Love, sex and interminable pop-culture references

Tag: keeping the british end up

Keeping the British End Up: The Ups and Downs of a Handyman (1975)

Since I started this meme, I’ve always kind of assumed that this film would come along at some point. Not that it’s particularly well-known, or memorable, or even particularly good… but I do remember it by name. Handyman. I also remember watching it, in full, on TV late one night, and then going to bed questioning my life choices.

VHS cover featuring a cartoon of Bob looking like an idiot.
My Glod! There’s a VHS release?

In fact, since then I’ve found out that this was meant to be the start of another franchise of British sex comedies – in the vein of the Adventures of… or famed Confessions series – but, due to the failure of this first instalment, it never quite got off the ground.

Let’s find out why.

The Ups and Downs of a Handyman (1985)
Director: John Sealey
Starring: Barry Stokes, Penny Meredith, Gay Soper, Sue Lloyd, Bob Todd, et al.

It’s not difficult to see where the idea for something like this came from. Written by Derrick Slater from an idea by the director himself, it takes a trope that works (working-class salt-of-the-earth type attempts to do his job; ends up in bed with beautiful women) and runs with it. The problem here is that it doesn’t appear to know where it’s running to.

I shall explain. Although the film itself starts in London (indeed it has a montage of the London traffic as the opening sequence), it quickly transpires that Margaretta (Meredith), a faithful wife, has inherited a little country cottage in the fictional village of Sodding Chipbury…

…no, wait, I haven’t finished laughing yet…

Husband having sex with wife while she chats to her mother on the phone.
Marital bliss, with added phone.

…and transplants herself there, taking with her her husband Bob (Stokes), who takes on a job as a handyman for hire in order to pay the bills. This is a British sex comedy, though, so of course you know where that’s going.

My memory of this one may be sketchy, but a few things I remembered before viewing this again were:

– a catchy theme song (written by Vic Elms, as it turns out, and sung by Stokes himself. I also remember it being more catchy than it actually is.)
– a title sequence in “British seventies sex comedy yellow”, which is definitely very much there
– a frolicking haystack sex scene
– lots and lots of casual nudity but practically no sex
– and not much else!

I wasn’t far off. For what it’s worth, Handyman does contain all those sorts of things. It ticks a lot of by-the-numbers boxes as well: dirty old men with pretty young wives, a hapless wide-eyed policeman, broad physical pratfalls played for cheap laughs, lots of scenes in double time (seriously, they Billy Whizz half these bits) and a protagonist who is physically unremarkable but seemingly irresistible to women.

Three nude people in some black-looking water,
Bath threesome. The water here looks filthy!

Yes, I said that last bit. The problem here is with the main actor. Stokes isn’t unattractive – he’s a decent-looking enough bloke – but the character he’s playing definitely is. He’s mostly completely gormless, seemingly completely unaware of what’s going on, sporting this look that’s reminiscent of someone who’s just been struck over the head with a metal pipe! He has none of the cheeky charm or the innocent-but-keen attitude of the other male protagonists of the time, and the script isn’t doing him any favours. In fact, the best lines go to the women…

When we get to the bathroom, you pull it out!

pretty young woman

…but, bear in mind, the fact that they’re the best doesn’t really mean they’re any good.

What I did get wrong was the amount of sex. It isn’t particularly explicit, but there is actually quite a lot of this – brief though the scene may be (the longest sex scene is right at the beginning, between husband and wife). There’s a threesome in the bath at one point, the aforementioned frolicking haystack scene, sex with the squire’s wife, sex with Maisie, sex in a car with the blonde, and…

…yeah, let’s go through these,

Threesome in the bath: This happens during Bob’s first handyman job, with the pretty young woman quoted above (whose dad owns the village shop) and her boss. There is genuinely no introduction to this – Bob trips and falls into the bath on top of her, and it just starts!

Incestuous threesome on top of a haystack! Yes, really!
The haystack scene. Bob is on the right; Polly is under him, but you can’t really tell.

The haystack scene: This has some sort of precursor, insofar as Bob comes across Polly, a woman sunbathing nude, who puts him to work shovelling hay and then does a striptease for him basically because she can. Her mother then turns up(!), who appears to be about the same age(!!), and they all have sex in the hay(!!!), and nobody appears to see the problem with this?

