The film opens with one woman and two men getting it on, naked and in a hypnotic state, among a pile of hay. The opening on-screen quote is from Paradise Lost: "Did I request thee, Maker; from my clay to mould me Man, did I solicit thee from darkness to promote me?".

And then, the narration (from Valentine Dyall) begins to lead us through a curious series of vignettes that unfold Amicus-style to provide a portmanteau of tales hoping to make sense of the eternal battle of the sexes.

The first tale concerns a middle-aged Judge (Richard Schulman) who returns home early one day and believes his wife has been unfaithful. Suspecting that her lover is hiding in a body-sized trunk, he orders his flunkies to bury it ...

Cue the explosively colourful credits and melodramatic music.

An ancient Mummy (Elliott Stein) then addresses the screen, voiced once more by the earnest Lyall, explaining how an afterlife spanning centuries has left him no further forward in understanding the motivations of men and women - and in particular women, whom he surmises will go to extraordinary lengths to attain sexual gratification.

A slow strip from one brunette (complete with a crinkly bottom) and a freaky montage of good-looking men and women as the narration entices us to "imagine you were making love to this boy/girl", a spot of hippy dancing that leads into people disrobing and pelting one another with vegetables ... and then we're into more vignettes purporting to expose how far we all go to find sexual pleasure.

The first short story centres on the red-headed female photographer of stylish S&M footage. A mock-up of a dungeon and an over-acting photographer help build a Gothic atmosphere for this Hammer-esque offering.

The second yarn also treads genre ground, with a 68-year-old scientist's neglected wife Mary-Clare (Yvonne Quenet) giving birth to a mutant child in an attempt to gain his attention.

In fact, with minor gore and frequently spooky organ-led music, much of SECRETS OF SEX owes a creative credit to the horror genre. Only, the shocks are largely replaced by nudity and softcore sex.

Perhaps the most intriguing tale though, before everything is wrapped up by a rather rudimentary way of explanation in the Mummy-led denouement, is an adaptation of the Mayfair comic strip "Lindsay Leigh" - here, Lindy is portrayed with aplomb by the comely Maria Frost (SCHOOL FOR SEX; PERMISSIVE).

For all that it is odd, director Antony Balch's SECRETS OF SEX is also well-paced and highly enjoyable. It's nicely shot, the tone is just the ride side of ludicrous and there's nary a scenario or frame that isn't striking. Even the occasional bursts of humour aren't too intrusive.

Quite what it achieves on an educational level is questionable, but it's no less flawed in that respect than Dusan Makavejev's WR: MYSTERIES OF THE ORGANISM. It is, however, much more visually stylish and much less preoccupied with politics: this is a fun trip that celebrates the absurdity of sex as much as it does the enjoyment it brings ... and none of it is meant to be taken too seriously.

The film is presented uncut here on Synapse's Region 1 disc, in a very good anamorphic 1.66:1 transfer. Colours are bright and bold, images are sharp, detail is fine and print damage is minimal.

English audio is presented in 2.0 and is also extremely serviceable.

Synapse originally released this film onto DVD in June 2005 under the title BIZARRE - in fact, that release is still available from the likes of Amazon. This release appears to be identical in every respect to that release, other than the cover art and title.

So, as before, we get a nice animated main menu page (baring the title BIZARRE) which leads into a static 16-chapter scene-selection menu.

Extras begin with an audio commentary track for the main feature, from executive producer Richard Gordon (INSEMINOID; HORROR HOSPITAL and many others). This starts slowly but eventually finds an agreeable rhythm, with moderator Tom Weaver getting some interesting recollections from Gordon on Balch, as well as discussing the film's censorship woes and distribution difficulties over the years.

Next up are two short films from Balch. The first is "Towers Open Fire", a surreal 10-minute offering from 1963 starring (and scripted by) legendary author/weirdo William S Burroughs. Random images, solemn profiles and berating narration distinguish this challenge of life as we accept it.

The second short film is "The Cut Up", which again is made with the assistance of Burroughs. It's similarly arty and pretentious, and a little more difficult to tolerate at 20 minutes in length. Repetitive and experimental, Lord only knows what the point of this 1966 effort is supposed to be.

Both films are presented in fairly scratchy but perfectly watchable black-and-white prints.

The main feature's original theatrical trailer is an enjoyably trashy way to spend 2 minutes and 24 seconds. The title here is SECRETS OF SEX.

An interview with one of the film's six co-writers, Elliott Stein, follows. He explains how he worked initially on the linking frame but also ended up playing the Mummy (consequently having to eat dinner in full bandage garb between takes) and another role. He also touches upon the thwarted sequel in this intriguing 11-minute offering.

Finally, there is a colourful 4-page booklet with good liner notes from Chris Poggiali.

If you don't already own it, SECRETS OF SEX is well worth checking out. It's weird, it's fun and it's memorable. Synapse's disc is definitive.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Synapse Films
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review