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  Is There Sex After Death? Eat Your Heart Out, Kinsey
Year: 1971
Director: Alan Abel, Jeanne Abel
Stars: Alan Abel, Buck Henry, Marshall Efron, Holly Woodlawn, Robert Downey Sr, Jim Moran, Ruben Carson, Earle Dowd, Lawrence Wolf, James Dixon, Roger Diamond, Iris Brooks, James Randi, Mink Stole, Jennifer Welles, Janet Banzet, Jeanne Abel
Genre: Comedy, SexBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dr Rogers (Alan Abel) welcomes you to this documentary which not only takes you around the sexual attitudes of the American public, but introduces you to the great work his Sexological Institute is carrying out, showing you around its corridors and the doctors and nurses who work there. Not to mention the patients, who attend to deal with their myriad sexual problems, and Rogers is pleased to report they have many satisfied customers at their clinic, even if some of the activities can be tiring for the participants. Just how revealing can he be?

You should have guessed by now that this was not a serious documentary even if you had not heard of Abel, who was one of the greatest pranksters in history, showing up the stupidity of the media with an endlessly inventive selection of spoofs and gags on an incredible scale. Starting out with his campaign to stop animals parading around nude, continuing into his efforts to ban breastfeeding, and even getting the New York Times to publish his own obituary while he was still alive (he was quite impressed with what they wrote about him, incidentally), there was nothing he would not do to satirise society's attitudes.

Especially if those attitudes were frankly absurd in his view, as he could not get enough of confronting people with their petty prejudices in a way that seemed to amuse himself most of all, no matter if anyone else was in on the joke. Of course he had a group of assistants, including his wife Jeanne Abel who co-directed Is There Sex After Death?, a film which proved to be his most lucrative project as it played midnight showings and college campuses even in its censored version for the whole decade. If it was not successful in the manner of its construction, for there would be few fooled into believing what was going on here was genuine, as comedy it was very amusing in places.

Naturally with their scrapbook approach, editing sketches, interviews and awkward vox pops with unwitting members of the public together into a ragbag of a parody, not all of this was going to tickle the funny bone, but there was a pretty good hit rate for laughs. Much of that was down to how relentlessly silly Abel was: the film begins with him asking the man (and woman) on the street about the ideal length of a penis and gets some surprising answers, and having established this irreverent attitude to sex heroically pursues it to its logical conclusion. What he was actually saying about the subject was more open to question.

Indeed, in parts this looked as if he was simply trying to get away with the rudest material he could, freed up by the new relaxing of censorship laws in America (although he still had to cut it for an R rating). Assisting were some denizens of the underground scene, with Andy Warhol's pal Holly Woodlawn apparently sincere in his/her interview, Marshall Efron going very far in his portrayal of a sleazy, grinning porn director, and the highest profile name Buck Henry displaying his customary fearlessness in aiming for the jokes (as anyone who saw his Saturday Night Live appearances could attest), with his dubious expert providing some of the most amusing bits in apparently improvised exchanges. Mixed in with this was a trip to meet nudists who Abel gets to dance about and inquires if there is any rivalry in their pasttime, a magician (Earle Dowd) who makes ladies' clothes disappear, and finally the Sex Olympics, which was what you'd expect. If this wore thin after a while, it was entertaining for those with a strong sense of humour.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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