Dr. Leonard B. Lovitt lectures his creepy-looking stop-motion animated
class in the A-Z of sexual education Australia’s THE ABCs OF LOVE AND SEX, on DVD from Intervision Picture Corp.
The second feature film of director John D. Lamond, following the travelogue AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK, THE ABCs OF LOVE AND SEX is more consistently entertaining and explicit; although it is somewhat hampered by its alphabetical structure (one wonders if, other than a few specific ones like “H for Homosexual” and “C for Contraception”, if Lamond shot all of the vignettes with specific letters in mind or if the script was organized around the existing footage as if it were a real documentary). “A for Anatomy,” isn’t very clinical, but it confirms “Yes, there will be full frontal nudity” while “B for Birth” thankfully excludes a “birth reel.” “C” hastily takes us into the world of contraceptive devices. Fantasies and fetishes are spread across the alphabet seemingly at random, some in “D for Dreams” and others in “E for Erotic” (the phone sex vignette – featuring TWINS OF EVIL’s Peter Thompson – probably would have fit equally in “W for Words”). The narration for “L for Love” stresses the emotional aspect of love-making over some hardcore grinding; there’s more of that in “O for Orgasm” while “P for Pornography” features some stills of adult magazines and a surprisingly tamer look inside the Chat Noir sex club in Sweden. “F” turns out to stand for “fun” and features some random fumbling in a bubble bath while the narrator reminds us that sex is supposed to be enjoyed, while “G for Genitals” features model Katie Morgan straddling an oversized prop phallus (disturbingly seen mobile via stop-motion earlier in the film), and a close-up considerably more explicit than the whole of “M for Masturbation.” The narration of “H for Homosexuality” tells us that not all homosexuals are not all “feminine men and masculine women,” but the sequence illustrates just that with a cocktail party full of bitchy, back-biting “queens” bad-mouthing each other behind their backs (“You’ve heard of Madame Lash; well, she’s Madame Lush”). We then cut to a more crowd-pleasing, soft-focus Sapphic interlude. “I for Innocence” (as well as “Ignorance”) juxtaposes an idyllic woodland sexual encounter with the more common drive-in back seat one, the contemporary reversal of the social stigma of pre-marital sexual experience, and the dangers of sexual ignorance. “J for Jealousy” addresses the double standards of sexual experience between the sexes with a gender reversal sketch in which a leering, PLAYGIRL-reading woman chats up a more reserved man in a bar. “R for Rape,” on the other hand, stresses that rape is not a female fantasy, and Lamond refrains from the exploitative here (sexual violence not going over well with the censors, although Lamond would combine blood and breasts in NIGHTMARES a couple years later).
Lamond had traveled to Sweden to have their labs perform the 16mm to 35mm blow-up on AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK, and returned for this film to shoot interview footage with Swedish Institute for Sexual Research's Maj-Brith Bergström-Walan – who also appeared in the Swedish MORE ABOUT THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE, which apparently did really well in Australia – as well as the film’s hardcore interludes (producer Anthony Ginnane had to go to the United States to find performers for his softcore FANTASM and FANTASM COMES AGAIN). Lamont drops these bits like bombshells in unexpected places (not “E for Erotic” but “L for Love” and “O for Orgasm” rather than “P for Pornography”). The hardcore sequences are certainly that, and were probably shocking at the time – well, they would have been had they not been censored – and are still surprising now; however, they only show enough to prove the point that they are real (these sequences were heavily edited for the theatrical and cassette releases). Two suggestive letters Q and V are entirely absent, and X is squandered on “excellence” (spelled with a big X). On the other hand, Y for “you” is of interest since it seems to use up every last outtake that Lamond shot for the film, including bits where the actors seem to be taking direction from offscreen, and moments where the performers break “character.” Like AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK, this film is scored with library music; however, it also includes the very catchy main theme “You’ve Got What It Takes” sung by Madeline Bell (this song, and the other Bell song “Your Smile” heard here, also appeared in the Australian WIP TV series PRISONER, which premiered the following year). Although a better film than AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK, THE ABCs OF LOVE AND SEX is also more interesting as a product of its time, even if does feel more like it parody sex documentaries rather than using the format to exploit the greater permissiveness of the Australian R rating (which, nevertheless, did not encompass some of the harder footage on view here).
Unlike Intervision’s disc of Lamond’s AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK, THE ABCs OF LOVE AND SEX was the recipient of a new transfer for the Australian Region 4 Umbrella DVD and that same 1.78:1 anamorphic master has apparently been used here. The PAL timing is retained, but the conversion is much less problematic than Intervision’s disc of AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK. Some bits of audio are a bit scratchy, but the dialogue and narration are always clear. The version represented here and on the import disc, is the longest version at 82 minutes and 51 seconds at PAL speed (the theatrical version was cut by three and a half minutes, and the VHS edition lost roughly five minutes for the same R rating).
A new extra – not featured on the import – is an audio commentary by Lamond and moderated by NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD director Mark Hartley (who also recorded commentaries with Lamond for Intervision’s AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK and Severin Films’ NIGHTMARES). Lamond discusses his earlier work in advertising at Roadshow Pictures (he shot the film’s theatrical trailer, which prominently features model Katie Morgan, who is truly the film’s most photogenic face and body). Lamond also discusses the challenges at that time of finding performers who could actually act and would be willing to take off their clothes (as well as the objections of spouses and boyfriends). Hartley sometimes has nasty things to say about some of the cast – including Bergström-Walan, Thompson, and Morgan (who reportedly tried to get an injunction against the film – but he has some interesting things to say about Australian censorship (Hartley’s documentary, which excerpted the “money shots” from various Ozploitation films out of context, was somehow deemed suitable for all ages while the films themselves are still restricted). Regrettably, Intervision has not included the film’s trailer (which was reportedly on the Umbrella disc). It was included on the Lamond trailer reel that was featured on Severin’s disc of NIGHTMARES, and it would have been a nice addition here since it was shot and edited by Lamond and is mentioned on the commentary track. Although it does not appear anywhere on the disc, Intervision’s packaging promises a Lamond trailer reel – presumably the same one on the aforementioned NIGHTMARES disc – so the trailer may not have been included because it was on this intended extra. (Eric Cotenas)
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