverns of Hell being told by Lucifer that he has one more chance to return to the living and to find the black magician and vampire Yei Lin.

Yei Lin has discovered the “Sorensen Formula” which can transform base metals into gold using a device like a ray gun. He must kill Yei Lin and bring back the formula (you would think the Devil would be powerful enough already to turn base metals into gold). If Dr Satan fails, he will never have eternal peace.

With that unpleasant prospect in mind, Dr Satan returns to the world of the living and is back in his office interviewing young girls. When he finds a suitable one, he injects her with a syringe and turns her into a zombie.

With two girls as zombies, he returns to his laboratory where the girls sleep in open coffins. At night he sends them out to search for Yei Lin.

In the meantime, the police are trying to track down Yei Lin, who is planning to fly to Hong Kong. These policeman don’t seem too bright because Yei Lin continues to experiment with his device in his laboratory while his pretty assistant, Medussa, sit’s on the reception desk.

When one nosey security guard enters she murders him by fireing some guns built into the reception desk.

Soon Dr. Satan’s female zombies discover the whereabouts of Yei Lin and the rest of the movie is a tit-for-tat between these two forces of evil.

With Yei Lin's supernatural powers, he is able to transform himself into a very fake looking bat which can then suck the blood from its victims. Because he can turn into a vampire, he can also be killed with a stake through the heart. Yei Lin also has some henchmen to assist in his evil crimes.

Dr Satan must use his suppeirior cunning and while Dr Satan and Yei Lin battle for the formula, the police are getting ever nearer.

Directed by Rogelio A. González, who has made some pretty strange films in his time including the 1960 sci-fi movie Ship of Monsters (1960), which contains some of the strangest aliens ever put to celluloid

Like many Mexican horror movies, Dr. Satan versus Black Magic can be a bit slow at times. It’s also difficult to root for any of the characters as the two leads are both as evil as each other. The police are secondary and hardly come into the story.

That’s the down side to this movie, but don’t let that deter you because this movie is bizarre. What stood out for me were the sound effects, especially in Dr Satan’s Laboratory and Yei Lin’s ray gun device. These sounds are a psychedelic smorgasboard of freakin' weirdness

Luis Hernández Bretón produced the soundtrack which reuses the avant-garde music he wrote for two earlier vampire movies, El Vampiro Sangriento (The Bloody Vampire) (1962) and La Invasión de los Vampiros (The Invasion of the Vampires) (1963).

Another thing which stands out with this movie is the surrealistic color schemes. This is all thanks to the work of the great cinematographer José Ortíz Ramos.

Joaquín Cordero, who usually played heroic characters rather than villains is Dr. Satan. His rival, Yei Ling, is played by Noé Murayama, a Mexican actor of Japanese descent who spent most of his career in dramas and westerns, although he did appear in another movie concerning Satan, El Látigo contra Satanás (The Whip versus Satan) (1979).

The two buxom zombie girls are great and look more like zombie go-go dancers.

This could only be a product of the 1960’s and is recommended to any fans of Mexican horror movies.

Angel Unchained (1970)

Genre: Biker Movie

After saving Pilot (Larry Bishop), the bike gang’s leader, during a brawl with a rival gang, fellow gang member, Angel (Don Stroud), announces his intentions to leave the gang and to head out on the road. Pilot tells him that he is indebted to Angel and if ever he needs a favour, to come back and ask.

Angel heads out across Arizona until he reaches a small town where he helps a hippie couple who are being harassed by the local rednecks. In gratitude, the couple take him back to their commune, which is a collection of small shacks out in the country.

Their life is very wholesome, with vegetarian food, farming and taking care of the babies.

Angels falls in love with Merrilee (future Cagney and Lacey star, Tyne Daly), but the commune's idyllic existence is soon ruined by the rednecks who arrive in dune buggies and proceed to harass them by driving over their crops.
Angel stabs one with a pitch fork and so the rednecks give the hippies an ultimatum of one week to go or else there will be trouble.

