"A crackingly good look at the rear end of early 1970s British cinema"
The British sex comedy: a unique genre of film that simply could not have been created anywhere else in the world, combining our excruciating embarrassment at all things body functional with the desire to show on the big screen scenes considered by its makers as not so much ‘erotic, taboo-breaking and forbidden’ as ‘naughty and rude tits and bum stuff’. If I was forced to watch too many British sex comedies in a row I would end up wanting to jump off a tall building, and yet at the same time these films remain fascinating, a snapshot of life and cultural attitudes in Britain that we shall probably never see again - thank goodness. If you do feel the need to sample one of these movies, however, ESKIMO NELL is definitely the one to watch.
|Add your own "boing" sound effect to make this scene come alive|
Young film-maker Dennis Morrison (Michael Armstrong, who also wrote the script and was responsible for parts of MARK OF THE DEVIL, HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR, and LIFEFORCE), desperate to find work, ends up at the dreary, sleazy office of BUM productions. Producer Benny U Murdoch (Roy Kinnear) - apparently a thinly veiled portrayal of real-life Tigon producer Tony Tenser - says he has a film ready to go, based on the famous bawdy poem ESKIMO NELL. All that’s needed is funding, a star and a script. Penguin enthusiast and virgin Harris Tweedle (Christopher Timothy) wrestles with his typewriter in a way many starving screenwriters must have back in the day as the money is obtained from different sources, all of whom want an entirely different film.
|The influence of Ken Russell?|
American producer Big Dick (Gordon Tanner) - apparently another thinly veiled portrayal, this time of Louis Heyward who was in charge of AIP’s London office - wants a hardcore porno, buxom Prudence Drage’s sugar daddy wants her to star in a kung fu musical, and a rich enthusiast for spanking cowboys in tight white jeans wants a Western filled with...well, that. When Benny buggers off with the money Dennis turns to girlfriend Hermione’s mother Lady Longhorn (= Mary Whitehouse) for the money, and a fourth, family-friendly project is proposed. All four films get shot but guess what happens at the Royal premiere?
|The sexiest that this, or any other British sex comedy, ever gets|
To paraphrase writer and critic David McGillivray in his masterly History of British Sex Movies, British sex comedies were “films that were neither sexy nor funny. Consequently the British public went to see them in droves”. Martin Campbell’s ESKIMO NELL was released in the UK six months after the overwhelming (and nowadays inexplicable) success of Val Guest’s CONFESSIONS OF A WINDOW CLEANER. While that movie had continued the fine (?) British sex comedy tradition of concentrating on a youthful hero’s amusing and amorous adventures, ESKIMO NELL tried to do something different.
Indeed, it remains unrivalled in British sex comedy cinema in being that rare, and probably unique, item: the British sex comedy with ambition. And what an ambition it is, namely to provide an accurate, knowing, and at times properly funny satire of low budget British film-making in the early 1970s. It’s not in the slightest bit sexy, not even for a moment, but aficionados of the genre would probably be disappointed if it was. I have to admit I laughed out loud a lot, but your enjoyment of ESKIMO NELL is very much going to depend on how much you know about this era of film-making, and to what extent you are an aficionado of the ‘Tit and Bum Humour’ subgenre of British cinema. If you are then this is well worth your money. If not, then you should already know to stay away.
|Probably too close to the actual London AIP office for comfort|
88 Films have done a fine job of giving us ESKIMO NELL on Blu-ray. The print looks a bit washed out and faded but it’s uncut and for a film from the UK’s era of Cinema Du Grotty it really looks pretty good. There’s also a commentary track from Simon Sheridan and Michael Armstrong. Mr Sheridan is an excellent and knowledgeable moderator and handles the conversation well. Other extras include a trailer, a reversible sleeve, a booklet with notes and an interesting bonus for anyone who wants a real taste of sleazy British porn shorts of the period. WILD LOVERS is a scratchy old piece of filth shot in black and white with no sound, features Mary Millington (who has a tiny part as a stripping traffic warden in ESKIMO NELL) and is guaranteed to put you off your dinner. Don't let it put you off this package though, which is a crackingly good look at the rear end of early 1970s British cinema. Ooer.
88 Films released their special 40th Anniversary Edition of Martin Campbell's ESKIMO NELL on DVD and Blu-ray on 16th February 2015.