Sunday, September 20, 2015

#1,861. Fantasm (1976)

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

Fantasm, a 1976 Australian sex comedy directed by Richard Franklin (using the pseudonym Richard Bruce), lays its cards on the table during its opening scene, in which a pretty girl, while lying in bed, gently puts her finger in her mouth, then starts to moisten her nipple (shown in close-up). Her self-exploration continues 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 our attention, this intro is also the first bit of nudity in a movie chock full of naked flesh (of both the male and female varieties) that features some of the biggest stars of the ‘70s porn scene.

Hosted by Professor Jungenot A. Freud (John Bluthal), Fantasm presents 10 segments that focus on the sexual fantasies of women, from the everyday to the taboo, each of which is acted out for us. Among those whose innermost desires are revealed are Abigail (Dee Dee Levitt), a woman who dreams of being pampered by the men who 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 nonetheless fantasizes about being seduced by a buxom brunette (Uschi Digard). Once each new fantasy has played out, the good Professor offers his personal insights into each case, insisting at every turn that an active imagination is a vital component in developing a healthy sexual appetite.

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). Still, despite its occasional foray into the forbidden, John Bluthal’s Professor, with his philosophies and the odd pun, manages to keep the proceedings as lighthearted as possible.

More subdued than The ABC’s Of Love and Sex Australia Style, Fantasm is as entertaining as it is provocative, and while it’ll certainly raise a few eyebrows (the rape segment is naïve at best, and is bound to offend female viewers), the film could prove useful to couples looking to add a little spice to their love life.

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