The Seven Minutes (film)
|The Seven Minutes|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Russ Meyer|
|Produced by||Russ Meyer|
|Screenplay by||Manny Diez (uncredited)|
Richard Warren Lewis
|Based on||The Seven Minutes|
by Irving Wallace
|Music by||Stu Phillips|
|Edited by||Dick Wormell|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
After a teenager who purchased the erotic novel The Seven Minutes is charged with rape, an eager prosecutor who is against pornography (and preparing for an upcoming election) uses the scandal to declare the book as obscene, sets up a sting operation where two detectives enter a bookstore, purchase a copy of the eponymous book, whereupon the prosecutor brings charges against the bookstore for selling obscene material. The subsequent trial soon creates a heated debate about the issue of pornography vs. free speech. The young defense lawyer must also solve the mystery of the novel's true author.
In examining the history of the book, the defense attorney discovered it was written by J.J. Jadway, an American expatriate living in Europe, originally published in English by a publisher in France, and eventually picked up by various tawdry publishing companies in the United States, most of whom tried to emphasize the more lurid and salacious aspects of the book. The book's content is considered so sexually explicit that it was banned as obscene in over 30 countries. Apparently. J.J. Jadway was so despondent over the treatment of his book that he committed suicide; one of his friends found him and reported it.
As the trial takes place, the prosecutor finds ordinary members of the public who find the book grossly offensive (one of whom admits on cross-examination by the defense that she cannot even repeat out loud one of the words used in the book to describe what the female protagonist was doing in bed with her lover), while the defense finds professionals in academia and the media who attest to the book's value as literature. The prosecution then puts the young man who committed the rape on the stand to say the book drove him to it.
The attorney defending the book is contacted by Constance Cumberland (Yvonne deCarlo), a member of a local decency society, who decides to testify in court about the young man who committed the rape, and other things surrounding the book. She had spoken with the young man, and his motivation for the rape was not the book, but his own fears over his sexuality.
Constance also admits she knew J. J. Jadway, the book's author, and he did not die of a heart attack in Europe in the 1950s as was reported, and she knew that the book's content was not intended to be pornographic, but an examination of a woman's sexuality.
When she is asked how she could know this, Constance responds with a bombshell, "Because I am J.J. Jadway, and I wrote The Seven Minutes." She had asked a friend to publicize the fake suicide of "J.J. Jadway" in order to discourage investigation into the book's author because, more than 20 years ago, it would have been bad for her if it were discovered she was the author, but she should not hide any longer. She proceeds to explain that the man whom the female protagonist of the novel was having sex with, as the book showed, had had problems with impotence, and had become able to experience intercourse because of her. Her feeling of what this man reawakened in her, having not having taken a lover for many years makes her realize she wants to be with him - all of this occurring inside her head during her experience of the seven minutes of intercourse.
The jury finds the book not obscene. The prosecutor says that decision only applies in that part of the state, and he can try again somewhere else in California. The attorney who won the case chastises him, by pointing out that it is ridiculous to try to restrict what adults choose to read in their homes when no harm has been shown (as it was in this case, since the book was simply a scapegoat used to explain away the rape case of the young man.)
A note at the end of the movie states that for a woman during a session of lovemaking the average length of time from initial arousal to orgasm is about seven minutes.
- Wayne Maunder as Mike Barrett
- Marianne McAndrew as Maggie Russell
- Philip Carey as Elmo Duncan
- Jay C. Flippen as Luther Yerkes
- Edy Williams as Faye Osborn
- Lyle Bettger as Frank Griffith
- Yvonne De Carlo as Constance Cumberland
- Jackie Gayle as Norman Quandt
- Ron Randell as Merle Reid
- Charles Drake as Sergeant Kellogg
- John Carradine as Sean O'Flanagan
- Harold J. Stone as Judge Upshaw
- James Inglehart as Clay Rutherford
- Tom Selleck as Phil Sanford
- Olan Soule as Harvey Underwood
- John Sarno as Jerry Griffith
- Jan Shutan as Anna Lou White
- David Brian as Cardinal McManus
- Charles Napier as Iverson
- Wolfman Jack as Himself
- Lynn Hamilton as Avis
The book came out in October 1969 and was a best seller. The New York Times called it "impossible to put down."
Fleischer dropped out and the film was assigned to Russ Meyer who made Beyond the Valley of the Dolls for Fox. Fox were happy with the film and signed a contract with Meyer to make three more films: The Seven Minutes, from a novel by Irving Wallace; Everything in the Garden from a play by Edward Albee; and The Final Steal from a 1966 novel by Peter George. "We've discovered that he's very talented and cost conscious," said Fox president Richard Zanuck. "He can put his finger on the commercial ingredients of a film and do it exceedingly well. We feel he can do more than undress people."
