Tag Archives: Virginity

About Sex, But Not – ‘Big’ (1988)

9 Jan

ON THE SURFACE – Young boy Josh Baskin wishes he were older… And then finds out his wish comes true.

blog big

SCRAPING THE BARREL – Young boy Josh Baskin wishes he were with an older woman… And then finds out his wish comes true. 1988 film Big is about the realities of age gaps in relationships. Don’t get me wrong, age certainly is nothing but a number (in my book anyway) but sometimes it really is, well, your age. Josh (David Moscow and Tom Hanks) wants an older girl and bags one in the form of Susan (Elizabeth Perkins), who doesn’t half act like the cat that got all the cream with her new younger catch. And whilst they clearly do have fun (going dancing, visiting the fair), age related cracks in the relationship start to appear. He is fanatical about toys and loves playing with them; she is a grown up cynic who only see’s their monetary value. She has a double bed; he has bunk beds. He likes Pepsi, trampolines and plastic rings; she prefers champagne, parties and proper gold jewellery. It’s not that they don’t have fun or get along, but it is a bit creepy when you take the virginity of someone who’s a third of your age. Especially when your ex (John Heard with all the bitterness of someone being dumped for a younger, better model of themselves) knows about it. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good he is, the amount of youthful energy he has, how beautiful he makes you feel or how much he idolises your breasts (especially with the lights on!!), when you’re fucking a minor that still lives at home, sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand and move on… Or drop him home. In your car. Because he’s too young to learn how to drive.

Cosmic Dancer – Norman J. Warren’s ‘Spaced Out’ (1979)

6 Nov

By the end of the 1970s, director Norman J. Warren was more well-known in Britain as a homegrown horror director, having established his career with the features Satan’s Slave, Terror and Prey. But 1979 saw Warren return to the genre that kick started his career, the sexploitation film, with Spaced Out (aka Outer Touch), his first British sex film since 1968’s Loving Feeling.

Spaced Out, a zany sex-comedy, see’s an alien ship inhabited by three female-like humanoids crash-land on Earth (Clapham Common no less…) after suffering engine malfunctions. Sadly for them, their emergency rest stop was witnessed by a few individuals who they take as prisoners to be ‘experimented’ on; an engaged couple called Oliver (Barry Stokes) and Prudence (Lynne Ross), older peeping tom Cliff (Michael Rowlatt) and sex-obsessed, masturbation addicted  teenager Willy (Tony Maiden). Hi-jinks and hilarity ensues as the aliens try to find out as much as they can about their captives whilst also learning about human sexual relations…

Spaced Out is a fun feature to watch and an interesting comedic counterpoint to Warren’s earlier sexploitation films, Loving Feeling and Her Private Hell, which are more serious and downbeat in their tone. After turning down work for fear of being pigeon holed as a director, Warren was persuaded to take on the picture which was originally a script entitled S.E.C.K, standing for Close Encounters of the Sexual Kind. Eventually re-titled, the picture was released in August 1979 as Outer Touch, a title perfectly encompassing the major theme of the film (the film became known as Spaced Out after Miramax picked the feature up at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival for US distribution, where it was re-cut and given new music and voiceovers).Whilst the aliens are completely out of touch and new to human sexual practices, the human characters themselves are also at a total loss with each other. Ross and Stokes are a frigid couple struggling to find a happy medium (‘When we’re married Ollie, you can have it as much as you want… On Saturday nights anyway’ ), Rowlatt is the experienced older man who thinks he can handle women and Maiden is the teenager who has yet to touch anything other than himself (‘I’ve gone blind! They told me it was an old wives tale!’).

The film’s enjoyability is largely thanks to a relatively good cast willing to work with the little luxuries they’ve been given (the spaceship itself, at times, was nothing more than plastic sheeting draped over scaffolding, whilst exterior shots of it travelling through space were shots culled from television series Space 1999). Stokes, Ross and Rowlatt are good in their roles but it’s the rest of the cast that outshines them. The three aliens are terrifically played by Kate Ferguson, Ava Cadell (Confessions of a Window Cleaner) and Glory Annen (Felicity, Prey). Each really make the role their own with defined personalities in a film type which, lets face it, doesn’t really ask for much. The real stand-out is Tony Maiden as Willy, whose teenage virgin is in fact ‘the most advanced body in the universe’. Full of one-liners that the other characters could sometimes do with, Maiden becomes the hero of the entire film, enlightening all three of his alien captors. Special mention also goes to Bill Mitchell as the voice of the ships Wurlitzer, an exasperated sex therapist that you can’t help but feel sorry for.

