Tag Archives: Having children

‘Primitive London’ (1965) BFI Flipside Release

4 Jul

Made in the model of famous and influential 60s release Mondo Cane, Primitive London is the British equivalent, exploring the various facades of our capital. Using the very loose narrative of the cycle of life as a basic spine for the film (opening with lovely graphic footage of childbirth, which as we all know scares the hell outta me), we get glimpses of various contrasting and ‘shocking’ (remember context folks, this was 1965) looks into female judo, busking, turkish baths, stripping schools, fencing, swingers parties and stand up comedy routines. Personally interesting to watch were women jean shrinking in their bathtub (which you don’t really need to do these days, thank you skinny jeans!), people getting tattoos done and footage of old British Wrestling promotions including Brit legend Mick McManus working a fight. Watching an operation on a goldfish, however, was just a little weird and, well, less said about the scene at the factory killing battery chickens…

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As mediocre as it is to watch, it is fascinating to see footage of London from over fifty years ago and seeing just how much it’s landscape has changed. Women being tattooed and learning judo are here played with a hint of shocked ignorance which has since given way to nothing but normality. Interesting to watch are also the streets of Soho, full of clubs and advertising strippers left, right and centre. You’d be hard pushed to find much of that London history in Soho as it stands now, with its past feeling very nearly wiped out than celebrated for what it was. Shot by future director Stanley Long (Adventures of a Plumbers Mate, Adventures of a Taxi Driver) and produced, written and directed by Arnold L. Miller (Nudes of the WorldUnder The Table You Must Go), some of the film has efforts of surrealism, with cows intercut against topless models wearing the latest fashions and the task of food shopping contrasted against strip club routines. Whenever the moralising voice of the narrator feels like its starting to wane (one feels somewhat sorry for the young beatniks who are interviewed at the start of the film who get spoken to sometimes as if they were very young children), we always cut back to a stripper. Interesting and yet mundane.

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Released in 1965, it was originally given an ‘A’ certificate. So, at the last-minute some footage of a Jack The Ripper murder re-enactment was added in which ensured it got an ‘X’ certificate for release (something the producers specifically wanted). It first screened at the Windmill Theatre, and in true 60s advertising, a group of exotic dancers were hired for the night. Soho dancer Vicki Grey donned a fur-coat and leopard print bikini in homage to the famous ‘Leopard The Wild One’ dance, the imagery of which made most of the posters and front of house stills. Grey toured the West End with a cheetah on a leash (loaned by Colchester Zoo, sadly a leopard wasn’t available), before relaxing with it in the foyer. It received fairly negative reviews upon release and wasn’t as successful as its predecessor London In The Raw, however it still provides a watchable slice of Brit history.

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Also included  on the BFI Flipside release is a short film from 1965 called Carousella. A short documentary on the lives of a few Soho strippers, Carousella is probably more interesting to watch than Primitive London itself, aware of its short running time and making a narrative with material that still interests and has relevance today. Whilst it was made without much fuss in the 60s, it was immediately banned by John Trevelyan after he watched it, exclaiming that it was nothing more than a recruitment film. It was given a ‘X’ certificate by a few local authorities, but numbers didn’t make for an eventual cinematic release. It’s a shame because the film is beautifully shot and feels really rather human. Nothing is scandalised and the narrative and comments given by the girls featured are delivered well and romanticized but far from the point of being patronising or condescending. A short worth seeking out.

‘Revenge of The Cheerleaders’ (1976) review

18 Apr

A quasi-sequel to 1973 release The Cheerleaders, Revenge of The Cheerleaders see’s Aloha High’s ever popular cheerleading squad deal with a potential merger with local rivals Lincoln High. Hailed as having a ‘morality crisis’ by local press and the town’s education board, the squad attempt to quash anything from happening by sabotaging school inspections (a rather hilarious sketch in which the school lunch is spiked with drugs and alcohol making students, teachers and outside board inspectors run havoc on an extended trip) and making sure current Aloha life continues as normal (sunbathing on the school lawn, having sex openly on campus, couches casually scattered outside the school for people to chill out). A second chance for the school comes in the light of a new principle, who eventually sacks the cheerleaders and sets about cleaning up Aloha for the better… Until the girls find out a secret plan behind it all to sell the school! Cue the cheerleaders on a mission to right the wrongs and have sex along the way (the suggestive rim-job in the local diner is a particularly nice touch). Were you expecting anything less?

