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Shakespeare meets George Schlatter in this manic, Laugh-In style freak out farce about The Secret Sex Lives of Romeo and Juliet, literature's most famous pair of star-crossed lovers. However, our wild Willy never envisioned a version of his romantic tragedy this loaded with loony lasciviousness. The copulating Capulets and mounting Montagues grab, grope, and group sex everything in sight: the servants, the government officials, the priests, and each other. Juliet is a slut, Romeo is an advanced horn dog, and just about everyone else in this corny carnal carnival is interested in one thing and one thing only. And it ain't what light through yonder window breaks.
In The Notorious Cleopatra, Caesar has grown bored with the local Roman escort services, and sends Marc Anthony over to Egypt to procure the allegedly fine piece of Nile nookie named Cleopatra. Even with "hands off" orders, Anthony takes one look at this voluptuary's pyramids and erects a personal obelisk to her of his own. Caesar gets wind of this treason, breaks wind during a 14-minute orgy scene, and orders Marc Anthony killed. Miss Cleo makes a booty call to our elephantine emperor to plead for Marc's manhood and hopefully off the Jolly Julius with a combination of bedroom Olympics and some overripe fruit. Perhaps she should have used a pointed stick. Armies attack. People die. The end.
The Secret Sex Lives of Romeo and Juliet is the supreme archetypal Harry Novak soft-core sex comedy. It perfectly balances humor with humping, moderating the multiple mutual aardvarkings with Henny Youngman style jokes and blackouts. It is the film he strives to make every time he brings the bare together with the bawdy and the brainless. The result is something unique: a film that can be enjoyed both for its sexuality and its slick '60s sense of humor. Not that every aspect of this movie is flawless. The audience interaction construct is dropped about halfway through, only to be rediscovered in the last five minutes. Some of the sex scenes go on for far too long, becoming a middle-aged monkey love marathon of moans and mushy body parts. But even though no one in the cast is going to win a beauty pageant (and Juliet looks a little like a pale, plump underdone pork chop), this warts, moles, and all approach does lend the movie a homely made charm that's entertaining in its awfulness.
Oh, if only the same could be said for The Notorious Cleopatra. Here, ugly people are just plain ugly. No amount of campy craziness can polish them. Even with the same director on hand, what was funny and free-spirited in Secret is deadly dull set against the backdrop of the Holy Roman Empire and ancient Egypt. At least it would be, if this film ventured outside even ONCE. The only way we know where we are, locale wise, in the film is because someone tells us. Each small set is draped in trappings so tacky that they only "suggest" Egypt in their Middle East meets mediocre flea market crappiness. Everything is so closed in and cramped that the only atmosphere created is that of a mildewed clothes closet. The cast appears ripe with sweat and sundry body odors, especially Johnny Rocko as Anthony. His guttural, ultra macho Marlboro man style voice sounds like Rich Little imitating a bassoon. And the one aspect that makes Secret so successful—wild, wacky self-deprecating comedy—is used only sporadically here. When it is, it's forced and sticks out like a sore slave girl.
One of the things that Something Weird Video is known for is its access to legendary players in the exploitation market. Dave Friedman, Herschel Gordon Lewis, and William Greffe have all added insightful, detailed commentary tracks to their product. As part of this daring double bill, we get a newly recorded cinematic conversation with Harry Novak, producer extraordinaire, along with a few of his close DVD pals. Unfortunately, this is the WORST DVD TRACK RECORDED IN THE SHORT HISTORY OF THE MEDIUM. Novak is just plain uninteresting. He rambles. He repeats himself. When pressed for information, he knows virtually nothing (which is pseudo-understandable, since he has made or handled hundreds of films). But without SWV's vault of knowledge, Mike Vraney, along to keep Harry in check, we are treated to an eternity of sleazy fornication play-by-play and exclamations about pubic hair. Since the disc is filled with so many other enjoyable extras, like galleries, trailers, and shorts, SWV can be forgiven, just this once, for forcing this rambling stream of dirty old man innocuousness on us. While some may feel these films are much ado about nothing, those looking for the sexy cinematic godfather to Airplane or History of the World, Part I will find The Secret Sex Lives of Romeo and Juliet / The Notorious Cleopatra a spirited comedy of errors. Make that Eros.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
• Audio Commentary on The Secret Sex Lives of Romeo and Juliet with Producer Harry Novak and Friends
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