As a part of film history, "The Love God?" is uniformly dismissed as just another goofy, formulaic Don Knotts romp--and in many ways it does follow the Knotts formula pretty closely. But this time the Knotts formula was turned in on itself. In actuality "The Love God?" is one of the best mainstream American social satires of the 1960s, just behind recognized classics such as "Dr. Strangelove" and "The President's Analyst." Knotts plays his usual character, this time named Abner Peacock. Abner is the editor of a bird-watching magazine in financial trouble. His dying magazine, The Peacock, is taken over by a pornographer while Abner is in South America looking for a rare bird. Abner returns from his safari to find that the Peacock has been turned into a cross between Playboy and Hustler. He also finds himself arrested and a defendant in a constitutional battle over "his right" to publish "dirty pictures" in The Peacock. Abner only wants to have the truth be known--that he had his magazine shanghaied without his knowledge. But instead his case comes to the attention of a self-serving Civil Liberties attorney who wants to use his case as a free-speech landmark. Abner wins his case, but is not satisfied that he is represented as a "filthy degenerate sex fiend" (in a hilarious courtroom sequence). After his victory Abner wants the truth to come out, but he is convinced by the interest groups and his own money-sniffing relatives that it is his patriotic duty to keep publishing pornography as a freedom of speech issue. The attention draws big money to The Peacock, and Abner is further convinced that, in order for the magazine to be a success, he must play the part of the Sex God libertine.
In true Knotts style, Abner gets totally carried away with the role of pseudo Hugh Hefner. But of course, the truth eventually comes out and Abner/Don eventually comes to his senses and of course triumphs over the bad guys.
Now try and find a satire with a plot as smart as that in today's dimwitted movie market! This movie is as smart as it is hilarious. The only drawback is that the generally family-friendly nature of the film necessitates that the "outrageous pornography" represented is limited to photos of big-busted babes in swimsuits--stuff that wouldn't make an 11 year old of today break a blush. "The Love God?" is second in Don Knott's classic resume only to the all time classic "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken."
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