Returning to this feature was director Richard Lerner, who was the DOP on the first film, and actress Cheryl ‘Rainbeaux’ Smith as cheerleader Heather (who starred as Andrea in The Cheerleaders). Smith was heavily pregnant in the film (having a baby with the films composer John Stirling), something the Lerner didn’t know when he originally cast her but decided to go with anyway. It makes for a strange contrast amongst the girls but works the promiscuous angle with obvious effect. Another gem in the cast in David Hasselhoff in his first feature role as basketball player Boner, just to see him getting to caught up in the campness of it all.

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For a sexploitation feature, there’s a lot less sex going on here than in its original big sister, with the adult focus more on numerous topless shots (and lots of pubic hair) and the occasional sexually suggestive scene. You’d be forgiven for feeling a little disappointed (like I was) if you were expecting a lot more sex scenes from a softcore picture with cheerleaders as its focus. That said, it’s a lot funnier and more bizarre than its predecessor making it a little more enjoyable and giving it a bit of a zany twist. A mass bubble bath in the school’s shower block is contrasted against a scene in which two girls hold up one Lincoln High classroom with a fire extinguisher, whilst there are three dance numbers, one of which is set in the local diner and has them all dancing around a jukebox, very reminiscent of Tarantino’s Death Proof. That said, it does have a different vibe and its nice to see the girls actually running the school as opposed to just being content as the playthings of the school sports teams. The film is worth a watch, a feature that is probably more fun when watching with a big crowd or a group of friends.

Lets be honest, you can’t really go wrong with a film that has a scene where a girl takes off her pants to use as smelling salts to wake up a knocked out basketball player…

About Sex, But Not – ‘Class Of Nuke Em High’ (1986)

12 Nov

ON THE SURFACE – Warren and Chrissy, two students at Tromaville High School, deal with the side effects of smoking radioactive weed.

SCRAPING THE BARREL – Warren and Chrissy, two students at Tromaville High School, deal with the consequences of having unprotected, first-time sex. There was a reason why the pair were so apprehensive before bonking each other for the first time and the reason was that deep down, they both knew that if they did, something bad would happen… So after having amazing, but unprotected, sex at a party, Chrissy and Warren return home to mixed feelings of jubilation and anxiety. He thinks he’s top guy (watch that penis grow ridiculously huge) and she’s still writhing in orgasmic ecstasy until she starts worrying that she might be pregnant (well, hello there baby bump!) and he starts wondering if his uber-masculine, fun times at College will be cut short due to potential parenting (watch him grow lactating breasts, an emblem of pregnancy). She starts feeling faint and sick (all that radioactive vomiting) and he starts beating up anyone who decides to poke fun at his predicament (his super-strength alley attack on the Cretins). Eventually the issue of the baby becomes far too big for each other them and their relationship to handle (see that mutant baby grow in one big problem) and they wind up getting having the surgical answer, an abortion (death by laser). And so Troma makes a point on reminding us of one fact that people like to bullshit about sometimes… You can get pregnant during your first time.

An Open Letter to ‘Tokophobia’…

26 Sep

My recent posts about Film4 FrightFest came to a bit of an abrupt end a few weeks ago with my thoughts on Day 3 and the remake of Maniac. You’d be forgiven for thinking that I’d only attended for three days when truth be told I was there for the entire weekend. It’s not that I didn’t have fun on the final two days, hell, going to the pub with the fabulous Soska sisters (directors of Dead Hooker In A Trunk and American Mary) was absolutely terrific! Watching the beautiful remastered version of horror classic Bride of Frankenstein in a very small and intimate screen was also really special. But it was one of the shorts that played in the short film showcase during Day Four that really got to me. And I mean really.

See, horror isn’t all about werewolves, vampires, zombies or mutated monsters, nor the metaphors that they have all stood for over the past decades. Horror includes real horror; abuse, serial killers, suffering, depression, sadomasochism, real life experiences that people go through. And this years FrightFest included a short called Tokophobia, a little short that bought a personal horror of mine a little too close to home.

Tokophobia is the fear of childbirth and pregnancy. My name is Lydia and I have tokophobia. It’s not that I don’t want children, part of me would love to be a mother one day, but I really don’t want children. There is no way on this Earth that I will ever give birth naturally to a child. And no, it’s not some feminist/sexually political idea about wanting to keep a tight cervix (which believe it or not is a question I have genuinely been asked in the past as to the reason why I’m so hung up on it), it’s something that I do not want to ever go through. Yeah it looks painful but there’s a little bit more to it than having to go through the intense pain and maybe (or maybe not) receiving strong painkillers.