A marvellous counterpart to Warren’s earlier sexploitation films, Spaced Out is deserving of its status as a cult classic which may look slightly dated but has humour that still translates today.

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…

Sexuality & ‘Black Narcissus’

20 Jul

There is no denying that Powell and Pressburger’s classic feature Black Narcissus is seeping in underlying sexuality. Beneath the tale of a Convent struggling to cope in an isolated Himalayan community lies themes of repressed desire, controlled female sexuality and the power of primal instinct. Simmering with eroticism and visually stunning to watch, the film is a nuanced portrait on the power of human sexuality and it’s pressure within confined spaces.

Whilst the themes are prevalent in the character and storyline, the picture’s set design and cinematography heighten the subconscious. The run down palace in which the Convent set up their new school and dispensary is a blank canvas amidst a beautiful strange landscape, a bricks and mortar parallel to the virginal Nuns surrounded by an exotic unknown village brimming with experience. Just as the building eventually undergoes a transition from abandoned palace to busy school, so do the women of the Convent slowly become influenced by the building’s past as the home of the King’s women. An environment full of oestrogen, the physical presence of the two lead male characters builds more tension amongst the group of women then they could ever have imagined, their voluntary challenge to love and devote their life to one man, Christ, threatened by the natural human instinct they choose to try to suppress. It doesn’t matter how many curtains they cover the walls of the palace with, the sexual drawings of the past King’s wives and sexual positions of the karma sutra that they will never experience have permeated the skin of the Sisters like the ghost of a haunted house.

Take Sister Ruth. ‘Unwell’ when she arrives at the palace, her illness only gets worse the longer she stays, her sexual awakening overtaking her vows. Sick with passion, Sister Ruth is a transformation to watch, going from a sickly virgin to woman desperately ill with desire. I have never seen such acting before or since in a film such as Kathleen Byron as Sister Ruth.  Her eyes display every emotion across the sexual scale; arousal, longing, jealousy. Her sexual breakdown and embracement against Sister Clodagh’s (Deborah Kerr) repressed sexuality and emotional sadness is a joy to watch. The extremities of the two female ideals (the virgin and the whore dichotomy) played out with heated intensity. Just how difficult is it to deny a feeling so natural and real and try to replace it with a cause based solely on a belief? Clearly the struggle is a great one, Sister Clodagh’s flashbacks showing a man she was in love with and to marry demonstrate a strong battle to repress that matches Sister Ruth’s battle against faith in full force.

The entrance of village girl Kanchi (June Simmons) also heightens sexual tension amongst the women, for here is a girl much younger than them who appears to be knowledgable in her sexuality just as the Nun’s are knowledgable in their Christian faith. She knows how to subtlely show off her wares, slowly infiltrating not only the mind of the Prince who eventually falls in love with but also Sister Ruth whose sexual immaturity finds her advances being rejected. Kanchi, with her colourful sari’s, flowers in her hair and facial piercings, slowly rubs off onto the Sisters, their robes eventually looking more off-white, occasionally stained with blood (a visual metaphor for menstruation and the awakening of their womanhood) and eventually the application of make up (the scarlet red of lipstick perfectly clashing against the paper-white skin of Sister Ruth like a warning sign). 

Ultimately, the film shows the struggle to deny something that’s constantly there. Just like the prevalent winds of the mountainous village, so does female sexuality haunt the occupants of the Convent, the most testing lesson that their faith could ever thrust upon them. Whether it be the sensuality that natures provides, the physical attraction of a prime male or the dangerous feelings the Sisters feel when they stand close to the edge of the mountain ringing the palace bell (the closest pictorial metaphor to an orgasm that the Nuns get, the wide-eyed expression looking down the mountain to the caverns below, heart pumping whilst continuing to tug away at the ropes to ring the schools bell), sexuality is a dark abyss that is easy to fall into. It doesn’t matter how much the Convent try to veil the problem, just as Dean’s attraction to the women is veiled behind a mask of dishonest denial, the feelings are so inescapable that they have to leave the village completely. Escapable? Perhaps. Unforgettable? No chance.

Blood For Dracula (1974) review

11 Jul

You may remember that as part of Meyer Month back in March I had a few guest bloggers who wrote a few pieces for the site. One of them was the lovely Dom O’Brien who let me review Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey’s Blood For Dracula for his site this month. You can read it here!

