Tuesday, 31 January 2012

St Trinian's Boarding School For Girls

 Cartoon by Ronald Searle

She Loves Only Gold

One of my favourite photographs: gilded sex kitten Margaret Nolan during the filming of the title sequence for 'Goldfinger'. Robert Brownjohn is the man calling the shots.  

Monday, 30 January 2012

Private Road

'Private Road' isn't really a smut film at all, it's more of an 'issue' film - but as the issue is sex, and it was released in 1971, it just about squeaks into our never ending cavalcade of sauce (if I'm honest, I'm also still recovering from last week's clip of Miss Christabel Jones).

Bruce / Peter.

Susan / Ann & some fantastic speakers.

Bruce ('Withanil & I') Robinson and Susan Penhaligon play Peter and Ann, two fresh faced lovers who, in the freewheeling spirit of the times, move in with each other against the wishes of Ann's ungroovy and slyly manipulative parents. Peter is a promising novelist and, on the strength of a publishing advance, he and Ann take a cottage in the country and have a carefree, idyllic time (these scenes may even have been the starting point for the Penrith scenes in 'Withnail', as they have a very similar feel, just slightly more romantic). 

'We've come on holiday deliberately'

Young Love.

Run, rabbit, run.

On their return, things start to go wrong - Ann gets pregnant and Peter is forced to take a job writing advertising copy for a new dog dessert. One of their hippy dippy friends gets into radical politics, another becomes a heroin addict and (it is implied) steals Peter's typewriter to fund his addiction. As reality closes in, Ann, who is only in her late teens, starts feeling far too grown up and runs back to Mummy and Daddy, who promptly arrange an abortion for her.

You've had the sex, now here's the drugs.

Burglary is the new Rock & Roll.
As the film ends, Ann is living with her parents, who now expect Peter to marry her and move to a house they have bought them in the suburbs. Peter loves Ann, but isn't prepared to fall into respectability just because it is expected of him. On a whim, he and his junkie friend steal an electric typewriter from an office (shades of 'The 400 Blows') and he vows to return to writing - and to get Ann back on his own terms.   

'Stick 'em up'.

'Right, you've got your typewriter, and your breakfast. Anything else you want?'

'Private Road' is very much of its time, very Middle Class, very slight, but it's very good - largely improvised, free flowing, elliptically edited and with some convincing naturalistic performances from the young cast. Bruce Robinson in particular is excellent, half petulant artist, half gormless kid - and in his various improvisations he demonstrates the humour and preference for an unobvious phrase which would later come to fruition in the greatest British film of the 80s (that sounds like faint praise, but I don't mean it that way) - if the arse hadn't fallen out of the homegrown industry just as he was starting up he could have been a much bigger star.

Director Barney Platts-Mills' previous film had been cult favourite 'Bronco Bullfrog', set amongst working class youths in the East End of London, and his subsequent career has been joyfully non-conventional, including writing offbeat screenplays, directing musicals in prison and heading up lots of youth film projects. Last year, he released  his first feature film for thirty years. Interesting fellow - and born in Colchester, Essex which, as any hep person knows, is where all the best people come from.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Crisp Answers

Ray For Today

Easy listening from one of the masters, Ray Conniff. After all, why should listening be hard?

Ray's dead now but I'd love to have got some tips from him on hair regeneration, as the contrast between his early and later barnets is quite astonishing.


Ray Conniff

There will be more pictures of Ray Conniff on this blog soon. Why? Because they're out there.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

A Very Peculiar Doctor

Andrew Davies adapted the second series of his magnificent and off-kilter TV programme A Very Peculiar Practice as a novel.

That's interesting isn't it? Not a lot of people know that, you know.
You may also be interested to know he adapted the first series too, but I don't have a copy of that.


I'm sure it's very good though.

Ginger Geezer

Viv Stanshall

Money Shot

The 1970 film version of 'Loot' is not entirely successful, nor is it entirely Joe Orton, as genius scriptwriters Galton & Simpson were commissioned to write the screenplay, 'opening up' the play with some additional sequences and a handful of new characters.

As the film begins, bankrobbing sociopaths and lovers Hal and Dennis are in a shooting gallery on Brighton Pier. They face a series of targets representing familiar Ortonesque figures of fun - the government, schools, the church, the army, the law - all of which they gleefully and mercilessly gun down. Only one sacred cow is spared...

Money, cash, filthy lucre...


Friday, 27 January 2012

Savage Messiah

'Savage Messiah' is a tricky one for me. At one point, I thought it was the worst film I'd ever seen, yet I'd watch it every time it was on, as I gained a perverse enjoyment from being annoyed by it.

