Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Icons Aren’t Forever or ‘Famous Monsters of Filmland’


The Uma Thurman/Quentin Tarantino revelations of last weekend jogged my memory of a rather disturbing article that first ran in Femme Fatales magazine in the 1990s, and concerned Pamela Green’s ill-treatment on the set of Peeping Tom (1960) by its director Michael Powell. (you can read the article online here )

Admittedly Green and Powell are both long dead, and not around to be the recipients of the public sympathy and contempt that are currently being dished out to Thurman and Tarantino respectively. Still Powell, like Tarantino, is one of those filmmakers whose admirers always insist on defending, even when their behaviour is to the average person at least, indefensible. Note the distasteful way in which the article linked to above insists that you should read a more flattering overview of Peeping Tom before you bother to hear her account. In a similar vein I recall mentioning several of Green’s allegations about Powell on a certain message board a few years ago, only to be shouted down by a Powell admirer, who came to their hero’s defence with something to the effect of “Mr. Powell treated his artists with the respect that their talent deserved” as if the fact that Green was a novice actress, and mainly a nude model, somehow entitled Powell to treat her like garbage...and smile while nearly blinding her on the set.

So, forgive me if I don’t tear up when the ol’ sob story that “critics’ initial reaction to Peeping Tom all but killed the career of this great filmmaker” gets trotted out for the umpteenth time. Boo-Hoo. It seems to be beyond the grasp of Powell’s admirers that a person can be both a cinematic genius and a sadistic creep, Mr. Powell it seems was both.

Green’s ill-treatment on the set of Peeping Tom only exists in the form of her own oral recollections, but over the weekend behind-the-scenes footage of the on-set incident during the filming of Kill Bill that left Uma Thurman with permanent damage to her neck, concussion and damage to her knees has come to light. The footage is as appalling as you’d expect, clearly no one but an experienced stunt person should have been behind the wheel of that car, and the fact that Tarantino pressured her into performing that scene (“Quentin came into my trailer and didn’t like to hear no. He was furious because i’d cost them a lot of time”) speaks volumes about his egomania and control freakery. Admittedly Thurman has subsequently back-tracked on a number of her initial claims, and now states that Tarantino helped her acquire this footage that others involved in the production (including, natch, Harvey Weinstein) have attempted to suppress for 15 years. Seemingly a direct contradiction of her claim in the original New York Times article that she and Tarantino “were shouting at each other because he wouldn’t let me see the footage and he told me that was what they had all decided”.

Call me a cynic, but all of this reeks of a reputation saving exercise by a powerful Hollywood figure, i.e. Tarantino, who is perfectly happy to throw former associates under the pussy wagon in order to save his own career. Former associates whose main villainy here seems to have been to conceal evidence of HIS on-set wrongdoing. I seem to recall in ‘Not Quite Hollywood’, the 2008 documentary about the Australian exploitation film genre, Tarantino having a particularly excitable recollection of seeing actor George Lazenby being set on fire at the end of ozzploitation movie The Man From Hong Kong (1975), which in retrospective seems evidence of Tarantino’s preference for seeing actors perform dangerous stunts over experienced stunt persons.

The sycophancy and blind, hero worship that surrounds Tarantino, especially on the internet, has been a particular source of irritation for a number of years. People who like his films, or simply share his taste in films, seem to form an imaginary friendship with him, and believing that he is their ‘buddy’ can always be relied upon to defend him online, or shield him from criticism when those around him come under fire. Remember when the Lianne Spiderbaby story broke and all the Tarantino sycophants were quick to flood the internet with self-assurances that “Quentin couldn’t have known what she was up to” ditto when it came out about Weinstein and it was all “Quentin couldn’t have known what he was up to”. Thurman’s partial retraction of her story has somewhat muted criticism of Tarantino for now, but maybe small cracks are starting to show in his shining armour, maybe people will now think twice about jumping to his defence, maybe they’ll even feel a bit guilty for doing so in the past...maybe. Who knows though, Tarantino’s fanbase often seems as sociopathic as the man himself, what other conclusion can you reach when you see twitter responses to Thurman’s story like “she needs to STFU with these sob stories” and “Quintin (sic) is more than just a man. He’s an artist of great caliber (sic)”. Ditto when people read about a film director causing an actress permanent damage and their only response is to take to an internet message board expressing panicked concern, not of course about her future career but how this might jeopardize HIS involvement in the latest Star Trek film.

