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ALVIN PURPLE: In a promiscuous 1970s Melbourne, naïve schoolboy Alvin Purple (Graeme Blundell) finds himself the desire and sexual plaything of school girls and women alike. As he grows up, Alvin is unable to find gratification in these loveless encounters, seeing his sexual prowess as a problem, and seeks help from a sex therapist who uses him to help cure women with all manner of sexual dysfunctions.

ALVIN RIDES AGAIN: Heading north for a change of pace and to escape his amorous women devotees, Alvin and his best mate Spike Dooley (Alan Finney) run into Alvin's exact double, an American gangster named Balls McGee (Graeme Blundell). After an accident sees McGee killed, Alvin must take over his persona and help a gang of crooks rob a casino.

Review by Craig Miller
By today's quite liberal cinematic standards, the smutty soft-core porn antics of Alvin Purple, and the explosive sex comedies of Australian film during the 1970s, seem somewhat tame and non-eventful. But in the context of the repressive time when they were released to Aussie audiences, these saucy little sex capers were cutting edge stuff, pushing the boundaries of censorship, thumbing their nose at a stuffy 'establishment' and giving audiences something to get, well, excited about.

Released in 1973, the sexy satire, Alvin Purple was one of the front runners in this progressive movement and, as well as being one of the first 'R' rated Australian films and breaking all sorts of domestic box office records, it's a wonderful example of the genre, a film willing to explore the hang-ups of sex, as well as give less thoughtful viewers plenty of T & A!

AP gets plenty of comic mileage from its exploration into the psyche of the male sexual drive and while it does exploit the idea - cashing in on the ever popular "sex sells" mantra with plenty of nudity, sexual innuendo and rumpy-pumpy - the honesty of the film can not be questioned.

The role reversal of men and women (the women are the sexual aggressors) gives Graeme Blundell's 'ordinary' Alvin a believable conflict to overcome, with Alvin portrayed as a real man and unable to say no to a sexual opportunity even when he doesn't want it - this submissive nature only keeps him wanting for a real relationship. It's clever work from director Tim Burstall, who on the one hand gives us scene after scene of nudity and sexual liberation, and on the other shows us that sex without real love is ultimately unfulfilling.

And it doesn't end there. Burstall revels in this opportunity to explore the role of sexual psychiatry in a sexually awakening society, a somewhat new field of therapy in the 1970s, the comedy of sexual manners and the salacious nature of our own desires, forcing his audience to look beyond the seemingly one-dimensional Alvin Purple and take a good look at our own perceptions and hang-ups.

In contrast, the sequel to this Aussie iconic classic, Alvin Rides Again, is a bit of a disappointment. There is a distinct move away from the sexual themes and ideas of the original, and what we are dealt is a much more 'situational comedy' styled film, with an emphasis on cheesy laughs and send-ups rather than anything real. The premise is laughable and, while it contained countless comic opportunities, the comedy is a little cheap and, even more significantly, it doesn't try to explore anything.

Most of the performances are nothing more than lazy characterisations, including some rather ridiculous work from Blundell, who stuffs cotton wool in his cheeks and slicks his hair back a la Brando in The Godfather, and lays on a thick New York accent in an attempt to convince us he's a different character. It's terribly executed, as is most of the film.

As for bonus material, this two-disc set offers some genuinely interesting extras, not the least of which is a selection of past and present interviews which feature director Tim Burstall and Graeme Blundell among others, and an Inside Alvin featurette which was broadcast on TV during the 1970s when the Alvin Purple phenomenon was at its peak (keep an eye out for footage of a very young John Seale, Aussie cinematographer extraordinaire).

There really is a wealth of information included over the interview segments and no stone is left unturned when detailing the history of these two films' lives from their conception to their production and beyond. Also worth checking out is the short film "Six Days Straight", included on the second disc, about a bungled attempt at a coin robbery.

In a time when comedy was king in Australian cinema, the original Alvin Purple was certainly a worthy ruler. The comedy is brash, as is the content, but most importantly it's got heart. Holding it up to today's standards where the sex comedy is much more crass and explicit, the shock value pales in comparison, but even if these days it's more nice than naughty, Alvin Purple is far from a bedroom disappointment.

Published August 26, 2004

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(Aust, 1973, 1974)

CAST: Graeme Blundell, Alan Finney, Abigail, Penne Hackforth-Jones, George Whaley, Noel Ferrier, Gus Mercurio

DIRECTOR: 1-Tim Burstall; 2 -David Bilcock & Robin Copping

SCRIPT: 1-Alan Hopgood; 2- Tim Burstall, Alan Finney & Alan Hopgood

RUNNING TIME: 97 & 81 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen 1.85:1 16:9 enhanced, Dolby 2.0 & Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc One: Inside Alvin featurette, 2004 interviews cast and crew, Biographies and filmographies, Stills gallery, Theatrical trailer. Disc Two: Tim Burstall Biography and filmography, 2004 interviews with cast and crew, Stills gallery, Short film, Theatrical trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Village Roadshow

DVD RELEASE: August 5, 2004

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