The story of French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brezeska, it was a film that Russell desperately wanted to make, sinking a huge amount of his own money into the production. Ken's enthusiasm for the subject explodes onto the screen in a frenzy of shouting and sledgehammer cinema: it's as subtle as a flying house brick, and as sophisticated - it makes a great artist look like a petulant twat and does very little to translate Gaudier-Brezeska's genius to the screen. Instead, he just keeps saying he's a genius, and those around him keep saying he's a genius and you're supposed to believe it, all the time thinking, well, he's just a petulant twat, isn't he? - an over excited show off adolescent layabout with a Mother complex. This isn't helped by the casting of Scott Antony in the lead role. He's awful, one of the worst actors to ever take star billing in a film (his career was short lived - there's nothing in the IMDB for him after 1974), and he just makes you want to punch him repeatedly in the face until you run out of knuckles. 

Street Art.

Do sculptors really sculpt with their tongues out, like kids?

'ere, that looks like that Dame Helen Mirren.

Watch your hand on that radiator, Helen.
To be fair to Ken, he's trying to depict the creative process, one of the most difficult and mysterious things to put on screen. Christopher Logue's script is declamatory and very theatrical, and artistic inspiration is usually displayed by Gaudier-Brzeska jumping up suddenly and running around like a five year old full of Corona, yelling his artistic manifesto at passers by. The intensity of it all is further underlined by the constant circular aesthetic arguments he has with his muse / best friend / fake sister / unrequited love Sophie (Dorothy Tutin). In real life, Sophie was an intellectual who had a huge influence on Henri (he added her surname Brzeska to his own in recognition) - here she just comes across as a clinging pain in the arse.

Overawed by genius.
I suppose my feeling for this film sums up how I feel about Russell's work generally: I'm both fascinated and repelled by it. But it is very entertaining, and it's striving to say something, which is more than can be said for a lot of cinema. Ken always tried, and he tried hard: his success rate is neither here nor there.

The Art of War.
Gaudier-Brzeska was killed in France in June, 1915, another output from the mechanised death machine that was World War One. One of his last actions was to carve a Madonna and Child into the butt of a captured German rifle: creative to the end.  The film ends with a posthumous exhibition of his work - the artist only lived for 24 years, but his art has had a considerably longer shelf life. If inclined, you can see a number of his works at the Tate Britain and Modern. His 'Bird Swallowing Fish' is currently on loan to the Wakefield Hepworth Museum: it's extraordinary.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Monday, 23 January 2012

Escort Girls

It's 1972, and despite the fact that a pint of beer is only 20p, unless you're Michael Caine or a member of Slade, life is pretty much like this -- 

Or this --

Happily, there are alternatives --

If, of course, you want to get all lah-di-da about it, and have a few quid, you can always go to a proper Escort Agency and hire some sophisticated company for the evening.

Club DJ's don't change much, do they?

Looks comfortable.

A familiar Donovan Winter visual motif. 

Donovan Winter's 1972 film 'Escort Girls' covers all the angles, including Escort Boys, showing us a series of vignettes all set on the same evening in London. All human life is here: a shy virgin who spends his Xmas bonus on a date - a sophisticated business woman who needs a hunk to help her network - a couple of Scots on a spree - the inevitable big spending Yanks (male and female) who need suitable arm candy to parade around town - and a rich, mousy girl who hires a handsome black man to outrage her stuck up, racist friends at a reunion. 

Fantasy Zulu. Yes, it's John from 'The Tomorrow People' on the left.

Pretty scrappy, the film meanders around for ages before ending in a frenzy of blackmail, attempted rape, simulated rape, inter-racial sex, knees in groins and disco dancing  Things go rather well for the shy virgin (David Dixon, later to star as Ford Prefect in 'Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy') who gets the night of his life for about twenty pounds - Cinzano, an Italian meal and the company of a nice and rather attractive girl who later sleeps with him because she actually likes him and doesn't mind showing him the sexy ropes.

Pay attention, mate, this is really happening.

The glamour of the 70s.

The most extraordinary sequence is provided by 'the fabulous, sensational, sexsational Christabel Jones', a pneumatic black stripper who pours champagne over her ample bosom, simulates sex with a fox fur (see also 'Get Em Off') and then falls to the floor, covers her pudenda with unguent and rubs herself to a very public climax - this whole routine takes nearly ten minutes

So, Donovan Winter: idiosyncratic director, and a complete nutter of the first order. Well done, Sir!