People don’t always make fools of themselves when their idols’ behaviour comes under scrutiny though. A thread over at the Classic Horror Film Board site has recently shed light on the exceptionally dark side of the late Forrest J Ackerman, the legendary editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, and a massively important figure in the world of Sci-Fi and Horror film fandom in the states. I’ve no particular history with Ackerman myself, he was before my time and his fame largely contained to the USA. Therefore I can’t begin to imagine the disillusionment of waking up, going on the internet and seeing your childhood idol being accused of groping and sexually harassing a female horror genre writer, of writing and faxing her obscene letters detailing his sexual fantasies for nearly two decades, or of sending others unsolicited, and unwanted pornography through the mail, many of which is said of have been of a sickening nature and involve children. It would be easy for Ackerman’s fanbase to go into denial mode, to dismiss it all out of hand, and to lash out at their hero’s detractors. To their credit though the users of the Classic Horror Film board took the allegations seriously, and given the strength of the allegations and the credibility of Ackerman’s accusers, were quick to express revulsion at Ackerman and shower Ackerman’s main accuser, Lucy Chase Williams (author of ‘The Films of Vincent Price’) with praise at her bravery in coming forward with these claims.

It can be difficult to turn against your icons, you have to sever what relationship or connection you felt you had with them, you have to throw away decades of love and respect, you have to accept that these people aren’t worthy of your admiration, hardest of all you have to admit that you were wrong about someone. It can be difficult… embarrassing… painful even, but it is necessary, better that than be yourself remembered as the person who futilely tried to keep the reputation clean of very bad men. The classic horror film board shows the correct way to handle this troubling situation, groupies of Powell and Tarantino would be wise to learn by example.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

on this day in sleaze history


On this day on the 7th February 1971 Emmanuelle went to Birmingham when the Birmingham Cinephone screened the very first Emmanuelle adaptation Cesare Canevari’s ‘A Man for Emmanuelle’ (1969) featuring Erika Blanc in the role made more famous a few years later by Sylvia Kristel, the second feature was one of Dawn Brakes’ early breaks ‘Its a Bare, Bare World’ a British nudist movie starring Margaret Nolan and a film already seven years old by this point.




Meanwhile in Walthamstow the members of a club cinema were getting one last look at Audrey Campbell dishing it out in (Olga’s) House of Shame, the last of her appearances as the S&M anti-heroine Madame Olga, later that month the same cinema would show the now lost Andy Milligan sexploitation picture The Filthy Five.


Thursday, 1 February 2018

on this day in sleaze history

47 years ago in February 1971 London audiences were getting an eyeful of Donovan Winter’s ‘Come Back Peter’ aka Some Like It Sexy at the Cameo Royal cinema, you can recreate that experience these days thanks to the DVD release from Nucleus Films.







Thursday, 25 January 2018

Over Exposed (1977)



Over Exposed was one of a constant stream of sex film shorts cranked out during the 1970s by the now lesser sighted David Hamilton Grant. Though this is one particular piece of Grant’s filmography that I never expected to see flicker before my very eyes, if only because I was once informed that this 35 minute mini-movie had never flickered before anyone’s eyes, due to a ‘camera fault’ with the negative rendering the film unreleasable. Given that deception and misinformation seem to go hand in hand with the subject of David Hamilton Grant, it should really come as no surprise that this ‘fault with the negative’ story turned out to be absolute nonsense and that Over Exposed had enjoyed a bit of theatrical exposure in 1977 as the second feature to Walerian Borowczyk’s The Streetwalker, before going into hibernation for several decades.

Eventually it emerged that the BFI held a beat up print of Over Exposed in their vaults which they eventually put up on their BFI player service, albeit behind a paywall. With the film existing in cyberspace, but being without a physical release, it was perhaps inevitable that some crafty herbert would rip the film from the BFI’s site and put it out on unofficial DVD, and I must confess I did go the bootlegger route in order to see Over Exposed. It remains to be seen what will piss the BFI off more, the fact that someone is stealing content from their website, or the fact that they’ve had the audacity to bill their DVD double-bill of Over Exposed and Secrets of a Superstud as “2 Classic British movies”.

Over Exposed’s rather difficult journey to the big screen began in 1974, back when the film was known as ‘The Session’ and was the recipient of a generous amount of publicity within the pages of Cinema X magazine, including the cover of their Vol. 7, No. 6 issue. All of this sadly proving to be in vain as a later issue of Cinema X noted that the film had run into censorship problems and “remains banned by the censor for, apparently, having no story”. Never one to say die however, Grant had a second go at unleashing The Session onto the British public in 1977, retitling it Over Exposed and tagging on a hastily shot scene featuring Suzy Mandel being photographed by the film’s main character Tony. Despite Suzy only being in the film for a matter of seconds, this didn’t prevent her from being billed as the main star of the movie in the newspaper ads, with the canny Grant being keen to capitalise on her name, even if spelling it correctly appeared to be beyond him. Mandel is spelt with two L’s in the print ads, while the actual credits of the film make an even greater pig’s ear of it, billing her as ‘Susy Mandell’. Over Exposed was one of a number of odd jobs that Suzy did for Grant during the British sex comedy era, which included modelling for the UK poster of Pussy Talk and trying out for the role of Sugar Cane in Blonde Ambition, auditions for which took place at Grant’s Piccadilly Circus office. Grant even played cupid by setting Suzy up on a blind date with her future hubby Stanley Margolis.

