Wednesday 30 November 2016

Confessions of a Freudian Psychologist... Intimate Games (1976)

Heather Deeley
Those seventies Brits and their comedies of sex… they rarely manage to sustain the funny whilst being too slapstick for anything other than the mildly sensational: erotica isn’t naturally hilarious especially when it’s smothered in carry on capers and clinging on to a flimsy premise for dear life.

However, it is not so simple and like others in this genre, it would be unfair to dismiss Intimate Games too readily.

True the story is a little slack… a group of psychology students are encouraged by their tutor to spend their summer term researching sexual fantasies; their own and others around them… to find the hidden life of the everyday – the stories we tell ourselves to keep our pecker up as it were.

OK George, it's your job to hold this all together!
Directed by Tudor Gates, best known for co-scripting Barbarella and a host of period cult horror, the film is most notable for featuring a host of sex-com starlets including future property millionaire Felicity Devonshire, Suzy Mandell, Anna – daughter of Ingmar no less – Bergman, the lovely Heather Deeley, Maria St. Clare (they’re all lovely actually) and a fleeting, uncredited, Mary Millington as a choirgirl (no typecasting…).

Mary Millington in the choir
They are supported by the finest male comic actors available at that time or at least that week… along with Lionel Blair’s sister Joyce.

The students, improbably located in Oxford (they don’t really seem posh enough) are put into pairs by their tutor Professor Gottlieb (the inestimable George Baker) mostly girls and boys except for Marion (Deeley) and Erica (Mandel) – guess what’s going to happen there?

Heather and Suzy
The laddish John (sitcom regular Peter Blake) is nervous of his experienced partner June (Maria St. Clare) who strips off to put him at his ease and take his wandering eyes away from the distraction of her chest: now he doesn’t know where to look… this never happened in Economics!? He’s far too uptight for his own good and not surprisingly as his father is Hugh Lloyd, a man who has unnatural thoughts about pigeons…

Maria St. Clare
Another couple features the sparky Felicity Devonshire as Cathy and a rather reserved young man, Benny (Edward Kalinski) who, unfeasibly, is ashamed of his rather outsized member. Once Cathy discovers his secret, her attempts to bring him out of himself are fired by a new level of enthusiasm. Suzy (Anna Bergman) and the geeky Nick (Chet Townsend) make up the remaining couple and seemingly have no spark… whilst Erica wastes no time in convincing Marion to take a walk on the wild side.

The crew gradually head home for the holidays and John encounters a bored blonde in the back of a Rolls Royce (Lindy Benson) who’s keen on extending more than courtesy to a hitchhiker – although it could easily be another fantasy… hard to tell. More revelations are in store once he gets home where we discover his Dad’s pigeon stroking is a substitute for one of the smoother areas of the female anatomy and the real shocker that his mum is Queenie Watts!

 Hugh and Peter: pigeon fanciers
Joyce Blair turns out to be Erica’s Mum Beryl, a pub cleaning lady who dreams of being a showbiz dancer partnered by dress-suited hunks – typecasting for the Blair family but Joyce looks funny as a cleaner!

Suzy’s Uncle Rodney (the genuinely great Ian Hendry) is far more interested in the pink than the red as he imagines her naked during a game of snooker and mentally undresses his maid Hazel (Normaline) at the same time: it’s all a bit seaside-saucy but, in the cut I saw, there’s little more than posing and Sidney James gurning.

Actual homework...
Almost the only scene involving academic “homework” sees June interviewing a frustrated housewife (Susan Glanville) who quickly turns from frantic close-up dusting to thoughts of being ravaged on the kitchen table… the only thing missing is Jimmy Young on Radio 2 in the background.

The story seems to have forgotten itself and rushes in a few random scenarios just to illustrate its point: Johnny Vyvyan plays a Jockey In a bizarre sequence in a cinema: he ends up riding a generously proportioned lady (Claire Davenport) illustrating perhaps that there’s no right or wrong fantasy, just what works for you…

Uncle Rodney tries to concentrate on his game....
Spoilers: And so the students return to class, a new term to begin. Some have changed and none more so than their professor… has it been a summer of over work or has he just got too close to his subject and his class: he looks around and sees all of the women naked allowing ample opportunity for the audience to assess their assets. He’s tense and nervous; can’t relax and, focusing on Heather Deeley, he cracks and makes a grab. So… enjoy your fantasies but don’t let them get the better of you as even this highly-trained academic did? A mixed message for a film in search of some kind of ending and the chests of all five female leads provided the opportunity to send the fans away happy.

Serious study
Dusty verdict: This can only be a guilty pleasure… a reminder of seventies sexuality and a treat for all those old enough to appreciate an illicit glance at adverts for films starring Heather, Suzy, Felicity and Mary M, but who were far too young to go and see them.

The film pokes fun at the frailty of human desire whilst also being as artful as it can in playing to the watching audience’s tastes.  It’s not just the Professor who is driven to distraction… that’s kind of the whole point. Sexist, exploitative and all the rest, Intimate Games does have the final laugh at its audience’s expense.

With or without a dirty mac, DVD’s are available from Amazon.

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