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  Secret Sex Lives of Romeo and Juliet, The Wherefore Art Thou Not Very Good?
Year: 1969
Director: Peter Perry Jr
Stars: Forman Shane, William Rotsler, Dee Lockwood, Wendell Swink, Mickey Jines, James Brand, Karen Thomas, Jay Edwards, Pat Davis, Vincene Wallace, Don Allman, Mia Coco, Victoria Bond, Steve Vincent, Antoinette Maynard, Dorthea Cristie, Stuart Lancaster
Genre: Comedy, Sex, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Let us be transported back to the days of William Shakespeare, for though his plays are treated with the utmost decorum now, back then the audiences at the Globe Theatre did anything but and preferred their entertainment as lusty and ribald as possible. The narrator (James Brand) walks on to the stage in front of a baying crowd and begins to recite "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears" but is cut short when the patrons shout him down: they didn't come here to see Julius Caesar, they want to see Romeo and Juliet. The company of actors introduce themselves by name and proceed to give the audience what it wants, though this is not a conventional telling of the famous tragedy...

This was one of many softcore sex parodies produced by Harry Novak, as at the turn of the sixties into the seventies, the so-called nudie cutie movies had evolved into something more upfront about giving the public what it wanted, certain sections of the public at any rate, and adding plenty of nudity and simulated sex to any out of copyright tale they could find was a sure method of generating audience recognition and curiosity about exactly what a sexed up version of some item of history, a folk tale or whatever would look like. It wasn't only the United States bringing these out, plenty of the less reputable areas of various places' industries found these lucrative, but Novak was undoubtedly an expert.

In this case it was possibly the most adapted of Shakespeare's plays that received the treatment, apparently reasoning that a romantic story leaves plenty of room for sex scenes, but oddly - and there was a lot odd about this - the titular couple were never seen actually enjoying each other's company. Aside from a punchline once the tragic ending was sort of presented (yup, they kept that bit, even though adherence to the plot elsewhere was slack), the closest Romeo and Juliet got to even meeting here was the famed balcony scene, where Shakespeare's dialogue was mostly intact, though the Bard had obviously forgotten to include the bit where both parties are receiving oral sex, in Juliet's case from her pet dog.

How remiss of him. Anyway, examples such as that were presumably supposed to be hilarious, and the filmmakers certainly appeared to be enjoying themselves by dint of what they were getting away with in terms of both bawdy humour and the carnal content, but alas this didn't translate to many laughs from those watching. Even the sex scenes were mostly naked bodies being slobbered over which was not the most pleasant way to spend time experiencing what this to all intents and purposes regarded itself as on a par with television's Laugh-In, the hit comedy sketch show which spawned a host of catchphrases, one of which, "Sock it to me!" is repeatedly used here, and you can imagine under what circumstances. There were also repeated cutaways to cast members delivering saucy quips, some of which time passing has rendered baffling.

This was more an Elizabethan-themed sex romp than it was a faithful adaptation of Will Shakespeare, so there were names in common and the odd swordfight, but that was about your lot in terms of getting the spirit of the original to the screen. I'm pretty sure there was no hunchback character residing in a torture dungeon in the source, at any rate, with or without the Peter Lorre voice, and if lesbianism had been invented in his day he didn't include it in his work, though it is included here in almost total darkness, as if Juliet getting together with her maid was a step too far even for this lot and they were suddenly coy and embarrassed about what they were depicting. Otherwise, there were an offputting number of anti-homosexual jokes, all to play up the "adult" nature of the production but leaving it rather sour when more fun could have been implemented. Anachronisms didn't bother them either, with one woman squirted by a can of whipped cream for instance, and it was all rather too pleased with itself to appreciate. Didn't they know men played every role in Shakespeare's day?
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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