The commune’s leader Tremaine (Luke Askew; famous for being the stranger on the highway in Easy Rider (1969)) asks Angel if his old bike gang could come and help. Angel is reluctant to ask because the hippies wouldn’t be able to handle the lawlessness of the bike gang and tells them:

“If you bring a bike club here, you’re going to have a lot of trouble on you’re hands.”

After unsuccessfully trying to mediate with the rednecks, Angel eventually turns to his old bike gang for help.
Soon the bikers have moved into the commune and Tremaine and his fellow hippies struggle to stay patient with the antics of the bikers.
Soon it looks as though the bikers aren’t going to keep their promise of protection and instead want to leave, but first they want to take with them the resident old Indian’s ‘wammo’. This is a strong hallucinogenic drug of which he only knows the recipe.

As the bikers are about to leave, the hippie couple return. The man has been badly beaten by the rednecks and the girl has presumably been raped.

With the rednecks on their way, will the bikers change their minds and stay?

This is a good American International Pictures film. The story is an old one and has been tackled many times before in such films as The Seven Samurai (1954) and The Magnificent Seven (1960), but its fun to see it in this setting of bikers and rednecks.

The imposing Don Stroud is good as Angel. Tyne Daly is also good as Merrilee, although she doesn’t seem hippie enough to be living out in a commune. Luke Askew as the commune leader, Tremaine, is much more believable.
The bikers are all good – spitting out beer after every other swig and causing general mayhem. Bill McKinney is especially good as Shotgun. He argues with Angel over Merrilee as if she is a commodity to be bargained with. Larry Bishop, who plays the bike gang’s leader, would later write, direct and star in his own homage to biker movies, Hell Ride (2008).

This film was made with the help of bike gang, The Dirty Dozen of Arizona.

Angel Unchained has been released on DVD as a double-bill with another 1969 biker film, Cycle Savages.

Age of Consent (1969)

Genre: Comedy/Drama

Bradley Morahan (James Mason) is a successful artist who wants to escape the hustle and bustle of New York to work on some new paintings. This takes him to the other side of the world and Australia.

He rents a shack on a small secluded island, hoping to be cut off from everyone except for the company of his pet dog. This all changes when he meets Cora (Helen Mirren), a pretty young girl who spends her days hunting or stealing food. She is desperately trying to save the $100 so she can escape her drunk domineering grandmother and become a hairdresser in Brisbane.

Bradley models Cora in the sand and she soon finds that she has an interest in being his artist model. When Bradley offers her money, she’s more than willing and isn’t afraid to shed her clothing.

Obstacles to this happy relationship appear and it soon looks as though Bradley will not get his pictures completed and Cora will not save her money. Their relationship has to be put on hold.

This is charming movie which was beautifully filmed on Dunk Island on the Great Barrier Reef by British movie director Michael Powell (ONE OF OUR AIRCAFT ARE MISSING, PEEPING TOM) and incidentally produced by himself and James Mason.

Twenty-four year old Helen Mirren is excellent as the teenage Cora – beautiful and buxom. In the beginning she is very tom-boyish as she hunts and frolics on the beaches. It isn’t until Cora sees the paintings that she begins to re-evaluate her body and feminine beauty and this gives her a new direction in life. The scenes are very liberating as she poses naked, playing in the water during the artist’s breaks between painting.

Helen Mirren would pose nude again a few years later for another artist in Ken Russell’s Savage Messiah (1972). This was a biography on the French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska.

Irish actor, Jack MacGowran, is great as Bradley’s unwanted guest, Nad. He is one of the supporting characters who bring some humor to the film, as does Harold Hopkins as Ted. He is the young boat owner who is keen to win over the affections of Carla and seems to wear the smallest pair of shorts in the Southern Hemisphere.
The underlying theme of this movie is the body. When it’s not with Cora naked, then it is Nad when he is unexpectedly caught skinny dipping or when he goes to meet the neighbor, Isabel Marley, and being first greeted by her behind as she works in the garden, or Ted’s muscular body. All the while we are surrounded by Bradley’s nude sketches of Cora. It wouldn’t be of any surprise that this was adapted from a story by the artist Norman Lindsay, who painted similar nudes.

