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Sunday, December 18, 2011


Ozploitation director John D. Lamond returns to titillate us once again with 1978's THE ABC OF LOVE AND SEX AUSTRALIA STYLE, a by-the-letters primer on "doin' it" that manages the remarkable feat of making sex boring.

Unlike the previous Lamond documentary we talked about, AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK, this one eschews the scattershot approach and focuses on a single subject.  Assuming we know little or nothing about it ourselves, the film opens during Professor Leonard Lovitt's sex education class for kids and invites us to join them in listening to his lecture.  This sequence is done with stop-motion animated puppets and is pretty much the only marginally charming part of the whole thing. 

As the professor starts his projector, the film proper begins with two women in leotards dancing badly around some giant alphabet blocks to an innocuous disco tune.  This gives way to a letter-by-letter journey through the alphabet beginning with "A" for "anatomy", in which we're introduced to the differences between male and female genitalia.  (More on that when we get to the letter "G.")  "B" is for "birth", offering some extreme close-ups of a nursing baby that had me thinking, "Huh?"

"C" for "contraceptive" seems to be an excuse for some product placement along the lines of the "Budget Rent-a-Car" shots in AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK, and "D" for "dreams" informs us that people like to dream about sex.  Surprisingly, "E" for "erotic", while managing to define the word, comes up short actually demonstrating it.  An attempt to mimic the "erotic" eating scene in TOM JONES consists of two stiffs staring meaningfully at each other while gnashing chicken, grapes, and bananas in an affected manner.  

Elsewhere, another couple pretend to have oral sex in a movie theater--mainly we just see the guy's face--and then join the "mile-high club" by kissing real hard in an airplane.  Kissing real hard seems to be the prevalent means of simulating the sex act in many of these vignettes. 

"F" for "fun" shows us a couple of people hopping around in a bubble bath.  "H" for "homosexual" is an excuse to indulge in "funny" stereotypes as a bunch of queens camp it up during a gay party, followed by a somewhat more enjoyable lesbian encounter.  "Innocence" is equated with "ignorance" as virginity gets the bird.  The scenario used to illustrate "J" for "jealousy", in which a woman tries to pick up a man in a bar, is intended as a startling role-reversal while having nothing at all to do with "jealousy."  As you might guess, "K" for "kiss" shows various couples kissing real hard.

Onward we slog through the rest of the letters as "love", "masturbation", something starting with an "N" that I can't recall, and of course the big "O" are similarly dramatised in lighthearted but relentlessly dull fashion as narrators Michael Cole and Sandy Gore drone monotonously.  This isn't just a parody of a dry, clinical sex manual--it often comes off as one, even throwing in the occasional comment by some Swedish sexologist who resembles Quasimodo's mom.  For anyone actually trying to get off to this movie, her appearances would be the equivalent of thinking about baseball. 

It's hard to imagine this tepid pseudo-educational film appealing to the raincoat crowd, though, or even the "watch naughty movies on cable after Mom and Dad have gone to bed" faction.  Observing various (mainly unattractive) couples acting out the enervating voiceover isn't the kind of thing one might want to use as a sex aid, or see at a drive-in or grindhouse.  So who the heck is this largely unerotic sex movie meant to appeal to?  Even the captive audience of an actual "Introduction to Sex" class would find it hard to sit through.

Aside from a snippet of cuteness here and there (the elevator-sex scene reaches the film's peak of verbal humor by deftly including the words "lift" and "elevate" in the narration), the only interest is in the brief bits of nudity, including, at around the halfway point, some actual shots of penetration. 

However, for any couples desperate enough to be using this film to put a cheerful charge into their love life, up jumps "R" for "rape" to throw some cold water on it with a jarringly out-of-place lapse into grim seriousness.  Lamond cheats a bit by giving us "X" for "excellence", and then "Y" for "you" gives him an excuse to recap the entire film with a montage of scenes that were already dull the first time.  As for "Z"...well, he couldn't think of anything for "Z."  What about "zipper"?  Or "zoo"?  Okay, maybe not "zoo."

The DVD from Intervision Picture Corp. is widescreen with Dolby 2.0 sound.  No subtitles.  There's a commentary with director Lamond and "Not Quite Hollywood" director Mark Hartley.  The box mentions a trailer reel but I couldn't find one.

A mildly interesting peek at 70s sexual mores and dull filmmaking, THE ABC OF LOVE AND SEX AUSTRALIA STYLE (which, incidentally, has absolutely nothing to do with Australia) pits lots of nudity and some brief scenes of hardcore sex against unrelenting boredom in a touch-and-go battle that left me teetering on the edge of indifference.  Around about the twentieth time some random couple was shown toying with each other's buttons and kissing real hard, I found myself wishing the alphabet wasn't so damn long.

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