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  • With a near record number of theater marquees displayed, including forgotten sites like the Park-Miller on W. 43rd St., American SEXUAL REVOLUTION has unintended nostalgia value as a time capsule.

    Its title is intentionally misleading; this combination of XXX porn sequences, travelogue vistas of Tenderloin sections in major U.S. cities containing the adult cinemas and bookshops, and interviews is strictly about pornography and its spread to mainstream America. The free love/hippie revolution of the '60s is not at issue.

    With narrator Peter Thomas mixing useful information with a heavy dose of proselytizing in favor of porn's legality, the film is often too preachy to be entertaining. But I loved seeing those old theater facades.

    Porn content includes many still photos, from magazines, which deliver the explicitness 1971 audiences were craving: mixed-combo action, double-penetration, even homosexual anal sex. The live action is tamer, but well-photographed XXX porn.

    A couple of poor-condition '20s stag films are included for historical interest: "The Shiek" (rather ludicrously claimed to have been shot by the same crew with the same sets of the Valentino hit) and "How to Land a Job". These put the history of XXX in perspective and indicate that right from the beginning casting directors favored big dicks (natch).

    Cheri Rostand and Diane are beautiful blondes who have sex with their cameraman Bob (another big-dick specimen, circa 1970). Diane dons a strap-on dildo for what must have been a revelatory (in '71) lesbian sex scene with loops star Rostand, and the trio are candid in a followup interview segment, which accurately captures the mood of transition as XXX began making inroads in what used to be a "simulated" sex film industry.

    This transition is also preserved in a lengthy interview with New York magazine publisher Marv Lincoln whose 12 titles are all film related. He indicates that because of the changing laws & court rulings, he does not mail out his magazines (crossing state lines), but relies on newsstand sales. Throughout the documentary, the importance of the Supreme Court and its decisions re: obscenity and pornography are correctly emphasized.

    A second XXX shoot involves familiar porn husband & wife team Pete Dawson and Jan Davis, who I had previously seen interviewed in a short film. They have explicit sex (including anal) in many positions, shot by a still photographer for magazine layouts, and give a perceptive interview. Near the end of the film there is other fresh XXX footage, more as padding.

    One LSU grad filmmaker pontificates about his XXX craft, but this Leslie Howell or Powell seems to be a phony. He coincidentally is shown shooting the Cheri/Diane/Bob footage, where Bob is handling second camera before joining in the action. Elsewhere the documentary seems credible, including interviews with various gay activists and an assortment of generally square men and women "on the street" (in L.A.).

    With much waving of the American Flag, an opening shot of the Statue of Liberty, and cornball pronouncements contrasting the readily available travelogues showing animals being killed vs. suppression of explicit sex films (and a dollop of Vietnam War thrown in), ASR fails as propaganda, but covers its porn topic better than the most fake docus of the era.

    The film makes the crucial point that the real sea change occurred when porn, notably still photos or erotic art, switched from strictly underground/illicit distribution to more widespread availability. I would like to see a documentary (or a book) on that particular subject, since it is the move from "under the counter" forbidden fruit to in-your-face (and now dominating the internet) widespread availability of sexual material that has so transformed our culture.