Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Is There Sex After Death? (1971)



A sad relic of the Oh, Calcutta! era—during which boundary-pushing sex comedies gained a patina of credibility by exploiting the counterculture’s principles of permissiveness and provocation—Is There Sex After Death? feels virtually inert when experienced with modern sensibilities. Originally released with an X rating because of copious nudity and sexual content (which stops just short of penetration), the faux documentary comprises a number of sketches involving sex researchers who use an institute and a “Sexmobile” to explore the carnal habits of everyday people. Every so often, this premise triggers a mildly witty sequence juxtaposing intelligent commentary with ribald imagery. Mostly, however, the picture presents endless scenes of naked people dancing, humping, posing, swimming, and so on. Revealing the movie’s exploitive soul, the longest sequence involves newsreel-type footage of participants in a nudist colony. Does anyone really believe that lengthy shots of sexy female nudists gyrating and sunbathing have educational value vis-à-vis the nudist ideal of shedding societal inhibitions? Although codirectors Alan and Jeanne Abel deserve some credit for being equal-opportunity sensationalists, since both male and female bodies are on display throughout Is There Sex After Death?, the filmmakers fail in their primary endeavor of generating laughs. Still, the handful of scenes featuring famed actor/writer Buck Henry are almost amusing simply because of Henry’s impeccable deadpan timing. (The best bit is a sequence of Henry trying to keep it together while describing the breasts of a voluptuous woman who is undressing next to him.) It’s also worth nothing that a vignette of sportscasters providing color commentary while couples copulate was later ripped off for an identical scene in The Groove Tube (1974). But is there anything genuinely edifying or even erotic in Is There Sex After Death? Not unless the following dialogue, spoken by Henry, is your idea of adults-only hilarity: “Once in Ireland I examined a woman whose vagina was so large I had to take an aerial photograph.”

Is There Sex After Death?: SQUARE

1 comment:

William Blake Hall said...

On the subject of sportscasters narrating sex, I'm struck by the poster mentioning the Woody Allen movie "Bananas," also from 1971. That movie begins with Howard Cosell providing live coverage of an assassination on behalf of the Wide World of Sports, but it also ends with Cosell also narrating the consummation of the Woody Allen character's marriage, complete with interviews after the "action." So perhaps Allen came first -- so to speak.