Dir: John Byrum, 1975


Seventies cinema was a time for challenge. It challenged the censors, social mores and, more importantly, the standard of film. Audience’s expectations were rocked by this new, no-holds-barred style and didn’t know what to make of it. Inevitably, controversy ensued.

Inserts is a, fairly, rare film that is seldom broadcast on television and is difficult to obtain. Aside from a brief video release, the film did surface on a limited run of DVD. Now out of print, copies of the disc and previous VHS tapes can sell for high prices.

Set in the 1930’s, Richard Dreyfuss is Boy Wonder, a once great filmmaker who is now resigned to making pornos.

Trying to finish the film, Boy Wonder has to contend with producer, Big Mac (Bob Hoskins) and his girlfriend, wannabe starlet Cathy Cake (Jessica Harper), the squeaky-voiced lead actress, Harlene (Veronica Cartwright) and the film’s stud, Red The Wonder Dog (Stephen Davies).

Featuring a cast of only five actors, Inserts is a character piece of comedy and drama. The plot, really, is irrelevant as the focus is all about the dark side and vices of it’s cast. Alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual impotence and shattered dreams all take centre stage.

Shot in “real time”, the movie is more like a filmed stage play with the minimal cast and never leaving the confines of one room. This set-up does give the film a claustrophobic atmosphere and sense of realism, but the script and characterisation let’s everything down.

The audience is not meant to empathise with the characters or find any redemption in them and, on this front, Inserts succeeds wildly. But not having any traits that we can identify with or offer any hope for their salvation has a negative impact on the whether the film can be enjoyed.

Even by today’s standards, Byrum’s film never lost that salty edge. Controversial at the time, the movie still has a rawness and the ability to shock. Very few films in 1975, dared to show heroin preparation and the intravenous administration of said drug.

Despite being used very occasionally in movies of the early seventies, cinemagoers still weren’t acclimatised to the liberal use of the word “cunt”. Taxi Driver and The Exorcist both had a single uttering of the expletive but, here, it’s employed several times in a ten-minute take. Shockingly, Dreyfuss (already a star at the time) is guilty of two uses but, unbelievably for 1975, the remainder are all said by one of the female stars, Jessica Harper. Byrum broke a taboo by including that in his script, but he also broke another one by using the word as a reference to a vagina. Harper’s unashamedly referral to her female anatomy as “cunt”, must have had the more conservative viewers fainting in the aisles.

Inserts has its moments but, ultimately, isn’t very funny. There’s no denying the care that went into the film and it is well made but fails to engross you.

A curiosity but very little more.


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