Secrets of Sex (1970) (DVD)

secretssexYou either know it as the title “Secrets of Sex” or the more aptly titled “Bizarre,” as director Antony Balch’s sexploitation horror anthology is clearly a film that lives up to such a title. Synapse re-releases this seventies gem in the guise of a sexploitation movie, but don’t be fooled. It is very much a horror film of the truest nature that’s reliant on the appeal of sexuality to lower the audiences guards. “Secrets of Sex” is such an unusually surreal piece of genre work that uses sex and the awakening of our sexual natures as a tool for incomparable horror. And through that it tells various stories through the mouth of an inexplicably placed mummified corpse that has seen the battle of the sexes waged for too long.

Why he’s such an important facet of the war of the sexes is explained in some degree, but is never made particularly clear for the audience. This of course is manifested symbolically by a group of scantily clad gogo dancers parading for the camera and jiggling only to be booed in to submission and have fruit chucked at their orifices and cleavage. It inevitably culminates in to a confrontation of bare chested men and food ridden women, one of whom pulls out a phallic shaped razor blade prepared to go to war. Through the mummy’s eyes we see some stories that depict the dichotomy of the male and female animal that go horribly awry and take twisted turns. In one story a woman takes a gigolo and hoists him up on a medieval torture device that could very well mean the end of his end. In another story, a young aristocratic woman seeks a new heir to her fortune in the midst of a woeful genetic disease, which inspires her to seek out an elderly male. “Secrets of Sex” is predictably off the wall and surreal as Antony Balch takes full advantage of the film format and uses it as a way of displaying some of the finer points of the surrealistic wonky sub-genre of filmmaking.

From colorful strobes to scenes of women dancing for the camera, Balch takes the time out to do whatever he can for this genre piece and it works as a wonky hodgepodge of late sixties sexual adventurousness with slapstick comedy that signifies the darker realms of sexual exploration and coming of age. “Secrets of Sex” is a gem to watch if only for the unique  yarns and wonky imagery that will not cease to impress, even when director Balch is at his trippiest. One of the caveats of “Secrets of Sex” is that the film garners too many horror stories to really serve as a competent horror anthology. From minute one the mummy storyteller reveals every single character to be introduced with their own stories and there are at least ten, all of whom are granted their own small vignettes that are painfully under developed, and completely unresolved.

For example, the segment involving the medieval torture device is so short there’s no room for extrapolation and tension, while the story with the aristocratic woman is so short is ends abruptly and without warning. Balch wants to squeeze in every single story he can and in the process fails to really develop any sense of tension or horror at any turn. Instead “Secrets of Sex” feels devised to solely test the director’s cinematic limits and hastily present a series of tales that have no bearing on the overall premise of the film. While not a perfect film by any stretch thanks to its abundance of horror stories that lack focus and resolution, “Secrets of Sex” is a worthy experimental horror film with a sense of humor and a demented atmosphere many fans of sexploitation films will admire. Synapse’s re-release is a great edition chalk full of special features for the respective film buff.

Among the DVD’s special features we’re given the trailer to “Secrets of Sex,” two surreal short films by director Anthony Balch, and an interview with “Secrets of Sex” writer Elliott Stein. There’s also an audio commentary from executive producer Richard Gordon and film scholar Tom Weaver, both of whom pontificate the deeper meanings of Anthony Balch’s film and it’s quite an engaging bit of audio commentary for an otherwise okay film.