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This DVD is worth having for the two short films included on it that
director Anthony Balch did with William Burroughs. As for the feature,
well. . ."Bizarre" is yet another British anthology, but definitely one
of the strangest ones you're ever likely to see. It's narrated by a
mummy (the Egyptian kind, not the English). The common theme in
vignettes the mummy introduces is supposedly the battle between the
sexes. (Why the mummy is supposed to be an authority on this subject
frankly eluded me). The vignettes do manage to combine horror, sex, and
comedy pretty well. The first two include some straight-on
female-on-male sexual cruelty and some female-on-male medical/science
fiction-related cruelty. Despite a healthy dose of black humor, they
are both pretty disturbing. Then there is strange, very British skit
(set during the WWII air raids for some reason) where a man catches a
sexy female burglar in his house, so he showers with her, rolls around
on his bed with her while shoving the phone down the back of her
panties(kind of anticipating the strange fetishes of Jesus Franco
films), before finally doing to her what any red-blooded Englishman
would do to a sexy female burglar in a silly British sex comedy. Of
course, she eventually gets the upper hand.
In the last two vignettes it is the males who prevail. One of them called "Lindy Leigh" is a comical spy parody apparently based on a comic strip in Mayfair magazine (the British version of Playboy). The title character, Lindy Leigh, is a female spy who is so stupid that she makes Playboy's "Little Annie Fannie" look like James Bond. She crawls around in her panties a lot and ends up locked in a safe with a bunch of other topless bimbos. The last vignette completely beggars description, so I'm not even going to try. Then the movie ends back where it started with dancing, some tame sexual groping, and a lot of naked people handling automatic weapons and, very literally, rolling around in the hay (by the way, I don't know Balch's personal sexual orientation, but I think this movie would probably appeal to bisexuals a lot as the men are just as naked and often almost as attractive as the women). During the scant running time of this movie I was occasionally aroused, even more occasionally amused, pretty frequently horrified, but mostly just perplexed. Really though this thing has to be experienced first-hand to be believed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
SPOILERS INCLUDED Antony Balch was the famed abominable showman of the swinging London era- as a distributor and cinema programmer his niche lay in retitling Euro-sexploitation fare with 'bums on seats' titles like Do You like Women, Don't Deliver Us From Evil, When Girls Undress and The Weird Weirdo. In the early months of 1970 Balch released his own first feature length film, a contentious film about the battle of the sexes, executed in portmanteau style. Supremely offbeat by nature- Secrets of Sex has survived all these years essentially in anecdote form- not that its hard to see why- for no one forgets the only British sex film narrated by an Egyptian Mummy easily. Locked in a chest to hide from the husband of his lover, the narrator ended up buried alive- emerging thousands of years later as a Mummy who has observed the war of the sexes and become drawn to the more 'bizarre aspects of human behaviour'. Voiced by Valentine Dyall the Mummy watches a girl strip, theres further cut- aways to lovely ladies and shirtless men with machine guns- over which the Mummy repeats 'imagine you were making love to this girl, imagine you were making love to this boy' as a form of mantra atypical of the films ambiguous sexual view. 'When the Saints go Marching in' is heard as go-go dancing girls get cabbages and tomatoes thrown in their direction- the machine gun men advance, a girl draws a cut-throat razor- the battle of the sexes begins. Our man in bandages laments how people 'will go to any lengths to get what they want' with that we're spirited off to a photoshoot with a torture chamber theme. A male model feigns pain for an older photographer who seems a little too much into her work- the creepy situation is added to by her assistant, a not unattractive girl who nevertheless comes across as a Caligari somnambulist. 'Norma go get me the Spanish horse' she says prompting the arrival of this torture device- a sort of hobby horse with a blade down the middle which the suspended victim has to straddle- gradually the horse will dissect its victim between the legs (ouch). The ghastly inevitable happens with the model left to die this horrible death in the contraption while the women chat away during dinner, returning to find a dead bloody mess that makes the perfect book cover- some people really do have to suffer for their art. With horror movie shots of lightening we're onto the second tale- Mary-Clare a female scientist despises her older husband Sacha for his greed and privilege. Sacha longs for a son but when Mary-Clare discovers she carries a defective gene she knowingly gives birth to a freak monster son instead- raise that thing daddy-O. Next up a young man catches a female thief looting his house 'Christ, a bird'. The allure of the bad girl proves too much for our Genet reading hero who joins her in an amorous shower and some risque bedroom antics. After sex, the girl continues robbing, he