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).



Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Tracing the Pattern of Evil


By the late 1960s George Harrison Marks’ reputation as a top glamour photographer, already cemented on home turf, had begun to spread to America. Swank magazine regularly commissioned and bought photosets from him back then through Marks’ American agent. Evidently Swank were sufficiently impressed by Marks’ work to dedicate an entire issue of their ‘glamor photography’ magazine to documenting the man, his business and of course his photos of nude ladies. A fire damaged copy of this 1967 publication exists in the gavcrimson archive. In reality Marks was beginning on the road to financial ruin, and would be declared bankrupt two years later. Not that you’d ever guess that from this publication, which with its references to Marks as a man ‘without cant or hypocrisy’, ‘the foremost photographer of the nude’ and ‘now in his early 40s, handsome, talented… he is in danger of becoming a legend in his own lifetime’ all must have done wonders for Marks’ never small ego, well maybe not the ‘early 40s’ bit.





Another American who took a shine to Marks’ work and his models was pioneering NYC fetish publisher Leonard Burtman. In fact Burtman took such a shine to Marks’ models that he later married one of them, a former Miss Hungary called Jutka Goz. Female domination was Burtman’s bag, and through his magazine ‘Bizarre Life’ Burtman had commissioned many British photo-shoots on this theme. A Marks taken photograph of Monique Deveraux in a PVC cat suit graces the cover of Bizarre Life No.10. Sensing a new market Marks began making 8mm shorts like Macabre and The Garden of Pleasure that introduced themes of female domination and scenes of bloody flagellation to Marks’ films. The eventual outcome of all this American interest in Marks’ work was the offer to make a feature film for the American market, one that like the Burtman photo-shoots and the 8mm films, would cater to the hungry fem dom audience.

While it is unclear who exactly put up the money for PATTERN OF EVIL, in his later years Marks was fond of implying that the American Mafia had a hand in it. “I was halfway through (Pattern of Evil) and I found out who I was working for, the ‘mob’” Marks told Psychotronic Video magazine in 1993 “halfway through filming they walked in. The bloke had a loud blue checked suit on, he looked like a comic from the old school. I took my agent aside and in all innocence, I asked him ‘is he in showbiz? He looks like a comic’. He said ‘yeah, he’s really funny, he’s got a gun in his pocket and he’s with the mob’”. Having been made an offer he couldn’t refuse, Marks shot Pattern of Evil at his London studios around 1968. For the cast he rounded up an impressive Who’s Who of the era’s glamour modelling scene with Maria Frost, Cindy Neal, Yvonne Paul, Monique Deveraux and the Mrs Leonard Burtman to be Jutka Goz all appearing onscreen. Pattern of Evil also featured early appearances by the ubiquitous Nicola Austin, and Howard Nelson playing Arthur Vanderhorn, a character whose surname Nelson would inherit as a nickname soon after.

Based on appearances Pattern of Evil had less to do with Marks’ usual output and a greater kinship with NYC ‘roughies’ of the Madame Olga and Mike Findlay variety, the type of films that would be Pattern of Evil’s chief competition once its shady investors brought it back home with them to New York. With its scenes of sadism, a murder, Marks’ models in leather and a climactic session on a rack, Pattern of Evil stood little chance of being passed by the UK censor. Not that this stopped Cinema X from featuring it as the centrepiece of their ‘cinema macabre’ issue (Vol 3, No.2) making Monique Deveraux their cover girl for that issue and running this article on the film:





Retitled FORNICON for its eventual US and Canadian release, the ‘solid year of court battling to get this sexy little film past the American censor’ mentioned by Cinema X was also played up as a major selling point in the US press book and poster campaign. Similarities in its lengthy US legal woes and that of the 1968 cause celebre ‘I Am Curious Yellow’ are understandably also made in the press book and poster. With the distributor clearly hoping that Pattern of Evil would repeat that film’s controversy and resultant big box office.




Fornicon pressbook synopsis: “John Webley (played by Paul Holcombe), a sexual-obsessed playboy who becomes involved with a series of beautiful women, is a young P.R. executive with a big cosmetic combine which is controlled by Madame LaBanca, an imperious female who takes her sex wherever she can find it, male or female. (Madame LaBanca is played by Rena Bronson, London's top model.) The company plans to introduce a sensational new perfume on the market to be called Formula-69. It becomes apparent, however, that someone is determined to steal the formula, and to kill John at the same time. During an unusual "sales meeting" at Madame LaBanca's palatial home, John introduces a beautiful blonde (played by Cindy Neal) who will be featured in their advertising campaign. She does a suggestive striptease, and at the conclusion whispers the slogan: "I'll take everything off... except my Formula-69." When John arrives home that evening, he discovers his wife's body in their bed. Scotland Yard suspects him of the murder, but they do not have enough evidence to hold him. He sets off to find his wife's killer. The climax of the film is a wild costume party which takes place in the dungeon-like basement of Madame LaBanca's home. John suggests that all of the guests play a new form of "Truth Or Consequences," and his prime suspect, Greta Marr (played by Monique Devereaux) is placed on a medieval torture-rack in an effort to extract the truth from her. She breaks down, names the killer, and John is cleared.”



