Wednesday 28 December 2016

A book at bedtime? Not Tonight, Darling (1971)

This slight tale rests entirely on the idea that any husband would rather read a law textbook at night than flick through the pages with a lovely wife played by Luan Peters. Any student of the period would find this difficult to comprehend and begin to wonder whether this guy had it coming all a long. One of the writers is listed as a “James Pillock” after all…. A clear sign of artistic endeavour thwarted by budgetary constraints and a production company more interested in their sexed up export possibilities and the generosity of the Edie Levy.

This feels like one of those shandy pornos in which proper actors cover the drama and experts are brought in for the sexual content (there are a number of “Speciality Guests”, allegedly from New York… although that sounds fanciful given the funding). If it is, most of the beer has been removed leaving only the frothy lemonade of the “story”. Still when one of those performers is the lovely Luan and there are extensive scenes in a grocery store – I love the brands of yesteryear! – there’s some benefit to be had.

Bedroom action
Luan plays Karen Williams, mother of Gary and long-suffering wife to John (the appropriately wooden Jason Twelvetrees). If Luan’s the one you’re looking for you’re rewarded with the sight of her stripping and climbing into the bath within the first few minutes.

This early success is soon undermined as the story hobbles forward and not just those parts indicative of the couple’s stolid home life which is expressed through bathroom optimism and bedroom pessimism and that awkward kitchen silence hanging between Mr and Mrs Williams… He’s happy with his books and work and assumes that she’s happy with their son and security.

But Karen wants more from him… at least initially. But John’s a cold public-school man who thinks he’s done his bit for family and can now concentrate on his self-serving career.

Vincent Ball and Sean Barry-Weske
Karen attracts attention on her regular trips to the supermarket – especially from a salesman Alex (Vincent Ball) and the local Peeping Tom, Eddie (Sean Barry-Weske) who have a bet on whether the silver-tongued charmer can get her to wander away from the marital bed. Eddie maintains a regular watch on Karen’s bathroom at night in the hope that she’ll show him a glimpse of something shocking but he’s normally only ever rewarded with her nightshirt-clad wandering – restless having failed to get John away from his tax research.

Karen goes for a drink with her mate Joan (Nicki Howorth) and spots Alex in the same pub… before you know it he’s whisked her off to go and watch Thunderclap Newman – yes them, “hey, look watch that sound…” – rehearse in a club. Maybe they we’re just free that day?

Catching the 'clap in rehearsal...
Anyway… all this thoughtfulness is winning Karen over, and before you can say “here Eddie, hand over that fiver” the couple find themselves in Alex’ travellers hotel: his bachelor pad-from-pad where he uses his modern jazz records to seduce the unfulfilled and the distracted.

The deed is done… and Karen feels nothing of it until signs begin to show that Alex is intent on leveraging the “situation for his further gain… sending her copies of photographs taken during their illicit meeting.

Joan and Karen at the swinger's do...
Things get worse when she is lured back to his flat and coerced into a swingers’ party which includes her pal Joan – crikey; they’re all at it!

Spoilers: Naturally events catch up with Karen when hubby is dragged to a gentlemen’s club by a client - a nice turn by Bill Shine as old duffer, Captain Harrison - where he is astonished to find his wife “acting” in a stag movie. Like all good public school-educated boy he is appalled at Karen’s infidelity and all stroppy-heck breaks lose.

Not the movie he was expecting
The closing moments see them casting glances across the bonfire at their son’s party: is there a reconciliation ahead or should Karen just head for the hills anyway? It’s nice and open in a mature way, a hint of what the film could have been.

Dusty Verdict: Not Tonight… is not a good film in many respects, darling, but it is worth watching for the period details and for a decent performance by Luan Peters who could easily have handled a better script and fuller characters around her.

It’s directed by Anthony Sloman who went on to become a noted film commentator and a fellow of the BFI.

Luan alone
There’s also a treat on the musical front as the jazzy, up-beat score was written by Denis King later to feature alongside John Junkin, Tim Brook-Taylor and Barry Cryer in classic radio comedy Hello Cheeky (which even made it to TV and provided two still-current panellists for I’m Sorry I haven’t Got a Clue…). Denis’ score is accomplished and likeable, adding some everyday warmth where plot and performance sometimes is lacking.

Availability-wise, the film seems to be quite deep undercover although it has been shown recently on Talking Pictures.

Trivia: Luan Peters apparently has a fine singing voice and she briefly replaced singer Tina Charles when she left the pop group 5000 Volts to go solo!

Hard to knock this for seventies supermarket fantasy

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