threatens to call the police but both know things have gone a little too far for that- they won't buy his story but the girl drawing his attention to a picture of his wife imagines someone will. Following that is a detour into the misadventures of spy Lindy Leigh-Agent 28 complete with comic book like intertitles charting her missions - whether its donning white knickers to creep around a foreign embassy or checking out 'Bedroom Beauties of 1929' a nudie silent farce- in a sex cinema. Lindy seduces a military attache, slipping him a mickey finn 'sleep well sweet jerk' and tries her hand at topless safecracking, only to end up locked in the safe where she finds agents 1 to 27 'that military attache wasn't so stupid after all'. Then we have 'the strange young man' who rings up for a call girl- enter little dolly Sue Bond- whose bemused by this nerds attempts at 'hip' speak which includes referring to her as 'pigeon'- but all goes wrong when he gets out his pet lizard 'Pangy' telling her how permissive it would be if the reptile watched or better still joined in their lovemaking. 'Not for all the coffee in China' is Sue up for the geeks plan and makes for the door while he considers writing to the Financial Times- outside Sue runs into an old women saying sweet nothings to her own lizard 'beddy byes'. Finally a dotty dear relates how she imprisoned the souls of former lovers in potted plants to her valet- the one way conversation turns to the one man who escaped her. He is, of course the valet who strangles her 'die you filthy, alien garbage heap'. Arriving full circle back to the machine gun men and the go-go girls 'armies are disarmed' and the battle turns into a free for all orgy intercut with shots of fireworks- 'so it goes on, and on, and on'. Secrets of Sex encapsulates every aspect of Balch's gloriously outrageous career- from his early experimental shorts made with William Burroughs, to his life long love of horror movies and the censor-baiting exploitation film distributor. Mostly-improvised the film comes across as a freaky yet very personal chain of thought, spanning everything from the sweet Lindy Leigh episode to horrific imagery that rivals any 1970 horror movie- a dynamic penchant for tongue in cheek humour cuts through the film like its mascot spanish horse. An incredible headtrip to lay on audiences- Secrets of Sex lives up to everything you'll ever read about the film and Balch himself who by all accounts, was as colourful as his films. Secrets of Sex is a terrific film for people who like their movies with a healthy disregard for normality.
The eternal sexual struggle of men and women told in several vignettes, anthology style. That doesn't sound too "Bizarre" as the name suggests but keep in mind it's narrated by a mummy. The mummy helps tell the oldest tale of the sex struggle through the ages and spins tales with interesting twists and angles. Tres Bizarre, no? This anthology is a bit light on horror but the film is still quite interesting. The film is a lot smarter than one would think at first glance possibly due to a smartly written or acting that is actually well above average. "Bizarre" will titillate and tickle your funny bone and maybe even make you think a bit too.
You would expect Antony Balch, who collaborated on some experimental
short films with William Burroughs, to make a weird horror film. And it
is indeed pretty kooky, though doesn't often strike one as
Some of the more experimental, or at least odd touches include: a voice-over saying "Imagine yourself having sex with this girl. Imagine yourself having sex with this boy. Imagine yourself having sex with this girl." etc. for some time, with images of mod young people in various states of undress. It then repeats with slight variation, "Imagine this girl having sex with you" etc. In another segment, there are shots of planes taking off and landing intercut throughout. It's unclear if they're meant to represent sex, or the threat of the man's wife coming home, or that the man's house is under a flight path, or if they're simply filmic non-sequiturs.
The movie has a mummy narrating, telling about the battle of the sexes. The segments all have to do with men and women at odds with each other in various ways, sometimes fatal. The opening segment has an Arabian judge who believes his wife may have a lover hidden in a trunk. He has the trunk buried without opening it. This is perhaps the origin of the mummy (though how he comes to be mummified would be a mystery, but the producer on the commentary track indicates we should not give it that much thought).
There are women photographing a male model in various states of torture. There's a sexy spy who's supposed to find secrets in a foreign embassy. There's a young man with a strange fetish rooted in a childhood incident.
Offbeat, and definitely for those that like that. It was quite well-received at the time! Now, it does seem awfully 1960s, but that lends it a new sort of charm.
An ancient mummy voiced by Valentine Dyall hosts a succession of wacky
vignettes which explore the theoretical battle of the sexes. This is
one of the strangest films in the sexploitation genre, a hip little
item from out of left field which is appealing for its attractive cast
and unchained outrageous absurdity. The expounded stories run a gamut
of sex-themed situational weirdness, ranging in tone from gruesome and
unsettling to giddily whimsical.
