Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Most Exciting Experience In A Woman's Life

Russ Meyer’s lone attempt at mainstream filmmaking was THE SEVEN MINUTES, an adaptation of Irving Wallace’s 1969 sudser. Meyer’s previous film for 20th Century Fox, BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, made a lot of money and enticed the studio to hire him for something more down-to-earth. Fox still didn’t trust him, however. When Meyer replaced Richard Fleischer (THE BOSTON STRANGLER) as director, the studio cut the budget from $6 million to less than $2 million.

Despite its studio pedigree, THE SEVEN MINUTES is recognizably Meyerian with its quick cutting, spoofy musical score (by Stu Phillips), and sexually aggressive female characters. It’s also something of a mess, mostly because Meyer seems unsure whether or not to take the material seriously. Half the film is set in a courtroom, and the various cross-examinations arguing the merits of free speech versus censorship are sharply written by Richard Warren Lewis and portrayed. However, Meyer plays the other scenes for camp, and the jagged shifts in tone are annoying. Why should we bother to think about the issues when the director doesn’t seem to want us to?

Wayne Maunder, just coming off the western TV series CUSTER and LANCER, stars as Mike Barrett, an attorney hired by publisher Phil Sanford (Tom Selleck (!), who had been in MYRA BRECKINRIDGE) to defend a young bookstore manager who sold the police the popular novel THE SEVEN MINUTES, written by the late J.J. Jadway in 1935 and considered pornographic by some standards. Barrett’s case runs into real problems when a young man named Jerry Griffith (John Sarno) is busted on a rape charge and blames the book for his crime.

Meyer flooded his supporting cast with every old white character actor in town—Philip Carey, Jay C. Flippen, Ron Randell, Lyle Bettger, John Carradine, Charles Drake, Stanley Adams, Olan Soule, Harold J. Stone, Jackie Gayle, Alex D’Arcy, Berry Kroeger, David Brian, Regis Cordic—added regular players Charles Napier, Stuart Lancaster, James Iglehart, and Edy Williams (his then-wife), and brought in Yvonne DeCarlo (THE DESERT HAWK) for a crowdpleasing cameo at the end. If nothing else, THE SEVEN MINUTES provides some enjoyment in watching the cast—you’ll also spot Marianne McAndrew, Jan Shutan and even Wolfman Jack!

Meyer’s fling with Hollywood suits didn’t take, though. He didn’t like THE SEVEN MINUTES, Wallace hated it, and audiences stayed away. So it was back back to the boobs-and-square-jaws route with BLACKSNAKE, which was also a flop, and the triumphant SUPERVIXENS.


Matt Farkas said...

Where did you see this, Marty? Fox seems to have gone out of their way to bury it.

Marty McKee said...

I believe it was a Spanish VHS. It was full-frame (but not too cramped) with Spanish subtitles.