Friday 8 August 2008

Aphrodisiac! The Sexual Secret of Marijuana (1971)

Director: Dennis Van Zak
Stars: Who Knows

Arriving late as always, I missed the opening credits and came in on some sort of documentary. Nobody speaks except the narrator, who tells us about how alcohol loosens inhibitions. Shock horror! Then we switch to a marijuana party where apparently weed has a similar effect. You may assume here that this is all good and maybe we should all go out and get drunk and stoned in order to get laid. I'm sure people left the theatre in 1971 at this point because anyone watching this on initial release probably needed advice on how not to scare the opposite sex.

But wait, there's a dark side! Get too out of it and you won't be able to get it up! You'll turn into some sort of Frankenstein's Monster, half comatose as a loose lady utterly fails to arouse you with any of her portfolio of loose tricks. I wonder how long it took those folks who left after the good news to find out the bad news. I can imagine some of them still trying it, hanging out in bars utterly wasted wondering why nobody wants to take them home. After all, this documentary about sex and marijuana said it would happen. One day they'll wake up and realise that they're now 60 years old and they missed the last two thirds of their life.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, there's a story going on. The film has that sort of effect, leaping around from here to there and back again, via all sorts of bizarre places, but then it was an apparently serious documentary that someone decided to spice up by adding in hardcore porn inserts. They weren't looking for consistency or enlightenment, they were looking for any crappy material they could use to pad out an hour and a half from a few salacious hardcore clips. However the best and funniest bits of the entire movie happen through bad editing that bizarrely seems to attempt to turn this from outright porn into a PG movie with educational nudity.

Needless to say, it utterly fails at that. Hey, what was that that just flipped back into view when the camera jerked around too much? Yep, bad editing, but surreal editing that provides much of the fun here. There's actually plenty to enjoy here, all from the so bad it's good school. Trust me, there's nothing here that would count as good, regardless what criteria you want to work from. What we get is plenty that counts as surreal, unreal and really really weird.

We visit a writer of fiction for women's magazines attending her first pot party, where she finds that stoners read poetry to each other before getting it on. I don't remember this sort of behaviour from That 70s Show but I think I probably only saw the same couple of episodes over and over again, just because they happened to be repeated every time I flew out to the States. What our fiction writer discovers though is the lesson of this movie, which seems to be that alcohol is bad but pot is good. We learn this gradually, being taught the history, then how to grow it, how to roll it, how to cook it, even what sort of profit margin we can expect to see if we sell it.

We're treated to a dramatisation of a husband struggling to deflower his wife on their wedding night. We see Indian men running naked through the fields, being whipped to harvest hashish. We discover that an appropriate dinner for a second wedding anniversary is spiked cookies and champagne. And always we learn things, courtesy of people like Fiorello LaGuardia, mayor of New York during the second world war, who commissioned a Mayor's Report on drugs in 1944. If this film is anything to go by, it seems to have concluded that all diseases could be conquered if only doctors could use medicinal marijuana. Eventually we get to the point where smoking pot means you won't be gay or shoot anyone. If only California took notice...

Most surreal of all are probably the sensitivity sessions that last for days. I'm still trying to get my head round this concept, which deals with people of both sexes with inhibitions so severe that they need psychiatric help all congregating in a single room and stripping off on command because hey, the guy in charge said it was OK. Compared to this the protest session is nothing. Two protestors can't help but notice each other, probably because they're the only two protestors there, but hey, they're multiracial so this should seem important. He's her first grass, her first sex and her first black all at once, and she turns all bubbly. His lollipop is just like eating chocolate babies! Or something like that.

Now, if none of the above makes this film appeal to you, I should add that there are people here that you've heard of, in various states of undress. No, I'm not talking about Mayor LaGuardia, I'm talking about people like Suzanne Fields who played Dale Ardor in Flesh Gordon. And best of all, John Holmes, uncredited here in one of the hardcore inserts, as a boss whose secretary turns him on to grass. This brings him to the startling realisation that he's been using his weapon as, well, a weapon to bludgeon women with. Great imagery, huh?

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