Thursday, October 10, 2013

Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Movie history, like history in general, is often fiction. Take for instance, the case of Woody Allen. The auteur has benefited from the perception that his films are artistic, non-commercial works superior to the bilge filling the screens at mainstream theaters. Of course, that's not the way Allen’s work is perceived these days. Too many duds like his current film, Scoop, have tarnished his once pristine reputation as a filmmaker. But in the '70s and '80s, he was regarded as an artist whose films, generally inexpensive, made a tidy profit but were not geared for mass consumption.

This is fiction. Allen's films were actually quite lucrative in the '70s, and Allen himself was among the top 10 box-office draws in that decade.

One of his biggest hits was 1972's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask), a hodgepodge of sketches supposedly based on the best-selling guide by Dr. David Reuben that provided its readers with more snickers than education about sexual matters.

Released in the dead of summer at the classy showcase cinemas in which Allen's films were usually booked, it was among the top ten grossing films of the year. In all other respects, however, it's a bomb: a mostly unfunny dud marked by humor of the most juvenile sort. Oh, there is a brief chuckle to be had from the episode featuring horror icon John Carradine as an insane sex researcher ("They called me mad at Masters and Johnsons"), and from a parody of a game show called What's My Perversion? featuring Jack Barry, Pamela Mason, Robert Q. Lewis, Regis Philbin, and other "personalities" who appeared on actual games shows of the time, but otherwise the film lays a major egg.

© 2006 Brian W. Fairbanks


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