Monday 19 February 2024

Three Faces of Dr Jekyll (Lucius Henderson, 1912; Herbert Brenon, 1913; Allen Reisner, 1955)

Edinbugger Robert Louis Stevenson was quite a radgie gadgie.  The author of 1883 pirate romp Treasure Island - which begat the legendary Long John Silver - and 1886's Jacobite adventure Kidnapped, in that same latter year he would legendarily be roused from a nightmare by his wife only to tell Fanny (by gaslight, no doubt) that she should not have woken him for he was "dreaming a fine bogey tale".  This night terror induced phantasm of a man changing his face (unconsciously inspired, perhaps, by the previous century bogeyman of his native city Deacon William Brodie, who lived a dual existence: respectable gentleman and cabinet-maker [indeed, Brodie had made the wardrobe that stood in Stevenson's childhood bedroom] who mixed with polite society including poet Robert Burns by day whilst shedding the veneer to be a housebreaker and robber by night) would go on to become one the classics of Victorian Gothic horror.   

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde would be embraced by the emerging medium of the cinematograph, the first public showing which by the freres Lumiere would happen a scant nine years later.  Already a mainstay of the stage from 1887 courtesy of actor Richard Mansfield's barnstorming rendition, creeping the boards as Hyde and achieving the metamorphosis purely through physical performance and lighting changes (an audience-traumatising spectacle that would have the show closed during its 1888 London run after suspicions arose that the man who could so easily and effectively become a monster must be Jack the Ripper himself), the move to the silver screen came in 1908 with not one but two film versions - fitting, given the story's theme  of duality.  The first was produced by 'Colonel' William N. Selig's Polyscope Company and starred Hobart Bosworth in the title roles, and debuted Betty Harte as love interest Alice (a role absent from the novel, a female romantic part debuted in Mansfield's stage version and became a mainstay).  The second, produced by Kalem Films and starring Frank Oakes Rose is, like its predecessor, a lost film with no known extant copies.  Another brace would emerge in 1910: the first version filmed in the U.K., titled The Duality of Man, was directed by Harry Brodribb Irving (son of noted Victorian actor-manager Sir Henry Irving, on whom his employee Bram Stoker would base the physical appearance of Count Dracula); the second was a Danish production by Nordisk Film produced by Ole Olsen (sadly not the same Ole Olsen who starred in 1941's Hellzapoppin' alongside Chic Johnson) helmed by August Blom and starring Alwin Neuss.  This iteration of the tale was marred by the addition of a cheat 'it was all a dream' ending.  Once again, both films are no longer extant.

1912's one-reeler iteration of the tale - titled, as are the vast majority of adaptations, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and directed by Lucius Junius Henderson - begins with our good Henry Jekyll (James Cruze, who as well as an actor was an accomplished director having helmed the landmark 1923 Western The Covered Wagon - widely considered to be the first epic Western and the first U.S. epic to be directed by someone other than D.W Griffith [that film also co-starred Charles Ogle, the first screen Frankenstein Monster]), portrayed book-accurately as an older gentleman (something rarely seen in adaptations: I can think of Paul Massie in Hammer's 1960 The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll and the 1980 BBC television version starring David Hemmings as others which have an older Jekyll becoming a younger and more athletic Hyde off the top of my head.  Oh, and Malkovitch [Malkovitch, Malkovitch] in Mary Reilly), hard at work in his laboratory - or 'cabinet'.  Perusing the text of a tome entitled Graham on Drugs (which of course conjures "This is your Graham; this is your Graham on drugs", which might have livened up televisual excrement Blind Date a bit had the unseen 'Our Graham' been off his mash in an altered state of consciousness) which states that "The taking of certain drugs can separate man into two beings - one representing EVIL the other GOOD" as if 't'were scientific fact.  I do hope that this work was properly peer reviewed.

Undeterred by considerations such as sense, our white-coiffed and distinguished prober into the unknown reaches of science mixes his medicines and tastes the secret sauce of life much to his immediate chagrin; collapsing into a chair immediately after quaffing the draught and transfiguring into a nasty brutish and short snaggle-toothed specimen with dark bedraggled hair (played in certain shots by Harry Benham, eschewing the usual convention of having both Jekyll and Hyde portrayed by the same performer - which is actually quite effective in that we clearly see that Hyde is a more diminutive figure than the patrician Jekyll [as in the original text] as he regards his new form in the wall-mounted mirror, which wouldn't be nearly as effective with Cruze simply hunching over) in a jump cut; no slow lap dissolves or Mamoulian-esque bravura transformations here.  After physically expressing his unalloyed glee at existing (that sounds dirty in my head for some reason) Hyde downs the reflux elixir and melts back into Jekyll, who excitedly scrawls down the results of the experiment.

We are then treated to the intertitle informing us that Jekyll has become the accepted suitor of the minister's daughter; surely everyone's true burning ambition.  That sarcastically said, I definitely would have swooned at the chance to suit one of the Haworth minister's daughters what with being a fully paid-up Brontesaurus and everything.  Jekyll and his fiancee (Florence Le Badie) - who goes unnamed as women couldn't afford names in the olden days - take a lovely walk whilst sporting splendid hats and the good doctor shakes his prospective father in law (actor uncredited) warmly by the hand, before another intertitle informs us that it is now months later and the transformation has begun to happen without the aid of the elixir.  After suddenly taking a turn, the bestial Hyde dons his jaunty titfer and tears up his good self's notes before going outside on a spree of kicking small girls (Marie Eline) and then retreating to his laboratory sanctuary and changing back to his more respectable form.  Later, whilst on a romantic stroll with his sweetheart, the change comes again and Hyde attempts a forcible romantic interlude on the unwilling lady and when her pastoral pater intervenes bashes him senseless with his stick - the vicar here being a clear analogue for the novel's Sir Danvers Carew.

Pursued by a passing policeman ('Ello, 'ello, 'ello), Hyde races back to Jekyll's home and makes a hurried intrusion via the rear entrance (ouch) - by the time the officer of the law makes a more conventional and vanilla entrance to the abode via the front door he is met by a bewildered and apologetic Jekyll.  Realising that his supply of the drug is rapidly diminishing and that soon he will be forced to exist as Hyde permanently, he decides to tell his lady friend that he is going away.  After going through the ultimate metamorphosis and being faced with and axe-wielding worried butler, the policeman, and a small crowd of onlookers breaking down the laboratory door Hyde ends it all by drinking poison.  No post-death transition back to Jekyll, Hyde is found self-deaded and presumably presumed to have done away with the doc.  At a brisk twelve minutes, this is certainly an interesting curio that concertinas the tale down to its barest essentials.  As the earliest surviving Jekyll and Hyde film, though, 'tis a treasure.

1913 saw the next retelling in the form of Herbert Brenon's two-reel production for Carl Laemmle's fledgling Independent Moving Pictures (IMP), soon to become Universal Pictures.  Starring the cinema's first star leading man King Baggot as the dual leads (in point of fact the opening title proclaims "Starring King Baggot in a Dual Role"), the film begins with Jekyll asking the father of Alice, Jekyll's fiancee, played by Matt B. Snyder - who I assume is no relation to Matt Snider a.k.a. DJ Schnootz as he shows zero proclivity towards acid trance or techno music (presumably preferring a nice string quartet) - for the hand of his daughter (Jane Gail, who had made a brief and uncredited appearance as an extra in the 1912 film), who has the same moniker as Jekyll's fiancee from the earliest Hobart Bosworth production.  

