Woody Allen’s sketch comedy offshoot from the best-selling David Reuben’s sexual query digest Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask not only proved to be as popular as the book that inspired it but showed a definite step forward in the funny man’s upwardly mobile screenwriting and directorial career.
The Production: 3.5/5
Woody Allen’s sketch comedy offshoot from the best-selling David Reuben’s sexual query digest Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask not only proved to be as popular as the book that inspired it but showed a definite step forward in the funny man’s upwardly mobile screenwriting and directorial career. Here, not burdened with sustaining characters for a feature length narrative, Allen instead let his imagination run wild satirizing everything from game shows to foreign films to giant bug movies with touches of inconsistent genius. And he’s cast some brilliant artists in key skits that he’s not a part of himself offering a nice variety of slapstick comedy, sexual farce, and witty rejoinders even when some of the playlets are more dud than doozy.
Seven questions have been pilfered from Dr. Reuben’s book (the book’s motif involves sexually-motivated questions with pontificated answers, many of which are naïve, elementary, or misinformed and all ripe for satire), but Allen’s skits sometimes only touch lightly on the topics of the queries. For example, the question concerning aphrodisiacs leads to a medieval sex farce about a chastity belt and a Fool (Woody Allen) who makes reckless attempts to penetrate it. A question about sodomy leads to the film’s most diabolically funny and endearing segment: Gene Wilder as Dr. Ross who falls in love with a sheep named Daisy belonging to an Armenian shepherd (Titos Vandis). Other questions are right on the money: an enquiry about transvestism’s link to homosexuality brings up a skit about a married man (Lou Jacobi) who enjoys wearing the clothes of his wife’s female friends. The subject of perversion takes us to a television game show takeoff on What’s My Line called What’s My Perversion. And Allen gets to scratch his foreign film itch when a question about problematic orgasms is covered in an Italian language sketch where a husband (Woody Allen) finds his wife (Louise Lasser) can only experience sexual fulfillment by having sex in public places.
Truth to tell, of the seven sketches, only three are first-rate: the Wilder/sheep skit and the film’s final two entries: a mad scientist (John Carradine) sketch that brings to mind all those wonderful giant bug movies of the 1950s (only this time with a giant, lactating boob) and a visualization of sexual stimulation inside a man’s body and possible ejaculation with a patient, level-headed Tony Randall calling the shots and Woody as a squirmy sperm unsure of his destiny. The chastity belt sketch that opens the film gets off some really funny lines with Allen playing a medieval Bob Hope-like court jester but stalls in the sexual foreplay area and tries to make something fun out of crass lingo like “snatch” and “beaver.” The game show parody is wittily presented in black and white kinescope style, but its only salvation is a neat commercial insert with Lancer hair tonic which has an unexpected conclusion. The Italian movie and the transvestite skits are complete misfires. Still, there are wonderful actors taking part in all this nonsense: in addition to those already mentioned, Lynn Redgrave, Anthony Quayle, Burt Reynolds, Elaine Giftos, Heather MacRae, Geoffrey Holder, and Jay Robinson make memorable appearances, and the game show host and panelists Jack Barry, Pamela Mason, Regis Philbin, Toni Holt, and Robert Q. Lewis were all TV panel regulars on one show or another for something like twenty years.
3D Rating: NA
The film’s original theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Image quality is pretty much as I remembered it from several theatrical visits: a trifle soft in terms of sharpness but with warm, rich color and appealing skin tones and with a very film-like grain structure. There may be a dust speck here and there, but this is one of the cleaner MGM transfers once we’re away from the main title sequence.
True to Woody Allen’s sound designs for his films of the 1970s, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 presents the monaural sound clearly and cleanly. The old, scratchy recording of “Let’s Misbehave” which opens and closes the show is reproduced with all of its limited fidelity intact, and other music and effects sound true to the theatrical presentation. No age-related artifacts like hiss or crackle are in evidence.
Special Features: 2.5/5
Isolated Score Track: presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo (though “Let’s Misbehave” is, of course, in mono).
Theatrical Trailer (2:31, SD)
Six-Page Booklet: contains some color stills, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s entertaining tribute to the movie.
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask may be an uneven film comedy, but its highs rank among the best and most creative work of Woody Allen’s movie career, and the lows never last long enough to drag down one’s enjoyment of this sketch comedy classic. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested in purchasing it should go to either www.twilighttimemovies.com or www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.