Sex with the squire’s wife: After a meeting of classy ladies, Bob gets hired by the squire’s wife. The squire himself is only interested in spanking (in fact, there’s a whole spanking scene here!), but she’s more interested in having sex with Bob. As with the aforementioned two, this doesn’t really have any buildup – she just disrobes and they get on with it!

Sex with Maisie: Maisie (Soper) is presented as a woman with strange fetishes – a few Gothic artefacts on the wall, some BDSM gear, that sort of thing. Again, this is all some sort of hint that the women in the village are both sexually starved and a little odd, but the handyman sleeps with her anyway. The BDSM subplot doesn’t go anywhere, by the way.

The car scene: Bob doesn’t even take his clothes off for this one. While he and the car’s owner are in flagrante delicto, the car’s brake comes off and it careens down a flat road (although quite how…), flattening Fred (the cop)’s bike and initiating a trouble-with-the-law subplot that also doesn’t go anywhere!

Old man spanking his pretty young wife. The idiot forgot to take his hat off.
The squire forgot to take his hat off. Tch, how careless.

In fact, none of these subplots do. Fred has his own which only really amounts to following Bob around. There’s a subplot involving indecent literature in the shop, the spanking squire having a completely topless maid who otherwise wears traditional “French maid” dress, some very ill-advised fox hunts during which young ladies appear intentionally, and the aforementioned incest and BDSM references, and none of them bear any relevance to the main plot…

…BECAUSE THERE ISN’T ONE!

And that’s not hyperbole. Handyman is incredibly episodic and could have just as easily been a miniseries of short sketches. It doesn’t even have a real ending; it just kind of finishes, leaving it open for a sequel which never happens. It’s also badly lit, badly edited, badly directed, and there’s one scene where the spanking squire’s mouth moves but no dialogue whatsoever is heard! Nice one, movie!

I’ve seen in several places that this is “the worst of the worst”, and while it isn’t – there are worse, and this has a good helping of nudity, so at least it delivers on that front – it’s definitely not good. It’s got a lot of what makes a British sex comedy in it, but it completely becomes unstuck, and the initial set-up may as well not have happened when you consider how all-at-sea this ends up being.

And now to try and get that theme song out of my head.

Keeping the British End Up: Emmanuelle in Soho (1981)

This one’s on Amazon Prime if you want to watch it. But, you know, don’t.

Soft porn experts (such as myself) and the more clued-up will probably have noticed that the Emmanuelle series has its own recurring motifs. All incarnations of Emmanuelle have, at some point, been seen on (or near) a wicker chair. She’s always bisexual. She’s always a hedonist, to some degree. And she’s always, always spelled correctly, with two Ms – Emmanuelle.

“Who are you?”
“I’m Emmanuelle.”
“One M or two?”

Emmanuelle through time: Emmanuelle’s forbidden pleasures (2011)

And then there are the unofficial ones – not just the Black Emanuelle series with Laura Gemser, but a whole glut of others (some not even featuring a character called Emanuelle!) with the label slapped on – dodging copyright simply by eliminating the wicker chair and one of the Ms.

So how they actually managed to release this I have no idea!

Emmanuelle in Soho (1981)
Director: David Hughes
Starring: Mandy Miller, Julie Lee, John East, et al.

Naked woman standing in front of... London, I presume? Dunno, really.
Neither of these women are Emmanuelle. Yes, I know.

This one is a strange mix of sex comedy, sexploitation and a satire on the British sex industry (and, indeed, the US release – yes, there’s a US release – starts with a short documentary on the Soho adult films market). Like a lot of the other British sex comedies I’ve seen, it does at times appear to be a little confused about what it’s actually trying to do. There’s also very little sex. Man…

So, the plot. Struggling photographer Paul (Kevin Fraser) and his unsatisfied wife Kate (Julie Lee) live in Soho. They have been trying to make it big, but to no avail; therefore, their openly sexual pal Emmanuelle (Angie Quick credited as Mandy Miller) gets involved. Emmanuelle is presented here as a very British, very leggy blonde who, the first time we see her, is trying to sleep with Paul. Paul, however, is a married man and not up for being caught in flagrante delicto.