 

'Susy'


Now with added Mandel, Grant had better luck with the BBFC second time around, and with BBFC approval turned out Over Exposed to do tricks with The Streetwalker in 1977. Over Exposed might not exactly have ‘no story’ but it is fair to say it has a rather slender and inconsequential one. As tends to be the case with Grant’s mini-movies, Over Exposed is really just a series of erotic incidents in search of a proper three act narrative, which it never manages to find. The fact that Over Exposed is so blatant in its pornographic intensions, and adds up to little more than one long, glossy cinema advert, with sex being the product on sale, was obviously too much for the BBFC to handle in 1974. Given that the years that followed would see British cinema screens bombarded by the Confessions and Adventures movies, plus a copious amount of eurosex movies (mostly courtesy of Mr Grant himself) the idea of banning a film on the grounds of being gratuitously titillating must have felt redundant by 1977.

What little plot there is in Over Exposed centres around Tony (James McLean) a stressed out glamour photographer who finds the demands of his job, and the demands of his models, are leaving him in a permanent state of exhaustion. Even when he isn’t snapping away at girl on girl photo-shoots, Tony is finding himself in such male fantasy scenarios as stopping off at the local off-licence and returning to find sexy hitchhiker Olivia (Ava Cadell) in the passenger seat of his car, demanding he take her back to his place for a bath…and a whole lot more. Similarly demanding is his photo session with Heather Deeley (in her film debut) who plays a model that insists on giving Tony a body oil massage, then insists on him doing the same to her….its a hard knock life for Tony. The Deeley sequence is undoubtedly the film’s visual highlight, albeit one at risk of inducing motion sickness in some viewers, with the entire scene shot in one long take and Grant’s camera hyperactively circling the pairs’ body oil frolics like some demented shark prowling around fresh meat…you almost expect to hear John Williams’ Jaws theme creep onto the film’s soundtrack. Its a super sexy calling card to Deeley’s brief, intense reign as British sex cinema’s numero uno ‘It Girl’.



Deeley



The only real hint of a dramatic development in Over Exposed comes when Tony gets news that his houseboat is due in for repairs, necessitating a trip down the river that two of his models (Samantha Stewart and Andee Cromarty) invite themselves along too. Absent minded Tony has however forgotten that he left his previous conquest Olivia on board the ship the previous week. Poor Olivia has spent a whole week on board the ship wondering where he got to, and has been passing the time by playing with herself whilst reading “Portnoy's Complaint”. Having Ava Cadell’s character masturbate while reading a famous novel about masturbation being very much in keeping with Grant’s sense of humour, as well as giving him a chance to visually name check a hip, controversial book.

Tony’s model Jackie (Andee Cromarty) has an ulterior motive for joining him on the boat, and is less a fuck buddy of Tony and more a bisexual partner in crime who sets about seducing his other model (busty, one movie wonder Samantha Stewart). Thoughtfully though Jackie remembers to turn on the boat’s CCTV system thus allowing Tony to opportunity to watch some girl on girl action on his TV. Seemingly the only thing he is capable of after being worn down by the oversexed likes of Deeley and Cadell, “I couldn’t get it up with a crane” he admits.

Despite its plot being a little thin on the ground Over Exposed is a prime example of how David Hamilton Grant personalised the British sex film genre, and there are elements of the man himself wheatpasted throughout Over Exposed. The film clearly draws on Grant’s own background as a photographer and its hero shares Grant’s keen interest in riverside living, Grant having owned a boat home in Wraysbury. Given the ultra-low budget it seems likely that Tony’s photo studio and flash, open topped car both belonged to Grant himself, and that Tony’s boathouse was Captain Grant’s very own sailing vessel. Over Exposed also seems sufficiently smitten with CCTV to confirm rumours that its auteur had an off-screen love affair going with CCTV, and all the sexual hijinks that particular mod con had to offer. When Over Exposed isn’t fixated on sex, which isn’t very often, it seems an outlet for a personality that is in its element when it is causing offense or cocking a snook at the establishment, with The Salvation Army and BBC2 being the butt of jokes here. BBC2 getting a bashing when Olivia catches Tony watching the girl on girl action on his TV, and out of embarrassment he bamboozles her into thinking it is a BBC2 programme. “I always thought BBC2 showed stuffy plays, ballet and things like that” she remarks in amazement. However a visual gag centred around a poster in Tony’s studio proclaiming ‘KING KONG IS KWEER’, mentioned in Cinema X’s write-up of The Session, doesn’t appear to have made it into the Over Exposed re-edit.

