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  Fantasm Penny For Your Thoughts?
Year: 1976
Director: Richard Franklin
Stars: John Holmes, Rene Bond, Uschi Digard, Serena, Dee Dee Levitt, Maria Aronoff, Al Williams, Maria Welton, Candy Samples, Gene Allan Poe, Roxanne Brewer, John Bluthal
Genre: Comedy, Sex, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: A professor of psychology, Jurgen Notafreud (the uncredited John Bluthal), believes he has something to teach the audience about the finer points of female sexuality, and in particular women's fantasies. He tells us that he has studied the area extensively, and now considers fantasies an essential part of a healthy sex life. To illustrate this, he presents a collection of these episodes acted out, case studies he has taken from his patients. After all, there are things people do in their fantasy life that they would never do in their real lives...

The United States had Deep Throat, France had Emmanuelle, Britain had, erm, Confessions of a Window Cleaner and Australia had Fantasm. Not to be confused with the Don Coscarelli horror Phantasm (note the spelling), this was groundbreaking in what it allowed to be shown on the cinema screen Down Under. And in Australia as well. Ahem, anyway, it took the form of a mockumentary, although not all the segements were supposed to be funny as the script, by Ross Dimsey, was based on producer Antony I. Ginnane's ideas of what women fantasise about although it might have been more about what Australian men thought women fantasised about.

The film encountered substantial censorship problems in its native land, with some places refusing to show it at all as the restrictions on what you could see there were among the toughest in the free world. Nevertheless, the film made a huge amount of money, enough to spawn a sequel and imitators, not bad for a production that had to be made almost completely in the United States with an American cast. Australians may have wanted to see this kind of material, but they didn't necessarily wish to appear in it, and those who did were no actors.

This is why they managed to secure the services of the most famous male porn star in the world, none other than John Holmes, although as this was a strictly softcore film he didn't get to perform in the manner he had become most celebrated for. Other "names" included Rene Bond, Uschi Digard and Serena, each appearing for about five minutes and earning a day's pay in the process. It may have been toned down, but Fantasm still must have been strong stuff for those not used to seeing such sexuality onscreen: director Richard Franklin, who went on to a Hollywood career, refused to have his name in the credits for fear it would harm his prospects.

But what can you expect from the film? Bluthal's dialogue is pseudo-scientific and the attempts at humour are light hearted but rarely funny and it's clear he was simply there to increase the running time. As for the reason everyone wanted to see the film, they might have been erotic at the time but many resemble scenarios from another world entirely, where you could go and see a film in the cinema which had ten minutes devoted to rape fantasies (and the rapist is the only black actor in the whole thing - charming!). The less palatable aspects apart, most of the segments are fairly innocent, with the "lesbians in a sauna" bit almost gentle and the strip poker bit featuring daredevil rocking chair action. Speaking of the Devil, the finale representing religion is a Satanic ritual that makes you wonder what the influences were. And I'm sure I spotted Bruce Forsyth in the first part, too. So Fantasm, as with much erotica from yesteryear, is more historically interesting than anything else.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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