Saturday, 22 November 2008

Review: Naughty (1971, Stanley A. Long)

Naughty along with companion piece On the Game (1973), were two of Stanley Long's productions made in the wake of the huge success of his film The Wife Swappers (1969), and with a “dramatised documentary” look at wife swapping proving to be box office gold, what better subjects could there be to go under the Stanley Long magnifying glass next than the history of prostitution in On the Game, and the history of pornography with Naughty. In the British sex film game from its 8mm glamour home movie beginnings to its late 1970s demise, Long’s career pretty much touched on all the varying trends and attitudes of the genre from coy little nudist films of the early Sixties to tut-tutting pseudo documentaries like the aforementioned Wife Swappers at the decade’s end to out and out comedies with his mid-to-late 70s “Adventures of” series. A mixture of present day documentary, faked segments and historical re-enactments, Naughty and On the Game might still be indebted to the serious pseudo-documentary approach of The Wife Swappers but also contain touches of the sort of saucy humour that would become the British sex film norm as the 1970s wore on.

Subtitled “a chronicle of prostitution” On the Game opens with a male gorilla offering a female gorilla some fresh eggs in return for sex, Long’s possible suggestion as to the origins of prostitution as well as a complete piss take on the famous opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not unentertaining On the Game also offers up the novelty of seeing glamour girls like the late June Palmer and the ubiquitous Nicola Austin cast as infamous trollops through the ages. Krays associated nude model Maureen Flanagan even does a character piece playing a modern day prostitute telling a councilor about her con tricks, run ins with the law and dealing with a nutty pickup who just wants to pray at the end of her bed. The jolly, striptease heavy tone is occasionally broken up by jolts of nastiness like a Witchfinder General type torture segment and a slideshow showcasing venereal diseases.

Naughty, or rather 'Naughty- A Report on Pornography and Erotica Through The Ages', to give the film its full title and M.O. holds more documentary worth, its part 360 degree snapshot of the early 70's British sex industry and part re-enactments of the goings on of their Victorian predecessors while the first twenty minutes or so is a report on the world's first pornographic film festival which had been held in Amsterdam at the end of 1970. Organized through the underground newspaper Suck, The Wet Dream Festival, which showcased four days worth of pornographic films from around the globe, was the brainchild of one Jim Haynes, a leading figure in the British underground scene of the 1960s, who viewed the production and exhibition of pornography as a revolutionary act to challenge the status quo. “I’m just interested in freedom, extreme libertarianism, the right for anyone to see, eat and do whatever they want” claims Jim, who comes across as a likeable mixture of intellectual and old fashion mischief maker. Long's camera was there to capture it all, from tame clips from the films themselves, interviews with audience members (“I‘ve never seen so many genital organs and vaginas in all my life” claims one) brief glimpses of guests like Germaine Greer and Al Goldstein plus the priceless sight of Jim’s hippy entourage taking over the town's local cinema which had been playing Hell in the Pacific, but where for one night only Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune have to step aside for films featuring as one of Jim’s entourage puts it "people fucking, being sucked, women with dogs, flagellation, the juxtaposition of this will freak people out".

In contrast back in London, things are anything but swinging, as dirty mac brigade member Horace (C. Lethbridge Baker) described as "Mr. Average" wanders around Piccadilly Circus on his way to Soho. Sad DeWolfe instrumental music plays as Horace peeks in on dirty bookshops, porn cinemas and strip clubs. All the while you hear the voice of Horace's terrible wife ringing in his head “have you locked the back door, and let out the cat”. Horace starts getting the jitters, the narrator notes that material Horace once had to look hard for is now right there staring back at him from shop windows. "If it were all that bad they wouldn't allow it" Horace reassures himself. Horace's Soho shuffle comes to an abrupt end when a burly man ushers him into a seedy basement cinema. Horace secretly hopes he's finally going to see something harder, but instead as the film’s narrator points out its “the same old stuff, he’s not going to see anything new, its not legal here”. Horace sits there miserably in the dark, imagining some far away sexual Utopia, possibly Sweden, where "I bet girls throw themselves at you".

A look back at Ancient Greece seems to serve as little more than an excuse for nude extras to cavort in and out of togas and for some camp actors to argue about bi-sexually, before Naughty transports us to not so merry old Victorian England, where the 'do as I say don't do as I do' attitude and hypocrisy of the times are typified by Papa (Lee Donald), a terrifying, Bible-bashing Victorian father who sports huge sideburns and looks like he has escaped from one of Andy Milligan’s period pieces. A man leading a double life, Papa reads pornographic literature under a copy of The Times, gives ridiculous speeches to his son about how self-abuse can lead to lunacy before popping out to a whorehouse and has a mistress (Jane Cardew). The other villain of Naughty’s peek into the Victorian era is the family Aunt (Lois Penson) an old prude, no doubt meant to remind the audience of Long’s nemesis Mary Whitehouse, and whom the film delights in torturing by placing her in embarrassing situations. Most memorably an innocuous visit to a Zoo where she is greeted by the site of masturbating monkeys.