The first scene – the very first – reminds me starkly of why I found this very difficult to watch. The lines are delivered in a relatively piecemeal, monotone way – specifically from Paul, whose pitch and cadence neither vary nor amuse. None of the jokes really land, and because the scenes are so short (the film itself moves at a breakneck pace), I’ve found myself having to pause to puzzle out what’s going on at times!

Naked women doing... naked woman stuff.
Nudity!

Erotically speaking, we do indeed get a lot of the traditional “nudity without sex” here – as early as the second scene, which has Paul doing his photography thing with Emmanuelle and model Sammy (Kathy Green). They are getting increasingly naked as the scene goes along, and although Paul is being a professional, the girls are getting into it. Were it not for the fact that Paul genuinely says…

“bisexuality is very fashionable these days…”

…I might understand what’s going on here.

In fact, it’s those random, innocuous lines that throw me. We get things like “I’m a straight guy in a bent business” (Paul), “I’m always sexy early in the morning” (Emmanuelle) and “I wouldn’t handle his prick, let alone his business!” (Bill) coming in ten-a-penny, presumably to raise a smile, whereas all I’m raising in an eyebrow. Yes, it may be that this flick is from a less enlightened time, but you can’t possibly tell me that they’re even funny, never mind appropriate!

Kenneth Williams' stunt double meets some woman with a mullet.
Emmanuelle seducing Bill. I will admit that that Emanuelle poster on the wall is a nice touch.

The antagonist is Bill Anderson (John M. East – also the co-writer and co-producer of this!), a sleazy porn producer who, I assume, is meant to embody the seedy, untrustworthy side of Soho. Emmanuelle, after sleeping with him (I assume – the scene cuts away), gets signed to his business with Paul representing her; Kate takes a job as a stripper to make ends meet. That’s it. That’s the film.

There is, somewhere here, a blackmail plot – something to do with our heroes having enough of Bill’s bullshit and fleecing him out of cash – but there’s very little of that. The majority of this is inoffensive nudity – not just Paul’s increasingly desperate photo sessions and Kate’s stripping for the very camp theatre director, but the obligatory “naked party scene” (we’ve seen this trope before) which takes up about a third of the hour-long runtime.

By the end, we don’t really care too much for the plot, which I suppose shouldn’t really be a surprise. What is a surprise is the fact that Emmanuelle in Soho‘s only actual sex scene takes place right at the end.

As I’ve said above, while there’s a lot of nudity, there’s very little sex in this. Scenes which involve some amount of sex either involve disrobing before they cut away, getting to a bed but nothing ends up being particularly explicit, or naked kissing, which may well be nice, but it’s fairly obvious what it is (and/or what it isn’t).

Got milk?
The scene. They don’t really get any closer than this.

Here’s an example. In the third act there’s a lesbian sex scene in a bath of milk (yes), which cuts away and back several times. Each time we can see the girls kissing in a different position, but there’s clearly no touching elsewhere. Yes, it’s difficult to film lesbian sex, but it looks a little socially distanced at times. You could have the ladies wrapped around each other to kiss and that would give some indication as to what you’re aiming for. It doesn’t really work otherwise!

The final sex scene, which actually looks like a sex scene, is well-shot, but spoiled slightly by the context. Kate spends her time narrating over it – Derek (her male lover) is the other participant – but what happened to Paul? In Kate’s words, “he turned out to be homosexual, and into little boys. I like horny men.”

Excuse me?

Naked woman rides a gormless man in front of the least realistic depiction of a tiger since Tony.
I’m sorry to report that this isn’t a real tiger.

So there’s a completely new, totally superfluous gay paedophilia subplot here, which serves no purpose at all (other than to give Kate an out, I suppose). It’s both disturbing and ridiculous… plus, there’s been no indication at all of any of this for the rest of the movie! It’s the worst kind of ending: something so out-of-the-blue, so contrived, and so tacked on (not to mention ethically dodgy and maybe even a little homophobic!).

Emmanuelle’s not even in it that much!

