Archive for Expresso Bongo

Slipping one past the goalie

Posted in FILM, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2016 by dcairns

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Marsh and Pertwee of the Yard. Needless to say, there are no “tableaux” being enacted at this juncture.

I have to take my woolly hat off to Val Guest, who devoted a long, long lifetime to slipping sex and nudity into British movies. Of course, when it suddenly became easy to do so in the seventies, the practice became redundant and Guest gave us the charmless, gormless CONFESSIONS OF A WINDOW CLEANER and the very weird THE AU-PAIR GIRLS. (I’ve long held that the seventies British sex comedy was a government conspiracy to wipe out the working class by putting them off sex forever. Operation Prole-Wipe failed only because Robin Askwith is slightly too talented and not quite memorable enough, so that plebeian copulators did not have his gurning countenance superimposed over their vision as they went at it by night.) Guest claimed that WINDOW CLEANER would have been hailed as an art film if it had been foreign — I suppose in a sense it resembles Paul Verhoeven’s TURKISH DELIGHT as made by a nice old man. That niceness of course removes the closest thing to a point the Verhoeven movie could be claimed to have. AU-PAIR is creepy and peculiar and doesn’t even try to be funny most of the time. Some lovely girls, including Nick Drake’s sister Gabrielle, are served up in a lumpen, unerotic way, which typifies this genre, the only variation being when older, less shapely character actresses are also induced to submit the camera’s cold, unflattering gaze.

But the early, naughty years see Guest pulling off some surprising coups de cinema. For 80,000 SUSPECTS, Claire “most beautiful woman in the world” Bloom hand-picked her body double, then decided she had nice breasts and did it herself, in  blink-and-you-miss-it-and-regret-it-forever nip slip moment that is so fleeting it feels genuinely accidental. Guest fills the screen with basically topless dancing girls in highland (un)dress in ESPRESSO BONGO, and showcases an unclad and very shiny Janet Munro in THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE. And it’s a good job most 11-year-olds don’t have heart conditions or my schoolfriends and I wouldn’t have survived our visit to see WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH.

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MURDER AT THE WINDMILL is a fairly duff comic whodunnit, enlivened by solid comic playing by Garry Marsh and a young Jon Pertwee, and its setting at the Windmill Theatre in London, celebrated in MRS HENDERSON PRESENTS. “We never closed,” reads a sign, referring to the fact that the nude revue managed to stay open during the Blitz. The Lord Chamberlain, the theatre censor at the time (if you picture a dusty, cobwebbed octogenarian with an ear trumpet you are probably bang on) for some reason ruled that nude girls were artistic if they stood very still in tableaux vivant, but would become pornographic rape triggers if they trotted about. Oddly, he may have had some kind of a point: I finally figured out that Jesus Franco films don’t strike me as sexy because of the odd passivity of his female characters — they generally either stay still, or move about emotionlessly, so as to seem not quite human. And I am only attracted to humans.

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So cockneys were able to see naked girls behaving like naked statues. But this only applied to the stage. In British movies, nobody (except maybe the occasional baby) was nude, right? Not quite so — Patricia Roc goes skinny-dipping in the freezing North Sea in THE BROTHERS, invoking the seldom-cited “only in extreme longshot” ruling (see also Claudette Colbert in FOUR FRIGHTENED PEOPLE). But most of MURDER AT THE WINDMILL is as full-clothed as any bluenose could wish. There’s one fan dance, which would never have been allowed at the Windmill — she’s MOVING, for God’s sake! The girl’s obscene!

But in the opening number, Guest decorates the stage with a couple of naked female statues who look surprisingly lifelike. Later, when the police reconstruct the boring crime (audience member shot from somewhere on stage), the statues’ places are occupied by identical girls in dressing gowns. Surprising! The old fox actually seems to have featured full-frontally nude adult women in a 1949 commercially-released movie.

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They seem to have managed to find naked girls without generative organs, like Linnea Quigley. I always assumed that nudes of the Pamela Green era of British smut had been airbrushed into featurelessness, but the movies did not possess airbrushing technology in those days — unless you could THIS shot in UN CHIEN ANDALOU —

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But Guest is moving the camera, so  dab of vaseline in the appropriate place wouldn’t do it on this occasion. We are forced to the conclusion that the girls must be wearing some form of fleshings, a conclusion I have resisted until this last sentence because I don’t like the word fleshings.

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Euphoria #21

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2008 by dcairns

The Euphoria shows no sign of subsiding here at Shadowplay. We are always OVER THE MOON here from watching these great clips, even when we go to the bathroom.

Duncan Aitchison, my film quiz running-mate (and uncrowned TEAM LEADER) suggested a bunch of great stuff, including this mighty scene of a young Oliver Reed DANCING from Edmond T. Greville’s seminal sixties juvie melodrama BEAT GIRL, which will also provide our Quote of the Day (a Shadowplay first!).

Fiona says Ollie Reed dances like I do, which I take to refer to his lack of co-ordination, weirdness of movement, and marked tendency to respond to unknown music in his own head rather than to the soundtrack provided for us mortals by John Barry and his Seven.

This is right before Barry started scoring Bond films, and his style has evolved from the rather random imitations of different commercial pop styles, and the annoying pizzicato noodlings of his earlier work. What we have here is just a hair away from the full-on Bondian torch-song brassy blast, and I FIND IT MAGNIFICENT.

Oliver Reed’s dancing makes me feel PROUD TO BE BRITISH. I think his only other connection to the medium of dance is his tiny cameo as a camp ballet dancer in Basil Dearden and Bryan Forbes’ marvellous crime caper THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN. Nobody’s idea of a gay prancer, Ollie stepped into that role at the last minute and made it his own.

“Do you want Moody 1, Moody 2 or Moody 3?” Ollie would ask Michael Winner, and it’s that lowering Heathcliffian menace that he’s been hired for here, not his terpsichorean dexterity. I like how he manages to preserve his essential Rugged Solemnity even while capering like a loon.

BEAT GIRL stars Gillian Hills, a sort of Brit-brat-Bardot, as the daughter of awful architect David Farrar (best known for riding a TINY DONKEY in BLACK NARCISSUS: his feet touch the ground when he straddles it, so he can make it go just by walking above it) who falls in with beatniks and strippers and Adam Faith (who exudes Proletarian Adenoidal Suavity — a STAR).

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Sleaze is trowelled on by a nubile Christopher Lee and the reliably button-eyed psychosis of Nigel Green, both of whom I love more than oxygen. Plus there’s those strippers. Most of the onstage undressing is very mild and half-hearted, certainly less impressive than the same year’s EXPRESSO BONGO, but one number, by “Pascaline”, is a sizzler. Perhaps thinking that the dancer’s dusky complexion would render her gyrations safely asexual, in the way that naked National Geographic “savages” were the only kind of photographic nude permissable for years, the filmmakers let this former Crazy Horse artiste unleash her pelvis like a randy bronco, all over our screen. Alas, the censors fairly fell over themselves to truncate Pascaline’s masturbatory movements, but in these permissive naughty naughties, the film has been restored with all this previously unseen frottage.

But my other favourite favourite thing in this film — no, not a FILM exactly, more a PAGEANT OF ASSORTED MATERIÉLS, is David Farrar’s CITY 2000 — of which more anon.

Footnote: Duncan has chosen this scene because of his nostalgic-patriotic love of a particular British sleaze/romance, as embodied by his favourite line in David Cronenberg’s SPIDER: Gabriel Byrne’s silky come-on: “You wanna go down the allotments?”