Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Enter the Jacey



I’ve recently been contacted by John N Cohen, the surviving director of the Jacey Cinema Chain, which his family used to run. John has recently put together a website about the Jacey cinemas which does provide the most comprehensive history of the Jacey chain that I have read and manages to answer many of the questions I’ve had over the years about the Jacey and the Cohen family. Particularly of interest to British exploitation film buffs will be the account of the backlash the Cohens faced following the release of Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom in 1960, the family’s unsuccessful attempt to kill off the public’s interest in the nudist film genre and John’s newspaper clippings relating to The Yellow Teddybears.

www.jncohen.net/JaceyGroup/JosephCohen.htm

Monday, 8 June 2015

Come Play with Francis Searle

Most of the films discussed here stand very little chance of turning up on television these days, so I thought I’d give a heads up to one such rare exception to the rule, as newbie TV channel ‘Talking Pictures TV’ are airing 1972’s A Couple of Beauties- previously written up here- next week. The last film by British B movie workhorse Francis Searle, and showcasing mancunian drag artiste Bunny Lewis, the film is on Friday 12 June at 21:30, and repeated on Saturday 13 June at 21:20.





Talking Pictures TV have also been screening another Francis Searle short of late, that like A Couple of Beauties was clearly made with its eye on the Eady Money rewards. Searle’s penultimate film, A HOLE LOT OF TROUBLE (1969) centres around three workmen (Victor Maddern, Bill Maynard and Brian Weske) whose attempt to dig a hole in a street in Watford is hindered by two incompetent electricity board officials (Arthur Lowe and Tim Barrett). Mainly attempting to elicit laughter from how petty bureaucracy obstructs even the most seemingly simple of tasks, the conflict over where to dig the hole quickly spills on over into a nearby café, the bedroom of a honeymooning couple and the studio of a camp girlie photographer (Ken Parry).

For a film that pits the workforce against bowler hat wearing, upper middle class management figures, A Hole Lot of Trouble is surprisingly neutral and apolitical in tone, with neither side coming up smelling of roses. The three working class road diggers are depicted as rude, lazy and unpleasant, but the film seems equally comfortable ridiculing the Arthur Lowe and Tim Barrett characters, constantly placing them in embarrassing situations that threaten to jeopardize their treasured respectably, mainly involving them bumping into the scantily clad models that populate Ken Parry’s studio.

The film seems to find its real mouthpiece and hero in an elderly, former military man (Neal Arden) who wins the public’s support and cheers by criticising the workmen’s shoddy attempts at digging the hole and belittles the Arthur Lowe character for adhering to the unhelpful regulations that the very Mainwaring esque Lowe character holds dear. Although a fairly minor- and unnamed- character, he does reflect a dissatisfaction with the modern world of the 1960s that is clearly at the heart of A Hole Lot of Trouble, the film seemingly arguing that the Britain of the time was being brought to its knees by laziness, class conflicts and red tape.

Previously given a big screen airing at the Renown Festival of Films back in February 2015, and now receiving small screen showings thanks to Talking Pictures TV, A Hole Lot of Trouble is one of a number of films from that late sixties/early seventies period that like ‘The Magnificent 7 Deadly Sins’, ‘Simon, Simon’, and ‘The Cherry Picker’ is filled to the rafters with famous faces, comedy actors and glamour girls, and whose cast lists raise expectations for British comedy gold that the films themselves struggle to live up too. Be warned, genuine laughs are very thin on the ground here, Bill Maynard ends up with the one laugh out loud moment when his numbskull character discovers a priceless roman relic only to then smash it up and complain “aint it marvellous you never find anything new”. There is also a ‘did they intend that to be funny’ moment in which ‘The End’ credit plays just as someone’s bottom comes into frame. I’m not so sure if ‘R.S. Kennedy and Co’ would have been pleased that their end credit ‘thanks’ acknowledgement was also in such close proximity to female derrière as well.

Such a sight though pointed the way forward for the career of many of A Hole Lot of Trouble’s personnel. Seven years later, the film’s composer Peter Jeffries, editor Peter Mayhew, director of photography Terry Maher, production manager Ernie Lewis, not to mention Ken Parry himself, would be reassembled to work on Come Play With Me, finding themselves in another hole lot of trouble in the process.

    

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Can Jennifer Eccles ever forget King Kong and find true happiness?

