Bizarre (Secrets Of Sex) 1970
There’s a temptation for the genre fan to think that only one company was busy churning out compendium horror films in the 60s and 70s – after all, Amicus pretty much cornered the market with its brightly-lit, comparatively bloodless little tales of murder and comeuppance. But the bigwigs at Amicus themselves had only set out on that route after noting the success of Dead Of Night, the grandfather of all horror films. So it was only natural for people to see Amicus reaping their own success and want a piece of it.
All of Amicus’s compendium films, although generally nasty, tended to steer clear of anything remotely approaching sex. There might be the occasional go-go dancer in a plastic bubble (Torture Garden), but in the main everyone kept their paisley shirts and drainpipe hipsters firmly on. Usually, husband-and-wife relationships end with a bludgeoning long before they get anywhere near the bedroom (Joan Collins and poker in Tales From The Crypt, Richard Todd and axe in Asylum, Terry-Thomas’s forehead and hammer in Vault Of Horror).
What’s more, watching a film in 15 minute sections means that you don’t have to wait long for something to happen. Now, what other kind of genre would benefit from a short, episodic format? Why would anyone need to make a film where people might only want to sit in the cinema for a quarter of an hour?
With Amicus remaining resolutely prim on the sex front, the way was left wide open for the more shady entrepreneurs to have a go at livening up the anthology format. Bizarre (or Secrets Of Sex) isn’t what you would call “lively”, exactly, but it is an anthology horror film which shows you everything – tits, bum, fanny – the lot. Whether that’s a good thing or not is a matter of whether you like your ladies (and gents) “unaugmented” in the way that only 70s softcore films and those appalling phone chat satellite TV channels can present them – yes, there’s a lot of droopy flesh on show here. And yes, for much of its length, Bizarre is the kind of tawdry, adolescent fantasy-fodder that makes you ashamed to be a heterosexual male (did anyone, ever, actually get off on watching this rubbish?). But when it veers into horror territory (it is from the uncommon mind which brought us the sublime Horror Hospital, remember), Bizarre can be strangely effective.
The film’s disjointed tales are linked by a narration from the sonorous Valentine Dyall, in the guise of a mummy who gradually deteriorates throughout the picture. Much of the film takes the form of strange, disjointed episodes of life which allegedly show the “age old battle of the sexes”, cut with strange visions of people (for want of a better phrase) “having it off”.
After a weird introduction featuring three naked people and a quote from Milton’s Paradise Lost, the first story unfolds - a judge in ancient times is told that his wife’s lover might be in a trunk. He orders the trunk buried without opening it, and throws away the key.
Dyall’s mummy (for ‘tis him in the trunk) tells us: “For a thousand years these eyes have been hidden in the blackness of time. That is to say, a thousand of your years. But on certain occasions, I have been able to… observe the uncertain struggle of the battle of the sexes… The fruits of victory do not go to the strongest or the cleverest, as I myself have good cause to know!”
As a podgy stripper appears and begins to peel off her clothes, he continues: “Imagine this girl was making love to you…” (no thanks), and the scene changes once more to a bunch of women (unconvincingly) disco dancing. Their clothes fall off, an unseen audience starts booing them and pelting them with cabbages(?), and a bunch of Robin Askwith-alikes turn up and start threatening them with guns. The girls respond by brandishing cut-throat razors.
Aha! A battle of the sexes, as promised. And we’re finally at the film proper, split into five untitled chapters…
A kinky photographer gets her model to straddle a razor sharp “Spanish horse” torture device (“Come on, don’t hang about…” he complains. “This is torture!”) before attaching weights to his legs and then leaving him alone to die.
Mary Claire is a scientist, and Sascha is her rich lover. He wants a kid, she gives him one. But she’s not mentioned the congenital birth defect she’s carrying, and he ends up with a monster for a child.
A man catches a burglar in his home, and rips off their mask to reveal… “Christ! A bird!”
She replies to his incredulity with: “Just a minute… you can deal with a girl, can’t you?” before peeling off her PVC catsuit and going for a bath with her pants on. The story deteriorates into what appears to be an advert for lemon and cucumber soap, with him joining her in the shower. They wash each, other looking slightly embarrassed (but both keeping their pants on), before a quick chaste fumble in bed (still with both pairs of pants in place). This does lead to some very interesting ideas of what to do with a telephone receiver, before a vague “twist” at the end.
Lindy Leigh is Special Agent 28, whose main talent appears to be the ability to “accidentally” shed her clothes at inopportune moments. The previous segment may have been slightly pathetic, but this looks like it was written and directed by a couple of 13-year-old boys with their hands down their trousers the entire time. The only possible saving grace for the whole embarrassing segment is that it contains the strangest “film within a film within a film” I’ve ever seen.
A man phones for a call girl: “When do I want her? Right now!”
His chubby escort arrives, and after squeezing her ample frame into his hotel room, he murmurs to her: “It’s very fashionable, and it’s very, very in today!”
He shows her something, and she screams. “You’re out of your mind… no-one with any sense would go anywhere near that thing!”
I’ll leave it to you to find out what “that thing” is, but it’s probably not what you’re expecting.
“And now I’ve got them exactly where I want them!” she adds, indicating the flowers she’s watering.
Jeeves isn’t impressed, however: “You filthy alien garbage heap!” he rather improbably interjects. “Misappropriation of men’s souls is a very serious crime!”
The segments over, there’s just time for a bit of gratuitous group sex. Or, as Dyall puts it: “And the battle goes on…”
Bizarre was apparently a hugely successful film (of its type), playing for years to the dirty mac brigade in the fleapits of Soho, which is pretty unsettling in itself. It’s no wonder that in that cinematic climate, there was a demand for clag like Persecution and Trog. The idea that films like Bizarre could even get made, let alone be successful, just beggars belief.
Updated: February 11, 2010
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