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« DVD and Blu-ray review: The Party's Over (1963) | Main | Paranoiac (1962) heads to DVD and Blu-ray »


DVD/Blu-ray review: The Pleasure Girls (1965)

Pleasure

A 60s teen flick featuring the man who became Lovejoy, a man who became Alan Bradley in Coronation Street and most bizarrely of all, Klaus Kinski? It has to be The Pleasure Girls, newly reissued on DVD/Blu-ray by the Flipside arm of the BFI.

In a London that's yet to fully 'swing' Gerry O'Hara's flick is in one way similar to other movies of the day, whilst at the same time being very different, not least because everything happens over the course of a weekend as relationships crumble when the darker sides of the male characters come to the fore.

Not that you'd guess that from the start - The Pleasure Girls is as jolly as any movie of the era. Sally (Francesca Annis) is a posh country girl, new to London and ready to start a new career as a model. It's the 60s, what else? She moves in with friends Marion (Rosemary Nichols), Dee (Suzanna Leigh), Angela (Anneke Wills) and Cobber (Colleen Fitzpatrick), along with their gay friend Paddy (Tony Tanner), the latter probably very unsual in a movie of the era. After all, homosexuality was still outlawed back then.

The plot revolves around all of them and their relationships (or lack of) with men in their lives. Sally gets hooked up with Keith (Ian McShane) at a party, but refuses to give in to his ever more crude sexual advances. Marion is pregnant with the child of gambler and all-round wrong 'un Prinny (Mark Eden), Dee is chasing money, being 'the other woman' of slum landlord Nikko (Klaus Kinski), Cobber spends all her money on removing her Australian accent for a film career and Angela runs around looking for the right man, not that she ever does. Finally, Paddy is (almost) content to be everyone's friend and confidante, until he's caught in a 'shocking' clutch with boyfriend Ivor by Sally. Sounds confusing? Well, trust me, it isn't when you see it unfold on screen.

Each relationship (or lack of) plays out individually, occasionally overlapping with the others. Keith uses both charm and desperation to get Sally into bed, Prinny sells Marion's jewellery to fund his gambling habits, running up even more debts (and finding more enemies) in the process. Meanwhile Dee lives the high life, but sees the misery and the violence of Nikko's slums on their travels, as well as the hatred and violence of the tenants towards him. Angela and Cobber? I suspect they're there just to show that you don't really need a man to live your life, especially when you see some of the blokes Angela encounters.

For a low budget movie, The Pleasure Girls offers much. The storyline, despite taking place (mainly) in a single house in Kensington, is clever and covers a wide spectrum of 60s society - from the grubby gambler to the hip photographer and the rather nasty slum landlord. The fact that it shows a gay relationship and a woman declaring her desire to be a single mother also offers a glimpse of the world to come.

It's also not afraid to get gritty with the issues of the day either - Kinski is obviously based on notorious landlord Peter Rachman, presumably not a subject popular amongst filmmakers of the day. Indeed, I can't think of another representation off the top of my head. The fact that he finally gets his comeuppance probably had victims of the original cheering in the aisles back in the day.

Casting is a bit mixed, Kinski works just about, but his English obviously wasn't great back then. Suzanna Leigh is just a little too 'posh' for her role too. But on the upside, McShane is great as the photographer about town while Annis plays the London newcomer with some style too.

Bizarrely (after some added nudity was apparently forced into the movie), The Pleasure Girls was pitched as some sort of exploitation flick, especially after having trouble with the censors. Trust me, it isn't that kind of movie in a million years. It's actually a very interesting 'people' movie of the period, one that will keep you hooked from start to finish. Which is more than enough to ask.

Extras you say? Well, a hefty booklet as you might expect, along with an export cut of the original flick. Couple of mini movies too. The first of those is The Rocking Horse from 1962, a 25-minute, mainly silent short about the relationship between a painter and a teddy boy. It is slow, but it's also an interesting period piece of the day and worth your time. The Meeting from 1964 is the second short, lasting just 10 minutes and shot at Great Malvern Station, it's simply a brief, but slightly strange, encounter on a train platform. Odd, but again, quite interesting.

Nice additions to the overall package, which is what we've come to expect from Flipside releases. I have to be honest, I don't think it is Flipside's best release, but it's far from the worst and certainly an underrated movie that's worthy of this lavish reissue. If kitchensink-meets-swinging London (almost) appeals to you, The Pleasure Girls almost certainly will.

Find out more about the release at the Amazon website

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