Monday, 13 February 2012

Cool It, Carol!



‘Cool It, Carol!’ is an uneven and uneasy mix of sex comedy and kitchen sink drama, with the seedy and unpleasant scenes far outweighing the very few laughs it contains. The work of legendary trash auteur Peter Walker, the film was made in 1969 but not released until 1972, making its Swinging London milieu seem even sleazier and more decadent.


The titular character.

The titlike character.

Carol and Joe are small town teens dreaming of the high life in London. Carol (Janet Lynn) pumps petrol at the family filling station, but a beauty contest win has convinced her that she could be a model (she is very pretty, in a slightly vacuous way). Joe (Robin Askwith) is a clasic Billy Liar type - a Butcher boy in reality, he convinces Carol that he is moving to London to be with his well-connected friends and start a job selling top of the range sportscars. Carol takes him at his word, rather forcing his arm, so they jump on the train with very little money, nowhere to live and no firm prospects whatsoever. They don't even know each other particularly well. They do, however, have some sandwiches and a private compartment, for no sooner have they boarded the train, than Joe is boarding Carol. While she eats a sandwich.

A fairly typical BR Buffet car.
Carol is experienced and has a remarkably ambivalent attitude to sex and nudity - she doesn't necessarily like it, but she 'doesn't mind' - her passivity is going to get her into trouble, over and over again (perhaps her upbringing is to blame. When she asks her father is she can go to London, he asks if her 'maidenhead' is intact. When she says 'no', he says, 'well, you might as well go, then'.)

Arriving in the smoke, their initial excitement at being where it all happens soon dissipates when they realise that, whatever is happening, they aren’t part of it, and when the few quid they have runs out they start to get desperate, leaving them open to exploitation – nude modelling follows, then impromptu prostitution, then organised prostitution with a waiting room full of old men, then stag films and high class (i.e. expensive) whoring. All of this takes about three days. Their estimated earnings over this short period are nearly £300, but they rather stupidly keep spending the money Carol grinds out on bottles of champagne and fruitless trips to the roulette wheel.


'That's it - lovely - groovy, baby, groovy'.

'It'll be five quid'.

Take a ticket and wait.

The man in the hat just likes to watch.

So, he watches.

Then tries to join in. His hat stays on, however.

On the fourth day, Carol finally gets a break as a model, and immediately starts earning about a thousand quid a day. In the evening she fucks Sheiks and MP's for even more money. It's never really explained why -she clearly doesn't have to. Joe is nominally her manager, but both he and Carol are only puppets in the moist hands of far more experienced hustlers - and their success is on the back of their temporary status as fresh meat. After a huge blow out showbiz party (Pete Murray is there!) Carol and Joe decide that they're not actually having any fun at all and jack it all in and just go back home to their old jobs, never to speak of their tumultuous week away ever again.


Back where she belongs, nozzle in hand.

Released in some theatres (you know what sort) as ‘The Dirtiest Girl I Ever Met’, ‘Cool It, Carol’ is far more pensive and gloomy than its various titles might suggest. It’s also remarkably long for a film like this, indicating that Walker had perhaps slightly higher ambitions for it than as a straightforward wham bam smutter. I'm not sure if it works as a cautionary tale - they make too much money and, although some of the scenarios are unspeakably squalid, Carol doesn't seem to be too affected by them - it's a pretty bleak, charmless film with a vacuum at its centre: Carol, who doesn't really need to cool it - she simply 'doesn't mind'.


Askwith!

I will now have a little rant about Robin Askwith, not my favourite actor. I have to say that I don’t like him particularly, perhaps unfairly, because I always felt that his brief sojourn as Britain’s most popular domestic film star demeaned us as a nation: the idea of his neanderthalic buffoonery and moronic gurning somehow personifying British society was a terrifying and unwelcome concept – at least George Formby kept his trousers on (he could also sing and play the ukulele – Askwith had no such talent). Robin’s popularity was not his fault, of course, he just enjoyed the ride, but these things have a tendency to stick in my craw forever.

'Ouch!'
Anyway, here’s my Robin Askwith anecdote: back in the late eighties, he was appearing at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester in some sex farce or other and as myself and my friends were staggering back from the Hole In The Wall pub we passed the theatre bar and saw Robin playing snooker with a couple of his mates. We ducked down beneath the window and, just as he was cueing up a shot, we jumped up and shouted ‘Robin!’ as loudly as we could. Brilliantly, he jumped out of his skin, his arms jerked wildly, the cue skidded along the baize and the white ball jumped off the table. Very Timmy Lea. We then ran away.

4 comments:

  1. Haha brilliant anecdote! Haven't seen him in anything for some time now, in fact last thing I can vividly recall him in was EastEnders playing a speedway champ when Ricky Butcher (the Timmy Lea of Walford) became inexplicably a speedway talent for about a fortnight, never to be referred to again.

    Cool It Carol (dreadful title but as you say the smuttier ones were worse) was from the pen of Murray Smith - later The XYY Man, Strangers, Bulman and The Paradise Club. He'd also penned Die Screaming Marianne for Walker.

    But I dare say you know all this

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  2. I always thought Askwith had been prized off the same window Jagger got stuck licking, but in that top pic he could easily be mistaken for Brian Jones.

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  3. Does anyone know the location of the garage used at the beginning and end of this film please. I guess it is in the Etchingham area? Thank you.

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