Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Blackpool's Red Light District

Some go to Blackpool for the rock, some go to get their rocks off...and allegedly many of the establishments on Cookson Street cater to the latter. Since I'm only a cowardly shutterbug though, I'll point you in the direction of this 2019 report from the field- by a frank and dedicated individual- for an idea of what goes on behind closed doors.

Friday, 4 June 2021

Precious Jewels (1982)

Who was ‘Bos’?, a question that has haunted me since I encountered his film Precious Jewels several years ago, its one little mystery that the British sex film just won’t give up.  A product of the early videotape era, the Bos oeuvre extends to at least four features- Chow Down, A Drive to Ecstasy, High Voltage: Volume 1 (1981) and finally 1982’s Precious Jewels, the most widely distributed of Bos’ slim filmography, and the only Bos movie I’ve ever managed to see.

Along with Kenneth F. Rowles’ The Perils of Mandy (1982), Precious Jewels represents a brief period where it seemed as if the British sex film could transfer over to the video market while continuing to be shot on film.  As well as take advantage of the unregulated nature of early video by pushing screen kinkiness much further than was allowed on the censor controlled big screen.  In reality though, another early VHS title Death Shock (1981) offered a more accurate picture of British sexploitation’s future, what with its step down to being cheaply shot on videotape and the ‘play it safe’ option of showing little but soft, vanilla sex.

While The Perils of Mandy adopted a cheeky, sub-Carry On tone for its parade of spankings, cat fights and schoolgirl fetishism, Precious Jewels is comparatively dead-serious and no-frills in its approach to BDSM.  Doing little to disguise the fact that bondage and rape were the twin obsessions of its understandably pseudonymous director.  It is tempting to speculate whether ‘BOS’ was less a clipped version of someone’s real name, and more intended as a sexual abbreviation, like B.T.K.  Given the nature of Precious Jewels, Bondage...Orientated...Sadism, would be the perfect explanation for the B.O.S name.  

Minimalist in the extreme, and utilising only one location, three cast members and no soundtrack music, Precious Jewels is centred around two high spirited lesbians Jacky (Kathy Green) and Anne (Amanda Blackburn) who enjoy alternating the dom/sub roles.  After some brief, peaceful shots of Jacky dipping her hand into the water of her swimming pool, Anne sets the vicious ball rolling by pushing the bikini-clad Jacky into the pool.  It’s not long before the resourceful Jacky gets her own back by dropping ice cubes down Anne’s pants.  That’s done it!!! Anne fumes “you cow...you cow”, an insult that only a Cockney accent can truly do justice to.  The playfully sadistic atmosphere between the two women escalates as Anne chases Jacky around the house.  Soon Jacky is cornered in their bedroom where she gets tied to the bed, spanked and menaced with scissors by Ann, who uses them to cut Jacky’s panties off.  

Unwittingly stumbling onto the explosive situation is door-to-door salesman Mike (‘Gypsy’ Dave Cooper) who has been tasked with selling dresses to the two women by the clothing club that they both belong to.  Temporarily putting on airs and graces, Anne releases Jacky from the bedroom restraints and the two women exchange small talk with Mike, before much dressing and undressing in their bedroom while Mike knocks back coffee.  Their subsequent front room fashion show for Mike gets cut short by his embarrassing admission “I’m bursting for a pee, where’s the room”.  

Despite the muscular Mike not being Jacky’s type, Anne has  eyes on making him a heterosexual addition to their S&M love nest, confronting Mike outside the toilet with the come-on of “Hey Mike, wanna have some fun”.  For ‘fun’, read ‘rape’, as Mike and Anne form a sexual tag-team against Jacky, dragging her back to the bedroom where she is tied spread eagled to the bed and then raped by Mike.  Jacky’s threats and protests “Anne, I’m gonna pay you back for this” and “leave my tits alone” count for nothing with sexual berserker Mike or her own vengeful lover.  

In a moment of twisted voyeurism worthy of Carl Boehm’s character in Peeping Tom, Anne produces a mirror and forces Jacky to watch her own rape taking place, insisting “look at his big muscular hands on your nipples”.  You just know there is going to be hell to pay once Jacky breaks out of those leg and arm restraints. 

In an unorthodox twist on the rape/revenge genre, Jacky strikes up an allegiance with her rapist, talking Mike into turning her loose and then sending the ever rape ready Mike after Anne.  “Now you’re gonna see what it’s like to be raped” demands Jacky, as Anne is bent over a dinner table, tied up, spanked with a cane and then raped from behind by Mike.  The rest of the film is a prolonged make-out session between Mike and Jacky, intercut with muffled protests from Anne, still tied to the table, who has been gagged with a wooden spoon.  “Do you think you’ll be able to control her now” asks Mike.  “No, but that’s half the fun” beams Jacky.  Precious Jewels has a perfectly circular ending with Anne once again charging after Jacky and shouting “you cow...you cow”.