We have here the cinematic debuts of the characters of Dr Lanyon (Howard Crampton) and the lawyer Mr Utterson (William Sorrel) - referred to as 'Lawyer Utterson' as though it's his given name - who confide and chide - it's like wining and dining with more upbraiding - the diffident Jekyll for his "unheard of" experiments.  After a hard days' charity work tending unpaid to the sickly poor, Jekyll decides "in the dead of night" to carry out his experimental self-abuse - presumably no longer necessary after the wedding - and unleash and indulge his primal side that his ego can override.  Locking himself into his laboratory, he necks the potion and transforms via a slow dissolve into a Hyde form curiously similar to the Cruze/Benham version, with mop out tangled black hair, crooked protruding teeth (were the Americans mocking British dentistry from the dawn of the 20th century?) and stooped posture; Baggot's Hyde walking with a crouched gait reminiscent of Torgo from Manos: The Hands of Fate.

Handing his startled butler a note from Jekyll stating "the bearer Mr Hyde is my best friend, treat him as myself", the unbridled Hyde'll not be questioned by the household staff and dashes out into the night for an evening's carousal.  No, I don't mean a merry-go-round, that's a carousel.  After picking a fight in a pub, Hyde decides to a take a room at a disreputable lodging house - though honestly I've stayed in worse Airbnbs.  This one looks less like it smells of sex and desperation and would get a better Tripadvisor or Trustpilot review than some of the dens of iniquity I've had to crash in.  Hyde then goes out on a nocturnal spree, including assaulting a disabled child (a boy here, rather than a young girl as in the original text.  I can't believe that the 1913 internet [made of a kettle and some string] didn't go into meltdown over this gender switching of in important character) by knocking away his crutch and giving a few whacks with his cane.  When an outraged crowd (no, not the aforementioned outraged internetters: there's nobody blaming Kathleen Kennedy for everything) quickly assembles, Hyde has to agree to pay for the child's injuries.  Leading the throng to the back door of the laboratory and paying them of with a bag of coinage he is spotted by a passing and perturbed Utterson, absorbing some of the plot points of is literary kinsman Mr Enfield.  Changing back to his courtly self, Jekyll vows never to repeat his mistakes but as he sits and thinks of Alice - to whom we intercut in a nice shot that puts me in mind of the Hutter/Ellen interaction from a distance in Murnau's 1922 Nosferatu - he undergoes an unwanted and unsolicited Hyde-ing. 

Calling in Utterson and Lanyon, Jekyll makes out his last will and testament with the codicil that in the event of his sudden disappearance all his possessions should pass to My Hyde.  Then a visit from Alice makes our repressed gent come over all funny, taking a turn for the worse and snarling at Alice, Lanyon and Utterson through the window.  After Hyde has, once again, clubbed Alice's father with his walking stick, the desperate monster engages a messenger boy to convey to his scientific peer Dr Lanyon a note from Jekyll begging him to retrieve the boxes of chemicals from his (Jekyll's) laboratory - "My liberty, my life, my honor [sic] and my soul depend on you.  My messenger will call at midnight".  The famous scene then plays out with the misshapen Hyde calling at the witching hour and decrying the befuddled Lanyon as "unbelieving" as he mixes and downs the mixture and changes before his very eyes back to Jekyll in one sustained and unbroken take - no cuts or dissolves.  Admittedly it's a tad less impressive than that sounds, as the scene starts with Hyde facing away from the camera, masking the fact that Baggot isn't in full make-up, and when he'd doubled over in the agony of the metamorphosis he removes the wig unseen.  Still a feat for the time though, I suppose, and a memorable screen first; as is the film itself for managing to convey all the novella's main story beats into less than half a hour - the film ends as the story does with a desperate Hyde, out of antidote and out of luck, trapped in the laboratory and ending his life by poison. 

Herbert Brenon would that same year direct Baggot in a feature-length (a whopping 48 minutes in four reels!) adaptation of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, one of the earliest Hollywood pictures to mount an overseas location shoot filming around Chepstow Castle in Monmouthshire, Wales, Ingerland. As the U.S. crew may have thought of it (no, seriously, it was trumpeted as "the biggest venture of its kind attempted in England"!).

In 1955, the anthology television show Climax! (that's not an order despite the imperative exclamation mark; I am not commanding you to 'arrive') - which had also given the world the live action debut of Ian Fleming's agent 007 James (well, 'Jimmy') Bond the previous year: see here for review - decided to give Stevenson's schizophrenic saga a go as the thirty-fourth episode of its premier season, directed by series regular Allen Reisner from a script by Gore Vidal.  In the lead role(s) was British star of Robert Wise's 1951 sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still Michael Rennie, the six foot four Bradford born and bred actor becoming one of the first U.K. performers to essay the role on screen since Irving (perhaps beaten only by Dulwich's own Boris Karloff in 1953's Abbott and Costello meet Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde). 

Opening as per usual with the Climax! Mystery Theater [sic] introductory spiel - "live from television city in Hollywood" and sponsored by the Chrysler automobile corporation - from regular host Bill Lundigan (who pronounces Jekyll correctly as "Jeekill" but oddly pronounces co-star Cedric Hardwicke's name as "Seedrick"), we begin the tale with Dr Jekyll's faithful manservant Poole (recognisable to Star Trek fans as John Hoyt, the starship Enterprise's first C.M.O. Dr Boyce, making a good go of an English accent) anxiously visiting legal eagle Mr George Utterson, Esq. (Hardwicke, second son of a Baron Frankenstein and father of a Dr Watson) to tell of the good doctor's prolonged absence, and how he and the household staff have spent two weeks preparing meals and leaving them at the laboratory door for unseen collection and consumption by the occupant: either Jekyll or, as Poole nervously states, "the other".

Utterson dismisses the suggestion, saying that Mr Hyde vanished a year ago and wouldn't dare return to town with the police after him.  Poole however insists that he has come back and possibly done some harm to the doctor.  Taking the precaution of arming himself with a pistol, Utterson accompanies Poole to the lab; within stirs an agitated figure, face unseen (Rennie), who prowls like a caged panther whilst ransacking the room.  When the solicitor and servant join forces to force the locked door, the stranger crouches before pouncing and receives a fatal bullet.  Judging the dead man to indeed be the fugitive Hyde, Utterson sends Poole to fetch the police.  Looking over the wrecked laboratory, he comes across Jekyll's notebook which bears a note addressed to Utterson stating that the book should be read in the case of Henry Jekyll's death or disappearance.  As he peruses the tome we dissolve to a flashback (presumably either a rare pre-recorded section of the scene played in, or Rennie made his way off set and onto the other out of camera view, given the live nature of the broadcast) to two years previously, when Utterson arrived at Jekyll's house to find the urbane scientist quarreling with their mutual friend Dr Lanyon (Lowell Gilmore, no stranger to dramatisations of Victorian gothic fiction having played Basil Hallward in The Picture of Dorian Gray ten years previously) over Jekyll's 'fantastic' (in the unbelievable, rather than the Eccleston sense of the word) theory about dissecting the soul to bring out both the angel and the monster that dwell within.  And I always thought it took gamma rays to unleash the raging beast that dwells within.