Fornicon stills: courtesy Rio Movie Posters





Fornicon playing at a North Carolina Drive-in, July 1971 (image: Chateau Vulgaria)




Fornicon playing in Canada with an Isabel Sarli film (image: John Charles)


Canadian Fornicon advertising : courtesy Rio Movie Posters


In 1975 the film was re-released in the states under the title ‘DON’T CHANGE HANDS’.


A surprise revelation during my delving into all things Pattern of Evil is that the film did receive a belated release in the UK, but as predicted several years earlier by Cinema X, only on the ‘membership only’ club cinema circuit. Under its American Fornicon title it played for a week at the Compton club in January 1974.




The arrival of the hardcore porno chic era in America, heralded by the release of Deep Throat in 1972, rendered soft sex items like Marks’ film archaic, but Pattern of Evil had one last date with the big screen. At the end of the 1970s it joined the ranks of The Sex Thief, Loving Feeling and The Pornbrokers as British films to have hardcore scenes inserted in them for American consumption, when it was released with porn inserts under a fourth title ‘BLUE PERFUME’. Marks’ director credit is obliterated from the Blue Perfume advertising, which credits one Charles Vienna as director. Mr. Vienna presumably being the man responsible for the hardcore footage which was filmed in NYC. As well as a release in the NYC area, IMDB reports that Blue Perfume played in Chicago in June 1979. In spite of being 11 years old by this point and a hardcore insert job, Blue Perfume garnered a mostly positive response from the NYC adult film press, quotes from which are all over the poster.



Blue Perfume pressbook synopsis: “THE STORY: "You can take off everything except, Blue Perfume" On an early morning, John (the ad manager of a perfume company) is waking to a busy day. His sleeping wife Susan rolls over and the day begins with a bang. When he arrives at the office, he waits for Dawn Star (the Catherine Deneuve look alike) whom he wants to use to promote the company's new formula, Frangrance 69. They are due at Madame La Bianca's (directress of the firm) for his presentation. At La Bianca's we meet Greta Mars, her slave and other members of the board. Madame is worried. It seems someone is trying to sabotage the plant in order to keep the new scent off the market. John concours with her, relating the attempts on his life earlier in the day. He is anxious to get on with his presentation, hoping that Madame will like Dawn well enough to use her as the Frangrance 69 girl. By the time Dawn is finished, everyone is convinced. While dismissing John, Madame mentions a masquerade party that evening at her country estate inviting him, Susan and Dawn. Susan, while cleaning house, is surprised by the ringing of the doorbell. La Bianca has arrived (unexpectedly but not unwelcome) with riding crop in hand. There ensues a session of lovemaking that one is unlikely to forget. After she leaves, Susan falls asleep exhausted, only to awaken and find someone in her bedroom, who strangles her. John arriving home and finding his love dead, promptly calls the cops, who don't quite believe his story. He goes to Dawn for consolation and to talk about his concern for his own life and that of the company's. Between the bed, bath and the bed, Dawn leaves little time for John to worry. She does suggest they go to LaBianca's masquerade and see if they can figure out whodunit. As in everything she does, Madame throws no ordinary party . . . no one is above suspicion and John suggests a game of "Truth or Torture" on the rack. As in all good mysteries, we will not divulge the perpetrator. Suffice to say that a hot time is had by all until …”


Sadly Blue Perfume would be Pattern of Evil’s last stop on its long and turbulent journey from 1968 British softcore to 1979 American hardcore film, and neither the original version of the film nor its hardcore insert alter ego ever made it to home video. Its 1979 re-release, and the presence of beefcake in the hardcore insert footage, did however earn Pattern of Evil the distinction of being surely the only Harrison Marks film to ever be reviewed in a gay men’s publication.


For the last word on the subject then, we go back to 1979 and Gay Scene’s take on Blue Perfume:

“‘Blue Perfume’ written, produced and directed by Charles Vienna is a hilarious film. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be a funny film. Billed as an English-American co-production, the main part of the film was shot in London, the orgy (closing scene) shot in NYC. The film opens with a bang- sex bang that is, but ends with a thud. It’s all about a new perfume, Fragrance 69 that ad manager, John, is promoting. John’s wife is found murdered and later that night, before her body is even cold, he’s screwing model Dawn Star (don’t you just love the names of porno stars?) and laughing it up, it’s all terribly British, you know and the plot is so ridiculous that I won’t bother to reveal it here. The big orgy party features numerous New York porn regulars, Dave Ruby, who was GAY SCENE’s plaything of the month, is quite active in this sequence. He’s the big, muscled, hairy-chested guy with a beard. Peter Halcombe, as John, is a new-face who is well-hung and knows what to do with it. There is some overly long sex play in a sunken tub, with lots of suds, a rubber ducky, a toy whale and a toy submarine that the camera lingers on from time to time. I kept wondering if the photographer was influenced from seeing too many Shirley Temple films!”