CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS
To be honest, I stopped watching Russ Meyer movies ages ago. While a few of them are quite good fun - Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls is probably my favourite, and I kind of guiltily enjoyed Slaves (aka Blacksnake) - I quickly lost interest in the antics of the freakishly proportioned women on which Meyer maintained a dogged fixation to the exclusion of pretty much everything else.
The Seven Minutes, though, was always the one Russ Meyer movie I was interested in seeing, mainly because it's his Serious Message film rather than another in the increasingly wearying series of films like Up! and Supervixens. Depending on your point of view, this could be either a heartfelt plea for the right to free artistic expression, a merciless expose of the hypocrisy and moral corruption of American politics, an absurd piece of courtroom theatre complete with crooked lawyers and implausible revelations, a pornographer's lament about the vacuum-sealed minds of the Decency Brigade, or an occasionally crass bit of trashy smut. Impressively, it's actually all of the above.
Nominally, The Seven Minutes centres on the obscenity trial of a new edition of a famously banned erotic novel (entitled The Seven Minutes). It's pretty much a rigged prosecution: the District Attorney is encouraged to use it as a launch platform for his political career by a cabal of the rich and powerful, including the father of a young man charged with rape after allegedly being inflamed by the sheer filth of the book. But the underdog legal team for the publishers, even as they find their witnesses backing out, their phones bugged and their own evidence spirited away, aren't giving in....
Really, though, Meyer's film is only interested in the trial stuff as something on which he can thread his cruel though probably not wildly exaggerated caricature of the literary Mary Whitehouses prissily objecting to the printed F-word (won't someone think of the children?), and the rich and powerful publicly moralising about vulgarity while privately cavorting with girls and watching porn movies. These are fairly easy targets to hit, but that's not to suggest they're not worth the shots, even cheap ones. Elsewhere there are visits to a chaotic porn studio, plenty of colourful supporting characters (John Carradine has one scene as an Irish drunk), opportunities for star spotting (Tom Selleck! Charles Napier!), and a completely unbelievable twist ending.
But, barring a nasty though not hugely explicit rape scene near the start which ensures the 18 certificate, it's mostly rather enjoyable, probably because it doesn't focus quite so graphically on the rampant sexual excesses. Rather, it feels like Meyer's been put in charge of an American TV legal drama and has (mostly) had to adhere to network restrictions. It's energetic and tightly edited, and the 111 minutes running time (nearly 20 minutes longer than the original UK cinema release, according to the BBFC) doesn't feel anywhere near that long. Strange that it's been lost in relative obscurity for over forty years when it's actually a lot better and more interesting than several of its director's more famous works; it's definitely worth a watch if you're interested in the censorship debate, or if you're an admirer of some of Meyer's grotesquerie.