Turns out it actually takes a liquid suspension of certain salts with an added secret ingredient - not the Colonel's secret sauce as it's a powder delivered by the dutiful Poole - as we see Jekyll's self-inflicted experimentation one night in the lab.  Draining the draught he collapses in a fit of spasms and we get a subjective trick camera shot of the room whirling (really, there must be a few pre-records in here, what with the transformations and all - there's no way they could have had the make-up on and off several times during a live one hour show) before he sees his nasty and brutish - but unlike life in Hobbes' Leviathan not short given Rennie's stature - new face: Rennie's savage mono-browed Hyde make-up is curiously similar to Lon Chaney Sr., as the mute ape-man creation of Dr Lamb (also portrayed by Chaney) in 1922's A Blind Bargain, Wallace Worsley's adaptation of Barry Pain's The Octave of Claudius.

Realising that he has freed not the inner angel but "the monster from its pit", he adapts quickly to his new double life and identity and cruises the darkness on the edge of town frequenting low establishments and getting into scraps with the local toughs, taking names and taking their ladies (possibly of ill repute).  Threatening "gentleman friends" with a good glassing - he'd really fit in down the Bigg Market on a Friday night, this lad - he manages to pull (unwillingly and problematically) a nice young lady played by Mary Sinclair, who struggles gamely with the accent despite the hindrance of not even being given a character name.  One would almost think that Gore Vidal wasn't all that interested in women or something  We get the standard story played out, with a regretful Jekyll tossing the ingredients into a furnace and then finding himself unwillingly transforming without the aid of the potion (with an odd focus on the mole on Hyde's cheek appearing and disappearing; honestly, I've never seen such focus on a mole outside of Bloodbath at the House of Death or Austin Powers).  Eventually, obviously, we loop round to the beginning to witness the good doctor's and bad man's impending ending.  It's... interesting, certainly.

In another instalment of Climax! titled 'Strange Sanctuary', Michael Rennie played a character referred to throughout as 'Mr O' Connor' - despite the name of the character inexplicably being given in the closing credits as 'Irish Sean Dillon'.  'Mr O' Connor', of course, was the moniker of the Hyde form of Conrad Veidt's Jekyllish Dr Warren in F.W. Murnau's copyright infringing 1920 Der Januskopf: obviously the gateway drug to the hard stuff of 1922's Nosferatu and Max Schreck's Count Dra... erm, Orloff!

It's a funny old world, whatever name you're using or face you're wearing.

Wednesday 7 February 2024

Purple Noon ([a.k.a. Plein Soleil] Rene Clement, 1960)

It took the discovery that Netflix are mounting a new adaptation of the misadventures of Patricia Highsmith's roguish antihero Tom Ripley - in the form of the prosaically-titled Ripley, starring Andrew Scott of Sherlock and Fleabag and unnervingly high forehead fame (seriously, why haven't Marvel cast him as the Leader?  Just paint the lad green, no CGI enhancements required) - to finally prompt me to get round to sitting down and watching "the original, you might say".  Yes, I typed that in the voice of Richard Hurndall.  This Netflix series apparently premieres (or 'drops',as we say these days about television shows as well as music [I am so down with da yoof]) this April 4th, which - should I make it that far - will be the day after my 45th birthday.  Will it be a wonderful belated present or an unwanted gift?  Time will tell, I suppose.

It always does.

Having read all five of Highsmith's Ripley pentalogy (The Talented Mr Ripley, Ripley Under Ground, Ripley's Game, The Boy Who Followed Ripley and Ripley Under Water) in the early 2000s in the wake of Anthony Minghella's celebrated Matt Damon-starring 1999 movie of the first in the series - which, much to my chagrin, didn't spawn the requisite sequels I was awaiting unless one counts the unrelated 2002 variation upon Ripley's Game with John Malkovitch (Malkovitch Malkovitch); it does seem somewhat de rigueur to skip the second novel, as Ripley Under Ground was skipped in between the days of Rene Clement's 1960 Purple Noon and Wim Wenders' 1977 The American Friend, and again between 1999 and 2002 although there was a belated 2005 adaptation from Roger Spottiswoode that I always forget about, as seemingly does everyone else) - I have of course been meaning to watch the first cinematic version of Ripley (there had been a televised one hour live performance in January 1956 as an episode of the anthology series Studio One which sadly seems not to have been preserved as a Kinescope recording) for two decades now.  It does sometimes take me a while to get round to things.  

Procrastination's what you need if you want to be a record breaker, as Roy Castle never sang.

Hands up in honesty, though - who amung* us didn't look at the cover art of The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead album when young and want to be Alain Delon when they grew up?  I know I did.

So, briefly for those who don't know the story, the wealthy Boston Greenleafs (Greenleaves?  You do me wrong) hire Tom Ripley (Delon) to fly to the Med to bring back their errant son Philippe (nee Dickie, played by Maurice Ronet) who is living the high life of the idle rich being elegantly wasted around the Italian Riviera.  Quickly becoming quite taken with this louche Ligurian luxury lifestyle, Tom worms his way into the elite existences of Philippe and his girlfriend Marge (Marie Laforet) as well as their occasionally appearing friend Freddy (Billy Kearns) and his entourage of girlfriends - one of whom is an uncredited Romy Schneider of Sissi fame (she was da bomb in Visconti's Ludwig, yo): wouldn't we all like to spend five nights at Freddy's?

After larking about on the town and engaging in such shenanigans as buying a white cane from a blind man (Jess Franco regular Paul Muller), Philippe Marge and Tom embark on a recreational yacht trip so dripping with sexual tension that they should definitely have just organised a thrupple or a threesome or a menage or whatever and just got it over with.  This boat badly needs some bisexual lighting.  Wait - is that the purple that the English language title refers to?  MIND BLOWN.

Anyway, Tom winds up stabbing Philippe in a different way than the tension might lead us to suspect - i.e.: fatal rather than fun - and pitching the body overboard wrapped in a tarpaulin and weighed down with the anchor before taking his inveigling to its ne plus ultra by assuming the late Mr Greenleaf's identity and habits, gaslighting Marge into a relationship along the way, whilst dodging the suspicions of Freddy and the police (didn't they have a hit with 'You Were Made For Me'?).

Expertly directed by Clement (who, hopefully, didn't get too handsy with any of the female talent like he allegedly did with Jane Fonda), who sustains the suspense and tension admirably throughout as Delon's Ripley coasts through on his looks and insuppressible charm, the film is marred only by an ending that can't help but feel like a cop-out as our antagonist/protagonist exits the movie (sadly not pursued by a bear) walking into a police trap - feeling a bit like those Hong Kong movies with a mandatory 'the police must arrest anyone who breaks the law during the film' closing sequence.  An undoubtedly excellent adaptation of both Highsmith's novel and character with a mark deducted for cowardice in the face of the finale.