Naughty gets much comic mileage at the expense of the Victorians, Papa even insists covering the legs of tables less anyone consider his furniture indecent, but then throws it back in the enlightened 1970s audiences faces by suggesting things may not have changed that much. Is the Victorian street hawker who stuffs porn up his jacket when a policeman comes along a million miles from the (quite scary) sex shop owner who greets the Naughty crew with a hostile, hand over the camera “fuck off outta it, go on piss off” but then later calms down and shows them how he keeps soft material at the front of the shop and some of the 'hard stuff' in a back room? Or hardworking 19th century nude photographer Henry Hayler, who due to the clandestine nature of his business had to set up the camera, strip off and jump on top of a nude model all before the camera flashes, to the similarly one man band operation of blue movie maker John Lindsay? Up till this point true porn had only existed in the shadows in Britain, so filming Lindsay at work was a real scoop that Naughty proudly triumphs as the first “genuine, un-staged account of a modern blue movie”. Lindsay director of the Mary Millington classic Miss Bohrloch (which coincidentally had just won Lindsay the “Golden Phallus award” at the aforementioned Wet Dream Film Festival) and countless blue films that cast porn performers as schoolgirls, is seen filming his ten minute opus Sex After School. Quite unforgettable in his appearance, what with his Austin Powers-esque mop of blond hair, pink shirt, buck teeth and NHS glasses, Lindsay also provides Long with more than his fair share of controversial and memorable quotes suggesting that action men dolls should sport penises rather than guns and that “I would like to stress that the girls I use in my films are nice girls. Because they screw and have it up here and up there and in their mouths and that, this doesn’t mean to say that they’re not nice girls”. In contrast his Sex After School cast can’t help looking a less than animated bunch, and its left to Lindsay to rally the troops, directing them with character motivation like "Peter will start to get fresh, he's randy, he's not gonna stop". During filming its Lindsay who has to stop to mop his brow like a surgeon, though his actors still manage to go through the pornographic motions, amazing considering the pressure of not only having Lindsay filming them with his huge, noisy Arriflex camera, but also a professional film crew filming him filming them. In his interview Lindsay goes into his background, explaining he'd began as a legit fashion photographer then one day his model girlfriend suggested he take nude pictures of her and the money started rolling in, nude photography soon begat soft core, and soft core quickly begat hardcore. Like many of Naughty’s participants Sylvia Bayo (aka Lucienne Camille), Lindsay’s black lead in Sex After School, gives off a sweet, naive vibe with statements along the lines of “the body is a beautiful thing”, her two co-stars on the other hand seem to be from a much tougher school of drifting, careerless people who've ended up in vice. The girl playing opposite Sylvia in Sex After School cites money as her sole motivation, she's been in this game three years and remembers having to get drunk to cope with getting through her first blue film. She describes herself as "not happy, but I'm not sad, just indifferent". Goodness knows what became of her.

The rest of Naughty is a return to the themes of the Wife Swappers with both real and dramatized peeks at jaded, swingin' suburbia from a masochist girl who is casually interviewed whilst being whipped by a girlfriend to the (faked) exploits of a cockney call girl, who is driven to stag film parties cum orgies by her pimp. Angela Jones* (pseudonym), a non-actress stripper who starred in the latter segment remembers "My bit was filmed I believe in Hampstead, in a room in an affluent house. I had a blonde wig on, was obviously depressed and lost. I believe there were full frontal shots, I remember another woman with a French accent, also being pseudo-documentary we were filmed walking down steps and talking in the back of some car. I had interesting connections all over London as I was a circuit topless dancer, mainly pubs and clubs but also with Hawkwind and The Pink Fairies, handy as we were all based in Ladbroke Grove".

Looking like Sally Thomsett’s evil twin, Angela’s character also sports an outrageously over the top Cockney voiceover, heard during an orgy scene moaning about the men she has to have sex with “gawd, think about being married to this lot, what a bleeding nightmare” and wondering how she’ll pay that month’s rent. "The comedy voice over was not mine, I have a bland Surrey accent. I found it interesting how my look was interpreted in perceived thought, all the more interesting for it though. A lot of my contempories in the topless dancing circuit were in a film called The Love Pill, I am not sure whether I am in in or not, as I was semi conscious most of the time. We all used to dance in a club in Dean Street, London, which they did some of the filming in, I believe". After seeing herself in a DVD of Naughty thirty or so years later Angela remarked "I look a mess!, as expected".

Most memorable of Long's subjects is Jim, a weasely swinger who makes dirty movies of his wife Pat and speaks with a voice reminiscent of Dudley Moore in Derek and Clive mode. Its hilarious to hear such a droning, monotone voice waxing lyrically about lesbians, S&M and wanting to spank his wife. Pat and Jim remain creepily funny in the sense that were it not for their kinks they'd easily pass as the kind of dull auntie and uncle you'd occasionally be dragged to spend a boring Sunday afternoon with. Where you'd expect to see pictures of them smiling from a seaside town on the fireplace there are framed shots of a semi-nude Pat in poorly composed, un-erotic pictures. A cut and paste montage of interviews with Naughty's participants explaining what pornography means to them closes the film. The narrator points out that what all these people have in common, from the intellectuals to the more common or garden perverts, is that along the way they seem to have lost any sense of fun or humour about erotica, something that is very alien to the Stanley Alfred Long school of smut.

Just as Horace notes the changes in the openness in Soho compared to few years earlier, so there is a considerable jump in attitude from Long’s The Wife Swappers to Naughty. While The Wife Swappers bends over backwards to morally justify its existence (and as a result is now rich in unintentional comedy), Naughty is a much less hysterical piece of work, one that manages to name check or depict just about every kink worth mentioning in 1971, and wanking monkeys as well, without resorting to finger waving moralizing. While it may not be as radical as the some of the outlaw characters on display like Lindsay or Haynes, in Long's typically humourous way Naughty does at least quietly question why 1970s Britain shouldn't be allowed the same freedoms as Europe, whilst poking fun at moral guardians past and present and closes by pondering if future generations won't view the 1970s as farcical as Long then viewed the Victorian age. He may have a point. The film's pre-credit claims of being a neutral take on the subject at hand being only slightly called into question by its own press book which actively encouraged cinema owners to tip off their local version of Longford and Whitehouse about when and where the film was playing "their predictable reactions through the local media can only boost its business potential even more".

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Robin Askwith and Helli Louise

Robin Askwith and Helli Louise in Confessions of a Pop Performer from September 1975’s issue of Photoplay.