Danish Pastries (1973)

Abolishing all cinema censorship ahead of their Swedish neighbors, Denmark opened the floodgates for skin and sin to run rampant on local movie screens.  Not safely ensconced, away from prying pubescent eyes, on a separate sex film circuit as other countries were quick to adopt, but playing first run theaters on their towns’ high streets to boot, a trend the Danes didn’t bother to discontinue even as the erotic evolved towards the ever more explicit, starting with notorious pornographer Ole Ege’s sole full length feature Bordello in 1972.  As John Hilbard’s tremendously popular Bedside series, featuring comedian Ole Søltoft bumbling his way Jerry Lewis style through a variety of ill-suited professions (including headmaster at an all boys school and dentist), was showing signs of running out of steam, producer Anders Sandberg snapped up their star for what was to become a most serious rival at the box office.  Commonly referred to as the Zodiac series, each episode was built around a separate star sign, grinding to a halt after only six, for the record Virgo, Taurus, Gemini, Leo, Scorpio and Sagittarius.  Oh, to think what they might have pulled off for Pisces !  Sandberg had earned his stripes as production manager on US ex-pat Vernon P. Becker’s 1971 sexploitation classic Dagmar’s Hot Pants before turning into one of the country’s most prolific porn producers and he had a veritable goldmine on his hands here.  Testing the waters with Ege’s Bordello, he realized that Scandinavian middle classes took hardcore imagery in their stride with nary a raised eyebrow, so he would soon surround Søltoft with primitive porn professionals plying their trade.

Contrary to what you have become accustomed to from us folks over here at Video-X-Pix, the first of these films (originally titled : In the Sign of the Virgin) still stays stubbornly soft with only an occasional and invariably flaccid member intruding on the parade of fine female flesh on display.  Rechristened Danish Pastries once the surprisingly above average English dub’s producer Bob Sumner (who went on to fund several of Chuck Vincent’s ’80s classics) and director Dick D’Antoni (perpetrator of such unpretentious fornication fare as Campus Girls and Teenage Cheerleaders, both in our catalogue) got through with it, it follows the frantic misadventures that inevitably occur when an experimental aphrodesiac for a bordello and a libido suppressant intended for a nearby all girls school get mixed up.  See, members of the Copenhagen University’s department of astronomy have noticed the approaching passage of Venus and, well aware of the ruckus this caused back in 1769 on the island of Tahiti, they’re not taking any chances this time.  An emissary, the naive and less than adequate Armand (Søltoft), is dispatched to the minute Danish hamlet housing both school and whorehouse, supplying the suppressant to the former and staying well away from the latter.  Meanwhile, horny scientist Professor Bonkers (Bent Warburg) has arrived at the same town to test his aphrodesiac.  Identical suitcases are dutifully switched and voilà !

The movie was competently made by Finn Karlsson, a proper film school graduate turned journeyman director best known for his 1969 naughty box office blast Stine and the Boys starring local sex symbol Sisse Reingaard.   Jack of all trades Werner Hedman took over the reins for subsequent episodes as Danish Pastries rather surprisingly proved Karlsson’s final filmmaking assignment though he would continue to work throughout the decade in menial peripheral jobs on several sets.  An alleged drinking problem may have rendered him hard to employ and almost certainly contributed to his untimely death in 2003, aged merely 66.

The time frame, which is the turn of the last century, allows for elaborate costuming adding luster to lust.  Søltoft remains all buttoned up but Warburg, half of what was to become Denmark’s busiest porno pair, lets it all hang out in simulated sex scenes, some with wife Anne Bie playing not the school’s tormented new girl Minette as you may read elsewhere (she’s portrayed rather by ravishing one shot wonder Eva Lindberg) but the first of the students to sense the effect of the Professor’s concoction and making him the immediate beneficiary thereof.  He has a particularly memorable dream sequence that’s difficult to describe, wandering buck naked among enlarged female body parts, all set to a chintzy rendition of Ravel’s Bolero, which weirdly predates a similar spectacle from Chuck Vincent’s 1978 Visions.  The student body contains several starlets who would willingly comply as the erotic grew ever more explicit.  The two girls sharing a lesbian liaison in the opening scene are vivacious blonde Bedside regular Vivi Rau and sultry brunette Lene Andersen from Paul Gerber’s The Keyhole.  The pleasingly plump prostitute is lovely Lone Gersel, also spotted in Phyllis and Eberhardt Kronhausen’s groundbreaking sex documentary The Hottest Show in Town.

Although the skin-baring sweethearts receive the lion’s share of this fast-paced flick’s running time, it’s the contribution of several highly respected Scandinavian character actors who stuck around even as the series got more seriously sexual that remains these movies’ most striking aspect.  A veteran thespian whose career got started in the ’30s, venerable Sigrid Horne-Rasmussen camps it up as the school’s colossal head mistress, even raising her skirts (fortunately revealing a pair of demure knickers, completely in character) and blowing Søltoft a lewd kiss after an inadvertent swig of the aphrodisiac.  As blowsy brothel keeper Madame Jean, Lone Helmer’s another classically trained actress unfazed by appearing in XXX fare, not as a pornographic participant but still dangerously close to spilling out of her corsetry !  Even so, the equally middle-aged Mette Von Kohl goes both of them one better as prim ‘n proper lab assistant Ms. Trueheart, the Professor’s first guinea pig, stripping down to decidedly less than ladylike lingerie.  Sadly, all three of these brave grandes dames of the Scandinavian screen have long passed away since.

As befits a production intended for mass consumption, the movie’s particularly well photographed by Henning Kristiansen, already a veteran DoP since the late ’40s, working within whatever genre his country’s cinema would embrace, including Knud Leif Thomsen’s French New Wave inspired 1964 black comedy School for Suicide as well as the occasionally dabbling in sexploitation Gabriel Axel’s 1988 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winner Babette’s Feast.  How’s that for eclectic ?  Kristiansen was ably aided by a then eager young upstart named Michael Christensen who had already worked as camera operator on another sexploitation outing made by an American ex-pat, Jack O’Connell’s Christa celebrating the breathtaking beauty of blonde bombshell Birte Tove, illogically renamed Swedish Fly Girls for the US market as Danish was forever associated with, well, pastry over here !

Directed & written by Finn Karlsson. Produced by Anders Sandberg for Con Amore. Photographed by Henning Kristiansen & Michael Christensen. Edited by Lizzi Weischenfeldt. English version produced by Robert Sumner & directed by Richard D’Antoni. Starring Ole Søltoft (Armand), Anne Bie Warburg (Professor’s Schoolgirl Squeeze), Eva Lindberg (Geminette/”Minette”), Bent Warburg (Professor Bomwitz/”Professor Oliver Bonkers”), Lone Helmer (Madame Gina/”Jean”), Sigrid Horne-Rasmussen (Head Mistress), Mette Von Kohl (Ms. Troelsen/”Ms. Trueheart”), Benny Hansen (Madame Gina’s Husband), Lone Gersel (Prostitute), Keld Holm (Barber), Vivi Rau, Lene Andersen, Ditte Maria (Schoolgirls) & Bent Rohweder (Bordello Patron). Running time : 92 minutes (Danish version) & 84 minutes (US version).

Note : character names in parentheses are those from the American version, if different from the original.

As some sources seem confused, here’s a candid shot of the one and only Anne Bie Warburg to feast your eyes upon

By Dries Vermeulen

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