Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Well, it was by fantasy favorite Val Guest, so Savant took a flyer at this piece of softcore
English smut from 1971. I got a little less than I expected.
An Au Pair Girl agency recruits four georgeous continental women for light household chores in established homes, in exchange for room and board. All come with bright smiles, little clothing, and a completely uninhibited sexuality. Hot number Randi (Gabrielle Drake) spends a wild day in the country with the son of a tycoon, that includes a roll in some real hay and a visit to a 'poofter' photographer of nudes. Discreet Nan Lee (Me Me Lay) becomes a playmate for a day with a piano prodigy who's mother thinks he needs 'inspiration.' Christa Geisler (Nanci Wait) gets shown the club scene by her new family's daughter, where she's deflowered by a rock star (Steve Patterson) and learns that free love is no fun. And wild card Anita (Astrid Frank) strips naked as soon as she arrives in
her new house, and goes for a gambling jaunt with a cabdriver. For the fadeout, she and all the others eventually end up as the property of a womanizing sheik named El Abab (Ferdy Mayne).
This is a dirty old man movie as only dirty old Englishmen can make them: lots of nudity, a sprinkling
of feeble sex jokes that would be rejected by the Carry On series, and four leading characters who get into a variety of sexual situations but have no resemblance to human beings living or dead.
As a sex movie, there's not much here. The production values are relatively high but the script is just an excuse for the hijinks, and the comedy never gets beyond the schoolyard level:
She: "They call me Randi."
He: "My friends call me the same thing!"
Strolling through the airport in see-through blouses, which were pleasant enough, and not that
rare in 1972 - suffer, you young pups - the actresses get it on for the camera. But the picture
seems content for a level of R-rated nudity strong enough to attract the attention of (frankly) horny male picture-goers, yet stay acceptable for normal theaters.
The confusion at the Bijou was certainly complete at the time, with both the public and theaters uncertain whether R and X-rated fare were acceptable or not. I was an assistant manager for a summer in Santa Monica in 1973, and when we showed trash like Prison Girls (in 3-D-cup!) there'd always be some red-faced females coming out, with their dates just as humiliated, a la poor confused Travis Bickle in Taxi
Driver. It was at the neighborhood theater, for heck's sake.
Over in Great Britain, it must have been the abject collapse of the industry that prompted established
professionals like Guest and cameraman John Wilcox to do Au Pair Girls. Unlike France, where
hardcore pictures seem to have gone wild in the early 70's (at least if you read Pete Tombs books) the English exploitation I've seen is incredibly infantile, relying on Benny Hill-type comedy and using women as sex objects more bluntly than burlesque routines.
The actresses look intelligent and sharp, so it's unclear exactly what kinds of careers they had and what they expected to gain. Nudie pinup girl Pamela Green was forthcoming about her work in the documentary included on the Criterion disc of Peeping Tom, but did these women consider Au Pair Girls a hot opportunity, or the pits? Nancie Wait is listed for only one more 'adult' picture in the IMDB. Astrid Frank and Gabrielle Drake (who had a major role in the UFO teleseries) had more prolific careers with a couple of dozen racy-sounding French and German titles each. Me Me Lay's (non-smut name, Me Me Lai) credits are the most impressive, having landed in parts of note in Crucible of
Terror, Revenge of the Pink Panther, and Lars Von Trier's The Element of Crime. She probably got eaten up in the couple of cannibal atrocity films she did along the way.
Attractively shot and professionally directed, the movie is still not a whole lot of fun to watch for any but the basic reasons. The female nudity is complete, but sexual activity is always met with fadeouts to new scenes, so Au Pair Girls really isn't about sex. The actresses have an anything-goes naturalness to them that is cramped by the bonehead script and the strip'n wiggle restraints of the direction. That's the ultimate misery about these films - that the people in them were obviously able to do better things.
Savant also doesn't know whether it was hard times or free spirits that attracted actors of the calibre of
Geoffrey Bayldon (A Night to Remember, 55 Days at Peking, Casino Royale), John le Mesurier (Shake Hands with the Devil, The Wrong Box), Rosalie Crutchley (The Nun's Story, The Haunting, Four Weddings and a Funeral), and horror favorite Ferdy Mayne (The Fearless Vampire Killers) to
the show. Mayne's part is substantial, and his oversexed sheik character almost has a point. He's even
attended by favorite Asian henchman imitator Milton Reid in one shot.
Image's DVD of Au Pair Girls is a reasonable-quality disc. Probably originally formatted
at 1:66, the fullframe transfer is adequate. Image's website carries the disc, but Savant's review copy had no Image logo on it, just a Salvation Films imprint, and a the tag that this is a 'Jezebel' film. The transfer itself carries a Tigon logo.
The extras include stills, lobby cards, and the pressbook. Marc Morris wrote the liner notes, which note that producer Kenneth Shipman was responsible for the previous year's horror film Burke and Hare, a downgrade version of the already saucy 1959 The Flesh and the Fiends.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Au Pair Girls rates:
Supplements: Stills, ad materials
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: February 24, 2002
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2002 Glenn Erickson
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