In this Californian bookstore, a customer has just purchased a novel the assistant told him was banned as obscene some years before; the trouble is, the customer was a cop wearing a wire, and the plan was to bust the day manager for selling illegal pornography, which is precisely what happens. A lawyer is called, Mike Barrett (Wayne Maunder), and he is reluctant to take the case knowing it will be heavily controversial, but he is persuaded and believes he can exonerate the manager in court. However, the case is complicated almost immediately when a rapist strikes, severely attacking a young woman and when the police think they have the culprit, it turns out he has a copy of the novel in question hidden in his car…
As you may have noticed, this was the issue of whether extreme literature, or indeed movies and television, can warp a mind sufficiently to make them commit crimes raising its ugly head once again, but while this had been done to death even in 1971 when this was released, it did hail from an unusual source: director Russ Meyer. He had made his name on low budget, extremely stylish softcore films, which caught the attention of 20th Century Fox who in turn offered him a deal to make mainstream pictures for them. The first was a big hit, the sequel in name only Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, but as an X-rated epic it was an embarrassment for the studio to be associated with, therefore they demanded Meyer helm this adaptation of an Irving Wallace book next.
Meyer wasn’t especially interested, but he was under contract and though they asked him to make an R-rated edit of the material, they only way he could sustain any interest was to apply his trademark fast-cutting approach mixed with that wholesome, all-American sleaze he was so adept at. Therefore as far as the nudity and buxom ladies went, this was more a throwback to his earlier, sixties movies in that the ladies were there, but in the main taking their clothes off was more or less left out, leaving the curious impression of the director itching to let loose with his accustomed flair, but hemmed in by the restrictions of the studio. There were signs he was not taking it especially seriously, but even that fun was limited and he retreated back to the independents straight afterwards.
This left The Seven Minutes a rather forlorn enterprise in the cult auteur’s canon, as everyone pretty much disowned it as a bad idea all round, not to mention the fans being uninterested in a work that represented their hero not at his full potential. This meant it was difficult to see for a long time, so just the dedicated Meyer followers bothered with it assuming they could find it, but if they did, what greeted them? Was it as boring as its reputation, or was there some entertainment to be had? It proved to be neither a lost gem nor a total wash-out, as a cheeky riposte to all those who would use censorship to shut down free speech this was more a ringing endorsement for sex in culture, illustrating to its own satisfaction that those who wish to suppress and repress do far more damage than the more liberally minded.
If you disagreed with that, you certainly would not be watching a Russ Meyer movie in the first place, so there was a sense of him preaching to the choir here, yet for what amounted to a courtroom drama with winking, tacky asides and trappings it did hold the attention better than you might expect. As our crusading lawyer, Maunder had made his name playing General Custer on television and wanted to branch out into film, but this shut that ambition down swiftly and he returned to the small screen, not unlike the most famous name in the cast, Tom Selleck, though solely in retrospect as it took him a decade to break through to stardom. Elsewhere, the cast was peppered with the director’s usual associates, from Edy Williams to Charles Napier, though his one-off use of DJ Wolfman Jack’s commentary in the rape scene showed an audacity that was not entirely laudable. With every argument the moralists use exposed as a straw man (they are far more corrupt than those they seek to condemn), the ending was predictable and the drama absurd, but a dry account of a porn trial wouldn’t have been half as interesting, would it? Music by Stu Phillips.
American director and one of the most notable cult filmmakers of the 60s and 70s. Meyer worked as a newsreel cameraman during World War II, before becoming a photographer. In 1959, his work for Playboy led to his first film – the hugely successful ‘nudie’ feature The Immoral Mr Teas. Other soft-core features followed before Meyer moved to a series of trashy, thrilling B-movies – Mudhoney, Motor Psycho and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! – that combined the two elements – incredibly voluptuous women and graphic violence – that would become Meyer’s trademark.