- This essay will inevitably contain spoilers!


- A review by Richard Harrison (2010)

Take an array of short vignettes instead of a coherent narrative, blend with sexploitation, garnish with a host of unknown actors, and have the whole thing narrated by an Egyptian mummy. The result sounds like a recipe for total disaster, and even those marketing the movie seemed unsure of their creation, referring to it under a variety of noms-de-plumes.However, to summarise its bizarre content as an unsatisfying whole would be to do Secrets of Sex a grave disservice.

Made in 1969 but released the following year, Secrets of Sex is notable as one of only two feature films directed by Antony Balch, nicknamed ‘The Abominable Showman’ for his indefatigable re-branding of European sexploitation films. It is logical that, given the time, resources and ideas, Balch would ultimately make a film with the same erotic charge as many of the imports he marketed. His finished product contains more original ideas than much of the Hollywood gloss that is touted around today’s overblown multiplexes. The reasoning for this seemingly outrageous statement is that each individual story is linked to the whole (by the mummy- an inspired piece of casting to use the voice of Valentine Dyall, the original ‘Man in Black’) as well as existing in its own right. The central theme of the film- the relationship between men and women, often viewed as one of sexual gratification, provides the film’s backbone. With this in place, the vignettes can unfold their stories, which range from the amusing to the shocking. The very advantage of Secrets of Sex’s portmanteau structure is in this sheer variety- from the photography story to the jaw-dropping cat burglar incident. Unlike a more conventional film with a cause and effect thrusting narrative, Secrets of Sex seems almost spontaneous, and one is never sure where the film will go next.

One thing that is certain throughout Secrets of Sex is its unflinching presentation of sexual relations, the sheer frankness of this causing the film to be censored on its initial release then again before it was re-released in America. Thus, in its sexploitation the film is very much of its time- it is a document of Britain as the ‘Swinging Sixties’ came to an end and the 1970s began. This anchoring is, however, no bad thing. What Secrets of Sex does is present a titillatingly risqué portrait of gender relations in a genuinely unique and entertaining way. Beautifully photographed in the sort of colour inextricably linked with the period, Antony Balch’s film was both critically and commercially successful on its original release. Now, 40 years on, it should still be highly regarded, but with the additional modern label of ‘cult classic’.

It is to Odeon Entertainment's merit that they have resurrected Secrets of Sex from its censored cinematic wilderness, but they are not content with simply releasing the film alone. Accompanying the release are several superb bonus features- two short films by Antony Balch, the original theatrical trailer and a fascinating commentary amongst them. This optional extra (where executive producer Richard Gordon chats amiably about Balch, revealing the director's accomplishments in a way that enhances Secrets of Sex) yet further strengthens this release. In a world where many films are predictable and take the longest possible road to regale us with their formulaic stories Secrets of Sex stands out for its refreshing unpredictability, unpretentious structure and bizarre content, and this critic cannot recommend this latest Odeon Entertainment release highly enough.

'Secrets of Sex' is available now from Odeon Entertainment.

Odeon Entertainment website