Saturday, February 15, 2014

Perils of Linda Hayden

BABY LOVE (1968)

An excellent kitchen sink drama transported to a wealthy homestead, BABY LOVE portrays damaging and unsatisfied relationships that toil away whatever the background.

BABY LOVE is a complex, underrated sexual pot-boiler, based on the novel by Tina Chad Christian, which sees Luci (Linda Hayden, in a striking debut) live with her promiscuous, hard-drinking mother (an ethereal Diana Dors). Coming home from school she discovers her mother's body in the bathtub, the parent having slit her wrists. Doctor Robert Quayle (Keith Barron), the mother's former lover, receives a letter pleading with him to look after the wayward child. Robert takes Luci to his luxurious home on a trail basis, where she meets his wife Amy (Anne Lynn) and their teenage son Nick (Derek Lamden). Luci holds Robert responsible for her mother's death, and soon her developing sexuality causes friction, manipulating the mechanics of the household by teasing Nick and making advances to Amy.

Hardly a Lolita clone, Luci is a young woman struggling with her feelings of loss at such an informative age, craving the love and intimacy that has been taken away from her; even the attentions of a stranger is better than no attention at all (in one scene, she welcomes a man stroking her legs at a cinema). Hayden - who allegedly lost her virginity during a publicity tour for the film - is amazingly mature in posture and shows, even at this age, that she has no qualms about stripping off for the camera. Indeed, you have to wonder how these scenes - especially when linked with her provocative actions - were ever allowed. Similar to Nastassja Kinski's involvement in TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER, at the age of fifteen Hayden is shown naked from behind and also has a few brief topless scenes, blatantly breaking UK obscenity laws and making it extremely unlikely that BABY LOVE could ever get a certificate from the BBFC today. The rare ‘18' rated VHS releases from 1988 and 1994 also seem to show a lack of knowledge by the censorship board.

While BABY LOVE didn’t provide the stardom that producer Michael Klinger had been grooming Hayden for, it did lead to a career in horror and sexploitation, such as this cameo in QUEEN KONG. 

The film explores resentment and tension with ambiguous relish. For example, when Luci grasps Amy's breast in bed (as she sucks her thumb in her sleep) the viewer can either see the sequence as subconscious lesbian flirtation or a child's need for the comfort of a mother's bosom. Thus Amy's growing frustration may be a sexual one, or that the baby girl she has so craved - particularly in an increasingly cold marriage and masculine household - has instead come to her as a young woman. The film has been criticised of taking a more melodramatic slant at the climax, but the shift does illustrate the level of psychological damage Luci has suffered. And the final scene shows Luci's blossoming from the nubile orphan's twisted sexuality to a maturing manipulater who uses allure as her main instrument of communication.

At the other end of the cinematic spectrum, Hayden appeared as The Singing Nun in the atrocious feminist "comedy" QUEEN KONG. Rushed into production on the news that Dino de Laurentiis was remaking the 1933 RKO classic (Dino subsequently issued an injunction against the picture's release), we follow the antics of filmmaker Luce Habit (Rula Lenska), who takes Ray Fay (Robin Askwith) - and her all-girl crew - to Africa on yacht The Liberated Lady. Eventually reaching “Lazanga Where They Do the Konga,” they discover a tribe where men are the servants. The Queen (Valerie Leon) prepares Ray as a sacrifice to the simian goddess, but the gorilla is so taken with the hippie dropout she takes him to her lair. When Luce and her crew rescue Ray, they manage to subdue the beast and return to London. But unlike the original, Queen Kong is saved when Ray rallies the oppressed women of our capital. Playing like a terminal merger between the CONFESSIONS and CARRY ON franchises, the only amusement is playing "spot the extra," which includes VAMPYRES star Marianne Morris and Vicki Michelle.

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