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The Telephone Book

Posted by martinteller on March 24, 2015

Free-spirited Alice (Sarah Kennedy) is bored in her Manhattan apartment one afternoon when she gets an obscene phone call.  The greatest obscene phone call in the world.  When he calls again, he reveals that his name is John Smith, and he’s in the book.  She frantically goes on a search for the right John Smith (Norman Rose), and has some unusual encounters along the way.

There was a time (and it may still be going on) where you could find these softcore comedies on late night cable, movies like H.O.T.S. or The First Nudie Musical.  Although they were clearly vehicles for cheap thrills via flashes of nudity, there’d be some semblance of a story to them.  This is like the experimental version of that.  This film is to the softcore comedy what Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster is to monster movies.  It’s got absurdist humor, fragmented editing and ends with an insane (and very profane) animated sequence.  It’s hard to dismiss as mere spank material when it has such an outlaw sensibility.

However, like a lot of counter-culture films of the early 70’s, it’s also pretty stupid.  There’s a palpable smugness to the characterizations of “normal” folks as secret deviants, an annoying “yeah, we’re really stickin’ it to the man” attitude.  Even in 1971 I doubt anyone was as shocked by this as the filmmakers imagined everyone would be.  Most of the humor comes off as pretty lame and adolescent, raunchy jokes for 13-year-old boys who just learned what the word “pussy” means.  Kennedy has an appealing presence (both despite and because of her helium voice) and it’s somewhat amusing to hear Rose’s authoritarian, silver voice speaking filthy nonsense.  Also, I must admit I chortled at the phrase “dick-a-lick”.  But most of the gags aren’t that good, or are dragged on too long.  The experimental ambitions are overshadowed by the dumb comedy and undercooked satire.  Rating: Fair (60)


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