After a teenager who purchased the erotic novel The Seven Minutes is charged with rape, an eager prosecutor who is against pornography (and preparing for an upcoming election) uses the scandal to declare the book as obscene, sets up a sting operation where two detectives enter a bookstore, purchase a copy of the eponymous book, whereupon the prosecutor brings charges against the bookstore for selling obscene material. The subsequent trial soon creates a heated debate about the issue of pornography vs. free speech. The young defense lawyer must also solve the mystery of the novel's true author.
In examining the history of the book, the defense attorney discovered it was written by J.J. Jadway, an American expatriate living in Europe, originally published in English by a publisher in France, and eventually picked up by various tawdry publishing companies in the United States, most of whom tried to emphasize the more lurid and salacious aspects of the book. The book's content is considered so sexually explicit that it was banned as obscene in over 30 countries. Apparently. J.J. Jadway was so despondent over the treatment of his book that he committed suicide; one of his friends found him and reported it.
As the trial takes place, the prosecutor finds ordinary members of the public who find the book grossly offensive (one of whom admits on cross-examination by the defense that she cannot even repeat out loud one of the words used in the book to describe what the female protagonist was doing in bed with her lover), while the defense finds professionals in academia and the media who attest to the book's value as literature. The prosecution then puts the young man who committed the rape on the stand to say the book drove him to it.
The attorney defending the book is contacted by Constance Cumberland (Yvonne deCarlo), a member of a local decency society, who decides to testify in court about the young man who committed the rape, and other things surrounding the book. She had spoken with the young man, and his motivation for the rape was not the book, but his own fears over his sexuality.
Constance also admits she knew J. J. Jadway, the book's author, and he did not die of a heart attack in Europe in the 1950s as was reported, and she knew that the book's content was not intended to be pornographic, but an examination of a woman's sexuality.
When she is asked how she could know this, Constance responds with a bombshell, "Because I am J.J. Jadway, and I wrote The Seven Minutes." She had gotten a friend to publicize the fake suicide of "J.J. Jadway" in order to discourage investigation into the book's author because, more than 20 years ago, it would have been bad for her, then, if it were discovered she was the author, but she should not hide any longer. She proceeds to explain that the man whom the female protagonist of the novel was having sex with, as the book showed, had had problems with impotence, and had become able to experience intercourse because of her. Her feeling of what this man reawakened in her, herself not having taken a lover for many years, makes her realize she wants to be with him, all of this occurring inside her head during her experience of the seven minutes of intercourse.
The jury finds the book not obscene. The prosecutor says that decision only applies in that part of the state, and he can try again somewhere else in California. The attorney who won the case chastises him, by pointing out that it is ridiculous to try to restrict what adults choose to read in their homes when no harm has been shown (which it was in this case, since the book was simply a scapegoat used to explain away the rape case of the young man.)
A note at the end of the movie states that the average length of a session of lovemaking is about seven minutes in length.Wayne Maunder as Mike Barrett
Marianne McAndrew as Maggie Russell
Philip Carey as Elmo Duncan
Jay C. Flippen as Luther Yerkes
Edy Williams as Faye Osborn
Lyle Bettger as Frank Griffith
Yvonne De Carlo as Constance Cumberland
Jackie Gayle as Norman Quandt
Ron Randell as Merle Reid
Charles Drake as Sergeant Kellogg
John Carradine as Sean O'Flanagan
Harold J. Stone as Judge Upshaw
James Inglehart as Clay Rutherford
Tom Selleck as Phil Sanford
Olan Soule as Harvey Underwood
John Sarno as Jerry Griffith
Jan Shutan as Anna Lou White
David Brian as Cardinal McManus
Charles Napier as Iverson
Wolfman Jack as Himself
Lynn Hamilton as Avis
The Seven Minutes received a lukewarm reception from critics and was a rare commercial failure for Meyer.
New York Times reviewer Roger Greenspun wrote of the film, "I don't think that a court of law is the right Russ Meyer arena, and The Seven Minutes, which had started out pretty well, bogs down hopelessly in its courtroom legalisms and its absolutely non-cliff-hanging rush to unearth the real identity of the mythical J J Jadway", citing some problems with the film being its complicated plot and "enormous cast of characters". In addressing the film's use of nudity, he wrote "[Meyer] has never been so much concerned with undressing his girls (there are maybe five seconds of nudity in "The Seven Minutes") as admiring their appetites, their overwhelming proportions (but not so much their seductive flesh), their often destructive and self-destructive wills."
Variety wrote that Irving Wallace's original novel was a "potboiler" "which averted the essence of the problem in resolving the story," and noted that Russ Meyer was himself a "censor-exploited as well as a censor-exploiting filmmaker", who began with a story handicap and added a few of his own. They expanded that Meyer used "cardboard-caricatures of his heavies" which obscured issues, and included the "regular time-out for the sexually-liberated dalliances which have been his stock in trade."