Tramps. The Jezebel line, that impudent offshoot of Redemption Films and Kino Lorber, has released Permissive and That Kind of Girl: Perils of Promiscuity Double Feature, an entertaining double header of vintage exploitation thrills featuring Permissive, the depressing 1970 U.K. grinder about the amoral, vicious world of rock groupies, and That Kind of Girl, the 1963 U.K. cult programmer that warns of the shameful perils of VD (...although if you have to get syphilis, you'll want to get it from a p.o.a. like Margaret Rose Keil). No extras for these good-looking remastered cult items, but content is strong enough to warrant a buy for those who love these vintage forays into mixed-message titillation. Let's look briefly at each feature.
Naïve, inexperienced country girl Suzy (Maggie Stride) arrives in London to meet up with schoolgirl chum Fiona (Gay Singleton). Cynical yet friendly Fiona is the steady groupie squeeze of hairball Lee (Allan Gorrie), the lead singer and bassist of Scottish rock group Forever More. Since Suzy has no money, Fiona offers her a chance to "hang out" with the group. After the band's London gig, a spirited party starts to go down at their hotel, and Suzy peels off with Pogo (Robert Duabigney), an educated hippie who takes Suzy out for food...which means he gives her stale bread and cheese he's spirited away in a bus locker. Back at the party, Suzy discovers it's morphed into an orgy, which she watches with lecherous creep Jimi (Gilbert Wynne), the band's road manager, who promptly nails Suzy on the spot. This act of charity garners no truck for Suzy the next morning when callous Jimi orders her excluded from the band's next gig; even Fiona's intervention can't get Suzy a seat in the band's Fort Transit. So Fiona hands Suzy off to Lacy (Debbie Bowen), another head groupie for a London band, but one not as nice as Fiona: Lacy kicks her out the second her lover smiles at Suzy. Living "rough" with Pogo seems to work for the rootless Suzy until Pogo is squashed by a city bus, so she heads back to Fiona and Forever More...only this time, she's ready to give herself to anyone who wants her.
Written by Jeremy Craig Dryden, and directed by Lindsay Shonteff (Devil Doll, The Second Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World, The Million Eyes of Su-Muru), Permissive is a surprisingly downbeat, grimy look at the world of rock band groupies (and by extension, the "free love" hippie movement in London) that admirably de-glamorizes just about every commercial-driven myth associated with that now falsely romanticized era. Permissive's cold, sour look at the morally bankrupt, spiritually dead byproducts of the "Youth Revolution" is all the more bracing because it was produced right at the height of the era, an era that for decades now has been idealized and sentimentalized into commercially viable, intellectually dishonest pap. Considering the potential direction the subject matter could have taken (sex! drugs! rock 'n' roll!), and the obligatory mechanics of the exploitation framework (lots of nudity, including full-frontal), Permissive is blankly contemptuous of its characters and their actions. Shonteff shoots nothing for vicarious thrills. The real-life band Forever More keeps playing the same songs over and over again to the point of numbness for the viewer (we never get that phony, manufactured movie rush of how great it would be to be in a rock band), while the anonymous band members and the automaton groupies grind away at each other, pointlessly, in hotel rooms and recording studio toilets, with the only variety being switch-ups in who's doing whom.
It's all crushingly banal, with Shonteff careful never to film the nudity for titillation's sake; the lovemaking is shot documentary style: ordinary and awkward and not very attractive, frankly (maybe it was my growing up with two distastefully authentic hippie brothers, but everyone here looks like they need a hot bath and a hair cut). If anything dates Permissive, it's Shonteff's use of the then-already clichéd flash-forward jump cuts, giving us glimpses into the fates of our various characters long before those events happen in chronological order (even by 1970 that was hackneyed "art house" gimmickry). Shonteff is much better when he pushes the documentary aspects of Permissive (the location work is grittily authentic), showing the absolutely robotic, desensitized behavior and emotions of the cynical groupies and the user band members who perform on the stage and on the floor of hotel rooms and toilets without joy or point (and certainly without any phony "sisterhood" camaraderie), and who fail to recognize their own hypocrisy (hanger-on groupie Fiona says all the hangers-on make her sick). Thoughtful exploitation, to be sure.
