'70's British sex comedies, eh? You either love them or hate them. I
have a soft spot for the 'Confessions' series ( mainly due to the
presence of the scrumptious Sheila White ) and 'Adventures Of A Private
Eye' is not bad either, but let's face it, many were absolutely
appalling, saddled with witless scripts that did no favours to the
often impressive casts they had. 'Eskimo Nell' is a rare exception.
Michael Armstrong not only wrote but starred in this very funny movie
as 'Dennis Morrison', a naive young man who aspires to be a film
director. Turned down by every studio, he goes to work for seedy Benny
U.Murdoch ( the wonderful Roy Kinnear ) of B.U.M. Productions, maker of
such classic motion pictures such as 'Vampire Vomit' and 'The
Benny wants Dennis to direct 'Eskimo Nell', based on the infamous
Victorian dirty poem. To help him, Dennis recruits Clive Potter ( the
late Terence Edmond ) and Harris Tweedle ( Christopher Timothy, three
years before he became a household name sticking his arm up cows' bums
in 'All Creatures Great & Small' ). They approach potential backers,
all of whom have different ideas about what sort of film 'Eskimo Nell'
should be. One wants a hardcore sex movie with his blowsy girlfriend
Billie ( Beth Porter ) in the lead, another a kung fu musical, while
yet another prefers a gay Western.
Their headache increases when Benny runs off with the money. As they
are legally responsible for the film, they have to make it or else face
a lawsuit. In desperation, they approach Lady Longhorn ( Rosalind
Knight ), founder of a puritanical religious group that wants wholesome
family entertainment back on the big screen. Hence our heroes have to
make four versions of 'Eskimo Nell' in order to please everybody.
At the finale, the wrong cans of film are accidentally sent to a Royal
charity screening, and Her Majesty The Queen gets to see the hardcore
'Eskimo Nell' sends up '70's British sex comedies a treat. I'm sure the
cast and crew had a lot of fun with it. Armstrong is not much of an
actor admittedly, but the rest of the cast more than compensates. Roy
Kinnear is a scream as the big breast-fixated 'Murdoch', a man who
boasts that he once cleaned up at the box office with a film called
'Dirty Knickers'. Also on view is Diane Langton ( from the I.T.V.
version of 'The Rag Trade' ) as busty porn star 'Gladys Armitage' ),
Katy Manning ( who had recently been seen as 'Jo Grant' opposite Jon
Pertwee's 'Dr.Who' in the B.B.C. series ) as Dennis' posh girlfriend,
Christopher Biggins, Sheila Bernette as an actress who does not mind
getting her kit off but who balks at the thought of doing any acting,
Nicholas Young ( from the I.T.V. sci-fi show 'The Tomorrow People' ) as
camp-as-a-row-of-tents 'Deadeye Dick', Anna Quayle as 'Reverend
Mother', and a fleeting glimpse of '70's porn icon Mary Millington as a
stripteasing traffic warden.
The director, Martin Campbell, went on to make two well-received James
Bond movies - 1995's 'Goldeneye' and 2006's 'Casino Royale'. Simon
Park, who wrote the music, later penned the theme to 'Eastenders'!
Some gags are old, such as the naked actor getting part of his anatomy
trapped in a clapper-board, and who is then carried off on a stretcher,
bandages wrapped round said part ( I remember Stanley Baxter doing
something similar ). We are a long, long way from the kind of British
film industry 'Eskimo Nell' set out to lampoon, of course. Times ( and
public tastes ) have changed. But this is still an amusing film all the
same. 'Eskimo Nell' won't leave you cold.