The character of Tony might have echoes of Grant himself, but the actor who plays the role James McLean (aka Tony King) doesn’t resemble Grant, but rather is a dead ringer for Richard O’Sullivan. A comparison that doesn’t exactly work in this film’s favour. McLean might look uncannily like Richard O’Sullivan but he certainly doesn’t have his acting chops or charisma, and puts in a noticeably disengaged performance. Although its probably unintentional the resemblance between McLean and O’Sullivan does give Over Exposed the accidental appearance of an X-rated take on Man About the House, with the houseboat setting recalling the Thames set opening titles of MATH’s 5th series and both the film and the sitcom being based around a hippie-era guy who finds himself being socially outnumbered by attractive women. By rights there should be even greater Man About the House comparisons here, given Heather Deeley’s more than passing resemblance to Paula Wilcox, with Deeley frequently coming across on film as Wilcox’s naughtier, cokeheaded sister, but the fact that Deeley is uncharacteristically blonde in this film means that the comparisons between the two actresses aren’t as strongly felt here as in Deeley’s other movies.

As Over Exposed’s lead actor is something of a non-entity, the film frequently becomes a vehicle for its female cast, with Andee Cromarty and Ava Cadell, two actresses who rarely got a chance to shine in British sex films, making the most of their meatier than usual roles here. Cadell in particular pretty much steals the entire film, and shows considerable comic talent, with her exaggerated airhead shtick here pointing the way forward to her only other decent British sex comedy role in Norman J Warren’s Outer Touch.

 


Even back in 1977 Over Exposed must have felt a few years suspiciously out of date, with Grant’s soundtrack preferences being firmly rooted in the early 70s. Grant’s musical choices here favouring the moody, shoe gazing, folky, hippie, and any other word you can think of to describe songs with lyrics like “have you ever wanted to talk to butterflies and be the only one”. Its hero also seems very much a product of the early 70s, where every young guy fancied the hard living, trendy and affluent lifestyle of the David Hemmings character in Blow-Up. Whereas by the late 70s, when Over Exposed finally came out, the preference for sex comedy heroes tended to be the type of humble, cash strapped everyman played by Robin Askwith and Barry Evans. Over Exposed is very much a photographer’s film, made at a time when Grant was only beginning to dip his toe into narrative cinema, but plays to Grant’s strengths as a former photographer. To give him his due that little reprobate sure knew how to photograph women, and displays an expert photographer’s talent for bringing out his subjects’ personalities and sexy potential. Over Exposed suggests was Grant selling himself and his fellow British sexploiters short when he later remarked “the British are good at some things, like making Yorkshire puddings but making pornographic films in the 1970s?...NO”.


 

'he's an eady lover' Grant in 1978's 'Your Driving Me Crazy'



While all British films from the mid-fifties and up until the mid-eighties benefited from the Eady Levy, the tax designed to encourage British film production by allocating a percentage of the box-office takings back to the filmmakers and the distributors, Grant’s short sex films were one of a number of pockets of British cinema that entirely owed their existence to the Eady Levy. Grant would buy up a European or American sex film with obvious box-office potential (in this case The Streetwalker) then go off and shoot 40 odd minutes of film to act as the co-feature, in doing so entitling himself to generous amounts of Eady money. A highly profitable venture, with Grant once claiming to have earned £50,000 from the Eady fund in one year alone. Grant was hardly alone in profiting from this scheme, likeminded people such as the Fancey family were similarly inclined to throw money at the making of featurette length British tat in order to reap the Eady money rewards. While the Eady scheme came to an end in 1985, the film industry still attracts people drawn to filmmaking by tax scams than any artistic journey. Sometimes they get away with it, sometimes they get caught with their hands in the till, like would be British horror film auteur Richard Driscoll. While the tax fraud motivated crime movie ‘Landscape of Lies’ even warranted its own, highly entreating, BBC4 documentary expose.

By rights, Grant’s main motivation for making these films should appal the cineaste in me, yet in a roundabout way the likes of Over Exposed don’t divert too strongly from what the Eady Levy was surely set up to do. Namely encourage British film production, keep dusty old comedians and scantily clad starlets in gainful employment and provide distinctly British entertainment for the masses. Grant’s sex film shorts do have the pacifying quality of giving the public value for money in terms of tits, bums and British humour, should the main feature fail to live up to expectations or prove to be too alienatingly arty-farty for a British audience. Grant’s films did at least provide the British public with what they actually wanted to see… I doubt anyone could make the same case for the output of Richard Driscoll.

Considering that few worked harder than Grant when it came to flooding the country with softcore porn, and that as a producer and distributor Grant more than earned his self-proclaimed title ‘King of Sexploitation’ it does seem ironic that Grant’s own british sex films are now the least remembered aspect of his legacy. Instead if Grant’s name echoes throughout the internet these days it is usually in relation to either his imprisonment for distributing ‘Nightmares in a Damaged Brain’ on video during the Video Nasties furore, or 1980s tabloid allegations that Grant was involved in the making and distribution of kiddie porn.


