Monday, 27 February 2012

Lunch Hour

'Lunch Hour’ is a film from 1961 which isn’t particularly smutty at all, but involves an ‘adult situation’, i.e. two people who aren’t married to each other meeting in a hotel room for sex.

A moment of reflection.

Written by John Mortimer and, appropriately, only an hour long, it stars Robert Stephens and Shirley Ann Field as employees at a wallpaper factory. He is a married Executive (number two to Arthur from ‘On The Buses’), and she is a young art school graduate (she went to Essex Tech) employed to paint the various designs. There is an immediate attraction between them which is consolidated around that marvellous but now defunct social ice breaker, the tea trolley.

He can’t get away in the evenings, so they use their lunch hours for their trysts, snogging in the print store, canoodling on benches, petting in cinemas, parks and galleries often under the disapproving eyes of authority figures.
Not everyone is so inhibited...

'I'm in your personal space, aren't I?'

Keep Off The Grass.
Unable to find a place to be alone the relationship remains on a fairly innocent level, i.e. unconsummated, and Stephens, tormented by unfulfilled passion, is reducing to looking into furniture showrooms and drooling at the double beds.

The Look of Longing.
Unable to stand it any longer,  Stephens finds a quiet hotel and rents a room there for an hour so that they can take their adolescent love affair to an adult level - and that’s when their troubles really begin...

A slight but entertaining piece of work, it took me about thirty minutes to realise that it was supposed to be a comedy, which is not altogether a good sign. There are some clever lines, but they seem forced – obviously ‘dialogue’ rather than organic conversation - and they tend to fall rather flat. Ridiculously, Stephens, who was always rather good at comedy, is given the straight stuff and Shirley Ann Field, who was always rather wooden and inexpressive, is given the bulk of the jokes, and the film suffers as a result. The final dramatic ‘twist’ also relies on a more a more convincing characterisation than Miss Field is able to provide, so it simply doesn’t work.

If the film had been made eight or nine years later, you can imagine that it would be pure knockabout smut as the premise, basically, is a couple trying to find somewhere to have sex and constantly being caught before they can scratch the itch. As it is, it’s a diverting if not entirely successful b picture that ultimately short changes the audience in dramatic terms and in its lack of grown up content, i.e. they don’t have sex and Shirley Anne is given a rather dowdy wardrobe so we don’t even get a glimpse of stocking top or the sight of a conical ‘put your eye out’ bra. Harumph. No wonder everyone looks so fed up at the end.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Haunted Love

Short lived (eleven issues) gothic romance title from Charlton Comics, my favourite also ran publisher.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Prince Buster

Martin Pritchard and Ed Laxton
Mirror Books, London, 1978

Please forgive the slightly scabby condition of the cover. It was rescued from a squat party some time around 1990, which is only fitting.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Women In Love

'Women In Love' was Ken Russell's first big cinematic success, and its rapturous critical and commercial reception gave him a licence him to develop his directorial voice (for better or worse) in a fairly comfortable and supportive environment for several years. Russell and D.H Lawrence just seem to fit together, somehow - Lawrence provides believable characters, dialogue and a narrative arc which Russell respects enough to play straight, but also lots of fervid and hyperbolically sensual scenes where Ken can go a little bit mad, whether its a naked Alan Bates rubbing himself with grass, Glenda Jackson being chased by cows or, perhaps most infamously of all, Bates and Ollie Reed stripping off and having an erotically charged mano a mano wrestling match.  

I had to study the source novel at O, A and Degree level, so I'm not going to linger on its merits as a piece of fiction. It's pretty bloody good, though and, crucially for the late sixties audience, has a frank and daring approach to the key issues of love and sex as Lawrence uses fiction to work through the things that govern his life and both repress and liberate him. In Russell's hands, all this is conveyed subtly (yes, subtly) and rather beautifully: it's a hugely lyrical film which brilliantly conveys Lawrence's eye for the mystical amongst the commonplace - transcendental moments of love and understanding and physical passion, made all the more special by taking place in the fairly grim milieu of the industrial Midlands. 

