Thursday, 8 March 2012

Bang Bang


Paula 'Two Guns' Page. When asked why she went into modelling, Paula reportedly said "I thought I might as well make the most of these while they are hanging around".

Wake up with Paula

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Monday, 5 March 2012

West End Jungle


In 1957, the publication of the famous Wolfenden Report led to two things: the eventual decriminalisation of homosexuality, and a harder stance on street prostitution. ‘West End Jungle’ is a dramatized documentary (a mockumentary, if you will) which examines the aftermath of the crackdown and, more specifically, how the oldest profession moved from the street corner into the clip joint, the massage parlour and the studio flat.


On the game. 

Pre-Wolfenden.

Post-Wolfenden.

Let me assure you, drinks here aren't free.

All human life is here: the club where the gullible pay ten shillings for two cups of Ribena just to get the chance to talk to a woman who feigns interest in them until the money runs out; the suburban whore who entertains out of town businessmen and invoices for her services; the massage parlour where the many extras may include a massage, and the old hands who still take to the streets and run the risk of arrest and a heavy fine simply because they don’t know any other way.

Narrated in a stern, sardonic way by American David Gell, the commentary is unsympathetic: the girls are con artists, the punters are fools, the business leads to disappointment and depression and self-disgust. In one interesting sequence, a young girl arrives from the country to make her way in the big city – within a few minutes she is in the car of a swarthy, seedy looking man sharing cigarettes and off colour jokes – the next evening, she’s working in his clip joint, letting herself be pawed in public for a half crown commission on every ludicrously expensive soft drink purchased. I’ve no idea how realistic this scenario is, but it's effectively put across – I shall certainly be much more careful on my next trip to London.


From country girl...

...to Soho tart.

Perhaps what ‘West End Jungle’ does best is to highlight the pathos of prostitution – the girls forced by circumstance, by expedience or by compulsion to sell themselves; the men forced by circumstance, by expedience or by compulsion to buy. The girls have it worse, of course, as they have to pretend that they’re enjoying themselves.

A typical tart. Please note hard face but wistful eyes. 

'Would you like a massage with your extras, Sir?'

He genuinely thinks she fancies him, the twat.

There’s one telling bit where a student looking man visits a ‘model’ in her scruffy flat. She’s got a good figure, but her stockings are laddered, her eyebrows don’t match her hair, she has awful teeth and, in the words of the narrator, she ‘needs a good wash’. Here, the pathetic, perspiring man pays her simply to see her in her grubby underwear and then again for a quick flash of her tits. The whole transaction takes about five minutes and costs him about three pounds.

'Sexy, ain't I?'

'Ulp!'

'Annuver quid and I'll flip 'em out'

'West End Jungle’ is a neat piece of low budget film making – interesting, varied, short and to the point. It has a good (if slightly repetitive) jazz soundtrack from the Synchro and Brull Library and gives us some fascinating glimpses of Olde Londinium. Next time you have just under an hour to spare you should watch it as rather like a pre-Wolfenden* brass, it's pretty easy to find.

* As an aside, the Wolfenden Committee used the codewords 'Huntley & Palmers' in order not to offend the delicate sensibilities of the female members of the enquiry. A Huntley was a homosexual; a Palmer a prostitute. I find this sad and funny in equal measures.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Van the Man



A beautiful Cush from The Watchmen's Dave Gibbons in the late lamented House of Hammer magazine.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Gothic


In many ways, the nineteen eighties and Ken Russell were a perfect match: egocentric, excessive, tasteless, gaudy, slightly embarrassing. ‘Gothic’ (1986) has the look of a Bonnie Tyler video, all dry ice and looking out of leaded windows into the dark as curtains billow around you, a phantasmagoria for the MTV age.

The story is set on the infamous night that Byron, Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft (she had a child by Shelley, but they were not married until later that year when Shelley's first wife died), Dr. Polidori and a small retinue of children, concubines and hangers on spent in each other's company at a house on Lake Geneva in May 1816. As an electrical storm raged outside, the four 'star' companions competed with each other to tell the scariest ghost story. For all the literary credentials in the room, it was the non-writers, Mary and Polidori, who came up with the most macabre tales – Polidori with ‘The Vampyr’ and Mary with the considerably better known ‘Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus’.




Russell was obviously attracted to the story because it contains one of his favourite themes: the spark of inspiration that leads to the creative process, the story behind the art. In Russell’s hands, the evening becomes a visually startling nightmare, a parade of strange visions and hallucinations that flash forward and back in time, testing the already hypersensitive characters to the limits of their endurance. Snakes crawl through skulls, dwarves squat on people, eyes appear on breasts, water logged corpses taunt the living. At one point, Percy Shelley strips off and stands on the roof, daring the elements to strike his lightning rod.






It’s all played at the pitch of hysteria and acted, by Julian Sands at least, as if it were a matinee at a school for hyperactive seven year olds (Gabriel Byrne and Natasha Richardson fare better as Byron and Mary; Tim Spall is, as usual, awful). Once again, Ken lets the actors find their comfort zone – Sands, whose brief period in the spotlight is one of the great 'what the fuck?'s' of film history, goes straight to the mugging to camera in a hollow, declamatory voice area and makes himself comfortable. It’s hard to imagine his Shelley remembering to lift the toilet seat, let alone writing ‘Ozymandias’.

Exterior shots were filmed on location at Villa Diodati, the actual place where Byron et al stayed that night; interiors were filmed in Barnet and Hemel Hempstead. The hair gel bill alone must have been enormous and, just in case you were wondering ‘could this film be any more 80’s?’ Thomas Dolby throws in a soundtrack that must have sounded dated the second after he pressed the ‘stop record’ button.

For all it’s niggly little faults, however, the best bits about ‘Gothic’ are pure, untamed Ken Russell – ambitious, delirious, hyperbolic, ridiculous, i.e. just what we like best about him.