Wednesday, February 1, 2017

No Sex Please, We're British

LET'S GET LAID! (1977)

Even Countess of Cleavage Imogen Hassall and David Jason as an everyman hero can't save the Walter Mitty-inspired WHITE CARGO.

BESET by funding problems and dwindling audiences, the British film industry of the 1970's also had to combat small screen competition from television and domestic video. Furthermore, Margaret Thatcher's first Conservative government cut state funding on productions. Existing in their own parallel universe, British sex comedies of the 1970's are renowned to be unsexy and unfunny affairs, but here are two chronically inadequate examples. Fanatically popular throughout the decade, this sub-genre existed in Britain's most troublesome cinematic period thanks to two major plot devices that required little budget: the cheapest special effect of all - i.e. female breasts - and slapstick.

Ray Selfe's WHITE CARGO - re-written by David McGillivray after The Goodies rejected the initial treatment scripted especially for them - casts David Jason in his first major screen role. Underachiever Albert Toddey (Jason) visits a Soho strip joint owned by Dudley Fox (Raymond Cross) and meets showgirl Stella (Imogen Hassall). Stella is actually an undercover policewomen, and the club is selling girls into white slavery to an unnamed Arabian oil state. A number of scenes are played out twice - firstly with Albert's tendency to fantasise himself as a heroic, slick government agent (initially to be shot in 3D), and secondly the rather less glamorous real outcome. Making use of several recycled sets from the Peter O'Toole classic THE RULING CLASS, WHITE CARGO at least has an interesting cast; in a part originally intended for Ian Lavender, Jason's enthusiasm about his star turn allegedly diminished rapidly during the shoot, and the underused Hassall is the glue attempting to hold the film together. David Prowse also appears as club heavy Harry, who thinks nothing of trading his girlfriend in to the slave market for cash-in-hand.

The only sexual charge in LET'S GET LAID! is created by Anna Chen - as 'Oriental Girl' - astride Robin Askwith in a car atop Hampstead Heath.

James Kenelm Clarke's LET'S GET LAID! also has an unnecessarily convoluted plot and fantasy sequences. Bringing together the vanguard of British sex talent - Robin Askwith, Fiona Richmond and a bit-part from Linda Hayden - demobbed wallflower Gordon Laid (Askwith) is given the key to a Mayfair apartment owned by a rich cousin. Laid aids actress Maxine Lupercal (Richmond) in a flat across the hall in disposing of the body of a secret agent, and inadvertently pockets the dead man's cigarette lighter which is actually the potentially explosive PJ46 device. Amidst a police hunt, the attentions of international crook Moncrieff Dovecraft (Anthony Steel) and the complication that Laid has a double in thespian Jimsy Deveroo, the fantasy inserts make no attempt to follow the dull narrative, which includes Richmond cavorting as a Nazi Miss Whiplash.