Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972)
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 28 min.

Release Date: August 16th, 1972 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Woody Allen Actors: Woody Allen, John Carradine, Louise Lasser, Tony Randall, Lynn Redgrave, Burt Reynolds, Gene Wilder, Elaine Giftos, Heather Macrae, Titos Vandis, Lou Jacobi




n the first segment (entitled “Do Aphrodisiacs Work?”), an unfunny court jester (Woody Allen) is called upon to entertain the king, but the audience abandons the stale performance. Conversing in Shakespearean tongue, the fool accidentally cops a feel of the queen’s (Lynn Redgrave) bosoms. Spoofing “Hamlet,” the lustful harlequin is then convinced by a ghost to seduce the queen with an aphrodisiac – but breaking through her chastity belt proves to be a more difficult task.

The second skit, “What is Sodomy?” involves Doctor Ross (Gene Wilder) as he interviews an Armenian shepherd, Milos (Titos Vandis), who claims to be in love with Daisy, a sheep – which he brings with him to the office to see if Ross can help. Understandably, Ross tells the herder that he needs a psychiatrist, warns of calling the police, and reiterates that he’s not a veterinarian. But upon seeing the fluffy white creature, he too becomes instantly infatuated. It’s not long before he has rented a hotel room, ordered wine and caviar, and placed the sheep in the bed. When Ross’ wife Anne (Elaine Giftos) discovers the adulterous affair, she divorces him and takes his money, putting the once prosperous doctor out of work and eventually onto the streets (this piece concludes with a brazenly cheap pun, as Ross drunkenly consumes Woolite).

“Why Do Some Women Have Trouble Reaching an Orgasm?” features Allen again, this time as Fabrizio, a man who can’t seem to pleasure his new wife Gina (Louise Lasser). Taking advice from a coworker, a priest, business associates, and more, he eventually realizes that Gina can only be satisfied when their lovemaking takes place in public. “Are Transvestites Homosexuals?” chronicles an older man’s obsession with women’s clothing. At a dinner party with his wife and friends, Sam (Lou Jacobi) sneaks upstairs to don a skirt – but when he escapes out a window to avoid being seen, his purse is snatched, getting the whole neighborhood, the police, and his incredibly shocked wife inadvertently involved. Ending rather abruptly, this sketch is by far the vaguest in purpose.

“What are Sex Perverts?” begins with a black-and-white fake commercial, which segues into a game show. The host, Jack Barry, is told a specific perversion by a contestant; then the panelists try to guess the perversion via yes-or-no questioning. Later in the show, a write-in winner gets to perform his perversion; in this particular episode, a rabbi is tied up and whipped by a governess while his wife eats pork at his feet. “Are the Findings of Doctors and Clinics Who Do Sexual Research and Experiments Accurate?” involves Victor (Allen again), a biology major, who picks up Helen Lacey (Heather Macrae), a reporter for The Globe, on his way to Dr. Bernardo’s (John Carradine) house. Victor will assist the doctor in his advanced, criticized, and revered sexual research, while Helen is to conduct an interview. Bernardo is essentially a mad scientist, complete with hunchbacked assistant Igor (Ref Sanchez) and a laboratory full of bizarre experiments (including the studying of premature ejaculation in hippopotamuses) – satirizing the occasional uselessness of scientific facts, figures, and data. This sequence features the ravishing of the countryside by an enormous balloon-like breast – a now iconic skit.

The concluding sequence, “What Happens During Ejaculation?” is one of the most creative, showing the functioning of the brain and various body parts as controlled by swarms of workers. Control rooms for the brain, the heart, the stomach, and more work together as if a machine (some appear like oil rig workers, others like computer technicians) to achieve an erection and prepare the sperm team (one of which is also Allen) for their mission (they’ve all taken an oath in Sperm Training School to fertilize an ovum or die trying). Running the switchboard is Burt Reynolds, while one of the operators is Tony Randall. This last segment is the winner and makes for an appropriate finale – its level of creativity and uniqueness far surpasses the previous sections, some of which very messily get their points across.

While each piece alternates between awkward, irreverent, uncomfortable, hilarious, and momentarily brilliant, there isn’t much to tie them together. They begin and end with little in common, save for inspiration from the book by Dr. David Reuben. Many utilize novel concepts, especially for satire, but aren’t developed as humorously as they could have been. Some clever verbiage (the most ridiculous of which is delivered straight-faced), a bit of slapstick, playful music, Allen speaking directly to the audience, and plenty of recognizable faces make this intriguingly titled experimental comedy one of the filmmakers’ most light-hearted, visually absurd, tragedy-free spectacles. And it is only his fourth feature in the director’s chair.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10