A long overdue DVD release for this renowned "marriage manual", a relic from the heavily censored late '60's. Secret Key's 2-disc edition twins it with it's more in-your face sequel SEXUAL LIBERTY NOW!.
FREEDOM opens with a naked couple frolicking through sunny woodlands while a stuffy American voiceover reasons that nudity has been a natural part of life since Adam and Eve. So natural, in fact, that the cameraman can't help but zoom in on the pair's hirsute genitals.
Then without further ado we're off to Copenhagen, upon which the bulk of this documentary is focussed. We meet an earnest presenter with goatee-beard stood on a busy Danish street, looking for 'random' people to shove his microphone under their nose and query them about their sex lives.
Along with stock footage of nude beaches and a hippy disco party, the attitude of the average woman on the street helps illustrate the narrator's point that these Danish are more liberated that the rest of the world (don't forget, these examples are 40 years old!), and that their lack of censorship regarding sexual material can only be a healthy thing.
With that in mind, we're off on a tour of the sex shops in Copenhagen (an excuse for still images of blowjobs and cunnilingus, as seen on the covers of several rhythm magazines) to further exemplify this easy-going attitude towards sex shared by the fruity Scandinavians. Now, I don't know if you've ever been in to a UK sex shop (be honest!), but the chances are the person behind the counter was a sweaty middle-aged man, eyes glazed over from constantly sniffing on his bottle of Liquid Gold. Hmm. The clerk in this instance is a sexy redhead in hotpants and devil horns …
But without hesitation we're then headed to a lesbian photo shoot, where our intrepid middle-aged reporter bounces back with his microphone for the unintentional comedy highlight of the film - a bohemian-style interview with several nude girls. Cringe!
Then the fun's curtailed again by our ever-so-serious narrator who takes us on a journey through sexual history, via ancient Greek and Egyptian paintings and a brief foray to India. He even manages to namecheck Sigmund Freud and George Bernard Shaw along the way.
But before long we're back to the modern times, and the more titillating sights of nudes in a swimming pool, glamour photo shoots, an explanation of swingers and - inevitably - the advent of porno films (or "the cinematic avant garde", if you will!).
The second half of the film is where it's true infamy lies. In one segment the narrator asks us "what is obscene?". This is accompanied by a montage of photographs depicting war atrocities, and the narrator's conclusion that the most offensive four-letter word is "kill" … all of which is juxtaposed with a softcore soft-focus scene of a couple humping. The narrator reasons that censorship of sex could well have led to the rise of the Nazis and overcrowding.
Speaking of the latter, what self-respecting sex manual would be complete without devoting time to the reproductive organs and telling us all how babies are made? Duly, we get lots of clinical dialogue, diagrams and close-ups of genitalia in the film's final segment. There's even a cumshot into a test-tube, and - more shocking in these times - a full-frontal nude pose by a pre-pubescent girl.
It all ends with a Karma Sutra-style manual of various positions and a condemning look at frigidity.
FREEDOM is a bizarre relic, an oddly compelling and undeniably amusing throwback to a time when the very idea of pornography worried and offended people. It's impossible in these Internet-savvy times to appreciate how shocking this must've been upon it's release, but it holds up as an interesting albeit naïve and overly serious 'documentary' regardless.
It reminded me at times of WR: MYSTERIES OF THE ORGANISM but without the drama or sophistication.
Also on disc 1 is the sequel-of-sorts SEXUAL LIBERTY NOW! At 64 minutes in length, its 10 minutes shorter than it's predecessor but manages to pack an awful lot more graphic sex in.
In this respect alone, NOW! is at least a more sincere proposition that FREEDOM, more obvious about it's exploitative motivations. Yes, the same narrator is back with his po-faced proclamations, but this time around the filmmakers pull no punches - the film opens with a close-up shot of a penis going in and out of a vagina … and that's how it continues for the most part.
In-between the barrage of chopped-up scenes of penetration and ejaculation we do get vignettes that expose America's changing attitude towards pornography in the early 1970s (a convenient way for the filmmakers to refer back to Copenhagen's anti-censorship "experiment" in the first film): an amusing review of legalising porn stateside; more bogus man-on-the-street interviewing; panels watching XXX films then debating their validity afterwards; a study on sexual attitudes in general; another examination of the 'problem' of frigidity …
"You have maybe four minutes of enjoyment in a lifetime" informs the narrator, while we're being subjected to silent-era sepia-tinted porn. Really?!
NOW! argues that it exists as a debate on the need for pornography (it concludes that while it may be dull, it's not harmful) and does this by packing itself with hardcore imagery. Not that I'm complaining.
Both films on disc 1 are presented in their original unmated 1.33:1 formats. Both look a little worn and faded but given their age these are reasonably sharp and problem-free presentations. FREEDOM, oddly, looks the better of the two.
The English mono audio on both films is clear and consistent throughout, with only a faint background hiss to speak of.
Beyond the animated main menu there are no extras or scene-selection menus, although each film does have it's own share of chapters (12 for FREEDOM; 10 for NOW!).
Disc 2 provides FREEDOM in its theatrical 1.78:1 matte, enhanced for 16x9 TV sets. The 1.33:1 presentation was better framed from what I glanced at.
Also on disc 2 are no less than 15 trailers. These consist of trailers for NOW! and FREEDOM, plus 13 titles from the Joe Sarno canon (including INGA and it's remake).
Rounding off this package is an excellent 8-page booklet with informative liner notes from Michael J Bowen. He refers to these films as "white coaters".
These two films represent an interesting look back to a time when pornography was just beginning to prick the mainstream mindset. In many ways, in a world now inundated with sites promising "cum-dripping sluts" and ass-to-mouth vulgarities, it's a time I wish we could travel back to.
Nice package (oo-er).
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by After Hours Cinema|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|