Giving Dr. Reuben the Finger
Directed and written for the screen by Woody Allen, at the Cheri Cinema.
Woody Allen reminds me of the class comedian in high school. You know, the one who always had smartass answers to the teacher's questions and who gave the teacher the finger as soon as she turned her back. He was always doing something clever like carving pornographic couplets into his desk or trying to sneak into the girls washroom just so they would scream and all the boys would giggle. Woody Allen has carried this comic style into adult movies with his film Everything You Always Wanted to Know etc. In response to the serious queries of Dr. David Reuben, our wealthiest sexologist. Allen offers witty poems, hyperbolic parodies, and clever asides that are irreverent, aside, and often very funny.
Take for example his response to the question "Do Aprodisiacs Work?" In a sketch set in Medieval England where everyone speaks in less-than-Shakespearean verse. Allen casts himself as an unfunny court jester who wants to seduce the queen.
Paying a visit to the sorcerer, he finds himself in a cavernous chamber, a fear-inspiring scene buttressed by the lurking form of the sorcerer. "What do you want," bellows the shadowy figure as he stirs a bubbling cauldron. "I'll take anything I can get without a prescription," whimpers the puckish Allen.
When the scene switches to the Queen's chamber, Allen manages to slip her the sorcerer's portion and she soons drags him to the bed. But upon disrobing her. Allen finds she's wearing a chastity belt. Exhorting himself to find the key he says:
With best dispatch
We'll open the latch
And get to her snatch.
The bit juxtaposes anachronistic speech with Brooklyn slang. and intersperses flowery phrasings with punchy and often vile lines. The comedy is similar to the Firesign Theatre's Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers. Like the Firesign Theatre, the best of Allen's humor comes down to playing with words.
ALLEN's answers to the questions "Why do Some Women Have Trouble Reaching Orgasm?." "What Happens During Ejaculation?," and "Are The Findings of Doctors Who Do Sex Research Accurate?," all get their laughs from Allen's wordplay and pacing. It's hard to choose, but probably the best is his answer to "Are the Findings of Doctors Who Do Sex Research Accurate?" in which he casts himself as a budding young sexologist. After picking up a young and beautiful reporter, Helen, on his way to study under the famed but eccentric sexologist Dr. Bernardo, Allen arrives to find a crumbling mansion right out of a '30's horror film. Once at the door, the two visitors are greeted by none other than Igor, a hump-backed victim of one of the doctor's explorations into the effects of a four hour orgasm.
Ushering his two guests into his laboratory, the Doctor proudly points out several of his experiments: a study of premature ejaculation in hippos, the transplantation of the brain of a lesbian into a telephone repairman, and one bizzare experiment in which the Doctor feeds a helpless young lady nothing but Silicone. The effects are enormous.
In one room the doctor keeps a pack of twenty horny young cub scouts. The Doctor explains that they are to be used in his latest experiment. They will gang rape Helen. Allen, always helpful, advises her "keep your legs crossed."
As the Doctor tries to carry out his fiendish experiment, a fight breaks out and the laboratory catches on fire. Allen and Helen manage to escape, but so does the result of one of the doctor's experiments--a giant breast that flops through the countryside like a Japanese science fiction monster. But Allen tells Helen not to worry, because "he knows how to handle tits" and they rush off to the Sheriff's office. Eventually a plan is devised where Allen lures the stalking breast into a trap-a gigantic bra. But even after the breast is captured, the Sheriff remains worried. "After all," he explains, "these things usually travel in pairs."
Puns and innuendos, satire and sometimes crude humor are used in seven of the skits, but is is only in the four in which Allen plays that the humor gets off the ground and is not bogged down by ennui and poor taste. The skit on "What is Sodomy?" in which a doctor falls in love with a sheep is long, boring, and senseless and "Are Transvestites Homosexuals?" assumes that transvestites are inherently funny. They are not. "Are There Sex Perverts?" is particularly offensive. Allen stages a game show "What's My Perversion?" which features a segment in which a home viewer is selected to come on television and have his sexual fantasies satisfied. The winner we get to see is an aging rabbi from Muncie who is bound to a chair by a beautiful girl in a bathing suit and whipped while his wife eats pork at his feet. Isn't that funny?
BY not starring in the poorer skits. Allen loses the involvement that makes his work so funny. He can put the actors through their motions, but without his presence the scripts sag badly, and they are made all the more pale juxtaposed with the skits in which Allen plays the lead. Had Allen limited the movie to his four skits, or substituted the poor ones, with material equal to the funnier four, than he would have created a comic masterpiece. As it is, he has only four-sevenths of a very funny film.