(*Yes, of course I spelled it like that deliberately.  I can be a silly creature of whim sometimes.  You should know that by now)

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Doctor Who - The Barbara Benedetti Years (1984 - 1988)

 (Given the title of this piece, it would be fitting, probably, to picture us beginning with a title sequence consisting of a cube - each facet of which contains an image of Barbara Benedetti - rendered in loving early 1990s Quantel; all the while Keff McCulloch's 'Latin version' of the theme batters your brain with it's sick Calypso beats)

We all remember when BBC TV's titular Time Lord regenerated into the form of a blonde-haired woman, right?  No, not Jodie Whittaker.  Before that.  Before Cybermen.  Before Iceworld.  Back, back to your beginnings!  Sorry, I managed to segue from Fenric into Morbius there.  I think I really must have an undiagnosed villain complex.  That explains so much...  Anyway, where were we?  Ah, yes.  There really was a female incarnation of the Doctor before Jodie Whittaker.  Not Jo Martin (though, both canonically and chronologically [chronologically in-fiction, that is, but I'm being Doylist here rather than Watsonian just for a change] that would be a right answer) - I'm talkin' 'bout Barbara Benedetti.  "Who?" you might ask.

"The Doctor - that's Who!" being my tiresomely predictable retort.  I can't help myself, it's an illness, probably.

In these days of part of Doctor Who fandom losing its shit (what, really?  That never happens!) over the upcoming brave new era of the show being produced with a distribution deal in place with - and input from - Disney+, the attendant angst over thoughts of the show being 'Americanised' and 'going Hollywood' have emerged to give me serious mid-Nineties flashbacks.  When the 1996 TV movie (which I still like to think is titled 'Starring Paul McGann', since that's the first caption appear onscreen after Doctor Who during the title sequence) was a thing that was happening, there were extremely similar 'concerns'.  Would the integral Britishness of the show be lost now that we were adventuring in a suspiciously Vancouver-looking San Francisco instead of a quarry in Gerrards Cross or a Victorian museum village in Shropshire?  Would the Doctor be stepping out of a Coke machine TARDIS with a cute furry robotic companion into a story that was unrecognisable, like some kind of X-Files meets Voyager meets Airwolf mash-up in a crack lounge?  What would a North American made Doctor Who be like?  Well, let's take a look, shall we?  Like the foundations of the series itself, let me take you on an educational (in true Reithian BBC style) and perhaps (?) entertaining adventure back trough space and time to a far and distant destination...

Early 1980s Seattle.

Independent outfit Seattle International Films, headed up by Anglophile Ryan K. Johnson, were already a going concern that had made 16 mm short films such as the one-minute parody Escape From Seattle (with lead character 'Slug Plissken' - can you tell what it is yet?) and were in the midst of what would become the 20 minute epic set in a men's toilet cubicle (?) Kill Roy when Johnson became a fan of Who through the PBS runs of the Tom Baker stories in 1983.  Discovering that the 1984 World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) was to have a film contest judged by a panel including Gary Kurtz of Star Wars fame (is he still of Star Wars fame these days, or has everyone forgotten who he is in these days of just slagging off Kathleen Kennedy as the Antichrist?), he made the decision to dive into the Whoniverse with an episode of his own, shot in sunny (ha!) Seattle.

The result of his toils was The Wrath of Eukor (written by Ryan K. Johnson, script edited by Cheryl Read [credited writer], Linda Bushyager and Deb Walsh, directed by Ryan K. Johnson, 1984).  Our adventures begin with a glimpse of the Seattle International Films logo over a nice vista of the city with the Space Needle prominently visible, before we are taken to a dark street with the caption 'London, 1911' explaining the need for all the fog machine-generated swirls of mist: we are in the American idea of an Edwardian pea souper.  We hear a voice singing the lyrics to the 19th century song 'Benny Havens, Oh' as a chirpy Cockernee chimney sweep emerges.  This jaunty singer and whistler is Carl Evans (played by Randy Rogel, who has gone on to have quite the writing career in the field of animation, with credits on Batman: the Animated Series, Animaniacs, and The Legend of Tarzan).

Carl stops as he hears a woman's voice in the darkness.  "Too soon... must get back... three times in as many years... it's too much."  He notices blood on the pavement and follows to trail to the newly-regenerated Doctor (Benedetti), dressed in the Sixth Doctor's outfit and obviously in a state of confusion - possibly at the fact that this is chronologically only the second ever pre-titles sequence in Doctor Who: three years after 'Castrovalva' and predating 'Time and the Rani', both of which were also regeneration sequences.  Carl offers assistance to this strange lady, who seems surprised to see her reflection in a shop window ("The DNA matrix must have failed!  The nose is an improvement.") and wants to get back to her 'ship' but - as he points out - is heading in the opposite direction to the harbour.  When they arrive at what Carl recognises to be "just an old police call box", despite the MacKenzie-Trench box design not coming in for another 18 years (foreshadowing of a Susan and Nyssa style incipient telepathy on Carl's part?  No.  To be fair, police boxes were around before 1911, just not this particular kind, so let's be charitable and put it down to Carl being able to read the signage [though I'm not sure of the literacy levels among early 20th century chimney sweeps] and being familiar enough with the concept) he asks the eccentric stranger worriedly "Did they just let you out?"

"No.  I escaped.  I barely got out.  Not alive, though."  I really want to know the circumstances of the Sixth Doctor's death in this particular time track; it certainly seems a damn sight more dramatic than banging his head on an exercise bike due to tumultuous buffeting.

They then enter the TARDIS together, Carl helping her through the doors to the swelling sound of  Paddy Kingsland's regeneration reprise theme from 'Castrovalva'.  I'm already pretty sure I love this.  We then crash into my childhood version of the opening titles and music - namely the Sid Sutton starfield (I'm glad I don't type with a lisp) accompanied by the Peter Howell rendition of the legendary Ron Grainer theme; the infinite universe opening up before us to the oo-ee-oos of a Jupiter 4 (my favourite Sharon Van Etten song, incidentally).  As we proceed past the new Doctor's face forming from the stars, the neon logo and the story title and writer's credit as standard - so far, so very 1980 to 1984 Doctor Who - we arrive in a leafy forest in Washington state, where Vince Wallace (Tom Lance), a reporter from the Seattle Times is attempting to get a story on a group of Vietnam war veterans (you don't get this sort of The Deer Hunter-cum-Born on the Fourth of July stuff from Eric Saward, do you?) who are holed up in the woods and living a life separate from the rest of humanity.  The group's leader, Grant (Jim Dean) and his shades-bedecked henchman Tate (Michael Smith) are quite keen on sending Wallace packing with knife-wielded death threats, whilst their cohort Harris (Keven McCauley) seems quite jumpy and nervous, claiming to sense some sort of malevolent presence all around them.

As this is occurring, the TARDIS arrives with its (her) customary vworp vworp wheezing groaning sound.  The Doctor - who has changed out of Colin Baker's Technicolor dreamcoat into a new outfit of  a vaguely military-looking beige getup replete with epaulettes - attempts to convince Carl that they have most certainly moved in time and space and are no longer in London Taaahhn: "Well, the foliage is greener", she says whilst examining the local flora, but thankfully not feeling the need to eat and of the soil.  Carl expresses the belief that 'old Mr Wells' would give a pretty penny to see the wonders of TARDIS travel, to which the Doctor replies that she "did show H.G. the TARDIS once - he said it would never work", canonising 'Timelash' before it was even broadcast.  Wibbly wobbly... No.  Stop that.  It's silly.

