Secrets of Sex aka Bizarre (1969) reviews and overview

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[Total: 54   Average: 2.5/5]

The film they tried to stop!’

Secrets of Sex – aka Bizarre and Tales of the Bizarre – is a 1969 British fantasy/erotic/horror feature film, directed by Antony Balch, an experimental filmmaker and frequent collaborator with William S. Burroughs (narrator of the re-release of Witchcraft Through the Ages).

The film is narrated by an Egyptian mummy voiced by Valentine Dyall (The City of the DeadThe HauntingThe Horror of It All).

The rest of the main cast are Richard Schulman, Janet Spearman, Dorothy Grumbar, Anthony Rowlands, Norma Eden, George Herbert, Kenneth Benda (Scream and Scream Again), Yvonne Quenet, Reid Anderson, Sylvia Delamere, Cathy Howard and Mike Britton.

After directing the Burroughs-influenced surreal shorts Towers Open Fire (1963) and The Cut Ups (1967), Balch approached producer Richard Gordon (Fiend Without a FaceFirst Man into Space) in 1968 to direct an anthology film running just over an hour, titled Multiplication. After the script was rewritten to bring the film up to feature-length and the budget doubled (32,000 pounds) filming took place over fourteen weeks in 1969.

Released in February 1970, Secrets of Sex was a huge success in the UK, running for six months at the Jacey Cinema in London’s Piccadilly Circus alone, during which time it recouped its entire production cost. The film remained in circulation in the UK throughout the 1970s, sometimes appearing in a half hour edited version that played on the second half of double-bills.

Many of the actresses who appear nude in the film, such as Nicole Austin and Maria Frost, were mainly topless models who had begun to get minor acting roles in British sex and horror films of the period. Frost, who plays Lindy Leigh in the film, was so horrified she’d been given a major role in the film that she reportedly told Balch “I’m a model, I can’t act.”

The dinosaur sculptures that feature in the “Strange Young Man” segment are the famous Crystal Palace Dinosaurs.

The film was substantially cut for the British cinema release in 1970, with BBFC censor John Trevelyan removing over nine minutes from the film, while reportedly muttering “nasty stuff”. Heavily cut was the ‘Spanish horse/Female photographer’ sequence, while shots of men in bed together in the ‘Bedroom Beauties of 1929’ sequence were removed entirely.

Writing in the BFI’s Monthly Film Bulletin (March 1970) Jan Dawson remarked of the cuts “… it’s sad that censorship should function against its own long term purpose and reinforce the man-in-the-mac’s sexual furtiveness by denying him the chance to view sex irreverently.”

The film was briefly released uncut in America with the title Bizarre by New Line Cinema, before being withdrawn and re-released in 1972 by Joe Solomon’s Fanfare Films as Tales of the Bizarre, a drastically re-edited version that deleted around 17 minutes from the film. The 1980 UK video release on the Iver Film Services label is uncut, as is the 2005 American DVD and the 2009 British DVD.

In 2005 the film was released as a special edition DVD by Synapse Films under its American title Bizarre. In January 2010 it was finally released on DVD in the UK, by Odeon Entertainment, under its original title featuring new sleeve-notes by Simon Sheridan, author of Keeping the British End Up: Four Decades of Saucy Cinema.

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Reviews:

‘There’s lots more: a sexy spy spoof, a silent bedroom farce, a man with a reptile fetish, and a woman who’s captured the souls of her lovers in the flowers in her greenhouse. Sadly, it’s not quite as impressive as it sounds: it’s a real one-of-a-kind movie and is entertaining in its way, but its ninety minutes feel like a long, long time. Acres of gorgeous female flesh, though; so certainly not all bad.’ Cinematic Fibre

 

‘ … more of a multi-faceted sexploitation film than horror, and although the stories are unusual, they pretty much build-up to nothing, leaving the viewer going, “Hah?” But as a whole, it’s tough to compare it with anything else (a far cry from the straightforward and structured Amicus anthologies of the same era) and the viewing experience will be a unique one for certain. Balch’s training in short films was a perfect breeding ground for this sort of trial feature, but his love of horror films would better shine through in his second and last effort, Horror Hospital.’ DVD Drive-In

Richard Gordon: ‘ … he [Antony Balch] came up with the idea for a film which at that time he called Multiplication, and the idea was that some of the vignettes would be sexy and some of them would be in the horror vein. To give it an extra frisson, there would be narration which would link all of these stories together, and that narration would be a sort of voice from beyond the grave. Eventually, when we were doing the final script, we came up with a talking mummy.’

Buy The Horror Hits of Richard Gordon book by Tom Weaver from Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

“Undeniably, it is an astounding piece of work – thought-provoking and quite delightful to look at – but, while many critics talk of the movie in reverential tones, it goes without saying that it actually doesn’t work.” Simon Sheridan, Keeping the British End Up

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