For years I've seen the VHS release of this obscure fake sex documentary, overpriced at $40 and never going down in cost. The most intriguing aspect of the film was the fact that it featured Holly Woodlawn, the star of Paul Morrissey's TRASH, in a rare non-Warhol 70s film appearance. Of course that was the tip of the iceberg, because as I dove into this obscure 1971 release, I discovered here was a smart and witty take on the Sexual Revolution years ahead of its time and still just as funny as it was over 30 years ago. Praised by critics nationwide, it fell into obscurity after its theatrical release, but thankfully Image has saved it from languishing in the vaults any longer. This is one of the best under-the-radar DVD releases of the year!
Follow Dr. Rogers, one of the chief resident psychiatrists in the Bureau of Sexological Investigation all over the country as he digs deep into the sexual mores of the nation as they react to the Great Sexual Revolution. A look into the Bureau's offices finds a cunnilingus addict becoming a professional flutist and various other bizarre studies of sexual behavior. Keep a lookout for Janet Banzet aka Marie Brent, Michael Findlay regular, as a patient! Man-on-the-street interviews with completely ignorant passersby quiz them about bestiality, pornography, obscenity, and promiscuity. An "expert" tells the story of a court case where a man had anal sex with a cow, but would not have been prosecuted if he had vaginal sex with the animal (!!!). Rogers interrupts a heavy petting couple to demonstrate the various forms of contraception. Go inside a real-life nudist camp, filled with flabby middle-aged men, spaced-out chicks (including one with obvious breast implants), and watch as they have fun swimming in a pool, singing in a chorus, dancing to a cover of "Good Golly Miss Molly", and are quizzed about the fundamentalism of nudity. Visit a fascinating sexual art gallery, with phallic statues, pornographic paintings and sculptures, and historical pieces of sexual art. You won't believe some of the pieces, including one guy's crank being represented by a lobster (?!). Finally, we reach the lengthy interview with Holly Woodlawn, who smokes one cigarette from each hand, slurps from a beer can, and discusses her personal sexual philosophy. Never boring, Holly is beautiful and funny; she talks about the lost SCARECROW IN A GARDEN OF CUCUMBERS, the perfect penis size, when she lost her virginity, and various events that make up her new life as a superstar. Get ready for the outrageous Merkin the Magician, the world's only X-rated magician who performs magic tricks on willing nude audience members (including professional porno princess Tina Russell)!! A goofy press conference invites stupid sexual questions from reporters, such as "Is it possible to have an involuntary orgasm while I'm driving a car?" or "Is sex more pleasurable for smart people over dumb people?". According to an expert, foreskins aren't thrown away, but are used to feed third world countries?! An interview with the less-than-articulate Robert Downey is kind of a waste of time.
One of the many highlights of the film is an interview with Vincent Domino, a porno movie producer who created the first animal porno ("Do you know how long it took to make one minute of movie magic?! Do you know what it took to make that goose and that donkey friends, then lovers?!") and discusses his plans to make a Tarzan movie where Tarzan forgets Jane and Boy and has a love affair with a female lion ("There's a cunnilingus scene that'll make you bust in your pants!"). Other films of his include BEAUTY AND THE PRICK, NECROPHILIACS ANONYMOUS (using real corpses), KNOCKERS UP (a 3-D film with real penetration shots into the audience!), and UP THE UTERUS (opening with a dancing penis!). The entire sequence is drop-dead hilarious and couldn't even be equaled today!! There is a fabulous spoof of a porno movie shoot, with two topless girls mauling a guy sporting a gun and a hard-on ("Put that sandwich down! Act!")!
When interviewing a row of elderly people in the park, one old bag goes so far as to say, "I think Raquel Welch is a vile person...not to say anything bad about her personality, because I don't know her, but...." Using real audio clips of a Nixon interview, Rogers talks with a Nixon impersonator before the cameras, who does a tap-dance by the conclusion of the piece!
Another jewel of a sequence is the interview with Ruben Carson, a flaming queen of a man who claims to be a married puritan man who is screaming to get out into the Sexual Revolution. He talks about the feminist movement ("The sight of 42,000 women carrying candles and not having orgasms is not beautiful. I'd rather mace them than look at them!"), how to delay orgasm ("Marry a Jewish woman. You may never have an orgasm again."), why David was the first Portnoy ("Coitus interruptus"), and gives other hilarious anecdotes on life and the changing times.
Witness an all-topless string quartet of lovely ladies in pearls and white gloves, but their breasts hanging out for the world to see! Buck Henry plays a doctor who gives his very funny thoughts on sex, but takes a great pride in demonstrating breast development on a bucktoothed blonde with bodacious ta-ta's. "There is no point in measuring breasts....as long as they're huge!" A goofy fake séance is a laugh riot, with one guy becoming possessed and "puking up ectoplasm" (actually a plastic bag!). A sexual forum including Buck Henry and Robert Downey discusses sex while porn star Jennifer Welles and a man with a raging hard-on screw on the table in front of them. An X-rated opera sequence is funny for the most part, but runs out of steam. Finally Rogers visits the International Athletic Sex Games, where the winner is judged on number of orgasms, grossness, intensity of performance, etcetera.
IS THERE SEX AFTER DEATH? does jump all over the place, and parts of the film aren't funny, but it's essentially a funny version of films like CHANGES and RED, WHITE AND BLUE, covering the Sexual Revolution in its own singular way. You've never seen anything like it and definitely won't again!
The fullscreen transfer for IS THERE SEX AFTER DEATH? is pretty worn and grainy, but the film itself is so entertaining any problems can be overlooked. Brief moments of black marker appear in the left side of the screen at the 63 minute marker, and the grain never stops, but this adds to the documentary look and feel of the film. The mono audio is strong, and as the film is wholly dialogue-driven, this is a relief.
The extras are extremely limited,
which is a shame because I'd love to know more about how the project came about.
There is a brief stills gallery with promotional photos shot to appear in theaters
and newspapers to advertise the film, but that's it. Don't let that deter you
from picking up this disc! (Casey
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