Busty brunette Jennifer Eccles was a mainstay of top-shelf magazines towards the end of the seventies. She also appeared in several 8mm shorts like Beach Orgy and Shower Lust which are relatively easy to find. The one 8mm short of hers that was the most tricky to track down was the one with the most unusual and perverse premise. Shot in the UK at the end of the 1970s, this hardcore short was released in Germany as School-Girl Traumt Von King Kong. A title which translates back into English as A SCHOOLGIRL DREAMS OF KING KONG, and casts the very un-schoolgirl looking Ms. Eccles as a woman with a unique sexual problem, best spelled out by this super 8mm box cover and plot synopsis (images: BGM)




Long thought lost, A Schoolgirl Dreams of King Kong eventually roared back to life thanks to 8mm film collector extraordinaire ‘Sgt Rock’, who spotted an 8mm copy of the film for sale at a foreign online auction site and put up the cash to not only buy the film but have it transferred to DVD back here in the UK. For my part I embarked on a sort of poor man’s version of a kickstarter campaign, that basically involved me contacting anyone I could think of who’d be up for buying a DVD transfer of a pornographic interpretation of King Kong, in the hope that we’d be able to cover Sgt. Rock’s costs (fifty five pounds for the 8mm film itself and an extra sixty pounds for the DVD transfer) and maybe show a bit of profit as reward for the heavy lifting he has done in getting this piece of British sex film obscura back into circulation. Unfortunately since this post was written Sgt Rock was raided by the police, and as a result no longer sells DVDs.






The premise for A Schoolgirl Dreams of King Kong would make the majority of people doubt its existence, after all a porno about a woman fantasizing about being fucked by fictional giant gorilla King Kong? It sounded beyond ridiculous, more befitting a made up ‘film within a film’ that might have gotten a laugh from being name checked in the likes of The Yes Girls, Eskimo Nell or Can I Come Too. Yet A Schoolgirl Dreams of King Kong is very real, and now I have the film itself to prove it.

A Schoolgirl Dreams of King Kong’s star, the aforementioned and pseudonymous ‘Jennifer Eccles’ was an adult model with considerable charisma and an aura of bohemian decadence about her. With her dark hair, glass green eyes, stunning body and devilish grin, Eccles seemed to revel in her odyssey through 1970s sexual excess and threw herself into the eye of that storm with uninhibited glee, appearing in hardcore photo-shoots for European magazines and baring all for home-grown top shelf publications like Mayfair, Knave, Men Only, Escort and Whitehouse. Eccles was a woman with the right body, in the right place at the right time, arriving in British pornography at a time when the loosening censorship of the 1970s allowed British magazines to explore female genitalia with greater freedom than ever before, and Eccles’ untrimmed bush and notably large and fleshy labia lips made her the perfect muse for that most pussy worshipping of decade. Eccles –whose real name might have been Gillian Hanna- adopted multiple guises during her porn modelling career, she’d been a topless genie let out of the lamp, an overaged schoolgirl being screwed by a farmer on top of a tractor, a beach bully kicking sand on another woman’s face, a lady trucker offering a ride for a ride to a hitchhiking ‘Gypsy’ Dave Cooper, a stiletto boot licking masochist, and a leather cap wearing femme fatale. Eccles even slipped on an oversized blonde wig and a girl next door image for a Mayfair shoot that anticipated the big hair, big bust fixations of the 1980s glamour modelling scene. Whatever your fantasy, chances are there was a version of Jennifer Eccles to satisfy it. A former glamour photographer’s recent memory of Eccles being “a nut case in the nicest possible way” in real life, both cracked me up and hinted that there might be a degree of authenticity to the wild, crazy image that porno gives you of her.



 


A Schoolgirl Dreams of King Kong casts Jennifer as a rich young woman who divides her burgeoning sexual desires between King Kong and her father’s French maid. After kissing the former’s image, which she has had imprinted on a birthday card, Jennifer makes a heavy handed move on the latter, pinching the maid’s bottom with such force that it causes the woman to go tumbling onto Jennifer’s bed, where Jennifer’s aggressive if not entirely unwelcome seduction of the maid continues. After Jennifer falls out of the bed, the maid gets the upper hand and playfully pats Jennifer on her ass before attempting to resume her duties. Undeterred by the setback, Jennifer pesters the maid into sitting legs akimbo in what looks to be a barber’s chair –evidentially every rich young woman’s bedroom should have one- where she coerces the maid into letting Jennifer masturbate her with a banana. In a prelude to the freakery to come, there are quick flashes to the phallic fantasies that are simultaneously playing out in Jennifer’s head. Filmed against a black background these find a naked Jennifer suggestively fondling and rubbing her crotch against a giant sized banana. Constant reminders of the King Kong theme come courtesy of crash zooms and close-ups of the famous photomontage of Kong towering over the New York skyline from the 1933 film, shots that are scored to a male voice doing a hammy imitation of King Kong’s trademark roar, the effect of which manages to be both laughable and unsettling.




