Jacques Levy – Oh! Calcutta! (1972)
The DVD was burned from the 1971 closed circuit production, apparently on Videotape. Therefore, it has a VHS appearance to it. By any American legal definition, this would fit under the R and not the X rating, since it is intended as art, and all sex acts are merely simulated, although there is a good deal of nudity. This is NOT Porn.
Oh! Calcutta! was a long-running avant-garde theatrical revue, created by British drama critic Kenneth Tynan. The show, consisting of various sketches on sex-related topics, debuted in Off-Broadway in 1969. It ran in London for over 2,400 performances, and in New York for over 1,600. The show sparked considerable controversy at the time, because it featured extended scenes of total nudity, both male and female. The title is taken from a painting by Clovis Trouille, itself a pun on “O quel cul t’as!”, French for “What an ass you have!”.
Tynan had hoped that Harold Pinter would direct the production, in order to give it avant-garde legitimacy, but Pinter declined. (The original director was Jacques Levy, remembered by most now as the songwriting partner of Bob Dylan on his album Desire.) Most of the sketches (written, amongst others, by Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett, John Lennon, Sam Shepard, Edna O’Brien, Jules Feiffer, and Tynan himself) featured the cast naked (including Bill Macy). Peter Schickele (aka “PDQ Bach”), Robert Dennis and Stanley Walden were the revue’s composers, known as The Open Window. A pay-per-view video production played on closed-circuit TV in select cities in 1971, and in 1972 a motion picture version was also released — in both cases many cities and municipalities banned its showing.
A 1976 Broadway revival at the Edison Theatre ran for thirteen years, briefly becoming the longest-running play in Broadway history, with a total of 5,959 performances.
These are taken from the 1971 production shown on pay-per-view.
Taking Off the Robe
The actors dance and remove their robes to the opening song.
Jack and Jill
A boy and a girl who just met are in their own playland, with the boy constantly trying to find ways to seduce the girl who is afraid of him because he’s a boy. The girl is eventually raped by the boy at the end of the sketch and is comatose from the experience. Some recent film critics who viewed the DVD have taken issue with this particular sketch because of the comedic elements of the rest of the sketches, and felt that this set the wrong tone for the rest of the production.
A Suite of Five Letters
A song of five letters written by anonymous authors about their sexual preferences.
Dick and Jane
An uptight girl gets a lesson in loosening up after her lover is sick of her constantly stiff ways.
Will Answer All Serious Replies
A young couple start to rethink getting into the swinger lifestyle after meeting the middle-aged couple who answers their ad.
A chaste woman is caught by her admirer, who then proceeds to learn that she isn’t as chaste as he thinks she is.
Was It Good for You, Too?
A man participates in a sex study, and the whole experience ends up turning into one big farce. The scene plays like the Marx Brothers at a sex research facility.
Life Is Over Much Too Soon
A pre-filmed section, where the actors are nude outside doing interpretive dance
One on One
Another nude interpretive dance.
After a man rambles on about painting the fence and building a rock garden, his son talks about what girls really like.
Four in Hand
A newcomer to a masturbation game can’t seem to think of anything to masturbate to. (The first draft of this sketch was penned by John Lennon.
Players come out to sing the final song and dance, also doing voiceover as to what the theater patrons are really thinking about the experience. Examples include: “She has pretty eyes” (the joke being that all of the actors are nude at this point), “How come none of the guys have hard-ons?”, “That’s my boyfriend — that IS a hard-on,” and “If they showed this in Washington, Agnew would shit!”