Wallace emerges from the trees and tries to warn the time travelers off before the 'Nam dudes find them and become unfriendly to strangers in finest rural pub tradition, but the Doctor remains jauntily defiant and prescribes a brisk walk through the undergrowth to the synth strains of Peter Howell's score for 'The Leisure Hive'.  When Vince panics and runs off, he drops a metallic object that the Doctor quickly studies and finds maddeningly familiar but can't recall from where ("The body's fit, but the mind isn't"); dashing after him the Doctor and Carl find him lying dead and are surrounded by the army dudes who want to know why they "greased" him.  The Doctor swiftly establishes her authority, tapping Grant some blows with her umbrella and deducing that Wallace was killed by a massive electrical shock and that whatever did it is out there in the forest and might strike again.

While this is going on, we cut to another member of the Vietnam vets, Francis (George Catalano), fishing in the river.  Hearing a noise, he gets up and calls out to his comrades, only for something unseen to rush towards him from the underbrush in an Evil Dead-style P.O.V. shot.  Tate splits off from the group to have a scout around, and comes across a clearing in which stand some strange alien obelisks of such a shape and design that one expects a culturally appropriating William Shatner to emerge from one shouting "KIROK!"  He too is soon pursued and killed by the free-floating Evil Force, and the rest of the group - now down to just Grant and the jittery Harris, led by the Doctor and Carl - follow in his footsteps to the obelisks.  Harris can feel an intense energy in the air, but Grant puts it down to the presence of the power plant nearby.  The Doctor recognises the writing on the obelisks as Darnian, and informs us that the inhabitants of the planet Darnia were beings of conscious energy who at one time made it to Earth and imprisoned one of their own here.  As she is imparting this information, Carl feels compelled to hold the metal object dropped by Vince against the block where it is revealed to be a key, opening the Darnian prison and releasing the otherworldy convict ensconced within.

This act of foolishness leads to Harris [? I think.  Frankly, the whisky was kicking in by this point] immediate possession as the unleashed being - Eukor - gets all up inside him and wears him like a glove (to quote the Spirit of Jazz from The Mighty Boosh)

When Eukor arrives at the power station: they can hear it through the wires, they can hear it through the lines

The Barbara Benedetti Doctor returns in Visions of Utomu (written by Ryan K. Johnson with input from Linda Bushyager, directed by Ryan K. Johnson, 1986), Pentagon West: A Doctor in the House (written by Ryan K. Johnson, directed by Howard Carson, 1987), and Broken Doors (written by T. Brian Wagner, directed by Steve Hauge [not a typo, rhymes with "howdy"],1988) - which I will doubtless get round to covering in the future.  Or was it the past...?

Oh, and incidentally, a very happy 60th Doctor Who anniversary to all of you at home!

Wednesday 8 November 2023

Dr Hackenstein (Richard Clark, 1988)

 I couldn't quite decide which quote to open this with - it was a tie between "We don't care about live people - we only fool around with people who are dead!" and "He wants your body for his wife... he wants to bring her back to life!", the latter being from the rather extraordinary theme tune by Claude LeHanaff and the Hard Roaders.  I should like a band name like that.

Well, my 'Ten Days of Halloween' plan (to review a horror movie a day for the last ten days of October) got well and truly scuppered - as do most of my damn fine plans - by poxy real world concerns.  Never mind, though, I'm still going to do all of the films I had planned.  Maybe eked out over the run up to Christmas.  Hey, if the celebration of the birth of a man that millions genuinely believe dies and then rose from his tomb like Dracula and the Blind Dead isn't spooky, I don't know what is.  So - on and on, and on to the next one, as Dave Grohl so wisely sang.

Mary Shelley's tale of Frankenstein has gone through many cinematic permutations over the last century or so (113 years since the first silver screen version, if we're being pedantic [and I'm in that sort of mood, so I am]), from James Whale's legendary Boris Karloff-starring Universal classic through Gary Conway's 'teenage' monster to Toho's gigantic Baragon-battling kaiju version and many many others.  One variation on the Frankie theme that I was intrigued by as a youth was Dr Hackenstein, the VHS box for which I often saw on the video shop shelf but never saw.  I think I tried once, and when the store owner pointed out that I couldn't rent it because it was rated 18 and I was clearly under ten I angrily protested that I'd been getting 18 certificate films from his shop since I was six - which prompted a shushing that I shouldn't say that when there were other people in the shop and I was palmed off with a free lend of American Rabbit or somesuch.  Anyway, here we finally are.

Not really worth the 30-plus year wait is the short review.  But it was a laugh so we'll try like the good doctor himself to stitch a bit more flesh on the bones than that.

Helmed by first time director Richard Clark (and his only directing credit until the short Bookworms a decade later, which was his last), our story opens in 1909, at what the captions helpfully inform us was the 'dawn of modern science', where our eponymous antagonist/protagonist Dr Elliot Hackenstein (David Muir) is getting up to some very Herbert Westian shenanigans reviving a stitched together hairless rat.  To briefly address the Lovecraftian nightmarish elephantine beast from beyond the limits of fragile human understanding in the room: this film is obviously inspired by Stuart Gordon's masterful rendition of Reanimator of a few years earlier (seriously, why aren't I reviewing that instead?  Maybe in the new year I'll do a piece on the whole trilogy), but in timey-wimey (stop that at once! - Ed.) fashion is more similar to Bride of Reanimator which wouldn't emerge until two years later.

Skipping ahead to 1912, we meet the awful Trilling siblings Wendy (Dyanne DiRosario), Leslie (Catherine Davis Cox) and Alex (John Alexis) who with their likable cousin Melanie Victor (Stacey Travis, who two years later would go on to star in Richard Stanley's brilliant Hardware [no really, why aren't I reviewing that instead? (Because you actually like that film and would have to do more than make some crap jokes?)]) are drunkenly tooling around the country lanes in a sprightly vintage roadster (copyright Terrance Dicks, like so much of my standard phraseology) just like McCulloch, Carlson, Bastedo et al at the outset of 1975's The Ghoul.  Just like that party of passengers, vehicular bother leads to them seeking shelter in the nearest Old Dark House.

This is of course the rural residence of the hack-happy doctor, who welcomes in the trio of nubile young ladies - and the unfunny injured comedy stooge they're bearing - without mentioning the preserved head of his late wife (who he claims lost her life and the rest of her by falling into the sea during the maiden voyage of the Lusitania and getting minced in the ship's propeller, whereas she very much lost her head at her husband's hands) kept in cold storage in his upstairs laboratory with which he frequently has conversations like a cross between Baghead Jason from Friday the 13th Part II and Ed Gein (or Ezra Cobb from Alan Ormsby's Deranged, to continue the movie comparison).  Elliot is very soon eyeing up the young ladies - and who can blame him? - for parts to stitch together a new body for Sheila's bonce: he sets out to take Wendy's legs, Leslie's arms and has his eye on Melanie Victor's eyes.  I guess because Bette Davis' and Gary Gilmore's weren't available.