So, yes. Emmanuelle in Soho is a confusing, disjointed mess. There’s a plot I’m not interested in, nudity which is so commonplace it doesn’t serve to titillate, sex which doesn’t happen, and a postscript so ridiculous that I had to rewind it three times to make sure I wasn’t hearing things!

Incredibly, I think I’d prefer this sort of film without a supposed Emmanuelle name, unofficial or not. It doesn’t do anything but sully it!

Keeping the British End Up: The Amorous Milkman (1975)

I started to watch this one with more than a little trepidation, I will admit, on account of the fact that I had only seen it once, and even then, only half of it. In fact, just about the only thing I remembered about it was the alarm clock with a little doll that dings out erections as it chimes (really) and sex being replaced by a train going into a tunnel (which doesn’t actually happen – something of a false memory there…).

What I didn’t recall was the plot, if there was one, and therefore I went in relatively fresh before reviewing…

The Amorous Milkman (1975)
Director: Derren Nesbitt
Starring: Brendan Price, Diana Dors, Julie Edge, et al.

First off, the sound quality is terrible. There’s a huge amount of background hiss throughout the whole thing, although this probably has been recorded from some VHS tape somewhere (I can’t imagine there’s ever been a DVD release), and even then, this probably didn’t have the hugest of budgets, it may just be there, as a feature. I’m going to ignore that, though.

The Amorous Milkman poster crediting Julie Edge as the star. Why?
Julie Edge is credited first. Why?
Answers on a postcard!

This one’s called The Amorous Milkman and is yet another of these comedies that has the name of a salt-of-the-earth working-class type job in its title, on account of the fact that you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that from the huge milk float our title character rides and the bottles of milk he delivers throughout. In fact, Brendan Price is even credited at the start as “The Milkman”, as if the character doesn’t have a name!

The title and premise are somewhat misleading, however. Davey (Price) is a young milkman who lives in a tiny bedsit, complete with erection alarm clock, who can only wake up with the sound of an aeroplane seemingly close by (too close; you’d think he lives in the airport by the noise itself!). He’s also very British, warming up a copper kettle on a gas hob to make a cup of tea in the morning. His first line also contains the word “bloody”.

British, you see. Cor blimey, guv’nor.

"The Amorous Milkman" in questionable yellow typeface.
And it was all yellow…

There’s even a British sex comedy opening, with a jaunty theme tune over a “morning routine” montage (including walking down all the stairs in his building using the same shot multiple times – a cunning bit of trickery also used by student filmmakers everywhere) and the titles superimposed in yellow (also a colour they use a lot…). And off he goes with his milk.

One would expect, I think, for the rest of the film to be fairly routine, with Davey delivering more than just a bottle of milk to the succession of bored housewives he meets along his route. Indeed, it does seem to be setting that up quite nicely, introducing us to Rita (Diana Dors), unsatisfied with her stuffy second husband Gerald; Janice, who we first see in the bath; a drippy young lady who patches Davey up after a bad fall; and a dog owner.

After a huge roaring bark which I could swear was also used for Knightmare‘s Festus, Davey falls over and hits his head. Of course, it turns out that this fearsome beast is just a small King Charles spaniel, but then we all saw that one coming, didn’t we?

Davey & Janice
She’s an attractive girl.
He’s got a mullet.

The thing is, that he doesn’t actually seduce any of these women until much later. The Amorous Milkman spirals from campy sex comedy into something of a drama about romantic misunderstandings, what with Davey managing to get engaged to multiple girls (Janice, and sexy brunette Margot (Nancy Wait), not to mention Julie Edge’s Diana, also a love interest) while not having sex with any of them.

In fact, in a similar vein to Adventures of a Taxi Driver, there’s even a dodgy friend, and a crime caper bit which ends up with Davey standing trial for indecent assault! Once again, this is a comedy which ends up trying to be something else – I would have preferred repetitive sex scenes with a number of housewives, to be frank!

A mass of writhing bodies meant to represent an orgy.
The orgy. Yes, I know.

