Directed By: Dennis Van Zak
Starring: Billy Curtis, Sandy Dempsey, Suzanne Fields
Line from the film: "This is a cocktail party, a great American tradition"
Trivia: Among the archived footage in this film is that of Lee Harvey Oswald's assassination
Released in 1971, Aphrodisiac: The Sexual Secret of Marijuana is, in part, a 75-minute commercial for marijuana structured as if it were a documentary, with plenty of facts arguing that smoking pot is less harmful than such “accepted” stimuli as cigarettes and alcohol. What’s more, the movie proposes that “grass” has the power to increase your sexual proclivity, but instead of driving this particular point home with statistics or scientific mumbo-jumbo, Aphrodisiac presents a handful of hardcore sex scenes, showing us how couples that “turned on” with marijuana ended up having the best sexual experiences of their lives.
Written and directed by Dennis Van Zak, Aphrodisiac: The Sexual Secret of Marijuana falls back on the results of several state and college-funded studies, including one initiated by Mayor LaGuardia of New York in the late 1930’s, to show that the effects of marijuana do not cause criminal behavior, nor is the drug a “gateway” that leads to heavier narcotics (the movie even asserts that the government crackdown on marijuana paved the way for drugs like heroin to enter the marketplace). Aphrodisiac also provides a brief history of pot (per the film, George Washington grew marijuana at Mount Vernon), saying it’s been around for some 5,000 years, and had been used by doctors for centuries to treat sick patients. And with it being relatively inexpensive, it doesn’t look as if pot, despite being an illegal substance in many states, will be disappearing anytime soon.
But then, all of these facts and figures are nothing more than window-dressing, designed to trick viewers into thinking that they aren’t watching a porno. And that’s really what Aphrodisiac is: a hardcore sex film disguised as a documentary. Before the opening credits, we’re treated to two segments that demonstrate how alcohol and marijuana have differing effects on potential lovers; as one poor housewife discovers, not even oral sex can arouse a drunken stud she meets at a party, while a female fiction writer (Sandy Dempsey) relates how marijuana caused her entire body to tingle, including “a burning sensation” in her vagina. Needless to say, her rendezvous with a handsome stranger was more successful than that of her alcohol-fueled counterpart. We even here from a married couple (Sheldon & Patti Lee) whose love life kicked into high gear when, while on their second honeymoon, the husband fed his wife some pot-filled cookies. And we see every moment of the resulting tryst, from just about every angle!
Aphrodisiac: The Sexual Secret of Marijuana is a hard film to recommend, as either a documentary (without looking into it, I’m guessing many of the “facts” it presents are anything but) or a pornographic movie (the sex scenes, though occasionally steamy, aren’t exactly erotic, and at times are even clumsy). Aphrodisiac is, however, a curiosity in that it’s a product of its era (the early ‘70s), and with its differing perspectives the movie is almost unusual enough to be worth your while.
The key word, of course, being “almost”.