For skin-flick maven Russ Meyer, making Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) at Twentieth Century-Fox was a singular moment—with all the resources of a major studio at his disposal, he got to indulge his fancies for gonzo editing, in-your-face imagery, outrageous sex scenes, and voluptuous women like never before. For his follow-up, however, Meyer had to keep it in his pants, metaphorically speaking. Although The Seven Minutes tells a story that’s all about sex, the presentation is decidedly chaste. And while Meyer’s films are often hard to follow given his fragmented narrative approach, The Seven Minutes is downright murky—adapted from a novel by Irving Wallace, the picture throws so many characters and plot twists at the audience that it’s challenging to track what’s happening until the extended courtroom sequence that serves as the film’s climax. And even then, one-dimensional characterizations and wooden performances render the people in the movie nearly interchangeable.
The film’s main thrust, exploring how communities define pornography, should have been a natural fit for Meyer, but it turns out the filmmaker was more skilled at creating actual smut than generating cerebral melodrama about smut. Without getting into the tiresome specifics, the story revolves around a novel called The Seven Minutes, written by a mysterious author named J.J. Jadway. Once banned, the sexually graphic book is reprinted by an enterprising publisher, which leads to the arrest of a California bookseller. Then a disturbed young man commits a rape, and investigators suspect he was driven into a sexual frenzy by reading The Seven Minutes. Politicians pounce on the situation for opportunistic reasons. Eventually, an intrepid attorney scours the globe for clues about Jadway in order to exonerate the book and to strike a blow against censorship.
Thanks to the weird combination of lifeless acting and lurid subject matter, The Seven Minutes feels like a sexed-up episode of Dragnet. People deliver speeches instead of dialogue, and nearly every “mainstream” character is presented as a grotesque. Therefore, whenever Meyer lets his freak flag fly—for instance, intercutting a sexual assault with a Wolfman Jack radio performance—it feels like part of some other, transgressive movie accidentally got mixed in with the straight stuff. The mostly undistinguished cast includes aging movie queen Yvonne De Carlo and then-unknown Tom Selleck, as well as Meyer regulars including Charles Napier and Edy Williams. All of them seem adrift, because The Seven Minutes is neither sufficiently disciplined to work as a proper drama nor sufficiently wild to qualify as a counterculture statement. After The Seven Minutes crashed and burned, Meyer wisely returned to the realm of independently made skin flicks.
The Seven Minutes: LAME
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