People gripe that contemporary culture is sex-obsessed, but the '00s have nothing on sex's greatest decade, the '70s, when people at least pretended to be mature about getting it on. The kicks didn't come easy, though. Sexual liberation lurched into the mainstream, often via exploitation movies that appealed to the prurient interests of drive-in audiences while letting them know that, at least somewhere in the world, the citizenry was balling away with few regrets. In 1969's Bizarre, sex is depicted frankly, as just another matter-of-fact weapon in the ongoing war between men and women. The movie begins "a thousand years ago, at sunset," with a tale of marital revenge, and moves on through a spy spoof, a silent-movie parody, a monster-movie fantasy, some poetic ruminations on eternal life, and more, all narrated by a stentorian mummy. Bizarre is a kind of super-exploitation film, combining horror, humor, and smut in one pseudo-avant-garde package, enacted by good-looking, stiff-acting, frequently naked young people.
The new Bizarre DVD includes the uncut version of the film and a commentary track by producer Richard Gordon and Tom Weaver, who explain a little about the film's history and reception. Banned in some countries, bowdlerized in others, Bizarre was initially screened in America as part of the fledgling New Line Cinema's "Art Or Pornography?" series. Yet even New Line was afraid that the film's original title, Secrets Of Sex, would stir up too much trouble.
Just a few years later, though, sex in cinema had become commonplace enough that Hollywood celebrities wanted to be seen lining up for Deep Throat. The smut-peddlers seized the moment. Midnight Blue, the Manhattan Cable series started by Screw magazine editor Al Goldstein in 1975, treated porn and sex as legitimate adult subject matter, and the controversies surrounding Deep Throat as hard news.
The DVD Midnight Blue Collection: The Deep Throat Special Edition collects the episodes having to do with Deep Throat—interviews with director Gerard Damiano and stars Harry Reems and Carol Connors—along with some internal debate about how much sex-talk is too much for public-access television. The show's blunt tone is remarkable—when Goldstein asks Connors what kind of cunnilingus she prefers, he wants her to answer for his own edification, not necessarily to turn on home viewers. Equally fascinating, from a historical/ sociological perspective, are the disc's extras, which include the original commercials for sex shops and massage parlors. This was the Plato's Retreat and Show World era, and the ads were a direct pitch to libertines with disposable income, who wanted to spend an hour being pleasured. Not depicted: The moment after ejaculation, when the men quickly gathered up their expensive clothes and jewelry and made awkward small talk with the working girls while backing out of the door. That was called the '80s.