People Are Strange – Antony Balch’s ‘Secrets Of Sex’ (1969)

1 Mar

Secrets of Sex is a very strange film. Whilst it does have some sex in it and a lot of topless ladies, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a sex film. But that’s just what it is, having been released right at the start of a period of a few years that saw British sex films booming in adult theatres. The film is a series of short stories showing the war between the sexes to varying degrees, all the while being narrated by a mummy. As in an Egyptian mummy. The fact that this film was released in America under the title Bizarre really doesn’t surprise me one bit. The film really is bizarre.

The feature opens with a short prologue about a judge whose wife locks her lover in a trunk. After spending the night wondering what to do about it, the judge decides to bury the trunk and tosses the key to open it into the sea. A thousand years later, the mummified lover (who I’m assuming mummified himself…) then recounts different stories which show the two sexes battling against each other, his death the result of one such battle. Except that these stories don’t really feel sexy, but horrifically kinky. One see’s a lesbian photographer castrate a model using medieval torture equipment. Another has a young American man trying to get a prostitute to have a threesome with himself and a lizard. The film feels like the obscure bastard child of a horror anthology in the vein of Amicus or Hammer more than anything else.

Credit where credit is due though, director Antony Balch really knew a thing or two about audiences and exploitation films. This is the man who was responsible for buying the UK right to Freaks (1932) in the 1960s and distributed it once the BBFC had passed the film uncut in 1963. Prior to that, it had been banned in Britain for over thirty years. He screened an abridged version of Haxan (1922) and brought films by Russ Meyer and Ted V. Mikels into his two cinemas. Thanks to coverage in the press and some good film reviews, Secrets of Sex proved to be quite successful, running at Balch’s Jacey cinema for a solid six months. A strange British (I struggle to say it but I know many others have called it such) gem, this is well worth a watch at least once in your lifetime. I promise you, you will never forget it.

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