Friday 22 April 2011


Out now in a newly updated hardback edition, this weighty publication charts the rise and fall of the British sex farce movie, and the key figures involved in the industry that their films created. Read on to see what I thought of Simon Sheridan's book.

Honestly, when I was given a copy of this book to review, I had no idea what to expect to see on its pages. Would it be porn or a bunch of pseudo-Carry On films? Turns out it's somewhere in the middle. Not a subject I could claim to know a lot about (well, I would say that, wouldn't I?), the apparently quite popular British sex movie of the 60's, 70's and 80's was curiously absent from my education in Film Studies. Have we really become so prudish a society that we've chosen to forget all about a strand of cinema that was still popular on our screens just over 30 years ago? It's certainly not pornography, more of a celebration of the titilating raunchiness we British do so well. These misconceptions and the snootiness shown towards the industry are all covered by author Simon Sheridan, hoping to put the issues involved into  a modern perspective.

Personally, I found this book a joy to just pick up and leaf through, even if all I found myself doing was checking out some of the bawdy, odd and usually innuendo heavy titles these films have; some of my favourite examples being The Amorous Milkman, Commuter Husbands, Penelope Pulls It Off, I Like Birds and the rather straight forward Sex Farm. It's also great fun to check out some of the full colour posters that have been included, largely because you'll never get to see them anywhere else.

As Sheridan's research shows, there really was some outrageous figures involved in these films, from the near ubiquitous Robin Askwith (a man with curiously unexplainable appeal and sex symbol status given that he resembles Jim Davidson crossed with Lee Evans) to the auteur George Harrison Marks (the closest thing the industry had to its own Woody Allen). Perhaps the most interesting story documented is the rise and fall and subsequent exploitation of the tragic Mary Middleton, absolutely the British sex films answer to Marilyn Monroe.

Not all a barrel of frolicky fun, the book does touch of some of the more unsavoury aspects of the industry (the inevitable decline in the 80's video age, the move into hardcore sex), and includes some of the less fondly remembered moments such as dubious looking titles like Baby Love and the ample frame of Bernard Manning even cropping up. For the most part though, it's delightfully British and understandably nostalgic, the whole book full of risque screen shots from the films. For those with a keen eye there's also plenty a future celebrity to be spotted. Oh look! There's Joanna Lumley with her top off! There's that old bloke from Emmerdale! There's Trigger from Only Fools and Horses! There's Boba Fett, aka Jeremy Bulloch! Minus his helmet of course.

If you laughed at the admittedly crude nature of the joke at the end of the last sentence, this may very well be the book for you. Enough time has passed now that the whole British soft-core industry has become kitsch, and this fairly hefty book is the place to start for your education in the scene. It's hard not to raise a wry smile whilst flicking through the pages of this book, and perhaps the best compliment I could offer to author Simon Sheridan is that I learnt a lot from it. Keeping the British End Up is a perfect example of a coffee table book for any cine-enthusiast, albeit one you may choose to conceal from the neighbours when they pop round for afternoon tea.

Highly recommended to those who appreciate a bit of humour in their films, Keeping the British End Up: Four Decades of Saucy Cinema is now available from all good retailers.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent stuff Colin. Another string to your bow. Could become a new sideline for you