First Run Features // 1999 // 55 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // March 27th, 2006
Welcome, gentlemen. Today, we'll be taking a close look at...your penises! Are you up for it?
Oh my. If you have an aversion to discuss your "frank" in a frank manner, prepare for discomfort of the highest order. On the other hand, if you're feeling calm and confident about discussing your "little fireman" and how it (or "he," if you prefer) has shaped your self-image, then drop you pants, shed your briefs, and be seated on that chilly wooden chair for a candid conversation about your c...uh...that is, your penis. Mind the suction of the chair.
It's difficult to assess what would be more uncomfortable: being filmed while talking, nude, about your penis or sitting by and watching a film of other men talking, nude, about their penises. Just hearing the word penis spoken in a public forum leaves most men feeling rather off-kilter and a bit anxious, unconsciously cupping both hands in front of their long-time companion. But, upon completing their excellent female-themed expose, Breasts: A Documentary, filmmakers Thom Powers and Meema Spadola swing their camera 180 degrees -- and a bit downward -- to determine what men really think (or think they think) about their most protected possession. The conversation is remarkably candid, refreshingly unafraid, and absolutely revealing.
Warning: There are many "swingy-thingies" in plain sight throughout the duration of this documentary. Many of you may feel the uncontrollable urge to look up or look away, fearful that you may be on the verge of severely transgressing locker room protocol.
And so here you'll meet a variety of men -- some straight, some gay, some transsexual, some younger, some older, some virile, some resigned -- that talk about the impact having a penis has had on their lives. In much the same way women are objectified and exploited for their bouncing sweater cows, Private Dicks: Men Exposed shows a similar social stigma that all men must live up to. First, we meet the men, they who appear standing clothed in front of a background scrim, a lone wooden chair there to welcome them. Then, in a series of quick cuts, these brave souls are stripped down to the altogether after which they settle in and talk about how they've coped with life being attached to a penis (interestingly enough, some reveal that the "little man" often asserted itself as the guy in charge). Each man was interviewed separately and asked to weigh in on a series of weenie-related topics, those comments intercut to make up the various segments of this documentary. From matters of size, loss of virginity, disease and dysfunction, and everything in between, these gents bare all for the stoic camera lens. What we come away with is perhaps the first honest discussion of a matter all men think about constantly (hey, who are we kidding?) yet rarely speak aloud -- in a truthful manner, that is. If you're a man who beats his chest in mock machismo and proclaims others will tremble at the sight of his impressive implement, you may look just a little silly for doing so (and you'll be surprised to see who's really swinging the massive meat mallet). Oh, and that whole masturbation thing -- I think they're on to us, guys.
Once you can get past the fact that jockey-rockets will be on display in front of you here, the conversation becomes quite compelling. Interestingly enough, as these fellows spoke freely on practically every topic, it became evident that men could likely be objectified in such a situation just as their female counterparts. Similar to the forthright woman who can't get men to listen to what she has to say thanks to a fixation on her below-the-neckline-luggage-rack, so too it could be argued that these guys' sincere comments may be missed by any viewer that would insist on dwelling on their below-the-waistline-water-works. Finally, it has all been put on the table, so to speak.
This new DVD, Private Dicks: Men Exposed delivers the 1999 HBO original documentary in its full frame format. The image quality is fine and well rendered, looking as clean as you'd expect from a recent production. The detail level and overall crispness of the image is excellent, perhaps too much so in some sequences. The audio is presented in a very clear Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix. Interspersed throughout the presentation are clips from various sex education films, some of the type you squirmed through in sixth-grade class and others of U.S. Army vintage. Naturally, the quality of these segments varies. Extras on the disc include an 11-minute interview with documentarians Thom Powers and Meema Spadola, who talk quite openly about their own occasional discomfort over filming this program. Then, there's a five-minute interview with renowned media hoaxter Alan Abel, he who portrayed himself as "Bruce," an interviewee who remained in his jockey shorts while proclaiming he sported a diminutive two-inch tool (that's erect, folks). He had successfully duped the filmmakers but was later exposed after the initial HBO airing. His comments are very insightful, though, as he truly enjoyed contributing honest input to the proceedings rather than striving to embarrass the filmmakers. The extras round out with filmmaker bios and trailers for other First Run Features DVDs. Sadly, there aren't any full-length presentations of the classic sex-ed films.
No doubt, Private Dicks: Men Exposed is an eye-opening experience. Once you can recover from the initial surprise of seeing so much saggy sack-lunch on the counter, the conversation becomes rather riveting and revealing. Applaud these guys for speaking from the heart (and from below their equators), giving men an opportunity to dispel some myths, confirm some suspicions, and come clean about "living la vida loca" with a perpetual roommate that doesn't have a lot to say but sure lets you know what he's thinking, day in and day out. Just the same, it seems doubtful, in the final analysis, that many men would have it any other way.
Case dismissed...and someone please sanitize that chair.
Review content copyright © 2006 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: First Run Features
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 55 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Filmmakers Interview
* Alan Abel Interview
* Filmmaker Bios