Age of Consent has been released on DVD as a double-bill with Powell and Pressburger's earlier 1946 fantasy Stairway to Heaven aka: A Matter of Life and Death.

If you get the chance, watch Age of Consent, it's a great film about relationships and freedom.

Fantastic Animation Festival (1977)

Genre: Experimental Animation

This is a great compilation of mostly psychedelic animation from the early to mid-1970.

We start with French Windows, which has Pink Floyd’s One of These Days I’m Going To Cut You Into Tiny Pieces as its sound track. This launches us through a barrage of psychedelic visuals akin to an animated early 70’s progressive rock album cover. Made by Ian Emes, who was self-taught and who invented his own techniques by trial and error. Incidentally, this film led to an invitation from Pink Floyd to direct a rear projection film for their Dark Side of the Moon concert tours.

This first film more or less sets the tone for the rest of the movie as we are treated to a great selection of short animated cartoons, most of which are set to music with very little dialogue.

Some of these cartoons are amazing and must have been a bi-product of some very high quality LSD which was obviously doing the rounds at the time.

One of my favorite cartoons was Bambi Meets Godzilla. I can’t tell you anything about it without ruining it for you, but all I can say is its brilliance is in its simplicity.

The History of The Wheel is also another one which is a great piece of surrealism.

As well as music by Pink Floyd, we also have Cat Stevens with an animated version of his song Moonshadow. In this, and the song, a young boy finds the moon has fallen out of the sky. The artwork is based on the same artwork used on the cover of Cat Stevens’ 1971 album Teaser and the Firecat on which the song Moonshadow appears. This film was directed by Charlie Jenkins who had previously worked on the special effects for Yellow Submarine (1968). It’s narrated at breakneck speed by Spike Milligan, which goes in contrast to the dreamy visuals.

We have one Max Flieister episode of Superman from 1941 entitled The Mechanical Monsters. It features some great 1940’s era designs for futuristic robots and a mad genius dwarfed by the controls to his machines. It actually fits quite nicely within this compilation because of its imaginetiveness, with it literally radiating with colour.

You’ll also get to see Steven M. Lisberger's trippy Cosmic Cartoon. He would later go on to direct Tron (1982). Also included is Room and Board by Randy Cartwright. He would go on to animate the magic carpet in Disney’s Aladdin (1992).

Another great piece of music can be heard in the cartoon Mountain Music. This was made by Will Vinton and is all done in detail using plasticine. The producers cleverly create a 3D effect which they call “3-Dimation”.

In it we are shown moving over a forest - watching the wildlife - when we come upon a three piece band playing some great folk music. Suddenly the band becomes electrified with amps and speakers appearing out of the ground. This continues out beyond the band into the countryside around as everything begins to metamorphosize.

Will Vinton would go on to make The Adventures of Mark Twain (1985) as well as various commercials, most notably the ones for The California Raisins.

At the end of the compilation we are treated to another piece of animation by Will Vinton. This time it’s his Oscar winning Closed Mondays. This film takes place in an art gallery and again this has been made in detail using plasticine.

As a drunk wanders around the gallery, different exhibits come to life. The character of the drunk, his face and head are excellent alone.

There are a total of sixteen cartoons included and I would definitely recommend this great compilation to anyone who likes experimental animation or those of you who are in need of some mind-expanding entertainment.

It was Grace Slick singing the lyrics to the Jefferson Airplane song White Rabbit who called out:

“Feed your head”. 

Watching this compilation would definitely help with that 'call for action' and it’s definitely given me a taste for more of the same.

Our Miss Fred (1972)

Genre: British Saucy Comedy

Forget Quentin Tarrintono’s Inglorious Basterds (2009) and watch this re-write of the Second World War.

It’s 1939 and Fred (Danny La Rue), who’s a stage actor, receives his Army conscription notice. Luckily for him because of his acting talents, he’s recruited into the Army Concert Party. In next to no time he is dressed in drag and entertaining the British troops stationed in France.

During his performance, the Germans invade and capture all the British troops and take them away as prisoners, but believing Fred is a real woman, they allow him to leave.