MEYER MONTH – Russ Meyer and WWII

7 Mar

Most people will know director Russ Meyer because of his somewhat sleazy career as a sexploitation filmmaker. But what many don’t realise is that Meyer learnt his craft photographing scenes of World War II during combat and spend the rest of his life very proud of what he had achieved during this experience, references of this time in his life scattered throughout his work and the strong bond he developed with some of his combat buddies lasting until the very end.

Meyer applied to be a volunteer combat photographer after seeing an advertisement placed in Popular Photography magazine by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He became part of the Signal Corps Reserve and eventually in November 1944 was appointed staff sergeant with the 166th Signal Photographic Company, the official photo unit in General Patton’s Third Army during the Second World War. The 166th Signal Photographic Company went on to become one of the most decorated outfits in European operations, with Meyer receiving one of the fifty-five Bronze Stars it garnered amongst a vast number of other accolades. To say that Russ may have found his calling during the War would be an understatement. He was very good at what he did and this was recognised not only by his fellow photographers but by the Captains who would have to critique each photographers work as and when it was sent in. Meyer frequently got ‘very good’ in his reports on his work in both film and still photos. Combat footage that he shot was used in the Oscar-winning short Eisenhower: True Glory (1945) and the 1970 releases The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and Patton. Footage that the Company shot can be viewed on this website but it doesn’t attribute it to any certain individuals.

Newsreel Unit 1. Meyer is in the middle row, third from the right. Charlies Sumners is top left.

Now it’s not uncommon knowledge that Meyer liked to embellish the stories he told, fabricating facts and, in some instances, stories in their entirety. One only needs to read his autobiography A Clean Breast to realise he contradicts himself at least once or twice. But there seems to be some element of truth in the fact that the original story for the novel and film The Dirty Dozen comes from an experience Meyer had during the War. Whilst in England, Meyer and fellow combat buddy Charlie Sumners were sent to a remote area to photograph the inhabitants of a prison stockade. All were heavily guarded, not allowed to talk, their legs bound in chains and once Meyer and Sumners had finished shooting footage it was promptly confiscated by the colonel in charge. Meyer recounted this tale to E. M. Nathanson in the 1950s who was interested and both tried to factually investigate what had happened but to no avail. In 1965, Nathanson had his novel based on the idea published which eventually became a film. Meyer ended up with ten per cent of Nathanson’s film deal, apparently calling the inmates ‘the Dirty Dozen’ in the first place. According to Sumners who was also there at the time, there were considerably more than a dozen of them.

Another interesting story that appears in Jimmy McDonagh’s biography of Meyer, Big Bosoms and Square Jaws, talks of an incident in which Meyer and Sumners were sent out to photograph a potential assassination attempt on Hitler and Goebbels. According to Sumners, this was another story fabricated by Meyer with no element of fact to it which is a real shame because what a story it was. Meyer would recall the time he was woken up in the middle of the night to go into a meeting headed by a Sixth Armored Division colonel and General Patton. Patton wanted Hitler and Goebbels assassinated and told Meyer he better be ‘damn careful about what he shot’. The following morning him and Sumners joined a team heading to Weimar where they found that Hitler and Goebbels had decided to return to Berlin instead and the mission was aborted. All, it would seem, a complete lie.

The Normandy Landing by Russ Meyer

World War II would also see Russ Meyer lose his virginity, largely thanks to Ernest Hemingway. One night Hemingway invited Meyer and a few of his buddies to the local whorehouse to have a night on him as he was friendly with the woman who ran it. It would seem that one girl there called Babette took a shine to Russ and gave him an experience that he never shut up about. Gloriously detailed and written in prose that a poet would blush at in A Clean Breast, Meyer illustrates the whole thing with a series of photographs showing a stiletto heel step on a cherry until it bursts. These ‘descriptive’ photographs aside, A Clean Breast also contains some terrific photos of a young Meyer in uniform and of his fellow Company men in action which are well worth a look at as it’s a whole side of the director that many people don’t know about. For us English there are also some beautiful shots of wartime Liverpool and Manchester which are great for historical value and some great sentimental shots of Meyer and his cohorts at the same places in the 1970s on one of their many reunion tours.

Meyer remained close friends with many of those he met during his time with the 166th Signal Photographic Company. Anthony James Ryan was a very close and faithful friend of Meyer’s until the very end, who ended up acting in, producing and writing some of Meyer’s films and almost became broke helping to finance some of the pictures. William ‘Bill’ Teas would wind up taking the lead in Meyer’s first feature-length effort The Immoral Mr. Teas, even lending his name to the now infamous titular character. Charlie Sumners and Meyer remained lifelong friends after their return to America, a picture of Sumners being the first image you see in Meyer’s ridiculously large autobiography. For all the reports of Meyer treating some of his friends badly, it would seem that he treated his fellow 166th buddies like the brothers he never had, organising reunions and dinners and even paying for some of them to attend when they didn’t have the funds themselves. It’s certainly a generosity that Meyer extended to very few people.