 

'Bring Me the Head of David Hamilton Grant' DHG in the tabloids



Thirty odd years on the latter allegations still make Grant a person of interest nay valuable scalp to internet paedo-hunters, who more recently have attempted to link Grant to the ‘Elm Guest House’ paedophile ring and even Asil Nadir’s escape from British justice in 1993. Disappointingly if you dive deep into the various sites purporting to offer evidence of Grant’s nefarious activities it doesn’t really add up to much more than a mad hatter’s tea party of wild speculation, character assassination and conspiracy theories, lacking anything approaching the type of smoking gun evidence you’d expect to see from individuals who have spent decades pouring time, money and energy into investigating a supposedly guilty party.

By far the most peculiar Grant related incident in the internet age though was the appearance of getfitanstayfit.com a now deleted website claiming to promote a keep fit company. Behind the keep fit fa├žade of the site name and site menu though, getfitanstayfit.com lead to an extensive biography of Grant, as well as writings on related subjects, with sections entitled ‘Asil Nadir 1993’, ‘Eady Levy’ and ‘Vidio Nasties’ (sic). The two part bio of Grant, ‘DHG 66-69’ and ‘DHG 69-79’, proved to be a rich source of information on Grant, bringing to light details about his career that not even the most dedicated cineastes and paedo-hunters have ever managed to unearth. Despite the site’s adherence to referring to Grant in the third person, the degree of detail and access to personal anecdotes on the site lead you to the conclusion that getfitanstayfit.com must have either have been written by the man himself or written by someone on his behalf. Who else could have known the exact month that Grant purchased the film rights to the book ‘Love Variations’, the number of crew members involved in the shooting of that movie, the exact number of days it took to film said movie, the exact amount of Eady money Grant earned in 1972…etc…etc.

Elsewhere the site felt like a trip down memory lane when it came to recalling Grant’s hitherto unknown involvement as a publicist on the films ‘The Magic Christian’ and ‘Julius Caesar’. Grant struck up an unlikely friendship with Charlton Heston (affectionately referred to as ‘Chuck’ on the site) during the making of the latter, with Grant masterminding a photo-shoot involving Chuck lounging poolside and flanked by topless slave girls “even John Gielgud participated but insisted that the topless girls had to be behind him”. Alas poor Grant, the film’s director (referred to as ‘a well-respected Shakespearian theatre director’) nixed the idea and the photos never saw the light of day.

Getfitanstayfit.com wasn’t all name dropping showbiz anecdotes though, and frequently seemed close to abandoning its third party stance in favour of a first person rant when it came to discussing what it felt were misconceptions about Grant. Getfitanstayfit.com seemed genuinely miffed that people have been claiming Grant filmed hardcore versions of his films, stating that such additional footage would have damaged Grant’s standing with the film fund agency and compromised his entitlement to further Eady money. “Nobody has ever produced a single copy of any pornographic film that DG supposedly made, or where he supposedly added extra hardcore sex scenes to make another version. Not one”.

Getfitanstayfit.com appeared equally determined to prove Grant had no involvement in Asil Nadir’s escape from Britain to Northern Cyprus in 1993, citing tax and insurance records as evidence that Grant was living on the Greek island of Aegina during the period that Nadir was covertly flown from Dorset to Northern Cyprus. Curiously the writing on this section of the website took on the appearance of a leaked conversation between two individuals exchanging views on how best to approach websites and blogs that attempted to tie Grant in with Nadir's flight from justice. "We suggest that if this report is sent in full it should then be possible to demand voluntary alterations to the existing blogs or files and confirm that we will take legal action if they are not made voluntarily".

Of course you have to ask yourself who would be on the warpath against sites that slandered David Hamilton Grant, and who would be interested in prepping cease and desist orders against the offending sites and blogs other than ermm… David Hamilton Grant himself? Unsurprisingly the author of getfitanstayfit.com demonstrated an immense knowledge of the Eady Levy scheme.

Getfitanstayfit.com has since gone to Internet heaven aka 'this site cannot be displayed'... chalk it up as a colourful footnote in the case of the missing British sex film producer. Chalk up Over Exposed as a time capsule of Grant's good times, when the champagne and the Eady money flowed freely, and before Captain Grant sailed into stormy waters. Maybe the man currently making money from DVD bootlegs of Over Exposed should send a complimentary copy to the Greek island of Aegina?

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

A Fistful of Derek Ford scripts

File under: “strange things you come across while searching through old data CDs”, in this case a series of photos used to promote an online auction of film scripts written by Derek Ford for director Robert Hartford-Davis (hence the embossed ‘R.H.D’ signature on the script binders.) Memory suggests that these had a high opening bid price, since I neither bid on these or sadly bothered to check back on how much they sold for, if at all. Note that the actual script for The Yellow Teddy Bears was still bearing the Yellow Golliwog title, sadly the reason why the script for Corruption has a note taped to it claiming “the driver of this car is a drunken foreigner” is likely lost to time.