Whilst all off this is going on, we have comedy from Logan and Anne Ramsay (yes, she of The Goonies and Throw Momma From the Train fame, sadly in her final performance - the film being released posthumously and carrying a dedication to her [I'm sure she'd be thrilled]) as a comedy graverobbing / bodysnatching couple, similar to the characters played by Dennis Price and Joan Rice in Hammer's 1970 The Horror of Frankenstein, silent comedy-style slapstick with Hackenstein's deaf and mute maid (Cathy Cahn) and a shrill turn from Phyllis Diller as the Trillings' overbearing mother.  I mean, I say "comedy" but the quotation marks are appropriate.

All of it - basic plot, gore effects, humour - were done far better in Bride of Reanimator, frankly.  Still, at least I've finally seen it.  One more off the list.

Sunday 22 October 2023

Night of the Beast ([a.k.a. Lukas' Child] Eric Louzil, 1993)

When trying to figure out what horror film one should select from their vast collection of genre cinema that mostly remains unseen to watch for the very first time with the fresh eyes of a newborn babe, I find that the best approach is to ask oneself "Do any of these feature a porn star trying some 'straight' acting within the genre?"  And you know, it's surprising how many times that comes back with a "yes".  My review of David DeCoteau's Creepozoids - which co-starred Ashlyn Gere - is one that springs to mind (as an M. R. James-style warning to the curious, that review can be found here).  And so it follows, quite naturally enough if you're mental, that I asked myself if I had to hand a horror movie that I had yet to view that also starred a classic '80s American porn star.  No, not Jeff Stryker - I've seen Zombie Flesh Eaters 3 more than enough (at least twice: the second time was to check that it was as bad as I thought it was [note: it definitely is]).  No, not Amber Lynn - I don't actually own a copy of Things, and judging by every review I've seen it might be awful enough to jeapardise my already fragile mental health.

Shanna McCullough it is then!  Now, obviously my appreciation for vintage 1980s pornography is retrospective - but only because the internet wasn't around then - so my coming across / discovering the lovely flame-haired Ms McCullough was comparatively recent, and I found myself quite enchanted and intrigued.  Not just because she almost has the same surname as me; I mean, same surname, alternate spelling.  Obviously her porn star name isn't her actual name.  Not that any of this matters one iota.

Probably best we move on from this.

Night of the Beast - also known under it's shooting title (shooting title?  Are you implying that actual work, thought, and the normal filmmaking process were involved in the creation of this?!?) of Lukas' Child (no, it isn't a sequel, even in name only, to the 1986 Corey Haim classic Lucas)  - opens with a gathering of a Satanic cult, the members of which dress in regulation hooded cloaks and skeleton masks and as a result look highly reminiscent of the supernatural army from Jess Franco's The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein.  Their leader, Lukas Armand (Robert May), is to be charitable a portly older gentleman who sits smoking a cigar like a bored businessman in a strip club whilst an 'exotically' dressed (breast-baring fetish wear, thigh high boots and a rather fetching diaphanous cape) dancer terpsichores for him and his minions in their neon bulb and candle-lit dungeon lair.  Neon and candlelight?  Surely a faux pas?

A nubile young scantily-dressed sacrifice is brought in, and Lukas informs her that "You have broken the Code of Conduct, and cannot be forgiven!"  I wouldn't mind if she violated my CoC.  Anyway, the young lady, dressed in some lovely lingerie, is swiftly dispatched.  Which seems a shame.  Is that what 'pantywaist' means?  Lukas cackles with his stripper henchwoman, who seems very much the Evil Lyn to his Skeletor.  This young woman isn't the first victim to have been captured by Lukas' cult, of course, and Detective Steve Anderson (Gene LeBrock, in the penultimate role of his thankfully brief career) is on the case, ably assisted by Detective Susan Wesley (Shanna McCu... oh, wait... Marcia Gray.  Because what a piece of cinema to go legit in).  Susan has discovered a medallion bearing a five pointed star in the home of the most recent missing girl.

"It's a pentacle, it's used in witchcraft... to ward off evil spirits" she helpfully informs plank of wood Steve and the thicker members of the audience, whilst proving her credentials from the Slaughtered Lamb Police Academy.  And so Steve is hot on the trail of the missing aspiring actresses who have all mysteriously vanished after auditioning for a part in a horror movie - auditions which always seem to end with the bookcase of the room sliding back to reveal Lukas sitting in his wheelchair like a Satanic cross between Ironside and Nero Wolfe, and deciding to sacrifice these nubile twentysomething clothes-allergic ladies to his 'son' - a behorned and bewinged daemonic monstrosity whose prosthetics are quite good to be fair.  If you can imagine the Unnameable's cheaper cousin, you're there.

When two more girls go missing, one whom's father is, according to Susan, "a cop in the Hill Street division" (boy, he must be feeling pretty blue) Steve gets right on the case by sleeping with two of the witnesses.  In his defence one of them if played by fetish wresting starlet Tori Sinclair, but still - unethical, right?  But by gritty determination... no, outright luck, and the assistance of two random boys straight out of either The Goonies or The Return of Swamp Thing (more the latter, really.  And Monique Gabrielle probably should have shown up in this film, too) he manages to solve the case, rescue the surviving scantily-clad captives, and defeat the bad guys.  Just like a proper hero cop on a mission who lives his life on the edge (who sleeps with every woman he meets apart from his far more attractive partner) should.

I can't in any form of honesty pretend this is a good film or recommend it to anyone.

As spurious reasons for T & A packages as horror films go, I think I preferred Burial of the Rats in all honesty.  Maria Ford's no Shanna, but at least she had the common decency to wear a sexy outfit.  Seriously, who hires a genuine porn star and AVN Award winner and she's the only actress in the entire movie to keep her clothes on throughout?  Looks like I'm going to have to get round to watching Pornogothic after all.  Don't expect a review of that one though, because Shanna + goth = I'll probably be blind by the end of it.

Saturday 21 October 2023

Slugs (Juan Piquer Simon, 1988)

 'Tis the season to be spooky, as they say (whoever 'they' are), and so I thought it might be an idea to spend the last ten days of October watching and reviewing horror movies - a deadly and deathly delight for the last decade of the month.  Ideally, of course, it would have been Thirteen Days of Halloween, but I've been ill the past few days and I never plan ahead, so ten it is.  These will probably be slightly shorter, more off the cuff reviews than I usually attempt - yes, believe it or not, I do mostly try and put effort into this stuff - and so may even be an improvement.  Mind you, when I just go with my instincts, it can lead to terrible things happening.  Not that I'm likely to spontaneously ask any of you dear readers to marry me or anything.


True story: in recent months, the changeable weather up here in the sunny (ha!) North East of That There England has led to a surfeit of slugs (I assume that's the correct collective noun) appearing in our front and back gardens.  Real big buggers in all sorts of disgusting hues of brown, grey, sickly off-white... you name it.  The bit that really freaked me out, though, was seeing a particularly large and menacing specimen in the cat's bowl, actually eating a piece of cat food.  The thought that we were somehow breeding a species of carnivorous slugs in our garden naturally turned my mind to Shaun Hutson's schlocky '80s  horror paperback (of which my childhood self owned a few, including the extremely icky and maybe not to be read by eight year olds Spawn), but more particularly the film version,  Having not seen it since its BBFC truncated UK VHS release, it seemed as good a time as any for a revisit.