The director of Precious Jewels might have chosen to exist under a cloud of anonymity, but two of his stars had slightly higher profiles, and were both known quantities in UK porn.  Most of Kathy Green’s fifteen minutes of fame revolved around her being an ex-lover of Mary Millington, a status she cashed in on by hooking up with creep to end all creeps John M. East, appearing in his sociopathic tribute films Mary Millington’s True Blue Confessions (1980) and Mary Millington’s World Striptease Extravaganza (1981).  The fact that Green would buddy up to a character like East tells you everything you need to know about her.  Green had first shown flashes of malevolence in World Striptease Extravaganza, where her character isn’t above offering sexual favours to one of the judges of a striptease contest, in order to take home the prize.  “Oh fuck, I’ve got to win this bloody prize” Green complains in voiceover “I think I deserve it after that fantastic blowjob I gave him last night”.  In Precious Jewels, Green proves deft at both taking it and dishing it out.  She’s a wrastlin’, fighin’ wildcat when restrained and brutalised by Mike and Ann, as well as an impressively mean bitch when she is able to turn the tables.  Here, Green more than lives up to her real life reputation as a mercenary minded, tough cookie. 

No man personified the 1970s porn idea of ‘a bit of rough’ more than ‘Gypsy’ Dave Cooper, Green’s cinematic partner in crime here.
  Cooper occupies similar British sex film territory as Howard Nelson and Milton Reid, yet while those two registered as essentially asexual, Cooper was the far greater sexual enigma, appearing in both straight and gay porn.  What with his big muscles, tattoos, tash and mop of permed hair, Cooper was a natural shoo-in for bit parts as ‘heavies’ in TV shows like The Professionals, The Chinese Detective and The Gentle Touch.  Cooper even managed to find his way into a Disney movie, going yellow face to play a Chinese henchman in ‘One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing’.  He is best known to mainstream audiences though for the British sex film within a film ‘See You Next Wednesday’ that David Kessler checks out towards the end of An American Werewolf in London. 

Precious Jewels gave Cooper the biggest acting role of his career, and he proves to be the perfect lead man for an S&M inclined director, having a strong enough stomach to act out rape and bondage fantasies onscreen, and lack of inhibitions when it came to doing as much undressing as his female co-stars.
  The sexually aggressive personas of Cooper and Kathy Green are Precious Jewels’ driving force.

On account of both Cooper and Kathy Green’s connections to David Sullivan’s film and publishing empire, some have speculated that Sullivan himself may have had a hand in Precious Jewels.  However, the idea of this being a David Sullivan joint seems extremely unlikely, given that the savvy Sullivan always self-consciously avoided the subject of S&M, knowing that it had the potential to attract much negative police and legal attention. On the other hand the universally unknown ‘Bos’ comes across as a far more reckless, extremist character, the type who follows their own fetishistic path regardless of how much trouble it gets them into.  

The bare bones plot synopsis that accompanied the video releases of Precious Jewels (yes, it was issued three different times on VHS) does feel slightly at odds with the film itself.  “They were playing harmless games- then he arrived- they told him each other’s secrets- that was their mistake- he used those secrets to further his own fantasies”.  It is a summary that tends to give Cooper’s character the status of psychological ringmaster, pitting the two women off against each other.  Whereas in the film, Mike the door-to-door salesman never really comes across as anything other than a clueless pawn, that the two women use against each other.  The impression you get is that there is a degree of unspoken consent going on between the two women all along, and that even the rapes are just a part of their S&M role play.  Something that goes over the head of their invited guest, after all...characters played by Gypsy Dave Cooper weren’t exactly renowned for their intelligence or perception.  Obsessive as Precious Jewels is when it comes to bondage and sexual assault, it is noticeably indifferent when it comes to sex itself...well consensual sex anyway.  In the land of Bos, there is actually greater emphasis placed on foreplay than the sex it is leading up to.  Bos was clearly a firm believer in the erotic power of wandering hands.  Unless you’ve seen the film itself, you wouldn’t believe how much of Precious Jewels consists of Kathy Green and Gypsy Dave fumbling about on a staircase...in a bathroom...in the bedroom, curiously making little headway with getting each others’ clothes off.  The regular sex in Precious Jewels just tends to drone on, and the film only really feels alive when it is depicting bondage, spankings and rape, leaving little doubt as to where the director’s head was at.  Precious Jewels might have one foot in the British sex film’s past, with the everyday job of its male character leading to sexual escapades, but it is also the closest Britain has ever come to replicating the heavy-duty, American roughies of Phil Prince and Zebedy Colt. 

In Britain, Precious Jewels was the type of film that could have only seen the light of day during the pre-cert video era.  Back then the only precaution Bos took was to slap the ridiculous disclaimer “keep out of childrens reach” onto the video releases of his films.  As if anyone remotely sane would consider a video featuring a bound, topless woman being menaced by scissors, on its front cover as family friendly viewing...even if its lead actor had once appeared in a Disney movie.  All the good sense in the world would suggest this film stood little chance of being passed by the censor after the video recordings act, yet following four years of silence since making the film Bos resurfaced to submit the film to the BBFC in 1986.  Could there have been an easier way of throwing money away than submitting an S&M fixated film –one that blurred the line between consensual or unconsensual sex- to the BBFC in 1986.  Needless to say the British censor was having none of it, banning the film outright.  Bos and his companies ‘J.P Films’ and ‘Tansy Films’ have never been heard from since.  The fact that he submitted Precious Jewels to the BBFC, rather than the other, seemingly more palatable films he made, only adds to the mystery of Bos.

An example of the British sex film slipping into darkness, just before the censorship axe fell on videotape.  Precious Jewels is a Valentine’s Day Card to taboo sex, sent by an anonymous, mono-named, admirer.