Also included in the auction was a letter of feedback from filmmaker Ted Hooker about a Ford script called ‘Girl’ which concerned a kinky marriage, quelle surprise that Derek Ford would want to write about that particular subject!! Poor Ford, imagine the indignity of having your work critiqued by the man who’d go on to make Crucible of Terror.
   





Saturday, 13 January 2018

Triple-Bill from the early 1980s


A triple bill from the dying days of theatrically released sexploitation in Britain, circa 1983. The 1st feature appears not to be the Not Tonight Darling starring Luan Peters that was written up in the last post, rather a 1977 Italian film starring Edwige Fenech, which was being given a UK theatrical release in 1983, despite having being released on VHS three years earlier by Iver Film Services.

The 2nd film, The Lady is a Whore was a then decade old Greek film originally titled ‘Pio thermi kai ap' ton ilio’. Some of the IMDB’s plot keywords for that film include ‘full frontal female nudity’, ‘male rear nudity’, ‘suicide by stabbing’, ‘downbeat ending’ and ‘ex football player’…which sounds …ermmm interesting?

Lastly and most obscurely is Lustful Lady, a 1977 34min British short starring character actor Aubrey Morris (A Clockwork Orange, Lifeforce) and britsleaze knockabout John M. East, and directed by the blatantly pseudonymous ‘Hal E. Woode’. Long unseen, Lustful Lady was no doubt being sneaked onto a double-bill of foreign sexploitation in order to grab a hold of some Eady money before the curtain came down on that particularly lucrative tax break.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Not Tonight Darling (1971)


It is a little known fact that I do occasionally watch films that have been made in the last thirty years, however true to form I saw out New Years Eve 2017 by watching a 54 year old Val Guest film called The Beauty Jungle, and Not Tonight Darling, a piece of old skool grot from the 1970s. Two films bonded by their ambiguous yet largely downbeat endings, and the fact that they were both being given an airing by Talking Pictures TV. A channel that shows old British films, of all shapes and sizes 24/7…and probably doesn’t need much of an introduction to anyone reading this…but for me personally it is a channel that has been the sole saving grace of broadcast TV during 2017, and one which will hopefully go from strength to strength in 2018.

Not Tonight Darling has been knocking around some rather obscure TV channels for a number of years now, as far as I can tell it first resurfaced on a short-lived TV channel called ‘Bad Movies’ back in 2005. I did catch it on that channel at the time, but New Years Eve 2017 was the first time I’ve watched this film in the company of others…who are necessarily film buffs. Something that can be a recipe for disaster, but then again it can be interesting to throw these films over to people who aren’t aware of what are considered sacred cows and what are held in low regard in cult film circles, and might be able to zone in on and find amusement in things that the more jaded pair of eyes might miss.

Not Tonight Darling was the second of two films directed by Anthony B. Sloman, the first being the 1970 sex and crime hybrid ‘Sweet and Sexy’. Not Tonight Darling was however the first of the two films to be publically shown, with delays to the release of Sweet and Sexy (for reasons that all the good sense in the world suggests I shouldn’t go into) meaning that film wouldn’t be seen until 1972. Sloman is only known for these two films as a director, and these days tends to be better known as a film critic and historian, he has also been kept busy for a few decades as a sound and dialogue editor, some of his credits in those capacities which may be of interest to cult film fans include The Vault of Horror, The Company of Wolves and Dario Argento’s Tenebrae.

The two films that Sloman directed do boast authentically sleazy sensibilities, make the absolute most of their exploitation movie potential and put forward a case that Sloman could have become quite the British sex film auteur had he so desired. I’m inclined to believe that I think more highly of Sloman’s two films than their director does, and while obscurity has all but buried Sweet and Sexy these days, the impression I’ve been given is that Sloman probably isn’t too happy that Not Tonight Darling has had this decade long, 2nd lease of life on late night TV.


 

Apparently titled ‘The Loving Game’ in the script stages, then floated around as ‘Sex in the Suburbs’ and ‘Frustrated Wives’, Sloman’s film finally settled on Not Tonight Darling as its title, probably at the insistence of its distributor Border Films. From a distributor point of view you can understand why they went with Not Tonight Darling, it does look good on the poster, not that Sex in the Suburbs and Frustrated Wives are shabby titles for the exploitation film market either. However, I do think the Not Tonight Darling title does lead you up the garden path of thinking this film is going to be a sex comedy or a filmed stage farce, its frequently mistook for the similarly titled Leslie Philips vehicle ‘Not Now Darling’.

Not Tonight Darling however dates from a period when British sex films weren’t really allowed to have much of a sense of humour about themselves, with the British censor preferring such films to adopt a moralizing, disapproving stance when it came to depicting sexual excess. It also dates from an era when many X-rated filmmakers had their cameras firmly pointed in the direction of swinging suburbia, home to frustrated housewives, jack the lad door to door salesman, wife swappers and swingers. Films that mirrored the tabloids of the day, which similarly kept the nations’ curtain twitchers entranced with exposes of sex in the suburbs.




