Sunday, September 20, 2015

#1,861. Fantasm (1976) - Spotlight on Australia

Directed By: Richard Franklin (as Richard Bruce)

Starring: John Bluthal, John Holmes, Uschi Digard, Candy Samples

Tag line for U.S. DVD release: "The Sin-sational Cult Film Classic!"

Trivia: This movie was refused a UK cinema certificate in 1977 and only passed the following year after heavy BBFC cuts

In its opening scene, Fantasm, a 1976 Australian sex comedy directed by Richard Franklin (using the pseudonym Richard Bruce), lays its cards on the table. A naked woman, lying in bed, gently puts her finger in her mouth, then moistens her nipple (shown in close-up). Her self-exploration intensifies as the title screen and credits play; by the time we get to the writer and executive producers, her hand has moved further down her body.

More than a good way to grab an audience's attention, this intro features the first bit of nudity in a movie chock full of naked flesh - of both the male and female varieties - that stars some of the biggest names in ‘70s porn.

Hosted by Professor Jungenot A. Freud (John Bluthal), Fantasm plays out across ten segments, each focusing on the sexual fantasies of women. From the everyday to the taboo, each of these fantasies are acted out for us. Among the ladies whose innermost desires are revealed are Abigail (Dee Dee Levitt), a woman who longs to be pampered by the guys that work at her local hair boutique; Gabrielle (Gretchen Rudolph), a lonely housewife who longs to experience sex as a man; and Francine (Mara Lutra), a heterosexual who fantasizes about being seduced by a buxom brunette (Uschi Digard).

In between each segment, Professor Freud offers his personal insights, insisting at every turn that an active imagination is a vital component in developing a healthy sex life.

Despite a brief appearance by legendary porn star John Holmes (who, along with Maria Welton, takes part in a fruit fetish fantasy), Fantasm is a strictly soft-core affair. That said, it does cross into dark territory from time to time, with fantasies that include rape (titled Nightmare Alley, this sequence has Rene Bond being dragged into a gym and sexually assaulted by boxer Al Williams, at first forcibly, then as a willing participant), incest (a mother, played by Candy Samples, bathes her son whose just come home from war, then has him return the favor), and sex in a church (actress Serena is raped on an alter by Clement von Franckenstein, portraying a Satanic priest). But there's always John Bluthal’s Professor, with his philosophies and the odd pun, doing his best to keep the proceedings as lighthearted as possible.

More subdued than The ABC’s Of Love and Sex Australia Style, Fantasm is an entertaining '70s film that is of its era, and should be taken as such. Some modern-day viewers will undoubtedly be offended (the rape fantasy is especially troubling, and was difficult to sit through), but the film was meant to be provocative and, yes, shocking.

And it is both.

1 comment:

Steve_Green said...

John Bluthal was a regular on British television during the 1960s and 1970s, a frequent collaborator with Spike Milligan. More recently, he was a regular in the popular sitcom The Vicar of Dibley. For US audiences, this would be rather like Betty White fronting a softcore porn comedy. Of course, here in the UK, plenty of comic actors and comedians appeared in the CONFESSIONS series and its contemporaries.