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  Naked Bunyip, The Sexy?  No No No
Year: 1970
Director: John B. Murray
Stars: Graeme Blundell, Barry Humphries, Gordon Rumph, various
Genre: Sex, DocumentaryBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Graeme (Graeme Blundell) is a researcher who is given the job of investigating an aspect of modern Australia as it ventures into the nineteen-seventies, and that aspect is sex. He doesn't know the first thing about the subject, so is all at sea until he hits upon the idea of a survey. He will go around the houses interviewing housewives confidentially, for he feels that a more experienced woman may well take him in hand and guide him around the pitfalls of his enquiry. However, when the first housewife he visits is Edna Everage (Barry Humphries), he is certain to be let down...

From that comedic beginning, The Naked Bunyip, which sounds as if it should be a parody of The Naked Ape but isn't really, actually turns quite serious, moving from the supposed "fun" areas of pornography to the graver topics of abortion and prostitution as if it regretted introducing the lighthearted angle of earlier on. Although it's ridiculously overlong, all the better for packing in as many variations on its theme as it possibly can, this film holds a special place in the history of Australian cinema for it proved that the Aussie public would go and see films made in their own country.

Before this came along, you could count the number of successful Australian films on the fingers of one hand, just about, but The Naked Bunyip was expressly intended to drum up interest in native culture, and how better to do so than with the subject everyone is fascinated by? Sex is that subject, and if it wasn't for the efforts of the production team here we might not have seen the new popularity of Australian films in the seventies, or if we had it might have taken a lot longer.

Which means the heady brew of exploitation movies from Oz, which brightened up theatres and drive-ins both at home and abroad, might not have gained the necessary foothold to be a success, not to mention the higher prestige pictures that won acclaim internationally. So how does this film look now? For all its controversial topics, director John B. Murray and co-writer Ray Taylor are fairly sober in their treatment, and serious in intent, with each subsection a mass of talking heads, film clips and original footage, so never mind the comedy bits as they fall by the wayside the further the investigation goes on.

To date it almost exactly, Malcolm Muggeridge turns up to tell us about how he thinks books have been debased by the increase in sleazy paperbacks, which isn't accompanied by a clip of Malc, but of rows of such material bookended by a couple of his own works. Then there is a long section devoted to models who take their clothes off from porn to artist's models, followed by more solemn stuff, with a debate on contraception, then homosexuality is given an examination, then transsexuals of course (big news at the time), and finally prostitution with an interview with an ex-lady of the night who has some hair-raising tales to tell. None of this is really as titillating as audiences might have liked, but The Naked Bunyip did break down restrictive censorship barriers in Australia, even if it had to censor itself, usually with bleeps or bunyip cartoons covering the unsavoury business. Historically, then, it has a lot to answer for, or be thanked for, depending on your view.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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