Helmed by Spain's Juan Piquer Simon - probably best known for the 1982 slasher classic Pieces, and possibly 1990s Abyss / Leviathan / Deep Star Six a like The Rift, but also tragically for the dreadful 1981 Jules Verne's Mystery on Monster Island (which not only wastes the talents of genre stars Peter Cushing, Terence Stamp and Paul Naschy, but is as Jules Verne as the horrendous Canadian movie H.G. Wells' The Shape of Things to Come is Wells) and MST3K trash classic 1983's Pod People - the film transposes Hutson's grimy little tale from Merton. England, to Ashton, U.S.A. - doubtless the kind of summer town where the authorities won't close the sewer system during the season.

We open with Wayne (Eric Swanson) and his girlfriend (Karen Landberg) messing about in a boat on the Ashton reservoir.  The young lady wishes to go for a swim but Wayne demurs, having spotted a sewage outlet pipe (he should try living in 2023 Britain - our rivers are all made of faeces).  He does, however, dangle a foot off the boat into the water and is soon pulled in by "something slimy" and very shortly is reduced to a bubbling crimson cataract of blood.  Cue credits.

We are shortly introduced to the town's health inspector Mike Brady (Michael Garfield, in his first credit since 1979 cult classic The Warriors) who is having drinks with his lovely wife Kim (the lovely Kim Terry), the local schoolteacher known to her wretched pupils - seriously, unlikable youths were a staple of '80s horror, weren't they, but were they always this bad? - as "the wicked bitch of the North", who manifests her wicked side by donning sexy black lingerie for fun bedtimes with her husband.  If only they'd invested in some green body paint for a truly Wicked session.  Sorry, there's my Elphaba fetish poking out.  I'll just tuck that discreetly away.  Mike and Kim are out with their friends David (Emilio Linder) and Maureen (Alicia Moro) Watson and trying to politely ignore lush (in more than one sense) Maureen's alcohol-induced misbehaviour.  Excusing themselves for an early (sexytimes) night, on their way out they bump into Don Palmer (Philip MacHale) the town's sewage inspector who apparently now earns half the salary working for the civic authorities as he did as a plumber.

 Mike is working with the truculent Sheriff Reese (John Battaglia, who I could have sworn was the same guy that played Tex in Robot Jox but apparently not.  I swear I've seen him elsewhere though, despite what IMDB says) to evict local drunk Ron Bell (Stan Schwartz) from his condemned home, only to find that the unfortunate down and out gentleman has been consumed by flesh eating slugs - something that the sheriff, with his cry of "What next... demented crickets?!?" (look dude, don't give the 'when nature attacks' genre ideas.  Plus, hasn't that been done?) fails to fully believe at first.

We get a series of great gory kills, such as when Maureen doesn't notice the overgrown slug in the lettuce she's slicing for the dinner salad, leading to David being internally consumed by slug blood parasites and his face exploding during a lunch meeting with clients; one of which is played by doyenne of '70s Euro horror Patty Shepard in her penultimate role before her sad early death from cancer.  Then we have two of Kim's students: there's the brunette Donna (Kari Rose), who is enjoying some illicit sexy times with her douchebag boyfriend Bobby (Kris Mann) whilst her parents are out when the bedroom becomes rife with ravenous gastropods that strip the flesh from their naked bodies, in a scene that was cut from the '80s UK release but can now be enjoyed in all its gory glory.  Bobby had earlier been introduced taunting the unfortunate Ron before his demise, so fuck him anyway.  Then there's the blonde Pam (Tammy Reger), who has to escape the clutches of a jealous classmate-cum-skull masked attempted rapist by jumping down a sewer outlet only to be consumed by the vicious molluscs.  The rapist dude never gets held to account either.  Fucksake.

But the best bit of the film, for me, is when Brady goes to the town authorities and tells them to disconnect the water supply or he'll declare a health emergency and is told by the officious Phillips (Frank Brana) "YOU AIN'T GOT THE AUTHORITY TO DECLARE 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY'!  NOT IN THIS TOWN!"  Magnificent.  Anyway, obviously Mike and Don have to team up to rescue the town from these slugs transformed from the norm by the nuclear goop.  With some degree of sacrifice involved.  I would and do highly recommend Slugs, both book and film, to any and all connoisseurs of the exploitative and goopy.  You'll have a great time.  I did, at both eight and forty four.  I should probably grow up one of these days.

Saturday 26 August 2023

Sexangle (John Jesnor Lindsay, 1975) [NSFW]

(NOTE: This concerns a 1970s grot loop and as such will contain NSFW elements such as sexual references and - in the words of Simon Bates - sexual swear words.  Such as "fucknut" and "arsecandle".  Probably.)

From Hull it came.

One of two short (under half an hour) grimy porn loops made back-to-back (or, as Stanley B. Herman's legendary Uncle Hank would yell in Darren Aronofsky's 2000 soul-gnawing mindfuck Requiem for a Dream, "Ass to ass!") in 1975, along with Health Farm - both movies featuring the character of Lady Samantha as played by attractive but elusive performer 'Debbie', this twin-spin of sin being her only two known roles - this would be a point of interest in director John Lindsay's celebrated grot career for one reason that I shall express in three words.

Cosey. Fanni. Tutti.

Yes, you read that right.  The sometime singer and guitarist from post-punk industrial noiseniks Throbbing Gristle (birthed into this sick world as Christine Newby in the Kingston-upon-Hull of 1951) has an unashamedly extensive resume in the pornographic sphere if you didn't already know: her decidedly feminist and empowered take on the male-ruled heteronormative realm of the patriarchal porn of the '70s included COUM Transmissions' 1976 art installation-cum-exhibition (cum exhibition?) entitled Pornography at the London Institute of Contemporary Art displaying many of her jazz mag photoshoots framed as museum artworks.

Not called Tessa.  Not from Sunderland.

Director John Lindsay was by this time well underway in his smut career, having started in 1970 with a series of 8mm shorts beginning with Miss Bohrloch starring future star of the sex scene bombshell Mary Millington in her debut performance.  After graduating to series of 'nymphette' or 'Lolita' scenarios - loops featuring grown women dressed in schoolgirl outfits - such as 1974's Jolly Hockey Sticks (starring future therapist and doctor of sexology Ava Cadell - also star of Norman J. Warren's Spaced Out [a.k.a. Outer Touch] and at least four of Andy Sidaris' frankly mind-boggling 'Bullets, Bombs and Babes' movies) Lindsay graduated to not-quite feature length (just over 20 minutes apiece) with the double feature of Sexangle and Health Farm in 1975.