THAT KIND OF GIRL
Austrian au pair hottie Eva (Margaret Rose Keil of Three Giants of the Roman Empire and The Big Bust Out) lives in a posh London three story townhouse, working for Mr. and Mrs. Millar (Sylvia Kay and David Davenport). Virginal Eva likes to frequent tiny little grottos and dance clubs like The Sombrero on her off-hours, where she meets Max (Frank Jarvis of The Italian Job), a library worker who's passing out leaflets for a "Ban the Bomb" protest. Dopey Max can't dance very well, so Eva naturally gravitates towards older advertising exec smoothie Elliot Collier (Peter Burton of Dr. No and Lawrence of Arabia), who prowls the clubs looking for young, nubile victims. Max is hurt that Eva would date Elliott, but that doesn't stop him from inviting the Austrian knockout along on a three day "Ban the Bomb" protest march―of which the bored Eva tires of after only one day. Missing a bus back to London, Eva is picked up by rich boy amateur race car driver and engineering student Keith Murray (David Weston of Becket and The Heroes of Telemark). Eva loves his polite-but-exciting demeanor and tells him where she can be found at the clubs, info the almost-engaged Keith stores away since his almost-fiancé, Janet Bates (Linda Marlowe of The Americanization of Emily and The Man Outside), won't allow him to touch her until he finishes school and marries her...18 months later. Sure enough, Keith goes sniffing around for Eva, and after everyone has had a taste, good girl Eva has some bad girl news: she's got the clap, and one of the men gave it to her. And she gave it to the other two.
A classic mixed-message "cautionary" exploitation number, That Kind of Girl can't keep its warnings straight when it delights in showing us how good it can be, being naughty. After all, what average guy in his right mind wouldn't mentally flip a coin and then ignore it if he had the chance to score with awesome Austrian A-bomb Keil (the military training films did a better job at this: they learned to use unattractive actresses to de-horny-fy the recruits hearing the message)? Getting a dose of the clap never seemed like more fun if you get by twisting the night away in some dark grotto or skinny-dipping in the Thames with a gorgeous Teutonic titwillow like Keil. If That Kind of Girl was truly a cautionary tale meant to scare the bejeebers out of kids looking to make out, it wouldn't end on such a positive note: everyone but poor pervert Elliott seems to get off with little or no harm done (Elliott turns into an obscene phone caller for no other reason than to make Eva look a little better). Eva's employers are modern and understanding, so she keeps her job (even though she decides to go back home). Max doesn't get a full dose because he couldn't close the deal with Eva (loser); still he defiantly insists his next girl will only be his virgin wife (even bigger loser). And weasel Keith gets to keep his insufferably priggish Janet (who also skates by without becoming ill), who telegraphs how fun married life is going to be to her by stating, "Well, if we're going to be miserable, we might as well be miserable together," (excuse me while I go out and get herpes and gonorrhea, too).
Inbetween the dancing and jazz music and potential heavy petting and the pat, happy resolutions and that stripper Margo getting us all hot and bothered at The Latin Quarter (I like my VD movies with strippers, actually), That Kind of Girl seems incapable of not sending the viewer a subliminal message: "don't worry about getting syphilis; what's the worst that can happen to you ...especially if you got it off that hot Austrian broad?" Written by Jan Read (who penned Jason and the Argonauts the same year, as well as titles like First Men in the Moon and TVs' Man in a Suitcase), and directed by Gerry O'Hara (The Pleasure Girls, Maroc 7, Joan Collins' The Bitch), That Kind of Girl is much more successful―unintentionally, one assumes―in hitting quite a few humorous notes. I love the completely inappropriate, sordid bump 'n' grind music cue when Eva goes to the VD clinic (hey, getting a rash is sexy!), and I particularly enjoyed staunchly enlightened and "fair" suburbanite Sylvia Kay declaring with barely controlled repulsion, "It's all so loathsome!" before graciously forgiving Eva her sins. Even better is poor Linda Marlowe as prudish, repressed Janet, deciding to bite the bullet and have sex with Keith by getting into bed, arms crossed like a corpse, as if she laying down for the Kaiser to save Mother England. So much of That Kind of Girl is compromised in this manner that it's best to look at it as a straight comedy, and just leave it at that.
Permissive's remastered full-screen, 1.33:1 transfer looks quite good, with solid color (some fading here and there from the original elements), acceptable grain (no doubt from the original lighting/film stock issues), and a sharp image. That Kind of Girl's black and white 1.33:1 transfer looks even better, with a creamy gray scale, inky blacks, and a razor-sharp image. No compression issues to speak of here.
Permissive's mono soundtrack is loud...but many times I had trouble distinguishing the dialogue through the overbearing music soundtrack. I assume this was present in the original mix of the movie, but it is noticeable (subtitles or closed captions would have helped here). That Kind of Girl's mono audio track is fine, with little hiss and clean dialogue.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published movie and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.