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  Love God?, The Last Of The Famous International Playboys
Year: 1969
Director: Nat Hiken
Stars: Don Knotts, Anne Francis, Edmond O'Brien, James Gregory, B.S. Pulley, Maureen Arthur, Maggie Peterson, Jesslyn Fax, Jacques Aubuchon, Marjorie Bennett, Jim Boles, Ruth McDevitt, Roy Stuart, Herb Voland, James Westerfield, Bob Hastings, Larry McCormick
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Yet again Osborn Tremain (Edmond O'Brien), a publisher of pornography, is up in court for sending his magazines through the mail without a permit, but this time his mailing privileges are revoked, much to his dismay. He thinks he's ruined until, driving back from the courtroom, he spies a fund raiser for birdwatching magazine The Peacock and has an idea. The magazine is run by Abner Peacock (Don Knotts), a keen ornothologist and pillar of the community, and Tremain offers to put up the money to save his publication from bankruptcy. He has no intention of saving it, though, and puts his plan into action by buying the title and transplanting it to New York City, with Abner as editor, but with a distinct change of direction...

The last of Knotts' sixties farces, and almost his last starring role until Disney came knocking in the seventies, The Love God? (the title is spoken in his quavery tones over the opening credits) was scripted by director Nat Hiken, creator of Sergeant Bilko. It was also the last effort Hiken worked on before his untimely death, although you couldn't really say it was one of his classics; it may be rather laboured in its attempts to draw humour out of the weedy Knotts being regarded as the next Hugh Hefner, but it does hold a few laughs and takes an interesting look at American morality at the time.

Abner is an innocent who is packed off to Brazil to search out a rare bird that nobody has photographed before, totally unaware that in his absence Tremain is using The Peacock to continue his smut peddling. The law predictably become involved, but Tremain isn't brought to trial, no, this time it's the bewildered Abner up before the judge. He is now famous across the land, and further abroad (there are riots in Paris!), as a cause celebre, with two sides either painting him as a sex-obsessed "degenerate" or a fine example of free speech in today's U.S.A.

Abner wins his case, but what about his reputation? Despite his protests, everyone thinks he is that smut peddler that Tremain really is, and he is ostracised by his small town community back home. However, at the trial a top reporter, Lisa LaMonica (Anne Francis) spots an opportunity to put across a new champion of the sexual revolution in the unlikely figure of Abner. A self-confessed virgin, Abner is caught up in a stunt to make The Peacock a rival to Playboy (which is never mentioned - you'd think it never existed according to this film), and from there the humour arises.

The satirical tone of the idea that America would take Abner to its collective heart is developed only so far, and as an expose of social hypocrisy The Love God? is a little weak. This is particularly evident when Abner has to admit his virginity at a press conference so that he can marry his sweetheart Rose Ellen (Maggie Peterson), thereby putting his stud status into question and hurting the magazine sales, so what might have been a sharp sex comedy turns into a lesson on the benefits of not having sex before marriage. All the while, Knotts carries off his familiar, nervy act as women throw themsleves at him and gangsters threaten him, but it's a bit of a one joke scenario. Enough of it is amusing in its good natured way to entertain, but you feel there was a missed opportunity to make something more cynical here. Music by Vic Mizzy (and listen out for the great Supremes pastiche halfway through).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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