The world of the exploitation film has a certain kinship with the world of pornography. Both spent the 1970’s as outlaws of the entertainment business, quietly making their profits in the margins by supplying viewers with a thrill that television and mainstream theaters couldn’t deliver. In fact, certain actors moved back and forth between the two worlds in their attempts to maximize their small-time profit potential – and some of the sexier exploitation items had a hardcore variant that would pick up some extra profits at the raincoat theaters.
This crossover led to some fascinating curios during the early 1970’s that blurred the lines between exploitation film and porn. This was often done by filmmakers who would try to increase their theatrical reach by disguising their porn in the form of a pseudo-documentary. This would give them a certain “artistic merit” credence that they could use if they got into trouble with anti-porn laws. The end results were often deliciously bizarre in their attempts to simultaneously educate and titillate.
A perfect example is Aphrodisiac! The Sexual Secret Of Marijuana, a head-turning cocktail of marijuana-minded “facts” and lite-hardcore schtupping. It presents itself to the viewer as a chronicle of little-known information about the title drug, layering narration in the vein of an classroom education film over a combination of footage from old movies, still photos and the occasional ‘man on the street’ interview. The latter of those three elements offers the most entertainment during these segments, including a surprise appearance by little-person actor Billy Curtis, who offers a funny tale about the one time he got stoned.
However, the real selling point of the film is a series of hilarious yet horny “recreations” of testimony about the sexually stimulating properties of marijuana. We get a tale of a fiction writer (Sandy Dempsey) experiencing wild orgasms after smoking pot for the first time, a husband who un-freezes his frigid wife’s libido by slipping her some pot-laced cookies and a campus revolutionary (Eve Orlon) who has her first interracial sex after turning on. There’s also a businessman (a pre-porn stardom John Holmes!) who learns the secret of tender lovemaking after his secretary passes him a joint. Each of these scenes culminates in bumping and grinding of the early 1970’s variety: in other words, short-ish sex scenes with minimal gynecological close-ups and maximum pubic hair.
The recreations offer the most fun, each of them hinging upon broad acting of endearingly ludicrous storylines. It’s very amusing to see Holmes before his perm-and-porn-mustache Johnny Wadd days, slicking down his hair and soberly confessing his sexual hangups in a suit and tie. Sleaze fans will find it difficult to keep from chuckling when Holmes’ confession that he used a wham-bam sex style to “punish” his female partners with his famously massive member (some porn starlets would say said mammoth member was a punishment at any speed). However, it’s Sandy Dempsey who gets the best line when she says: “Marijuana is the greatest sexual stimulant since they invented the twelve-inch penis – and a hell of a lot easier to find.” The fact that she’s wearing a ridiculous thrift-store wig when saying this only increases the moment’s sleazy charm.
Simply put, Aphrodisiac! The Sexual Secret Of Marijuana is a perfect choice for viewers who embrace both the sleaze and the weirdness of 1970’s exploitation filmmaking.