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Jezebel and Kino Lorber have snapped up a pair of films that are not the typical English classics one expects to see restored by the BFI. As reflected in Kino's "Perils of Promiscuity Double Feature" subtitle, 1963's That Kind of Girl and 1970's Permissive are "bad girl" exploitation films to the core. They contrast the changes in what was considered acceptable public entertainment, and invite comparisons with American exploitation films of the same time periods.
That Kind of Girl is an early effort by Tony Tenser, the producer who encouraged cult horror director Michael Reeves and who gave Roman Polanski his first opportunity to make an English-language film, Repulsion. Shot in crisp B&W on some of the same Kensington locations, and cleanly directed by Gerry O'Hara, the show is about young Viennese au pair Eva Koenig (Margaret Rose Keil), a naïve but playful blonde who likes being taken out by the men she meets. Older ad man Elliot (Peter Burton) wines and dines Eva until she finally gives in to his advances. She drifts away from the activist Max after making it with him on a Ban the Bomb march; hiking for hours and sleeping in parks isn't her idea of fun. Eve is attracted to the honest and sincere Keith (David Weston), a student frustrated that his girlfriend Janet (Linda Marlowe) won't go all the way. He wants to marry but Janet's father says they'll have to wait until he's better established. The unhappy Keith bumps into Eva again and they share a wild night at a party on the Thames. Keith immediately realizes that he's done wrong and confesses to Janet. Fearing that she'll lose him, Janet invites Keith to make love. Back from a business trip, the possessive Elliot tries to rape Eva. The police insist that she have a medical exam, which shows that she has syphilis. Eva must now help the doctors contact the three men she's slept with. Eva's employers are naturally concerned about having her around their children. Elliot begins stalking Eva and harassing her with obscene phone calls. Keith's problem is even more traumatic. Janet is pregnant, and he must tell her that she may have VD as well. Janet's reaction is understandable: "I've never been to a doctor when I had to say, 'I'm an unmarried mother by a man who has VD.'" She refuses to marry him. Eva is crushed. She never thought her fun would endanger anyone.
For a movie sold as an exploitation attraction, That Kind of Girl is made with great care. The pre-Beatles London dance clubs look like the hottest pick-up scene in the history of young adult mischief, and beautiful Margaret Rose Keil is a dream with her Brigitte Bardot smile and cute way of dancing the twist. Eva takes everything at face value. She has no interest in the intellectual and political arguments of Max's friends, and shows little or no resistance to Elliot, who pointedly takes her to a nightclub with a strip show. We see some midnight swimming at a party at Weybridge -- nobody has a suit so underwear will have to do. Eva just likes a good time.
At this time in his career screenwriter Jan Read was best known for Ray Harryhausen family adventures. The sexually frank That Kind of Girl was probably given a pass by the censor because it is loaded with public service messages. Familiar actor John Wood is the friendly doctor who delivers the non-judgmental sermons against promiscuity, explaining the plain facts about VD. It is doubtful that British teens took the warnings any more seriously than did their American counterparts. The inference is of course that promiscuous girls carry the burden of responsibility for safe sex, the standard 'supply side' argument that puts the blame on Mame. What is missing from this "instructional" exploitation film are the moral verdicts common to American films approved by the Production Code. No "bad girls" die for their sins, and nobody finds that suicide is the only way out.
As much of it is filmed in real locations, That Kind of Girl is a veritable time capsule of London street life. The Ban the Bomb activity and the dance club scene are quite convincing. We see theater district marquees for the plays Breaking Point and Boeing Boeing. The sports car driven by Keith when he gives Eva a ride is almost as sexy as Eva herself.
1970's Permissive shows how much standards changed in just seven years. By the time of this Tigon release, both American and British censorship systems were in full retreat. Material that formerly could be exhibited only in independent theaters (the U.S.) or restricted film clubs (the U.K.) was now out in the open. The nudie and softcore producers moved on to hardcore filmmaking. Produced and directed by Lindsay Shonteff, the maker of Devil Doll and Voodoo Blood Death, the full-color, full frontal nudity Permissive is a fairly uncompromised account of a rock 'n' roll groupie. The primary band in the show is played by a group called Forever More, members of which would later form the better-known Average White Band. Unlike the phony rock bands in most teen movies, Forever More looks and sounds like a real touring group of better than average quality.
With barely the coat on her back, the inexperienced Suzy (Maggie Stride) comes to town to locate an acquaintance, Fiona (Gay Singleton, formerly a hostess of the UK Teen TV show Ready Steady Go). Various girls show up backstage at concerts, sometimes offering sexual favors to get in the door. The idea is to hook up with a band member. Fiona has a firm relationship with lead singer Lee (Allan Gorrie); her one duty is to be sexually available at all times. Suzy observes surplus girls being thrown out like so much garbage. The opportunistic band manager Jimi (Gilbert Wynne) picks off these strays when he can. Suzy sees casual sex being performed in the hotel suites rented for the group, in corridors, wherever. Left behind when the band leaves on tour, Suzy passes some time with the disaffected street musician Pogo (Robert Daubigney), who at one point gets himself arrested for commandeering a church pulpit to deliver a freaked-out sermon. Suzy visits Lacy (Debbie Bowen), a friend of Fiona's, but is immediately cast out when a band member takes a liking to her "scrubbed look". But she eventually becomes an informal member of Lee and Jimi's band.
Suzy catches on fast to the groupie game, deriving personal power from having sex with every man she meets. She eventually gets her revenge on Lacy, and then sets her sights on Fiona's steady man Lee, just because she can. Realizing that she will become just another discarded girl, Fiona appeals to Lee, without success. Friendship doesn't enter into Suzy's reasoning.
The semi-documentary technique lends a gritty realism to many scenes. Whenever the pace begins to flag, director Shonteff cuts to yet another superfluous musical performance. Yet our interest remains high, just to find out what Suzy's next ruthless move will be. In this incredibly sexist lifestyle the girls are as disposable as Kleenex, and Suzy's unfeeling cruelty seems a way of insuring her personal security. The film ends with a tragic death that doesn't faze Suzy in the least -- her cynicism has become complete.
Few American-made exploitation shows of this vintage could match Permissive for basic integrity, despite the British film's frequent unappetizing sex scenes in decidedly non-romantic situations. Suzy and Lee hide in a restroom to make love -- on a toilet. The bleak and realistic film's working title was Suzy Superscrew.
Kino Lorber and Jezebel's Perils of Promiscuity Double Feature DVD of Permissive & That Kind of Girl carries logos from the British Film Institute. The handsome restoration has pulled quality images from early-generation printing elements. Both shows are uncut, with perfect audio tracks; it's likely that original theatrical prints never looked or sounded this good. The effect is like a double bill disc from the down-market Something Weird company, yet given the high-end transfers we'd expect to see from a Criterion release.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Permissive & That Kind of Girl rates:
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T'was Ever Thus.