I’ve decided to add a category here for me to periodically review all of my favorite Woody Allen films. Because fuck you, that’s why.
This is one of the first (if not THE first) Woody Allen films that I ever saw, despite the fact that I was far too young at the time for this subject matter. But it made an impression on my young mind. Released in 1972, Allen wrote (based on a book with the same name, by David Reuben) and directed this film, and plays four different parts in it. The film is broken down into 7 separate chapters, each with a new cast of characters, dealing with a different sexual fetish (or “perversion”, depending on how you look at it).
1/DO APHRODISIACS WORK?
This chapter is set during an unspecified time in the past, in an unspecified kingdom, where Woody plays the court jester. The King (played by Anthony Quayle) doesn’t like the jester very much and doesn’t think he’s funny (featured joke: “What’s black and white and black and white and black and white and black and white?”/“A nun, falling down the stairs!”) While trying hard to amuse the King, to keep his job (and his head), the jester becomes smitten with the Queen (Lynn Redgrave), who doesn’t think much of him either. After visiting a sorcerer (played by Geoffrey Holder) the jester gets a love potion which he uses on the Queen, making her desire him. But first, the Jester much steal the key to the Queen’s chastity belt (saying to himself “with most grievous dispatch, I must open the latch, and get to her snatch”). A series of mishaps leads to the jester getting his hand stuck inside the chastity belt, while it’s still attached to the Queen. And at that moment, the King decides to go to the Queen’s bedroom…
This is a very funny chapter and a great start to the film. Woody plays the type of nervous, fidgety, nebbish that he would perfect as his standard character in the majority of his films over the next 30-40 years.
2/WHAT IS SODOMY?
This fetish is bestiality. Gene Wilder stars as a doctor who unexpectedly falls in love with a sheep named Daisy. He begins having an affair with her, meeting her in cheap motels, and is eventually caught and exposed by his wife (Elaine Giftos), and loses everything and is publicly humiliated, only to have the sheep dump him in the end. The thing that makes this chapter work so well is that it is played completely straight, despite the completely absurd premise. Wilder deserves a lot of credit for this one, not many men could lay in bed with a sheep and declare his love for her, without looking completely ridiculous. And that’s what makes this so funny. I loved it.
3/WHY DO SOME WOMEN HAVE TROUBLE REACHING ORGASM?
This chapter is set in Italy and is spoken entirely in Italian, with English subtitles. Woody stars as a man named Fabrizio who has just gotten married to a beautiful virgin named Gina (Louise Lasser). But on their wedding night, despite supposedly being a skilled and experienced lover, Fabrizio can’t seem to please Gina. She just lays there, feeling nothing. As the weeks progress it doesn’t get better. Fabrizio tries every trick he knows, confiding in his friends for advice, but nothing turns Gina on. There’s a funny segment when, after being advised that women need lots of foreplay, Fabrizio almost passes out from exhaustion after spending hours massaging and caressing Gina’s body in a futile attempt to turn her on. Eventually, they discover that the only way Gina can get turned on is by having sex in public. And so that’s what they start doing, sneaking into stores, theaters, and other public places, to secretly have sex. Fabrizio is happy that Gina is finally enjoying sex, but the pressure of doing it in public, while trying not to get caught, is not easy.
Generally, I’m not big on films with subtitles, but it worked well enough in this one segment of the film.
4/ARE TRANSVESTITES HOMOSEXUALS?
Lou Jacobi plays a seemingly normal middle-aged man who, while visiting a friend’s house, becomes tempted to try on the wife’s clothes, and then he has to duck out the window to avoid being caught, but then while on the street a young punk snatches his purse, a bunch of bystanders run towards him, offering to help “her,” which is the last thing he wants. It’s the escalation of events that makes this scene funny.
5/WHAT ARE SEX PERVERTS?
This is shot in black and white, on grainy film, made to look like we’re watching an old TV show from the early 50’s. It’s a game show called What’s My Perversion?, where Celebrity guests (the only one I recognized was Regis Philbin) have to try to figure out what sexual fetish someone has. I don’t have anything to say about this one, for whatever reason, it just wasn’t funny or interesting to me. When re-watching the film I always skip past this chapter.
6/ARE THE FINDINGS OF DOCTORS AND CLINICS WHO DO SEXUAL RESEARCH AND EXPERIMENTS ACCURATE?
This is my favorite chapter of the film, and the only one I’d say could have probably been stretched out to stand alone as its own full-length film (well, maybe the first chapter, too). Woody Allen and Heather MacRae play a sex researcher and a reporter who go to interview a controversial doctor who runs his own private sex lab. The doctor, played by John Carradine, turns out to be a “mad scientist,” running crazed sexual experiments. When he reveals that he intends to force Heather’s character to take part in his next experiment (having her gangbanged by horny boy scouts), they escape. Without giving away too many other story details, let me just say that this story culminates with our protagonists on the fun from a gigantic female titty that is rampaging through the countryside.
The visual of that image stayed with me throughout my childhood. Awesome.
7/WHAT HAPPENS DURING EJACULATION?
This story takes place inside a man’s mind and body, with a bunch of men (being led by Tony Randall and Burt Reynolds) programming his reactions while on a date and then leading up to sex. Woody Allen plays one of many SPERM. He’s nervous about finally going out on a “mission” with all of his fellow sperm. Again, like the sheep thing, this plot sounds very silly but it works.
With the exception of chapter 5, I thought this film was a nice collection of stories, with a great cast, and excellent direction from Woody. Chacebook rating 4 STARS
Categories: WOODY ALLEN FILMS