In an about turn A Schoolgirl Dreams of King Kong then dismantles the sexually aggressive image its built up of Jennifer, by revealing her to be the least sexually experienced of the two women, if not –its implied- a virgin. The maid’s attempt to repay the sexual favour that has just been done to her, by sticking Jennifer with the banana, proves too painful for Jennifer to endure, and also triggers another momentary flash into her fantasies, this one finding Jennifer posing legs akimbo and the giant banana being fired in-between her legs only to unsuccessfully bounce out of her pussy.




Jennifer nearly dies of embarrassment when the maid’s boyfriend, Charlie, shows up. Being unable to pull up her hot pants in time forces Jennifer to hop around the room with the hot pants around her ankles, futilely attempting to protect her modesty. The possibility of a threesome is briefly contemplated, with Charlie and Jennifer making out in front of the maid, before jealousy gets the better of the maid. Pushing Jennifer aside, the maid wants Charlie all to herself, and the pair of them go at it on Jennifer’s bed, allowing a frustrated Jennifer a ringside seat to this crash course in heterosexual sex.

 

It is an at times perplexing move for A Schoolgirl Dreams of King Kong, what with the film initially seeming like a sexual showcase for Jennifer, only to then quickly turn her character into an unwanted sexual nuisance, and a source of indifference, if not hostility by the other two characters in the film. In doing so however, the film does give Jennifer the scope to display a hitherto unknown flair for physical comedy –with the maid pushing Jennifer off the bed being a reoccurring gag in the film- and throws her the acting challenge of playing a clumsy, sexual novice. It is a big ask, but Eccles proves surprising adept at selling the idea that a man’s cock is a source of mystery to her, with her character hesitantly approaching Charlie’s erect penis and prodding it with a believable mixture of fear and excitement. Only when Jennifer resorts to underhanded means -taking photographs of the pair and using the photos as a blackmailing tool- is she allowed to intrude on the couple’s lovemaking.




In an unusual touch the scene in which she finally gets her wish of being deflowered by Charlie, actually places greater erotic value on the character’s facial responses to the sex over close-ups of intercourse itself. Intercut with all this is what the film has really been building up to, and while in reality Jennifer is losing her cherry to Charlie in her mind she is having torrid sex with her hero King Kong. Whereas in the 1933 film, Fay Wray only managed to be tied by ropes to columns whilst awaiting King Kong’s first appearance, the dirty minded variation that A Schoolgirl Dreams of King Kong serves up finds Jennifer tied to King Kong’s penis itself. Her attempts to free herself from the ropes only having a masturbatory effect on Kong, but when she does manage to get loose Jennifer turns the tables on Kong and begins riding on top of his erection and whacking it with a cane into even greater heights of arousal.


 


Despite its thoroughly demented concept of ‘sex with King Kong’ never being far away from the film’s attention, A Schoolgirl Dreams of King Kong belongs to a recognisable trend of high quality, professionally made and expensively produced hardcore loops that were shot in London in the late 1970s, which include the likes of ‘No Morals’, ‘Arabian Knights’, ‘Locked Out’ and ‘Kameraklub’. Loops that largely focused on the British upper classes, and boasted five star hotel or Regent’s Park area location shooting. Plush settings that not only represented pornographers trying to up their game but played to the rest of Europe’s perception about the British upper classes being a privately debauched bunch, an image no doubt still fresh in their minds from the Profumo affair. As these loops were made by European film makers temporary shooting in London, or British pornographers working for big European porn companies, these loops tended to be a breed apart from regular British sexploitation fare, and certainly a whole lot less vanilla in there sexual content.

At their most subversive these loops delight in tearing down the respectability of the British elite, in ‘No Morals’ the three daughters of a well to do family opt to take their own cherries by using a dildo equipped blow up doll, before offering blowjobs to two passing workmen, who then go on to gang bang the girls’ mother. At the end of the loop the head of the household returns home to be greeted by the sight of his female offspring, his hired hands, his wife and the workmen all participating in an exhaustive orgy. As far as No Morals is concerned there is nothing like a sex party to break down those class boundaries. A Schoolgirl Dreams of King Kong likewise offers up another poor little rich girl who isn’t averse to humping the servants, as well as a patriarchal figure who is used as a figure of fun and ridicule. In a variation on No Morals’ ending, here Jennifer and her playmates manage to put their clothes back on just as her father is arriving back home. Having successfully pulled the wool over his eyes, Jennifer and the maid exchange knowing glances over afternoon tea, as Jennifer peels back and eats the banana from the earlier masturbation scene, the significance of which is totally lost on her dullard, tea drinking father.