Charles ‘Charlie’ Sumners

During the 1960s, Meyer would express that he was ‘a rabid anti-communist’, probably in part due to the patriotism he developed during the War. This, and his distaste for the Nazi’s, would eventually run through his later work, with his 1968 picture Vixen! being a thinly disguised attack against communism which see’s the ‘all-American’ Vixen rise up against it and save the day (if you really want to believe that’s what the film is actually about under all the sex…). Meyer would frequently refer to Nazi’s in his work which some people have also put down to the fact that his absent father also happened to be German. ‘Martin Bormann’ pops up in Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens (1979) and in full Nazi regalia in earlier flick Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) which see’s him get murdered in an assassination that I have no doubt Meyer wished actually happened during the War. Supervixens (1975) employs German marching music, Nazi references and a Martin Bormann character again. 1976 release Up! centres around the mysterious death of former Nazi Adolf Schwartz who is so obviously based on Hitler it doesn’t need further explanation. Whilst not about World War II specifically, Russ Meyer was one of the first directors to explore the idea of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans, using Motorpsycho (1965) to depict a disturbed Vietnam vet.

Russ Meyer’s experiences during the war certainly contributed to his visual style, filmmaking technique and military-esque production schedules that ran like clockwork. Like other film producers, directors and photographers, it’s nice to read that Meyer acknowledged that this was where it all started for him. The skills that he learnt and the passion that he developed for filmmaking only increased and developed upon his return to the States once the War had finished. Who knows what Meyer would have gotten up to had he not decided to reply to that ad he saw all those years ago…

Heartbeats – John D. Lamond’s ‘Felicity’ (1979)

22 Feb

Everyone, by now, knows that I detest Just Jaeckin’s classic softcore romp Emmanuelle (1974). In my dreams I pretend that the obnoxious titular character doesn’t exist and that a more beautiful, more deserving young woman has a far more interesting journey of self-discovery. So imagine my surprise when I stumbled across Australian sexploitation feature Felicity (1979) which is, essentially, a nicer and more bearable retread of Emmanuelle. With a much prettier lead actress. Right up my street then.

Felicity (Glory Annen) is a young Australian girl on the cusp of her sexual awakening. A pupil in a convent school, Felicity dreams and longs for sex, noticing the changes in her and her fellow classmates bodies and exploring her feelings with best friend Jenny. One day Felicity receives a letter from her father telling her she will go to Hong Kong for the summer and suddenly the whole world as Felicity knows it changes…

So why is Felicity more tolerable than its predecessor Emmanuelle? Lead actress Annen is a far more believable and likeable version of a young girl discovering who she is and what she likes. Whereas Emmanuelle appears to have a take-it-and-not-so-sure-if-I-like-it-or-not-but-I-won’t-let-on-either-way approach to her burgeoning sexuality, Felicity’s is more encompassing in its honesty of people having both good and bad sexual experiences. Felicity loses her virginity to an older man in an awkward situation and realises that sex is not what she thought it was, feeling guilty, upset and ashamed after it. Feelings that can be, in reality, associated with sex. After a few more encounters in which she learns more about herself and how to use her body, she begins to realise what she wants. So when she meets Miles and falls for him, we know she wants him badly. What’s also nice for Felicity is that she’s surrounded by a small group of people who want to encourage her developement but don’t force it upon her, giving Emmanuelle’s pestering ex-pat pals a good one finger salute.

Maybe the beauty in Felicity is it’s simplicty, which lets face it most sexploitation films have, and its ability to be relatable in a nice way. We’ve all had bad sexual experiences, we all know the excitement and wandering thoughts that come with a developing body and sexuality. We’ve all had one night stands or fumbles in dark corners and have all met someone we just can’t keep our hands off and want to be around all the time. It’s part of everyone’s sexual history. Or maybe it’s just the stunning creature that is Glory Annen, whose body you can’t take your eyes off for the whole duration of the film. Even I fell in love with her, wanting to pick her up and show her a good time. Her innocence and believable want to learn is what drives the film and makes her summer of sexual discovery a more enjoyable one. If that’s no good for you, I defy you to not want to eat a KitKat Chunky by the end of the film. The publicity photo of Annen eating a chocolate bar even makes me want to practice my blowjob skills on one…