Klaus Kinski and The Pleasure Girls. What depraved mind dreamed up that concoction?
In reality, given this is early onset Kinski, before he was a fully-developed beast, and because it just precedes the British censor throwing off his shackles to accommodate the likes of Blow Up (1966) and The Fox (1967) it’s pretty tame stuff.
The girls might parade in night attire, and, should they happen to sleep in the nude, flash a bit of less rude skin, but that’s as far as it goes although at least couples are permitted to share a bed unlike the U.S. where that was outlawed by the Production Code (hence, in case you didn’t work it out, why there was so much frolicking via censor loopholes such as the outdoors or in the surf a la From Here to Eternity).
And you might find it hard to believe that John Wick’s Ian McShane has been a star for nearly half a century. Though here on the shifty side here and a shade fresh-faced his trademark cynical eyebrow is perpetually raised. He’s one of the suitors of a posse of girls sharing a house in London. A year later and a photographer like him would have had girls throwing themselves at him rather than primly trying to hold onto their virginity.
A weekend of drama awaits model wannabe and suburban lass Sally (Francesca Annis) on her arrival at the house, a whirlwind of parties beckoning, though drugs and booze in little evidence. Among her flatmates glamorous Dee (Suzanna Leigh) is mistress of slum landlord Nikko (Klaus Kinski) and while happy to be wined and dined and presented with jewellery, fur coats and cash, draws the line at being put up in an apartment. Compliant Angela (Anneke Wills) is enmeshed with unscrupulous gambler Priddy (Mark Eden).
While there are plenty good-time girls to hand in casinos and there is some discreet nudity at a party it’s not exactly high-end stuff what with scenes set in launderettes and street markets and girls cutting themselves shaving their legs. And while proclaiming himself sex-mad, Keith (Ian McShane) is rather more romantic than he would like, prepared to wait for Sally, even while spouting self-conscious lines like “surely every girl wants you to want to even if she doesn’t want to,” the kind of hypocritical male double standard of the day.
The Sally-Keith relationship doesn’t get much beyond will she-won’t she so the real drama takes place in the lives of Dee-Nikko and Angela-Priddy and Dee’s very outgoing brother Paddy (Tony Tanner). Nikko collects debts with the help of thugs and an Alsatian, while Priddy sells his girlfriend’s precious brooch.
There’s more violence than sex. One man beaten up and tied to the hood of a car to be whipped with a belt. Another is tied to a chair and hung out a window. And, for the time, one man’s homosexuality is unusually tenderly expressed while the prospect of a career being more attractive than marriage is given a fair airing.
It’s surprisingly well acted, all the characters believable with enough development twists to keep you interested, and of course it’s not the degrading or unseemly world the posters would have you believe although in a pre-Pill world the dangers of unprotected sex are only too obvious.
Producers Tony Tenser (later founder of Tigon) and Michael Klinger (Get Carter, 1971) had made their reputations on exploitation pictures like the previously-reviewed London in the Raw (1964) and this attempts, at least for marketing purposes, to go down a similar seedy route, but is confounded by a storyline that is more Peyton Place than Bad Girls Have Sex.
It’s more an opportunity for rising stars to be put though their paces rather than characters put in their place. Ian McShane’s (Sky West and Crooked/Gypsy Girl, 1966) twinkle is never far from view and he demonstrates the charm that will keep him in demand for the next near-50 years. Klaus Kinski (Five Golden Dragons, 1967) is remarkably restrained given his later work, proving he doesn’t have to over-act to make his mark.
Of the others in the talent shop window, Suzanna Leigh (Deadlier than the Male, 1967) makes the biggest impact. It didn’t make a star out of Francesca Annis though Mark Eden (Curse of the Crimson Altar/The Crimson Cult, 1968) had marginally better luck.
Gerry O’Hara (Maroc 7, 1967) directed from his own script.