As someone who has had issues with eating disorders in the past, the idea of a baby developing and growing inside me in a parasitic way whilst my body changes and my weight increases absolutely terrifies me. That might sound a bit stupid, but as someone who has previously scrutinised themselves constantly for hours a day, weighed themselves daily and even missed half of my sixth form years at school so I didn’t have to be around other people (who I thought were skinnier and more beautiful than me), pregnancy in my view is an excuse for me to relapse. As someone who has only just managed to cope with weighing themselves weekly after nine years of daily dilemmas on the scales, those last six months or so of pregnancy are something that fills my stomach with nausea and causes my heart rate to increase (something happening right now as I write). It’s not as if it’s ‘socially acceptable’ to watch what you eat whilst you’re pregnant, your unborn child is your top priority. But at the same time I don’t want to lose my own personal identity in the transformation of becoming and being seen as a mother.

And it’s not just a fear of getting fat. It’s a fear of physically and mentally changing into something that I feel would be damaging to my mental health. It’s not just the worry of having an eating disorder relapse, it’s the concern about developing depression both during and after. That and anxiety is something that I’ve been dealing with since I was eleven, thirteen years later at twenty-four it’s still proving to be a bit of a problem at times. I’m petrified that I will be susceptible to change for the worse when my body is going through such a change. Not only that, but I’ve read numerous articles about depression being hereditary. Add that worry to all the others and the situation isn’t exactly helped. Then as someone who used to have really bad acne as a kid all the way through to my teens (and being bullied pretty badly for being different at primary school because of it and as an early teen), the thought of gaining stretch marks everywhere and watching my skin get worse whilst I can’t take tablets to keep it at bay gives me instant panic. Then there’s the sleepless nights, waddling along like a penguin, swollen ankles, back discomfort, morning sickness, hormones going all over the place, not being able to have a proper shit sometimes… Yeah, I choose to not go through that because quite frankly the right to choose isn’t as black and white as have a child or have an abortion. Not that it’s easy to admit it. The feeling that I may let down my family, my future partner, my gender and be despised by women who just think it’s irrational and incomprehensible is also terrifying. I completely understand that, to a lot of people, the fact that I willingly choose to reject something so inherently specific and biological (some might even argue inevitable) to my sex is more than they are willing to try to understand, let alone acknowledge.

Which brings me to my problems with Tokophobia. Directed and written by someone I am really fond of and lucky to call a friend, the short left me full of nothing but anger and offense. So, for those that haven’t seen it or haven’t heard about it, here’s the basic gist. The film is about a woman who, after finding out she’s pregnant, decides to self administer an abortion. And that’s it. It’s gritty, it’s blunt, it’s incredibly uncompromising but it’s also very superficial and empty. I’m not someone who believes that all films should have a ‘proper’ narrative, ending etc. but Tokophobia placed nothing it showed on-screen in context. I’ve only mentioned some of my issues, and whilst I’ve laid myself a little too bare for everyone to read, I’ve held a hell of a lot back. As a person, I felt incredibly undermined. As someone with tokophobia, I felt that the filmmakers were nothing but psychologically, emotionally and psychosexually ignorant towards the subject. The film starts, the lead finds out she’s pregnant and then gets on with getting rid of it. Abortion is a socially and personally complex issue, and my major gripe was that the film presented the character almost as a villain due to a lack of any reasoning or attempt at understanding. It made me feel like I was a bad person for feeling the way I do, something which, whilst I don’t expect any of you to understand or sympathise with me on, I’ m certainly not sorry for.

That said, it’s refreshing to see a film like Tokophobia played at a festival and generate the discussion it did. Film is a powerful and important medium and anyone who disagrees with that would be stupid to. The fact that in this instance it was used to highlight an issue that isn’t spoken of often (I have never read anything in any women’s magazines about it which you might assume would be a forum for it to be discussed) and is very gender centric is rather interesting. Even more interesting is the fact that it was written and directed by three men, an incredibly superficial and one-sided point of view on something that they will never fully experience, and not just to the degree that they depicted. After walking out of the cinema once it had finished, it was also interesting to note the responses it generated amongst those who had watched it. Every woman I spoke to (which I am aware is not every woman who saw it then or has since at other festivals and is certainly not reflective of the whole female audience who do eventually see it, let alone an entire gender population) unanimously hated it and agreed that it appeared to be horror for the sake of ‘shocking horror’. Men on the other hand seemed mixed. A few I spoke to were also offended whilst some others readily admitted that they thought it was good because as a man they could never fully sympathise or comprehend an experience that they are biologically excluded from (and in that sense I mean being pregnant and giving birth). My issues with it aside (which also include a very strong sense of guilt and sadness as I want to like something that my friend has done, I do actually feel terrible writing badly about it), the film is well-edited and directed and works as a short. I have no problem with a film that generates discussion, thought and education, and in that instance if you get a chance to watch it, I highly recommend that you do. If you are very easily offended however, I’d stay away.