A distinctly British cult item, and a unique concoction from Antony Balch. One of the more unjustly ignored outsider personalities of sixties underground cinema,Balch is best known for his short film collaborations with William S. Burroughs.
Though it clearly has limited appeal, it's worth investigating...I personally found it highly enjoyable and refreshingly original nonsense.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A talking mummy (voiced with plummy and commanding aplomb by Valentine Dyall) guides the viewers on a very colorful and unusual grand tour of the epic ongoing battle between the sexes. Director/co-writer Anthony Balch accurately captures the brash and cheeky irreverence and bold "try it, do it" off the wall experimentalism of the swingin' 60's with this genuinely offbeat cinematic potpourri of humor (the broad spy spoof segment rates as the definite campy highlight), horror (a hunky male model gets the unnice slice, a lady gives birth to a hideously malformed mutant baby), and eroticism (naturally, there's a plethora of nudity from both gals and guys alike). Moreover, Balch further spruces things up with plenty of funky psychedelic visual flourishes and such kinky stuff as bondage, torture, and hot chicks in dressed in shiny black leather. Better still, there's a pronounced peculiarity to the whole eccentric enterprise that's really something to behold (a gaggle of go-go dancing honeys are pelted with vegetables by a gang of disapproving dudes who also advance on them while brandishing machine guns!). David McDonald's splashy cinematography makes fine use of ripe bright colors. De Wolfe's stirring dramatic score likewise hits the overwrought spot. A truly unique and enjoyable one of a kind oddity.
A mummy narrates vignettes about men, women, and the sex between them. Huh? At the beginning, the mummy randomly asks the viewer, "Imagine having sex with this girl. Imagine having sex with this boy" about 37 times, while flashing pictures of half naked mod youths. Later, said mods boys pelt mod girls with...vegetables? If you ignore (or fast forward) through the mummy's rambling, the shorts aren't bad in their own right. I found a few of them rather funny. My personal favorite is one where the sexually-confused man tries to convince a girl to have sex with him while his pet lizard sits on the bed. This is one, well, bizarre movie.
A challenging collage of psychedelic scenarios which push the viewer
closer and closer (even though it most often feels further and further)
from its ultimate revelation of the secret of sex.
Highly thematic, "Bizarre" transcends its exploitation by fusing ideas of life, death, and afterlife with a pulpy and extremely weird stories and scenarios. As far as 70s Britsploitation goes, you can't get a more distinct trip than this (obviously it has to be viewed with an appreciation for the genre).
It is also a likely inspiration for "Tales From the Crypt" as its narrator (Valentine Dyall) is a talking British mummy; a hilariously-campy but extremely well-executed idea.
Around the time this film was being made, there was a shift being made
in consciousness which sparked many attempts to explain scientifically
the new beliefs of the age and usher in not only of the new decade, but
a new mindset.
This mindset was a marrying of Science, and Spirituality. The sexual revolution had begun, and out of that came a deeper understanding of sexual acceptance, but the power of sex and social norms. Always at the height of these schools of thought was the journey of the soul.
Now being a relatively new school of thought in the west, they never seemed to go too far beyond the superficial, but were more a means of making tangible the experience of the soul, desire, and bring it all into a context of the natural world.
That is what this movie then is.
A mummy narrates sexual vignettes concerning the endless struggle of the sexes, and the bizarre displays of human behavior in the pursuit of satisfaction.
A very fascinating movie, thoroughly enjoyable, and a remarkable milestone for the western mind sprouting in the soil of new knowledge.
This oddity is more 'interesting' and of social significance than it is enjoyable to watch. I had great difficulty maintaining interest despite plentiful nudity and the fact the segments are not over long. I suppose the fireworks inter-cut with an orgy at the end is the easiest part to watch. Now I think about it I am not sure why I didn't enjoy it more but I think it's basically because nothing really worked. Even though the sections were less than quarter of an hour long they moved rather slowly and uncertainly. I seemed to be for ever trying to work out what was going on only for the part to end with some seeming significant statement regarding the 'battle of the sexes'. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood. I understand the commentary on the DVD is worth listening to, so I shall be able to give it another go AND there are those William Burroughs shorts. Still, they will probably be more 'interesting' than enjoyable too! DVD originates in US and has extras
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