Flipping through the dictionary excites Judge William Lee.
Presented uncut and uncensored for the first time ever in America.
Exploitation and genre filmmaker John D. Lamond (Australia After Dark) spoofs institutional education films with his infamous sex documentary The ABCs of Love and Sex Australia Style. Skin flicks from the 1970s have more campy, historic value than erotic energy and Lamond's film is no exception. It will be of interest primarily to admirers of Not Quite Hollywood, the exceptional documentary on the Ozploitation film movement, that want to know first hand what all the fuss was about.
The ABCs of Love and Sex Australia Style exists to showcase a lot of nudity (both female and male) through the staging of various sexy scenarios. Lamond certainly delivers on the promise of skin as his actors gamely let it all hang out. The fashions and grooming on display definitely date the production so perhaps viewers with a taste for vintage footage will get the biggest rise out of those scenes. While the sexual situations are mostly soft-core, a couple of moments prove the action is real without resorting to clinical close-ups. Lamond hired Swedish performers from a famous sex club for the more adventurous scenes.
The tongue-in-cheek documentary benefits from Lamond's willingness to keep up the pretense of an educational film. The movie starts with stop-motion animation of youngsters in a classroom about to hear a lesson on sex. The soothing voices of narrators Sandy Gore and Michael Cole help maintain the façade that this is a serious discussion of sex even when their lines are corny. A pair of interpretive dancers manages to keep straight faces whether their choreography moves them between giant alphabet blocks or around massive dildos.
The film's alphabetized treatment of the subject is a bit uneven. Neutral-sounding topics like "A is for Anatomy" and "B is for Babies" aren't very energizing opening entries. "D is for Dreams" is an extended segment that talks about fantasies ranging from the Mile-High Club to the benefits of mounting mirrors in the bedroom. The segment "T is for Temptation" barely lasts long enough to announce its topic. Not shying away from darker topics, "R is for Rape" speaks directly to male viewers to remind them that fantasy is not the same as criminal violence. The script cheats by skipping a few letters but you likely won't notice on first viewing.
The film's message is overwhelmingly sex-positive and that lends it some relevance even today though some of its attitudes may seem antiquated. The depiction of homosexuality, for example, isn't offensive but it can't help but seem stereotypically flamboyant. Lamond probably took much glee from delivering an exploitation film that appeared to be socially progressive. Still, the actually educational content is negligible compared to the abundant footage of attractive couples getting down and dirty for the camera.
Intervision's DVD release is supposedly restored from a print originally seized by the Australian Classification Board. For an exploitation flick of its vintage, The ABCs of Love and Sex Australia Style looks quite decent on this DVD presentation. Minor instances of print damage are visible throughout but they aren't significant enough to distract. The picture is soft but this seems typical of low budget movies from the 1970s. The sex scenes tend to be photographed with ample soft lighting and a resultant hazy glow over the image. Darker scenes exhibit lots of film grain. The mono soundtrack, delivered through two channels, is more than adequate to convey the narration and music.
The sole extra is a commentary track featuring director Lamond talking with Mark Hartley, director of Not Quite Hollywood. The commentary is a good listen with the pair identifying many of the actors and talking about the film's reception with the censors. Oddly, Hartley sounds like a jerk early on with his comments about the women in the film. He suggests to Lamond that it must have been painful to shoot scenes where the female performers had lines and also states that the expert from the Swedish Institute for Sexual Research must be the ugliest person to ever appear on film. To his credit, Lamond doesn't take the bait and sounds like a classy professional throughout their talk. The DVD cover art promises a trailer reel of Lamond's films but this supplemental is not on the disc.
The ABCs of Love and Sex Australia Style is a fun and sleazy slice of Australian cinema. The outdated fashion sense and hazy vignettes keep the film from being more than mildly titillating film, but its warped sense of humor puts it a cut above most vintage skin flicks. It's not essential viewing, but it is an interesting footnote for fans of Ozploitation films.
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