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Woody Allen
Woody Allen, John Carradine, Lou Jacobi, Louise Lasser, Anthony Quayle, Tony Randall, Lynn Redgrave, Burt Reynolds, Gene Wilder
Woody Allen, based on the book by David Reuben

Rated R.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Standard 1.33:1
English Digital Mono
Spanish Digital Mono
Spanish, French

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 7/5/2000

• Collectible Booklet
• Theatrical Trailer

Woody Allen Collection

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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (1972)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Some books lend themselves easily to film adaptations, and some don't. I never read it myself - I was far too young during its early-Seventies heyday - but I'd guess that Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask fell into the second category. Dr. David Reuben's famous text was a huge hit a few decades back, but it seems odd that they'd want to make a movie of it. After all, those Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus books sell well, but they probably wouldn't make very good films.

Despite the text's lack of plot or characters, the powers-that-be decided to make a movie version of it, but they took an unusual approach; instead of a documentary - which would seem logical - the book became a comedic anthology written and directed by Woody Allen.

I wish I could state that this was an inspired move, but for the most part, the concept falls flat. I enjoyed two of the sketches: the phony game show of "What's My Perversion?" and the mock horror film in "Are Findings Correct?" The latter is clearly the movie's highlight as Allen and a nubile young blonde encounter a crazed sex researcher. As played by John Carradine, Doctor Bernardo is an absolute riot; Carradine plays up the Dr. Frankenstein-styled character for all he's worth, and the segment provides the picture's most clever material and its best laughs. (One note about the titles I use for sketches: they don't fully agree with the names utilized in the film itself, as I chose to feature the abbreviations listed in the DVD's booklet.)

"WMP?" is a bit more scatter-shot, mainly because it contains some of the film's most potentially-offensive material; the piece comes uncomfortably close to trying to mine laughs from rape and child abuse. Despite those serious miscues, the rest of the skit works well, mainly because it never plays the form for laughs; they whole thing is done so straight-faced that it generally succeeds. I'd be better able to endorse it without a couple of the more tasteless lines, but I still thought it was one of the better parts of the movie.

Other than that, I didn't think much of Everything.... During the "Reaching An Orgasm" segment, I found Allen's hipster Italian appearance amusing, but the piece itself was nothing special. The ending skit - "Ejaculation" - had potential, and apparently it works better if you've read the book, but the ultimate result is moderately clever but generally uncompelling.

Overall, Everything... feels like an aberration in the Allen canon. It offers a few decent laughs but usually seems flat and uninspired. Although Allen's humor often involved sex, this piece appears unusually smutty and seedy at times, and it doesn't live up to his standards.

The DVD Grades: Picture C- / Audio C+ / Bonus D-

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask appears in both its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen edition on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the letterboxed image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the widescreen side was rated for this review. The movie offers a very erratic picture that varied from pretty nice to fairly bad frequently.

Sharpness seems generally good, with most of the film appearing adequately defined and accurate. Moiré effects are a periodic concern, and I also noticed occasional artifacts from the anamorphic downconversion on my 4X3 TV. The print betrays a high number of flaws. The movie often showed mild to moderate grain, and a variety of other problems - white speckles, black grit, scratches, streaks and blotches - also appear. Some segments fare better than others - "Are Findings Correct?" looks most free of faults because so much of it is dimly-lit - but every sketch in this movie shows some pretty significant concerns.

Colors are acceptably accurate but they look mildly faded and pale, with virtually no instances of bright, bold hues. Black levels are pretty decent, as they show fairly deep tones, but shadow detail was an issue, especially during the "Aphrodisiacs" and "Sodomy" segments; they displayed rather opaque tones that often made much of the image somewhat impenetrable. Surprisingly, shadow detail during "Findings" seems very appropriate, and that scene offers the most attractive interiors found in the film; other indoors shots are much more bland and flat. Overall, enough of Everything... looks decent to warrant a "C-", but it's generally a pretty unappealing picture.

One note about the image: the "What's My Perversion?" segment is shot so that it resembles a black and white TV broadcast. Since it is supposed to look bad, I didn't factor it into my grade. I think I noticed flaws that shouldn't have appeared - scratches and grain, mostly - but since the original picture clearly was intentionally weak, I didn't think it was fair to downgrade the whole movie because of its concerns.

The monaural soundtrack of Everything... seems fairly typical of audio from the era, though it appears moderately clearer than most. Dialogue sounds flat and thin but is acceptably crisp and intelligible, with no serious concerns. Effects are also a bit wan, but they appeared relatively realistic, and I even detected a nice little mild bass tone attached to the giant tit in "Findings". The music doesn't seem as bright and dynamic as that of Bananas, but it appears reasonably crisp and lively. Ultimately, this is a mono soundtrack from the Seventies, and it does little to rise above those origins. Nonetheless, it seems more than adequate based on its age.

Less satisfying are the DVD's supplements, which consist solely of a decent theatrical trailer and some very good production notes in the booklet. The latter offer a nice view of how the film relates to the book, plus they discuss an omitted scene. Sure would have been fun to see those outtakes on the DVD, but since Allen apparently dislikes extras, that didn't happen.

Although it has a few good moments, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask remains one of Woody Allen's lesser efforts. It's an odd adaptation from an unlikely source, and the whole project never quite gels. The DVD also seems pretty mediocre, with fairly bland picture and sound and almost no supplemental features. This one's best left for the Allen completists.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.92 Stars Number of Votes: 25
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