Inserts is a 1976 British film, written and directed by John Byrum while he was in his twenties, and starring Richard Dreyfuss, Jessica Harper, Bob Hoskins and Veronica Cartwright. Featuring full-frontal nudity, a drug overdose, and no shortage of macabre humor, it was originally rated X but later re-rated as NC 17.
The film's title takes its name from the double meaning that "insert" both refers to a film technique and sexual intercourse. Inserts was filmed like a stage play on one set and filmed entirely in real time.
The story takes place in Hollywood in the early 1930s, shortly after the start of the talkie period. A visionary and gifted young Hollywood director (Dreyfuss) known as The Boy Wonder has fallen out of favor with the studios. This is ostensibly due to his reluctance to lower his standards or abandon his artistic and experimental style (such as using a hand-held camera) for the sake of churning out lesser quality stag films for easy money, due to his alcoholism and his fear of leaving his house. He works out of his decaying mansion, which is the only one left on a street being turned into a freeway.
On the morning of this particular shoot, he hires a heroin-addicted waitress, Harlene (Cartwright), who was once a well-known and respected star during the silent film era. She is now the star in the first of his six-picture deal. She prepares and shoots heroin while The Boy Wonder drinks heavily during a conversation about the changing times in Hollywood.
An actor called Rex the Wonder Dog (played by Stephen Davies) soon arrives in a white suit with grass stains on his knees, having just came from his job working for a mortician. He gullibly believes a man that says he will put him in the mainstream talkies, and has an appointment to meet him in his hotel room.
The Boy Wonder awkwardly attempts to make an artistic film using an actress under the influence of heroin and an actor who becomes increasingly frustrated with the director and all of his poetic talk, much of which he admits he doesn't understand. The scene goes wrong when Rex gets out of control during the action and The Boy Wonder needs to smash a wine bottle over his head to get him to stop.
Enter Big Mac (Hoskins), a porno film producer. He has heroin packets in his jacket pocket, a cigar in his mouth, wads of money for Rex and a pretty wannabe actress hanging on his arm named Cathy Cake (Harper). Harlene takes her payment in heroin and soon dies from an overdose in an upstairs bedroom.
Big Mac offers Rex a part in a mainstream movie in order to convince Rex to help him bury the body and, while the two are away, Cathy and The Boy Wonder develop a chemistry that eventually leads to another ironic high point in the film. He makes love to her believing he has found something of a soulmate, but she is disappointed when she learns the camera was off.
The Boy Wonder realizes that this romantic encounter was simply a ploy to get her into the film, and that she has used and directed him the way he used and directed her. Big Mac and Rex return to find them half naked. In a rage, Big Mac ends his six-picture stag film contract with The Boy Wonder, who by this time is completely drunk. The end of the film finds The Boy Wonder alone in his spacious living room, playing piano and singing, pondering what he'll eat for lunch.
- Richard Dreyfuss as "The Boy Wonder"
- Jessica Harper as Cathy Cake
- Veronica Cartwright as Harlene
- Bob Hoskins as Big Mac
- Stephen Davies as Rex
Movie industry names are dropped throughout the film, starting and ending with (pre-fame) Clark Gable, but also including Wallace Reid, Jack Pickford, Lillian Gish, D. W. Griffith, Cecil B. deMille, and Will H. Hays, head of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. Rex's impending "date" (a "Big Cheese from Metro") is a thinly-veiled reference to director F. W. Murnau.