Like a lot of ’70s sex comedies, however, there isn’t really a large amount of sex. There are, and I did remember this correctly, brief snatches of sex between Davey and other women lasting about a second long (and often in an odd colour like red or blue – maybe to make it more “memory”-ish), and there’s plenty of inoffensive nudity too, such as bars with topless waitresses, a party will a full-on orgy going on, and an art nouveau film-within-a film scene, where the flick they’re actually watching reminds me of real soft porn!

Pornception!

In fact, at one point during which Davey does manage to get into bed with Margot, very little is actually seen – and what there is is intercut with wartime footage… namely:
(i) a warplane
(ii) soldiers
(iii) more soldiers
(iv) Hitler
(v) a battleship firing
(vi) another warplane
(vii) pipers playing an Edinburgh tattoo
(viii) explosions
(ix) …a flamethrower? Why?

There are even some attempts at groanworthy verbal comedy (“I hope I didn’t hurt your pussy” – it’s a cat, you, see, a cat, there’s some Mrs Slocum levels of smut there) somewhere, but if I hadn’t written it down I probably would have forgotten it!

A sex scene, dimly lit.
It’s the most you’re getting.

My guess is that The Amorous Milkman is the result of a curious experiment, throwing sex comedy, romantic misunderstandings, Shakespearean farce, courtroom drama and a milkman into the mix, filming it all and seeing what sticks. Then again, it’s actually based on a novel (by the director), which I haven’t been able to obtain, so I can’t simply go and check if this is just a filmed version of said novel to begin with!

My head hurts.

For all I’ve said, though, this flick isn’t actually bad. It’s not good, but it’s not terrible. Frankly, I was expecting worse.

And I’m really glad I don’t live in his bedsit.

Keeping the British End Up: Rosie Dixon – Night Nurse (1978)

When I was a teenager, I used to keep a list of films that I saw on a little corkboard behind my PC’s monitor, and specifically films I wanted to see again. For a while, it consisted entirely of Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens (1979), until a few months later I added Rosie Dixon: Night Nurse. Presumably, at the time, I liked it; looking back on it now, I have very little idea as to why.

Rosie Dixon: Night Nurse (1978)
Director: Justin Cartwright
Starring: Debbie Ash, Carolyne Argyle, Beryl Reid, et al.

One of several posters. They're all the same, really.
I’m sure it is.

ILB’s Trivia Corner: This is apparently based on a novel by Rosie Dixon, framing it as an autobiography, of sorts. You’ll be shocked, I’m sure, to find out that Rosie Dixon doesn’t exist. She is Timothy Wood, who wrote both the novel and the script for this film. He also wrote a glut of Confessions books as Timothy Lea, four of which got turned into their own sex comedy movies… but that’s for another time.

So, yes, anyway. Rosie Dixon stars Debbie Ash as the titular Rosie, who suddenly decides she wants to be a nurse, and INSTANTLY BECOMES ONE because apparently you can do that without three years of training. The general idea is that randy male doctors and characteristic old man patients (there are a lot of old men in British sex comedies, for whatever reason) can’t keep their hands off her. It’s a threadbare idea, but at least it is an idea.

It’s just executed poorly.

As an example, there is a scene where an old man in a motorised wheelchair continuously pinches Rosie’s bum, and then wheels away before she can notice it’s him. This happens a few times and, despite the fact that there’s nobody else around, she still doesn’t realise it’s him. This is, I presume, meant to be funny, but it isn’t – it’s just stupid. There are a few scenes like this, but this sort of stuff belongs in Doctor in the House. This is a sex comedy; there should be more tittilation than this.

So to the sex bits.

Rosie, Penny and some rando
they put in for whatever reason.

This film has a fair amount of inoffensive nudity, including a shower scene, but unless you are a very young teenager, this isn’t really going to arouse. It’s just naked bodies; you’ve seen them before. One of the main plot points of this film, though, is that Rosie is sexually inexperienced – she doesn’t actually have any sex until the very end of the film, and that’s with one of the doctors, Tom Richmond (Peter Mantle). She’s the star, and she spends a lot of the time not getting laid.