And after all of that, the only thing I have left to say is congratulations to my friend and those others involved in making the short for using the medium to create something challenging and being given the opportunity to share it with different audiences around the world. I might not have overly liked it, but I’m still able to detach myself enough from it to say I’m proud of you all!

About Sex, But Not – ‘Finding Nemo’ (2003)

2 Sep

ON THE SURFACE – A father goes on a mission to find his missing son.

SCRAPING THE BARREL – A father goes on a mission to find the gay son he pushed away. Yep, Disney and Pixar have done it again, producing a film that has a strong underlying sexual storyline. And this time, it’s all about a father who is trying to win back the gay son he ignorantly pushed away. Marlin’s worst fears come true when his son Nemo comes out of the closet (male anxiety of being a lone single father, raising his son with no female parenting partner, and providing only male role models). Marlin is so worked up about it, he won’t even let his son go to school for fear of finding a boyfriend (Nemo’s class is as multi-coloured as the rainbow flag that stands as a symbol for LGBT rights). After arguing with Nemo about it and pleading with him to change his mind (trying to persuade him to not go further than the Reef in which they live), Nemo decides to leave and live his life the way he wants to (swims towards the boat, ‘Look at me, I’m gonna go touch the butt.’). Cue one very regretful father who realises he made a mistake and loves his one and only child no matter what his sexual orientation may be. He regrets his behaviour so much so that he even employs a female friend (Dory) to join him on his journey so that her female intuition can help find Nemo sooner (that misconception that being gay makes you as feminine as a woman…). And Nemo also has lessons to learn, namely that your first boyfriend isn’t always for keeps (his planned escape from his captor, the Dentist P. Sherman, who wants to pimp Nemo out to his niece). It takes one wise fish, Gill, to show Nemo that family really does matter, having been in the same situation himself and with the scars to prove it. And so with Gill’s help, Nemo returns home and reconciles with his father, who even allows him to finally go to school. And presumably get a boyfriend…

About Sex, But Not – ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5: The Dream Child’ (1989)

16 Aug

ON THE SURFACE – Alice Johnson is terrorised again by serial killer Freddy Krueger who also tries to get to her unborn baby.

SCRAPING THE BARREL – Alice Johnson is suffering from a serious case of pregnancy anxiety. It’s rather fitting that as the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise began with Part One exploring female anxieties surrounding losing their virginity, that the films would eventually wind up exploring pregnancy, and the responsibility falls on our virginal heroine Alice from Part Four. A virgin no more, Alice finds herself knocked up by first boyfriend Dan and boy is she struggling to deal with it. Firstly, the girl can’t stop worrying about the delivery. Is is going to hurt (Amanda Krueger in some serious labour pain)? Is it going to be difficult (Freddy being a breech presentation)? Will it be traumatic (Amanda giving birth to a hideous looking creature of a child)? Chances are it’ll be at least one of them, and my bets are placed on it hurting a teeny bit… Secondly, she can’t stop thinking about losing the baby (literally searching for baby Freddy in Church) whether it be to a complication (the ultrasound horror) or to social services (Dan’s parents don’t think she can cope and she lives with her Dad, a former alcoholic). Then, the poor girl has to deal with the worries of being a single parent after Dan dies! And to top it off has two best friends who are not supportive, Yvonne thinking she’s made the wrong decision in keeping the baby (her repeated lack of belief in Alice’s story about Freddy) and Greta who can only think about the amount of food she must be eating and weight she’s gained in pregnancy (Greta bursting with food). Like every other soon-to-be parent, Alice just wants to make sure her baby is healthy and loved. Unlike Amanda Krueger. Who knows how Freddy may have turned out if she just hugged him every now and then…

Dangerous Women!

1 Jun

So I’m finally back writing for my lovely chums over at Videotape Swapshop, who this week have celebrating their favourite Dangerous Women in film! My shortlist can be found here!