Retro Porn Review – The Healers

November 23, 2014
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The Healers is the first film of Eduardo Cemano’s cult Sexual Healing Trilogy — no relation to Marvin Gaye, though. This movie actually preceded the song by 10 years!

It opens with arguably the funniest cold opening I’ve seen on a feature adult film. Cemano himself plays professor Ludwig Von Schmerling, a twitchy pseudo-doctor that mocks the sex education videos of the time. The professor argues that complete sexual expression has the power to heal any kind of malady, even if these aren’t sex-related. He calls his theory “Orgasmic Free Flow”. To exemplify this he uses a skeleton to point out the right positions… and then he dry humps the shit out of it.

To expand on his study, Von Schmerling introduces us to a colleague of his, Dr. Darby (Eberhard Ellis) and his nurse (Margo Sanger), who just opened their own Orgasmic Free Flow practice from their New York City apartment.

Their first patient is Lady Vulva, played wonderfully by the gifted Ultramax, who gets top billing on her impressive film debut. Lady Vulva is an opera singer who gets dizzy every time she hits a high note — a bit of a problem in her line of work. Ultramax surprisingly can actually sing well in an operatic way, as she puts any contemporary adult actress to shame in terms of sheer talent. After the doctor enthusiastically walks her through the process, she joyfully mimes through all of her favorite sexual positions on her own, and suddenly stops feeling dizzy, able to sing anything without consequences. It was a miracle cure.

More patients with odd quirks to overcome start coming to them. First there was Mr. Birmingham (Rudi Pagliacci), a guy who couldn’t stop crying, regardless of how happy his life actually was; followed by The Mute (Arlana Blue) a suicidal belly dancer who lost her voice.

The doctor sometimes doesn’t even have to leave his apartment building to find willing patients in need of some Orgasmic Free Flow. Two young couples who live downstairs from him run into the cheerful (and naked) doc by the stairs, and invite him in to help them get cured from their varied illnesses.

He asked them to “make love like (they) always do”, and after a couple of minutes watching, the doctor pointed out the lack of enthusiasm in their lovemaking. He suggested instead the guys should kiss each other, then the girls on their own. After a slight protest from the dudes, he reassures them “it’s not homosexuality; it’s just love.” Perhaps the clearest message of the movie. I liked how it also builds up to that, as if Cemano was testing his audience’s limits. While it was just simulated, having gay sex on screen was quite a ballsy move for any movie in 1972, even in the open porn/sexploitation world.

The concept of using sex as a tool for “medical healing” is not original, but the sort of naïve and optimistic way the doctor handles it makes it endearing. The beauty of it is that neither of them seems to be having any type of skeeviness; they truly believe in the healing powers of their job. In their minds, they’re never trying to take advantage of anyone.

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The Healers is more of a sexploitation movie, than porn. There are no penetration shots and no erections, but even with its fully softcore nature — and purposely trying to be comedic — the sex scenes can actually be quite passionate and well photographed.

A lot of the dialogue is improvised and it adds to the freshness of the story. The acting is very theatrical, and the sex/masturbation montages and their music heighten that very effectively.

The ending credits are also handled in a cool way: They got outtakes from the film they didn’t use and re-introduced each actor and his/her character with added color commentary and light observations about the filming process.

Overall, Cemano was a filmmaker unlike any other in the adult flick world, one that was closer to the experimental independent directors of his time than most in porn.

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