Meyer later said of his time at Fox, "I made the mistake of acquiring a big fat head while I was there. I was flush with victory from Vixen, Cherry, Harry and Raquel, and BVD. They told me, "You must do The Seven Minutes. You are the spokesperson against the forces of censorship." And Irving Wallace sits there with this profound look. They gave me $2.7 million for the film, but no tits and ass... I had another property I should have done instead. But Brown gave me the blue smoke up my ass. So I did it."
"Russ is trying to do something different for him," said Wallace. "As far as I can tell it will not be a skinflick and at least for most of it the movie will follow the line of my novel."
"Were casting it much like an English movie," said Meyer. "We're really playing attention to the vignettes."
As with many of his films, Meyer used several actors from his previous productions, including then-wife Edy Williams, Charles Napier, Henry Rowland and James Inglehart. Established actress Yvonne De Carlo makes an appearance along with veteran character actor Olan Soule. A young Tom Selleck also had a role in the film, and DJ Wolfman Jack made a cameo appearance.
Known as "King of the Nudies" for his work in the sexploitation film genre, Meyer planned nude scenes in this mainstream film. He informed female lead candidates that nudity would be integral to their roles, and after casting interviews, considered Marianne McAndrew to be suitable. He subsequently signed her for the lead role of Maggie Russell. McAndrew, previously known for her work as the prim and proper Irene Molloy in Hello, Dolly!, accepted the role based upon her wish to change her own image and in order to gain more work within the industry. She reported that during the filming itself, Meyer was "considerate and gentlemanly".
Wallace requested Meyer use Picassos from his personal collection in the film.
Filming started 14 October 1970.
Meyer said it was "a very wordy picture" so he used rapid cutting.
While the film was being made Richard Zanuck was fired as head of production and was replaced by Elmo Williams. Williams said Seven Minutes was "going to be a very interesting film. I was worried after the first cut but Russ handled the sex extremely well. When I saw the first half I was going to ask him to slow the picture down. And it's rare for me to ask a guy to slow a picture down. I mean, so people could understand the story better. But when I saw the whole film with the second half - the trial - I understood what he was doing... I've never seen a good trial in a film - a trial that isn't slow, isn't boring."
Meyer later recalled, "The first night in every theater was packed. And the next night: three people. Why? The audience knows... It was a good film. But attaching my name to that film was a bummer. It does a great disservice to everyone concerned."
Meyer later said, “I made the mistake of reading my reviews. What the public wants are big laughs and big tits and lots of ‘em. Lucky for me that’s what I like, too.”
"It was boring and tedious," he said in 1975. "I should never have taken it on. Message pictures are never successful. This one had too much courtroom and not enough he-ing and she-ing."
Roger Ebert later said the film "was unsuited to Meyer's strongest points, which are eroticism, action and parody in about equal doses. The Seven minutes was intended as a serious consideration of pornography and censorship and, alas, that is the way Meyer approached it. He got serious about the theme. He had been harassed for years by various amateur and professional vigilantes, and intended The Seven Minutes as his statement against censorship. The result, whatever it was, was not a Russ Meyer film in the classical vein."
Ebert admitted there were some nice touches like making a U.S. Senator from California a woman played by Yvonne De Carlo "but Meyer's main thrust seemed to be to bring The seven minutes to the screen more or less faithfully and seriously, and I think that was a mistake. The courtroom scenes and philosophical discussions clashed with the melodrama (as they also do in the Irving Wallace novel), and the result was a film of a project that should probably not have been made at all, and certainly not by Russ Meyer."
The New York Times' reviewer Roger Greenspun wrote of the film, "I don't think that a court of law is the right Russ Meyer arena, and The Seven Minutes, which had started out pretty well, bogs down hopelessly in its courtroom legalisms and its absolutely non-cliff-hanging rush to unearth the real identity of the mythical J J Jadway", citing some problems with the film being its complicated plot and "enormous cast of characters". In addressing the film's use of nudity, he wrote "[Meyer] has never been so much concerned with undressing his girls (there are maybe five seconds of nudity in "The Seven Minutes") as admiring their appetites, their overwhelming proportions (but not so much their seductive flesh), their often destructive and self-destructive wills."
Variety wrote that Irving Wallace's original novel was a "potboiler" "which averted the essence of the problem in resolving the story," and noted that Russ Meyer was himself a "censor-exploited as well as a censor-exploiting filmmaker", who began with a story handicap and added a few of his own. They expanded that Meyer used "cardboard-caricatures of his heavies" which obscured issues, and included the "regular time-out for the sexually-liberated dalliances which have been his stock in trade."
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- Ebert, Roger (2009). Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2010. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 555. ISBN 0-7407-8536-2.
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- Variety staff (January 1, 1971). "review: The Seven Minutes". Variety. Retrieved 9 July 2010.