We open with Lady Samantha Huntingdon (the aforementioned Debbie) looking lovely in a green dress as she makes a telephone call from her stately manor to the 'international design centre' where she confirms to the receptionist (Suzette Sangallo, whose only other credit is in the George Harrison Marks joint 'Come Play With Me' alongside the lovely Mary Millington, a flick that ran continuously in a West End cinema from 1977 to 1981 - that's a lot of stained macs stickying up those seats) that it's fine for the appointment to take place at Huntingdon Towers today (actually, it's called Uplands House according to the signage).  When the girl confirms that both she and Mr Purkiss (I think that's the name - the sound quality on the copy I tracked down isn't exactly the best), Lady Sam hangs up the phone and we see her friend Suzie (Cosi herself) finishing removing her clothes and announcing "Sorry, darling - I'm having a shower now".  Just as we begin to enjoy her soaping her very nice mammaries beneath the cascading waters, Lady S. has to descend the stairs to answer the door (you just can't get the help these days) to Mr Purkiss (?) (Timothy Blackstone, who amidst a career in suspect '70s fare like Confessions of a Driving Instructor and The Hot Girls made appearances in legit stuff such as Colditz and as a Thal soldier in the classic Doctor Who story 'Genesis of the Daleks') and his assistant.  

Showing them up to the master bedroom, the stately Lady states that her boudoir is the room that she would like decorated first.  One assumes she means 'decorated' as in 'festooned with bodily fluids' considering the events that are obviously about to unfold.  Suzie really should have waited to have that shower, she'll just need another one shortly along with the other three.  Mr We're Just Going With Purkiss says that he will have to "take some measurements, first" - I bet you will, my son - and so his assistant Miss Waugh (I'm pretty sure on that one: they pronounce it like people say Evelyn Waugh, which really annoys me as they always say 'Evil-Lyn War' and I reckon it should be pronounced 'Evellin Woff') accompanies Lady Samantha, who tells her "I want to show you the bathroom".

Of course, Suzie is still showering, but the blithe and spirited Samantha merely introduces her as her "friend" before leaving Miss Waugh to take notes on the renovations even though her gaze seems more fixed towards Cosi's cosy looking muff than her notepad.  As Suzie emerges all dripping wet nature takes its course as it surely must when two sexy brunettes are left alone together, and when Lady S. pokes her head round the door to show them Purkiss' designs she is greeted by the sight of them indulging in their designs on each other with their tongues down each others' throats.  Other orifices shall doubtless soon also get a lingual lashing as we progress.  But I digress.  Clearly delighted with developments, Our Lady of the Immaculate Wide-On returns to Mr Purkiss and offers to help him with the measuring, but first "I'll just take orff [she's very posh] my dress - mustn't get it creased" and removes her smashing frock to reveal an even more cracking green satin corset and sheer stockings.

Declaring "Mr Branson," - oh, he's called Branson now?  Definitely didn't sound like that earlier - "come over here" she literally reels him in with the tape measure to her bed where he immediately begins feasting on her baps: "Oooh, that's super!  I love my tits being sucked!".  Meanwhile, Suzie and Miss Waugh have made their way from the bathroom to the corner of the bedroom, where Suzie sits in a chair legs akimbo whilst Miss Waugh proves herself a very cunning linguist eliciting the deathless line "Please, please, stick your tongue right up!" in a voice that I strongly suspect isn't Cosi's own.  The ADR / looping on this is absolutely, hilariously terrible by the way - dialogue often coming in when people's mouths aren't even moving.  It's genius.  Some of the extreme close-ups of the labial lapping are positively gynaecological.  Branson or Purkiss or whatever the hell he's called has by now progressed, like an excited teeneger, to the stage of some light fingering of which the Lady approves but she soon hoiks his trousers down with a "Now let's see what you've got... Oh, super!  Just what I want" and begins slurping on his sausage.

Suzie (well, whoever's providing her voice) declares "I want to kiss you now!" and snogs her own pussy juices out of Miss Waugh's mouth before laying her down on the floor and stating that she wants "to kiss your slim body all over".  Brankiss or whoever seems to soon tire of being fellated by a beautiful lady - the silly sod - and declares "What lovely big tits.  I want to fuck them." in a voiceover with all the unbridled passion of the bored voice at the other end of the drive-through speaker.  Still, he gets his wish for a titwank - the jammy sod - and the accommodating Samantha continues to lap at the tip of his glans with each upward thrust.  Suzie and Waugh are still literally munching on the rug, but have progressed into a 69 by this point.

"Stick your big hard prick right up my juicy cunt.  Oh, lovely.  Super.  Harder.  Put it right up." There's something quite odd (and profoundly arousing) about hearing a line like that in a plummy cut-glass accent.  Clearly I don't move in the right circles, unlike Mr Whomever, who is indeed right up the lady as she shifts from cowgirl to reverse cowgirl and does indeed seem to be enjoying herself definitely creaming (you can't fake that) before taking his load over her face and wabs in glorious slow motion, accompanied by a cacophonous wall of noise of wails that sounds like something off a Goblin soundtrack.

We then suddenly cut to what is clearly a different day as a chauffeur (performer unknown, name not listed on any credits I could find) who is loading the Lady's baggage into the back of the car (licence plate 'Sexy 1' of course)as she and Suzie come down the stairs and kiss each other goodbye.  Giving Suzie the keys to look after the house, Lady S. climbs into the open-topped vehicle and is pretty much open-topped herself, her diaphanous blouse blowing open in the wind and displaying her decolletage.  After she has been dropped off at wherever she was going, the driver heads down a country lane where he encounters a girl (wait, is this Suzette Sangallo?  She's credited as 'Girl', rather than Miss Waugh and only she, Cosi, Debbie and Blackstone are actually listed as credits.  I'm so confused) walking down the road in very short hotpants and knee-high boots.  This causes an exclamation of "What a lovely bit of cunt.  This is too good to be missed" as he sets off in pursuit, which isn't very MeeToo is it?  Removing his chauffeur regalia, he picks her up and asks her back to "my place" for drinks, arriving at the Lady's manor as if he owns the place.  It's under these false pretences that he lures her inside and asks her if she's a student.  "No, you silly boy, I'm a dancer" she declares, which does explain the hotpants and go-go boots, and gives him a brief demonstration of her moves, prompting an "Ooh, you sexy bitch, come here!"

The hotpants are soon off and the cunnilingus begins when Suzie enters and after a surprised "What's this?" swiftly sheds her dress and in just panties and high heels declares "Off!" and bundles away the hired help to kneel between the legs of the hitchhiking hottie and take over tonguing duties.herself.  Not to be deterred, the driver slides down Suzie's lingerie and his a bit of a lick and a finger himself.  Very soon, he's the one on the receiving end of Suzie's oral action, the girl swiftly joining in to make it a double BJ,  "OK lovers, let's see what you can do" sayeth Suzie, and the lucky bastard of a chauffeur gets to shag first the hitchhiker and then Suzie herself, banging away at her and ejaculating over her stomach while she and the girl indulge in some passionate deep French kissing before like him the film swiftly ends.

Very much a game of two halves; I think I enjoyed the first scene a little more despite Cosi doing boy-girl in the second part. Recommended to anyone interested in the adventures of Ms Fan Tutti (who I discovered whilst writing this has a small role in Ken Russell's Gothic, which gives me an excuse to watch that film again  Not that I need an excuse.  I love that movie) or the 1970s porn scene in general.  It was absurdly poorly done in places, but it did succeed in getting my gristle throbbing.