Not Tonight Darling stars actress, singer and all round 1970s sex symbol Luan Peters, as Karen an unfulfilled 30-something drowning in the middle class, middle of the road existence of a suburban housewife. A husband, a young son and all the mod cons that the 1970s had to offer can’t compensate for the empty and tedious nature of her life. With her day in, day out routine consisting of making her husband’s breakfast, getting her son ready for school, taking the kid to school, shopping, getting her husband’s tea ready, etc etc, etc.

Luan’s husband is played by an actor called Jason Twelvetrees whose name caused considerable amusement in the Gavcrimson household, with one of the people I was watching this with wondering if, on account of his name, the actor in question might turn out to be native American. Whereas of course when you see Jason Twelvetrees in the film, he may be the least native American looking actor imaginable, with Twelvetrees being a weedy, well-educated sounding pail face…whose character epitomises the sexually repressed, stiff upper lipped city businessman.

Karen’s need for love and attention is constantly meet with cold indifference by her hubby. In one especially hilarious scene, Karen disappears under the bed sheets to give her husband a blowjob which he reacts to with utmost horror and becomes hysterical…even refusing to come back to bed unless she promises to never do that again. A response sure to puzzle any red-blooded male viewer of this film…maybe such an act was an affront to Jason Twelvetrees’ native American heritage…although thinking about it the protagonist of Sloman’s other film Sweet and Sexy has an almost identical response to being blown by a woman in that film, so maybe it was a reoccurring theme. A thesis on the psychological aversion to fellatio within the cinema of Anthony B. Sloman surely beckons.

Karen’s husband might be dead from the neck down where she is concerned, but she hasn’t lost the ability to turn the heads of other men. In particular that of Eddie (Sean Barry-Weske), a shop assistant for whom Karen becomes a fantasy figure to, to the extent that he is soon playing peeping tom, and peeking in on her bathroom window at night. He is seemingly joined in this task by an army of frogs, judging from the amount of croaking heard on the soundtrack during this scene. Equally hilarious is that when Eddie returns for a 2nd peeping tom session, he brings with him a significantly larger pair of binoculars than before, ones more befitting the ogling of Luan Peters. To misquote Jaws “I think we’re gonna need a bigger pair of binoculars”.

 

Eddie inadvertently only adds to her problems by bringing her to the attention of Alex (Vincent Ball), a far more predatory male who bets Eddie five pounds that he can bed Karen within three days. With five whole pounds at sake it is not long before Alex is laying on the charm. When Karen asks him how many times he has seen her, he replies “every night in my dreams”. Alex also wows her with his music industry credentials, taking her to see the band Thunderclap Newman rehearse at the trendy La Valbonne nightclub.

I’d love to know the story of how Thunderclap Newman came to be in this film, it feels like someone involved with the production knew them and got their performance crow-barred into the film. I was watching this film with one of those people who loves to Google or Wikipedia the names of the people who are onscreen, to see what happened to them or what they are up to now…a rather depressing task when it comes to Thunderclap Newman. Although their musical numbers are intended as a rare upbeat moment in the film, when you’ve got someone to the left of you reading from Wikipedia about how the guitarist died at age 26 from a heroin induced cardiac arrest, and how the singer suffered from arthritis for several years before succumbing to heart failure…it does kind of bring the scene down to the level of the rest of the film.

Alex’s chat up lines and Thunderclap Newman connection eventually pays off and he successfully lures Karen back to his grotty flat, which features a pair of curtains that by all rights should be a passion killer in themselves. As tends to be the case with British sex films of this vintage however, there is a high price to pay for extra marital activities, and Karen soon finds herself being blackmailed even deeper into Alex’s sordid activities.

 

Not Tonight Darling does boast a pair of committed and engaging performances from Vincent Ball and Luan Peters. Luan in particular demonstrates she is worthy of leading lady status, and her acting is clearly of a much higher standard than the zombiefied one-note actresses that play out similar dramas in the films of Derek Ford. Although the knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss films of this genre as sexist and outdated, Karen registers as a sympathetic figure who is both the victim of male indifference and male deviousness. On the other hand there is very little about the male characters in this film, the cold husband, the sexually desperate peeping tom and the blackmailing would be Casanova, that makes you proud to share their gender.

Indeed Vincent Ball’s character Alex is such an all-time creep that someone I was watching this film with, who is female, resorted to hurling insults at the screen every time he appeared, as well as speculating whether Karen would have to murder him in order to put an end to his blackmailing. Karen might not have to resort to such measures, but she certainly ends up in hot water, with Alex forcing her to attend swingers’ parties, which he also has secretly filmed and sells the resulting celluloid to soho pornographers… in a very early example of revenge porn.

