Thursday, 2 July 2015

The Seven Minutes (3 Stars)

I'm a big fan of the director Russ Meyer. I've seen all his films many times over. Almost all his films. This is the first time I've seen "The Seven Minutes", made in 1971, because it's never been released on DVD. I managed to find a fuzzy copy online which someone had obviously recorded from television to VCR. That's better than nothing for a fan like me.

Unfortunately, it soon became apparent to me why it has never been officially released. It's a courtroom drama. Russ Meyer? A courtroom drama? That's so far outside of his usual genres that it's difficult to believe. The only thing that made it at all Russ-Meyer-ish is the subject matter of the court case. In most of his films he made blunt statements condemning censorship and appealing for everyone to demand free speech. Russ Meyer was a true American, by which I mean that he believed 100% in the ideals of the American constitution and hated all modern attempts to subtly undermine it.

The film begins with a police operation in which a book shop is raided and all copies of a book called "The Seven Minutes", written by J. J. Jadaway (not Irving Wallace, as in the photo above) were seized, because the book was deemed to contain pornographic content. On the same day a 20-year-old boy is arrested for raping and beating up a girl he met, leaving her in a coma.  After the boy's arrest a copy of "The Seven Minutes" is found in his car, suggesting that the book is so evil that it drives people who read it to commit rape. (We actually see that the boy didn't do it, it was someone else, but the girl is comatose and unable to verify his story. This isn't relevant to the film, because it has to do with the trial against the bookshop owner).

The way the book is treated is almost unbelievable. Almost nobody has read it when the trial begins. Instead of reading it himself the prosecutor visits a Catholic priest to ask about the book. The priest hasn't read it either, but he has a report about the book written 30 years earlier. In court witnesses are called who have read the book, some calling it pornographic, others calling it a beautiful work of art.

For me this wasn't a real Russ Meyer film. It contained the erratic film editing typical for his films, rapidly cutting from one angle to another, but in this film his editing techniques seemed out of place.

The photo above isn't a mistake. In 1969 Irving Wallace wrote a novel called "The Seven Minutes" about a fictional book with the same name, and Russ Meyer based his film on Irving Wallace's novel. The fictional novelist J. J. Jadaway was based on the author Maurice Girodias, a writer of erotic fiction, of whom many of his books had been banned. A few years after the film was made Maurice Girodias wrote a book called "The Original Seven Minutes", claiming to be the book on which Irving Wallace's novel was based. Legal action was taken against him. He had to change the title to "The Seven Erotic Minutes" and remove any claims that there was a connection with Irving Wallace.

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