Welcome to a completely unwarranted, shockingly unheralded new meme from someone who’s unqualified to talk about this sort of thing.
The history of sex in film is complicated and it’s hardly as rigid as any of the documentaries and books on the subject would have you believe. In the “above-ground” sex film realm, though, there was something of a shift, in various places internationally, after the decline in popularity of nudie-cuties from the ’60s. American sexploitation began to rear its ugly head, as did Japanese pink film and mainland European “art porn” – the first Emmanuelle came along in 1974.
British film, typically coy and unassuming, started to make its own contribution with smutty comedies – a mixture of slapstick mirth and (often female) nudity: even featuring sex, although in a very different fashion from what one might term as soft porn. I’ve seen a few of these (okay, a lot of these) and, now that quite a few of them are available on Amazon Prime…
…maybe it’s time for ILB to write far too long blog posts about them.
SO HERE WE GO!
Adventures of a Taxi Driver (1976)
Director: Stanley Long
Starring: Barry Evans, Judy Gleeson, et al.
I last saw this when I was a teenager, so although I kind of thought I knew what this was about – I remember a snake and a kidnapping plot – I wasn’t entirely sure about the details. I didn’t remember any sex happening, but that isn’t really the point of a British sex comedy.
The main idea of this flick is that Joe (Barry Evans), who acts as both the protagonist and narrator (he talks in asides to the camera), is a taxi driver who picks up beautiful women. That’s basically it. There’s nothing else to the film. It opens, and this I didn’t remember, with a very British opening narration (by a different actor) about how wonderful taxi drivers are, laid over a montage of “ironic” clips featuring taxis cutting off other vehicles, drivers giving V-signs and stopping to pick up women while avoiding old couples and single men.
Joe also had a weird family (because they all do) including his layabout, thieving tearaway brother Peter (Marc Harrison) and domineering but drippy fiancée Carol (Adrienne Posta), but they make occasional and seemingly random appearances. The first hour, at least, acts as a checklist of “what to do in a sex comedy” things, which can be summarised thus:
(i) needlessly gratuitous bum and thigh shots, often close-ups when women bend over or something ✔
(ii) carelessly sexist dialogue, often referring to women as “birds” or “a bit of crumpet” ✔
(iii) occasional nudity, often female ✔
(iv) people in unhappy relationships – double points if it’s a young, attractive women married to a much older man ✔
(v) random double entendres that hit like a ton of bricks ✔
(vi) very little actual sex (but some, or at least a hint thereof) ✔
(vii) genuinely famous actor making their first appearance (in this case, Robert Lindsay) ✔
(viii) love interest who shouldn’t be a love interest (Judy Gleeson as Nikki) ✔
(ix) “amusing” naked caper-type scenes ✔
(x) incredibly posh older lady (Prudende Drage as Mrs Barker) ✔
If this all seems relatively un-amusing, that’s because that’s what it is. This film can’t decide what it’s trying to be. There are a few things which makes it more unique, such as
Snake sex: Nikki has a snake (a real one) named Monty, who accidentally stimulates someone Joe is trying to seduce (which sounds funnier than it is)
Visible dick: during the naked caper bit, where Joe has to make his way back to his taxi with no clothes, and then picks up a nun to deliver to a convent (also not funny)
Extra kidnap crime plot: tacked on an hour into the film itself, and also comes to nothing!
Emmanuelle reference: one of the cinemas he drives past in central London is showing Emmanuelle, which suddenly made me want to watch a better film
but, in actual fact, they all add very little to the plot, and all the jokes miss. There’s even a really transphobic bit (in before your “but the ’70s!” protests; it’s still transphobia) with a “female impersonator”, which made me cringe so hard my face resembled a topographical map of Snowdonia. It’s awful, and the fact that the film is trying very hard to get you to like Joe (whereas he is an unlikeable, unattractive, sexist git) just makes it worse.
There’s a switch which comes in so fast that it’s alarming late in the day when suddenly a crime caper happens – something to do with stolen jewellery, but by this point I’d zoned out so much I couldn’t quite work it out. It doesn’t even work here, either, as there’s been no build-up to it, nor is there any particularly appropriate pay-off. It just sort of… ends.
It’s strange, after the drubbing I’ve just given Adventures of a Taxi Driver), to think of how successful it was. Because it was – and it even spawned a couple of sequels, so there’s a whole series to get through (groan!) It relatively shamelessly takes its cue from the Confessions series of a similar ilk, but it has none of the cheeky charm of the Robin Askwith films, and is so episodic in its execution of all the invidual skits that it makes me wonder if this was filmed in a bit of a hurry.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m being unfair.
No, I’m not. It’s the film that’s wrong.