In a film about relationships the strongest love affair is a platonic one between the bohemian school inspector Rupert Birkin (Alan Bates) and the intense industrialist Gerald Crich (Oliver Reed). Both men are looking for something beyond their relationships with sisters Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen, and see in each other the potential for a friendship which will make them both whole - but they're English, of course, and nominally heterosexual, so they have no idea how to achieve this ideal, instead scrapping and rolling around in the buff in front of a fire in lieu of the spiritual connection they both crave.    

It's a film full of brilliant (and brilliantly directed) performances, particularly from Reed, Bates and Glenda Jackson as the inscrutable Gudrun, just starting to come into her own as an offbeat and fantastically sexy female lead.

The film's final scenes are set in the Alps. Gerald, at the end of his relationship with Gudrun, tries to throttle her, but stops himself just in time and, instead, sets out to kill himself. He walks for miles, higher and higher up into the mountains, before meekly laying down on the snow and slowly freezing to death. It's a poignant and fascinating way to go, brilliantly realised by the slow zoom out of Ken's camera. I always wonder if Lawrence had the death of Captain Oates in mind (the book is set around the time of Captain Scott's expedition), another Edwardian gentlemen with strange passions and ideals who, all hope gone, also laid down his life in the frozen wastes.

This Week's Bizarre Masterpiece

Salvador Dali: The Sphynx (1939)

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Saint Sabby

The Day Peace Broke Out

In ‘The Day That Peace Broke Out’ (or Tom Good fights the Law, and the Law wins) we get an insight into Tom’s motivations in embracing self-sufficiency, as well as seeing the beginnings of a siege mentality that can erupt into violence, i.e. someone gets shot in the arse with an airgun pellet.

Someone is stealing leeks from the Good's front garden and Tom is outraged - leeks are not just vegetables, they are a vital component in their struggle to fend for themselves. To steal them is an insult, an invasion, and he intends to find the culprit and protect his homestead.

After a rather tense dinner at the Ledbetters where leek soup is coincidentally served and insinuations are made and then withdrawn (the Good-Ledbetter dynamic is fascinating, especially as they seem alternately fascinated and repelled by each other – the sexual tensions alone could form the basis for a book) Tom decides to stay up all night, trusty air pistol at his side, to try and catch the culprit in the act.

In the middle of the night, Tom sees a man grabbing a handful of leeks from the garden. Tom shouts a warning, but the man makes a bolt for it. Tom aims and fires, hittting the fleeing thief in the buttock. Justice has been served.

The next day, puffed up with success, and imagining himself as a latter day Wyatt Earp, Tom is dismayed to receive a summons for common assault. In court (under the eye of the reliably dyspepetic James Cossins), the thief is ordered to pay a fine and Tom is sentenced to be bound over for three years. Tom is so sure of his moral rights that he doesn't see this as a bit of a let off and, refusing to agree that he would not do the same again if his property was threatened, is sent to prison until he agrees to accept the sentence.

Tom spends an unhappy two days in jail ('for a place with so many people, it's ever so lonely in here' - so at least he seems to have avoided being sexually molested) until he receives a visit from a tearful Barbara and a good talking to from the eminently unprinicipled Jerry, and decides to stop being a tit, accept the judge's recommendation and just go home.

When the Good's are reunited Tom gives a little speech about how all he really wants is a castle with a drawbridge that he can pull up and forget about the rest of the world. Then he and Barbara start getting it on, so its clear what sort of leisure activities he would have on the agenda in this ideal world. The Goods always strike me as a couple with a very active and rewarding sex life, although this perception could also be down to the fact that I find Barbara Good very attractive and, in Tom's wellies, wouldn't be able to leave her alone for long, especially on those dimly lit, electricity free evenings in front of the fire.

As a coda, the leek thief returns to make his apologies and, after giving Tom the opportunity to boast about his cricketing prowess, the two become firm friends. Tom is particularly smug about the fact that the leeks were stolen out of jealousy - the thief lives in a flat in tower block and just wanted something fresh and green and real to take back to his concrete chicken coop.

Firmly established as the victor in the war of leeks and lifestyles, Tom insists that the thief takes whatever he wants from the garden from now on. Barbara, however, isn't aware of this and, seeing yet another 'theft' taking place, sets belligerent goat Geraldine upon the man.