Writer-director Finn Karlsson’s 1973 film In the Sign of the Virgin, also micro-released Stateside in some cities under the title Danish Pastries, is a top-shelf sex comedy — fun, flirty and unabashedly horny. Balancing a completely boilerplate swapped-aphrodisiac storyline and stereotypical settings with vividly sketched characters, lighthearted montages and solid production design, the movie — part of a whole series of astrologically-themed, period piece T&A romps just now seeing a release to DVD — makes a convincing case that there is a market for goofball couples erotica.
Unfolding, of course, at a private boarding school for delinquent girls, In the Sign of the Virgin introduces an astrological imperative right from the get-go: the school’s board of directors has discovered that on the eve of “Nulpolitterorden,” the planet Venus is aligning with Earth in a manner that will spark all sorts of carnal behavior. Naturally, they want to keep things in check, and they’ve come up with a powder that, when added to water, curbs all erotic desires. Professor Armand (Ole Soltoft, a sort of Danish cross between Lee Evans and Mark Ruffalo) is dispatched to administer the curative substance to all the girls, but before he can complete his assignment he bumps into Professor Bomwitz (Bent Warburg), who just so happens to have invented an aphrodisiac powder. After they accidentally exchange briefcases containing the powders, randy mayhem ensues; Bomwitz gives the girls their powdered water and empties the rest into the town reservoir, unleashing all sorts of sexual hijinks. The frumpy headmistress (Mette Von Kohl) tries to control her girls by locking them in the basement, but in the end everyone ends up at the local brothel, run by Madame Gine (Lone Helmer) and Rufo (Benny Hansen).
I haven’t heard the term used before, maybe I’m the first, but I would dub this film and those like it “middle-core” sex flicks; there is graphic material (insertion, a small amount of intercourse, even one ejaculation), but it isn’t hammered home (if you’ll pardon the expression) like modern pornography, and at no point does the explicit nature of this material compromise the movie’s buoyant tone. Karlsson has plenty of nubile young women (including Anne Bie Warburg, below center, as the requisite corrupted innocent) to put on display, but he also actually makes a movie that hangs together properly, and has a sense of genuine playfulness.
It helps, certainly, that both Soltoft and Bent Warburg are skilled comedic performers, but everything about Karlsson’s treatment of the material lends the otherwise incredibly silly story credence. The music here is also of note, and worth mentioning; before wah-wah effects ruled the 1980s or aggressive percussive beats took over American porn, jazzy, horn-inflected rhythms ruled softcore flicks, and it’s that sense of goofy musical experimentation — balanced by looped hi-hats and keyboards — that drives In the Sign of the Virgin‘s music and helps anchor the film. Only a slightly-too-nasty girls-on-girl assault colors darkly what is otherwise a pleasant, lightly erotic flick that male and female cinephiles alike could enjoy.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case with a screen-captured cover (top photo) that features strategically placed hearts, In the Sign of the Virgin comes to DVD on a region-free disc in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a native language Dolby digital soundtrack, English subtitles, and an animated top menu screen (above) with additionally animated chapter selections. The video transfer is remarkably free from grain, other debris, or any edge enhancement, but there are of course some issues with color consistency. The only bonus feature, alas, is a two-and-a-half-minute slide show of stills from the movie — some of which are behind-the-scenes material, but most of which are not. Director Karlsson passed away in 2003, alas, but surely there must be other players that, if the effort were made, would be available and interested in talking for some sort of retrospective overview. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. A- (Movie) C+ (Disc)