In the Sign of the Virgin (1973) In the Sign of the Virgin/Danish Pastries/I Jomfruens Tegn (1973) -**

     Think for a moment about what you would imagine to be the most sexually liberated, libidinously carefree country on Earth. Would it be France, perhaps? They had those naughty postcards, the French tongue has been called the Language of Love by virtually everybody (although I personally don’t think it’s half as sexy as Russian or Polish), and when your grandpappy was over there fighting the Axis in ‘44, he could get a blowjob for a Snickers bar. Or what about Italy? It isn’t everywhere that a porn star can run for Parliament and have a fighting chance at the ballot box. There’s also Brazil, the land of big, brown butts and tiny bikinis, and Thailand, for those of us who are planning on paying for things that no self-respecting person would agree to do for free. Not one of you suggested Denmark, though, did you? This is what’s called being a product of one’s era, for there was a time when Scandinavia was widely regarded as the center of the sexual universe. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, it was a common perception that the sexual revolution had hit the Nordic countries a little harder than it had the rest of the world, and if you were in the pop-culture business in any way, putting “Swedish” or “Danish” in the name of your product was a sure-fire means of attracting a certain clientele. There might even have been some truth behind that perception, too. At the very least, Denmark produced and exported a tremendous amount of smut during those years, including a few long-running, thematically organized series. The Con Amore Film/Happy Film zodiac comedies featuring Ole Søltoft were among those hardy perennials of Danish porn, and In the Sign of the Virgin (originally released in the US as Danish Pastries, which may have been a trimmed-down softcore version) was the starting point of the cycle.

     Astrology isn’t just an evocative titling device here, either, but the prime mover of what passes for the plot. The planet Venus is nearing the point in its orbit that will bring it to its closest approach to Earth. The last time that happened, in 1769 (of course…), the astrophysical influence caused an unleashing of human sexual passions that turned all of Tahiti into one big orgy. This time, the head of an astrology-obsessed organization called Nulpolitterordenen has determined that the focal point for Venus’s influence will be the village of Petit-Bois, where Nulpolitterordenen maintains a boarding school for delinquent girls. The implications, I believe, are obvious. (Considerably less obvious is what “the Order of Zero Politicians” or “the Order of Zero Police” is doing running a boarding school or worrying about the influence of the heavens on human behavior.) Fortunately, the organization’s scientists have developed a hormonal preparation that will counteract the effects of the Venus fly-by. Mr. Armand (Søltoft, from Bedside Manner and Dagmar’s Hot Pants, Inc.), one of Nulpolitterordenen’s agents, is to go at once to Petit-Bois and administer the drug to all the girls at the school. Then he is to add a couple pounds of the stuff to the village water supply so as to secure the rest of the townspeople against any sudden outbreaks of mad, astrologically induced rutting.

     Meanwhile, the mildly dastardly, very slightly diabolical Professor Bomwitz (Bent Warburg, of The Daughter: I, a Woman, Part III and The Keyhole) has concocted the ultimate aphrodisiac based apparently on notes left behind by his father (presumably also a mad scientist). This compound is so powerful that it can turn even Bomwitz’s frigid old lab assistant, Miss Troelsen (Mette von Kohl, later of Come to My Bedside and In the Sign of the Taurus), into a rampaging sex fiend. Bomwitz too is on his way to Petit-Bois, where he hopes to study the interaction between his hormonal libido-enhancer and the similar effects of the forthcoming astral convergence, and it happens that he rides in on the same train as Armand. They don’t meet, however, until later on, when they both wind up at the bordello run by Rufo (probably Benny Hansen, from Between the Sheets and Bedside Highway) and Gine (Love Me, Darling’s Lone Helmer) due to similar misunderstandings. (Bomwitz, encouraged by a trio of girls from the boarding school, mistakes Rufo’s place for an inn, while Armand is sent there by a teenage boy whom he asks to show him “the place where there are a lot of young girls.”) By a further mix-up, Armand and Bomwitz switch briefcases, so that both end up with outwardly identical jars of white powder that will do the exact opposite of what they expect it to. Bomwitz, after taking a dose of Armand’s drug, will pose an unprecedented challenge to Rufo and Gine’s whores, while Armand unwittingly makes himself Petit-Bois’s priapic answer to the Joker. As for those schoolgirls Armand was supposed to be rescuing, headmistress Astra Adele (Sigrid Horne-Rasmussen, from 1001 Danish Delights and Bedside Dentist) already has her hands more than full trying to keep them out of each other’s skirts, even without horny planets and reservoirs poisoned with powered lust to complicate matters.

     In both premise and attitude, In the Sign of the Virgin is most directly comparable to the American nudie-cuties of the early 1960’s, the frequent hardcore sex scenes notwithstanding. This is an incredibly silly movie, with the broadest imaginable approach to comedy; I’m sure it would be hilarious if you were nine years old. For those old enough to be allowed to see it, however, In the Sign of the Virgin is a pretty grim slog, at least as far as the humor is concerned. There are some crudely amusing moments, to be sure. The elderly Mette von Kohl in a black camisole and panties, locked in a cupboard and hollering for dick, manages to be both sophomorically chucklesome and something I never, ever, ever wanted to see, and I also enjoyed the running gag about the brothel girls’ increasingly exasperated efforts to arouse the drugged Professor Bomwitz. (And while we’re on the subject, I’m frankly in awe of Bent Warburg, who [to steal a line from Richard Corbin and Simon Revelstroke] remains steadfastly limp as a cheese log on a hot day despite the very compelling attentions of several extremely attractive young girls.) For the most part, though, screaming and slapstick is the order of the day, as if the Ritz Brothers and Una O’Connor had fallen on such hard times that a stag movie was their only recourse.

     Luckily, In the Sign of the Virgin is a trifle more successful as a sex flick. Nearly all the Nulpolitterordenen girls are gorgeous in a way that doesn’t stop them from seeming approachable (especially the one redhead who reminds me just the slightest bit of Alyson Hannigan), and they usually appear to be having a genuinely good time during the hetero couplings. (The lesbian scenes, on the other hand, are visibly not their cup of Spanish fly in most cases.) But more importantly, at least for my admittedly old-fashioned purposes, director Finn Karlsson doesn’t stop doing his job once the fucking begins, unlike most of his modern counterparts. Although they qualify as hardcore by any defensible definition, the sex scenes here are filmed and edited in a style closer to softcore, with close-ups and cutaways and changes of camera angle consistent with the expectations of non-pornographic filmmaking. It’s just that some of those cutaways are either to or from images of interlocking organs. In the Sign of the Virgin, in other words, was meant to be watched as a movie, and not merely as an aid to masturbation. Realistically speaking, that probably means that Will Braineater and I account for a measurable fraction of its modern-day target audience, but if the folks at Smirk Video think they can make a buck distributing this movie and others like it, I certainly won’t try to dissuade them.



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