Thursday, September 12, 2013

beep me 911

Sex, sex and more sex is on the mind of Nelson Lyon's experimental 1971 X-rated feature The Telephone Book.  Lyon, who passed away last year, wrote for "Saturday Night Live" and was supposedly with John Belushi on a heroin binge when Belushi died.  Shot mostly in black & white in New York, The Telephone Book has skit-like flair with chirpy Kewpie-esque Alice (Sarah Kennedy) who lives in an apartment of pornographic wallpaper and an American flag bedspread and is obsessed with obscene phone caller "John Smith" (silver-tongued voice actor Norman Rose).   Going through the phone book to find Mr. Smith, Alice meets up with some seedy folk in madcap moments including a perverted, prying psychiatrist (Roger Carmel) and orgy leader and experimental pornographer Har Poon (Barry Morse).  Interspersed with Alice's journey are an array of oddball confessions of sexual fetishes and kinks.  William Hickley plays one of Alice's first sexual partners who has a permanent erection; the film also features Ultra Violet brandishing a whip and then unknown Jill Clayburgh in an eyemask.  When Alice finally meets her John Smith, who creepily dons a pig mask and whose "all talk" nonsensical dialogue is often bleeped out, he gives her a sort of cosmic orgasmic experience.  Raunchy with a satirical edge, Kennedy's bubbly presence (it's a wonder why her career never took off) and Leon Perera's black & white photography is reminiscent of films of the pre-code era.  The Telephone Book seems to end up spoofing a slew of things: pop art (a scene with Warhol ended up cut), therapy, censorship, new wave movies, commercials (many moments are directed and scripted with the zing of a 60s coffee ad), politics, the sexual revolution and the rise of pornographic and X-rated cinema.  Even if it's a purposefully exhausting and dissatisfying watch, there's a lot of thought and spunk to this movie and it ended up being an influential cult film especially on Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris and possibly on Woody Allen and Stanley Kubrick. **1/2

1 comment:

  1. Shockingly enough - I haven't seen this one yet. It is on my list now! Thanks for the fun review!