When I first became aware of the film my suspicion was that Russell Gay might have been its director, but now having seen it I’m beginning to wonder if A Schoolgirl Dreams of King Kong couldn’t be a forgotten loop made by sexual revolutionary and iconoclastic pornographer Lasse Braun. The film is ‘presented’ by one Mike Hunter, who in reality is actually Gerd Wasmund, a German porn baron, who acted as producer on a series of hardcore loops that Braun filmed in London during the silver jubilee year of 1977. Loops that were not only released separately, but were also complied into a feature film ‘Sex Maniacs’, complete with an Amicus horror anthology like connecting sequence that finds a series of strangers assembling at a psychiatrist’s office and passing the time by recounting their past deeds and fantasies to each other. In a massively provocative move Braun opens Sex Maniacs with filmed from a car footage of Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament, a sequence that carries the considerable charge of seeing an illegally made hardcore film unravel quite literally under the noses of the British establishment. Could A Schoolgirl Dreams of King Kong have been intended as a vignette in Sex Maniacs that for whatever reason never made the grade? Its contents fitting in with Sex Maniacs’ theme of characters anecdotally indulging in extreme or outlandish sexual fantasies. As 1977 was the year that Eccles made two softcore shorts for Russell Gay (Shower Lust, Beach Orgy), this would in theory have made her available to work with Braun during his 77 busman’s holiday in London, the use of her in one of his shorts would also fit in with Braun’s casting methodology of using the more extreme characters from UK porn in Sex Maniacs and his British filmed loops.

Of course I’m posing questions out loud here that I freely admit I don’t have the answers to. This is very much charted cinematic territory. Maybe over time a clearer picture of the clandestine side of 1970s British filmmaking will emerge, until then this blog serves as an inquisitive exploration into an era that still keeps a tight grip on its more illicit secrets. A pity though, as A Schoolgirl Dreams of King Kong is the type of film that simply floods your imagination with questions over its production. First and foremost being where did they find someone willing and able to knock them together a massive, monster sized black penis for the climactic scenes? and did they manage to transport it to and from the shooting location without attracting the attention of any uptight busybodies? After all its not the kind of prop that you could easily dream up a cover story for, no one would ever believe that thing was going to be used in the latest Disney production, or was part of the new ride at the local family amusement park. Considering that this was a decade when hardcore porn was filmed in London under only cloak and dagger circumstances, with tales of film labs being given backhanders to develop hardcore footage and hardcore porn feature films being shot at Twickenham Film Studios under phoney, innocuous shooting titles, the makers of A Schoolgirl Dreams of King Kong took a considerable risk in order to bring the central idea of their film to life and commission this potentially compromising prop. Not only that but they were also stepping on very big feet indeed with this production, what with its continual flashing back to a copyrighted image from the 1933 King Kong, and the use of the King Kong name in its title. In light of Dino De Laurentiis –the producer of the 1976 remake of King Kong- having sued the makers of Frank Agrama’s Queen Kong for copyright infringement, thus rendering that film un-releasable in the UK, the makers of A Schoolgirl Dreams of King Kong appear to have gotten off lightly, with perhaps only good luck and a lower profile having spared them the wraith of Dino.

A Schoolgirl Dreams of King Kong isn’t quite able to get itself together as hardcore pornography, compared to ol’Kong, Charlie comes up short in the money shot department and Eccles is kept at arms’ length from heterosexual sex for a large percentage of the 22 minute running time, meaning that her European porn magazine appearances are still the best way of seeing her in a hardcore capacity. In its favour the film can lay a definitive claim to containing the most outrageous imagery ever to grace British sexploitation cinema, in its depiction of King Kong sex, effortlessly blowing away all known completion. It is as if Ken Russell himself had burst onto the set, and still working off all the visual excesses from Lisztomania, demanded a halt to all this conventional porn malarkey, in favour of sending the lead actress off to climb up the side of a bloody great big prick. The downside to exposing yourself to this image? you’ll never be able to listen to a certain song by The Hollies again without recalling the time you saw that song’s namesake riding high on big, black dick and bringing forth a geyser of semen in the process…. For it truly was beauty that caused the beast to blow its load over the New York skyline.






Incidentally outside of the 8mm film work Eccles’ other contribution to British sex cinema was providing the breasts for the cover of the big bust fetish magazine that Tony Maiden jerks off to in Norman J Warren’s Outer Touch (1979).