Walking through the French countryside, Fred meets up with a British Girl Guides leader (Lally Bowers) and her assistant (Frances de la Tour, famous for playing Miss Ruth Jones in the British sitcom Rising Damp). The stiff-upper-lipped leader tells of her strong dislike of men because they are always raping women.

Fred joins them and they take him back to meet the five girl guides in their charge. Being a British comedy, the girl guides are more like the older girls in the Saint Trinians films – busty, pig-tails and in short skirts.

Un-be known to the Girl Guide leader, the girls are helping a downed British pilot escape from the Germans. The pilot tries to seduce Fred, but soon finds out Fred is a man and is a soldier in the British Army. They team up and together with the help of the girl guides they make their way to an airstrip and hopefully their escape back to Britain.

Along the way they have various misadventures, while Fred fights off the charms of the German soldiers:

“You’re everything in a woman and a bit more.”

Danny la Rue was a famous female impersonator and was a regular in British Christmas pantomimes and appeared occasionally on TV from the 6o’s through to the 80’s. Supposedly his first appearance in drag was actually for a naval concert.

A few times in the film he reverts back to a man, which was sometimes the trademark of his shows, but through the bulk of it he plays a woman. He is amazingly good as a female impersonator and goes through a number of costume and hair changes.

Director, Bob Kellett, directed movie versions of well-known British sitcoms, such as Up Pompeii, The Alf Garnett Saga and Are You Being Served?, as well as a few episodes of Gerry Anderson’s Space 1999.

Look out for a brief appearance of Frank Thornton, famous for playing Captain Peacock in Are You Being Served?.

This is a fun movie with plenty of sexual innuendo jokes and a rousing rendition of the popular song Hitler Has Only Got One Ball.

Book Review: Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality, and Insurrection in American Cinema; 1930-1934

Censorship in American cinema didn’t really take hold until 1934 when Will Hays tightened the grip with the Hays Code which had come about due to pressure from the Catholic Church and civic groups. The code was then enforced vigorously by Joseph Breen, who used his oratory skills, working knowledge of the motion picture business and strong belief in the moral well-being of the nation, to have a firm hold over the industry.

So, what was happening in these films during the years before the enforcement of the Production Code?

Sign of the Cross (1932)
Thomas Doherty takes the reader from the period 1930, just after the advent of sound, to 1934. In those four short years Hollywood produced a mixture of gangster movies which glorified crime, political pictures where the small guy wins, adulterous pot-boilers where love affairs outside of wedlock were accepted, drunkenness, liquor, loose women, semi-clothed showgirls and where a woman could fall in love with a half-naked primitive man in the hot steamy African jungle.

This was all during a dark time in American history when the Great Depression was gripping most American families and cinema attendance had fallen due to the lack of money. Something needed to be done to get the audiences back into the cinema seats.

The answer was to produce movies which would help the audiences escape the reality of day-to-day life and their mistrust of the government and the establishment. By adding racy or violent content, producers found that cinema ticket sales were on the up

Doherty discusses these dark times in American history and how these movies fitted in with the mindset of the audience and drew them way from the newly popular radio and back into the cinema. He takes a peek at each genre and discusses key films within it.
Scarface: The Shame of the Nation (1932)

I must admit, up until now my only exposure to pre-code movies were the classic horror movies such as Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), King Kong (1933) and the seminal Freaks (1932), as well as the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films.

The second Tarzan adventure, Tarzan and His Mate (1934), pushed the boundaries of what was decency with a stand-in double for the scantily clad Maureen O'Sullivan doing a nude swimming scene with Tarzan. The movie advertising specifically aimed at the desires of its female audience with advertising lines such as:

Baby Face (1933)

"Could you ever be coaxed back to civilization as long as you had a bronzed mate like this to kiss you awake at every dawn?"

Even though at times Doherty can be a little dry in his writing style, I still found this book a fascinating read and it has opened my mind up to a period in American cinema I had previously only had a limited knowledge of, as well as the social history of those turbulent times. Ultimately, this book has increased my list of movies to watch out for in the future.

You can find out more about Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality, and Insurrection in American Cinema; 1930-1934 here

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