To facilitate this, we have the introduction of Penny Green (Carolyne Argyle), who is both sexually active and very physically attractive. She even has some relatively decent lines like

Penny: I used to be a travel courier, but I had to give up.
Rosie: Why?
Penny: One night there were fifteen ski instructors scratching at the door of my room.
Rosie: Goodness!
Penny: But I wouldn’t let them out!

but those are few and far between. Her main job is to be sexy and sassy, and during both sex scenes she actually has sex and is sassy about it, so I guess that character works, insofar as she is supposed to do what she does.

So, the sex scenes. There are two (two!), and neither is particularly explicit; they always follow a certain pattern, as well, which is:

(i) seduction, although usually very brief
(ii) sex begins happening with Penny
(iii) sex begins happening with Rosie (although in the first scene she’s under a bed with others having sex atop it)
(iv) sex intensifies by way of sped-up footage and overlaid sex noises
(v) quick cuts between Rosie and Penny intermittently implying that this is all happening at the same time
(vi) at some point, the theme tune comes in, so we have “Rosie, my love, don’t change a thing” sung over very unconvincing love-making
(vii) everything ends explosively, in a “humorous” way

The first sex scene is actually pretty okay. Penny is being seduced by (although she actually does more of the seduction herself) Dr Seamus McSweeney (Ian Sharp). Seamus has spent a while trying to get his British end away with anyone who will be receptive, like

Seamus: With your combination of beauty and sensitivity; to be in your presence is to glow.
Rosie: Well, I’ll make you a cup of coffee, and then you can glow away.

and eventually accosts Penny during a night shift, and things go from there at the speed of Billy Whizz on amphetamines… and they have sex on a massage bed. Rosie, meanwhile, almost has sex with one of the abundant old men in the hospital, but he instead ends up having sex with the matron (Beryl Reid… yes, that Beryl Reid), and we don’t even see that, so we cut between Penny humping Seamus (she is on top) and Rosie’s head underneath squeaky springs.

And that’s it.

It’s a humorous, relatively sexy diversion, and it even happens at night, which I guess means we can justify the title of the film after all. The main problem, however, which affects the whole thing, is the second sex scene.

As I’ve said before in this review, Rosie has sex with Tom in the end (in an attic; Rosie assumes he’s brought girls here before, and he says

Tom: I haven’t… but someone else may have!

which poses more questions than it answers). Penny, however, has a thing for a man in traction covered completely in bandages (Jon Lingard-Lane), who can’t move at all, or speak or do anything at all, but allegedly she is enraptured by his eyes. So it happens that, while Rosie and Tom are having cheese-sandwich missionary sex (and end up falling through a ceiling, for the lulz), Penny appears in traction, mounts the patient in plaster, and effectively rapes him.

Well, I say “effectively”; that’s, in fact, exactly what she does, and the final scene (which – spoiler alert but not really – has both main characters getting fired) has her gleefully admitting that she raped a patient – yes, those exact words. That, as you may have gleaned from my words by now, is not funny.

Rosie and Director Bones from DC Comics
Skeletor was on set at one point.

And that is a shame. You see, from looking through this film retrospectively as I have, I can actually see the “comedy” in “sex comedy”. Yes, it’s crass and it’s rude and it’s blunt – they may as well have a stage hand with a neon sign saying “laugh” at certain points – but there are some funny one-liners, and the banter between characters is cheap and cheerful. The physical aspect is a little on the nose, but it’s clearly intended to make you giggle, and all the actors look like they’re having a whale of a time making this.

But the plaster scene, though. I mean, without it, this would probably be my favourite. With it, though, I just can’t get over that mental picture. Penny is naked in it, too… and that’s worse, in a way, as that’s the sort of nudity you want to see!

Overall, then, this is a valiant attempt at making something that’s sexy, funny and inoffensive, good as a distraction at midnight, but more or less completely overshadowed by a very poor decision at the end. Story of my life!

Keeping the British End Up: Adventures of a Taxi Driver (1976)

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…

…yes, really…

…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.

Badly drawn cartoon
Doesn’t say much.
Like the film itself, really…

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.

Britain!

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

Attractive blonde woman who's probably got somewhere else to be
She can do better.

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.

The worst couple since Brangelina
Joe and Carol.
Horrible, isn’t it?

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.

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