Originally released in 1971, when the Sexual Revolution was a daily fact of life rather than a quaint historical footnote, IS THERE SEX AFTER DEATH? today fares better as a documentary of forgotten social mores than a comedy. Rambling irreverently and aimlessly through largely improvised
tableaux like a naughtier version of "Laugh-In" (which gets a mention in the film), it anticipates such sketch comedies as THE GROOVE TUBE (1974) and KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE (1977), as well as the smug satire of Michael Moore.
Dr. Harrison Rogers (Alan Abel) is our guide through the Bureau Of Sexological Investigation, where sexual hang-ups are the bill of fare. From his mobile Sexmobile, he conducts man-on-the-street interviews asking questions like: "What is pornography?" "What is obscene?" "What is the average penis
size?" A visit to a nudist colony culminates in a singalong of "Dinah Won't You Blow Your Horn" and a naked twist dance party. Leftover Warhol "superstar" Holly Woodlawn celebrates her own fabulousness. Buck Henry as Dr. Louise Manos improvises wildly in continuing interviews. Maverick filmmaker
Robert Downey seems to take his own farcical interview as an affront, and gets belligerent. Porn iconographer Vince Domino (Marshall Efron) brings us behind the scenes of his latest opus. Richard Nixon (Jim Dixon) answers questions about sex with edited sound bytes from Vietnam-era speeches about
"withdrawal." A topless string quartet serenades, followed by a genitally obsessed opera, and finally, the International Sex Games pits couples from various countries against one another in competition while a garrulous sports announcer gives a play-by-play.
The deadpan humor is hit or miss, with a guerrilla feel that adds immediacy, but sometimes makes one ache for a second take. Abel's alternate career as media prankster includes convincing The New York Times to print his obituary, and plastering a mythical $35 million dollar lottery winner across
the covers of all NY's local papers. His collaborator in the campaign to clothe naked animals, Buck Henry, has gone on to greater success than anyone else involved in the film, and it's clear why: his jokes are the funniest, his schtick the cleverest and most polished. Parading the bearded Jim
Moran onscreen as Dr. Elevenike, "professor of dildography" may have elicited giggles at the height of chemical experimentation, but in the cold light of retrospect, it's gallingly juvenile. Not to mention the rampant nudity of people who really should have known better. Starting strong, the film
and Abel wear out their welcome long before the fat lady sings. When Merkin (Earle Doud), the world's first X-rated magician, follows his act of making women's clothes disappear by making Alan Abel vanish with the words "What a bore," the accordance is palpable. (Extensive nudity, extremeprofanity.)
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- Released: 1971
- Rating: X
- Review: Originally released in 1971, when the Sexual Revolution was a daily fact of life rather than a quaint historical footnote, IS THERE SEX AFTER DEATH? today fares better as a documentary of forgotten social mores than a comedy. Rambling irreverently and aiml… (more)