Incidentally keep your eyes peeled for a pre-fame appearance by Fiona Richmond as one of the swingers, here billed under the partial pseudonym ‘Amber Harrison’, Richmond’s real name being Julia Harrison. Now, I don’t know if this has ever been picked up on before, but as someone watching this film with me observed if you say the name ‘Amber Harrison’ quickly and as one word it actually sounds like you’re saying ‘embarrassing’. Now, granted this could just be a coincidence, but then again Fiona Richmond does strike you as someone with a sense of humour about herself, and someone you wouldn’t put it past to choose that name purely because it sounds like the word ‘embarrassing’. Either way Not Tonight Darling gives you a brief look at the woman who’d go on to be one of the queens of British sex cinema, back when she was simply ‘embarrassing’.

Karen’s double life unravels when a friend of her husband drags him to a London sex cinema which just so happens to be screening one of Alex’s secretly filmed orgies, with wifey as the star. I love the fact that a genuine porn cinema, the Queen’s cinema club, was happy to lend its name to a film that implies it is in bed with nefarious characters like Alex and screens hardcore movies that were made without their participants’ knowledge. I’m unsure of whether the interiors seen here are the actual interiors of the Queen’s cinema, but Not Tonight Darling does at least make the place look surprisingly luxurious, with big comfortable seats and a glass of wine for each customer.



I’m sure you’d have to pay a fortune for such a cinema going experience in London these days, and I doubt they’d throw in the pre-film specialty act that the film trots out ‘The Tiffany Sisters’ a pair of stripping siblings. Not Tonight Darling really does manage to squeeze the maximum amount of sleaze from its storyline. There is also a scene in a gym which seems to be a thinly veiled excuse to show women in leotards using exercise equipment, including one of those buttock shaking machines that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone use outside of sexploitation movies, demonstrated here by no less than the legendary June Palmer, one of the most famous nude models of the 20th century, and perversely one of the few cast members who gets to keep her clothes on.



I love IMDB reviews that are written by people who were involved in the actual films, especially if the people in question are embittered, indiscrete and reach out to the IMDB as a means to air decade long grievances with the finished product…such appears to be the case with Not Tonight Darling. Now, in the last few weeks we have seen people masquerade as Derek Griffiths and Jacki Piper on Twitter, so if they have impersonators, I suppose we should give credence to the idea that someone may also want to pretend to be a crew member of Not Tonight Darling on the IMDB. So I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to decide whether the following comments published on the IMDB are ‘bullshit or not’ and obviously ‘the following opinions are those of the individuals concerned and do not reflect those of gavcrimson or affiliated companies’…

The original screenplay, working title 'The Loving Game', was an intelligently written 3 hander about a, impossible to live with love affair. Alright, it was not exactly 'Casablanca' but not bad for its genre.

The eventual financial backers and distributors of 'Not Tonight Darling' (for such it had been renamed), Border Films, were the very last to be approached in the quest to raise the production budget.

Situated at the time at the very end of Wardour Street, the script had been touted around the circuit and, having been rejected by all and sundry, was surprisingly picked up by Border.

The real reason was simply that they were short of a British produced film which qualified for the Eady levy, allowing the lucrative import by Border of more foreign rubbish......but cheap rubbish.

This small distributor specialised in a more racy film style and the 'quid pro quo' for putting up the cash was a total rewrite. Lots of sex, nudity and a leading lady chosen more for her relationship with a big-wig with responsibility for circuit booking of films than for any special acting skills.

This is not meant to denigrate the lady in question or her acting talent but applies accurately to this production.

As part of the deal, an additional 2 minutes of 'hard-core' shooting were needed close the territorial film rights' sale to the Far East.

And so production started, lurching from one disaster to the next with Border not transferring money into the production company account as agreed and crew and actors going unpaid for long periods.

Finally, the special 2 minutes of hard-core required several good men and true to step up to the mark. The first attempt at filming proved the old adage that 'the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak'. The poor lads just couldn't keep it up long enough to commit to film.

So a specialist troupe were flown in from New York for the scene and they proved well able to match the director's stringent requirements.

'Not Tonight Darling' was to be the first time that hard core material was sent to Humphries Labs for processing since the censorship laws had changed.

It was not until the rushes were delivered back to the production offices that the crew knew whether or not the scene had been junked. It hadn't and the 2 minutes were the best part of the film (never seen in the UK of course).

With money running out, tempers shortening, writers removing their name from the script and all of the normal problems of post-production, it is not surprising that all that came out was a turkey.”

Make of that what you will.


So that is Not Tonight Darling then …a film in which the lead actor sounds like a native American but isn’t, a film in which pretty much everyone takes their clothes off apart from the cast member who was a famous nude model, and a film which gives you the chance to hear two Thunderclap Newman songs that aren’t ‘Something in the Air’. All this lies in store for you on late night telly, unless you take the film’s titular advice of… ‘Not Tonight Darling’.