I'm Not Feeling Myself Tonight (UK - DVD R2)
The Wilson Bros don their best 70s duds as they review Network's latest
Ah, Britain in the mid 1970s—punk was just about to hit, unions were causing headaches for the government and the British film industry was churning out soft-core sex comedies when hardcore was flourishing in both America and the rest of the civilised world. Yep, whilst everywhere else was watching Linda Lovelace tickle her tonsils in Deep Throat, the UK was proud to chuckle at sex whilst firmly keeping its socks on.
For all the of (comparatively) big-budget, studio-produced humorous smut-fests like the Confessions series, there were scores of bawdy sex comedies that were knocked off on the cheap and were in cinemas for even less time than a worker at a modern multiplex. These movies generally slipped through the cracks and barely even registered on home video in the eighties, so it is with a degree of enthusiasm (as we are enthusiasts of this much maligned sub-genre) that we delve into I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight…
You don’t have to worry about waiting for the dirty stuff, as the film practically springs out of the traps, opening with iconic (and tragic) 70s sex-kitten Mary Millington sporting an Emmanuelle T-shirt. Her attention is attracted by a road-worker who swiftly gets her into his tent for an energetic bout of reckless rodgering, as our hapless, virginal hero, John Pigeon (Barry Andrews), can only stare at the tent and daydream about what is going on within. Such amorous failures go towards fuelling his pet project, one which could revolutionise the sexual world, more than the 60s ever achieved.
Andrews isn’t the average office worker who can’t get laid, but a member of an institute for sexual research. In his quest to get the object of his affection, secretary Cheryl Bascombe (Sally Faulkner) into bed, he has parlayed both his desires and government funding into the development of a machine that can turn anyone into a raving sex maniac. However, when his boss—assisted by an insidious American investor—want to steal the secrets of the amorous automation, our lowly inventor is going to his hands full in ways he could never imagine!
Yep, sexless nerds have struck back, with the creation of AGNES the sex computer, a device which uses aural stimulation to kick the libido into overdrive. When gorgeous office workers throw themselves at crusty old security guards, Andrews knows that it is time to unleash his machine onto the unsuspecting world. Sure, he suffers a complication when his moronic colleague is nearly turned gay upon exposure to the beam, but this doesn’t stop our boffin from reconfiguring the device into a portable ray-gun version and heading for the outside world to conduct some less-than-clinical trials.
The concept of AGNES is every teenagers’ dream, and in many ways cements the era in which the film was made. For most of us plebs, the 70s were a time when the sexual revolution of the previous decade seemed only to have happened to other people, and that everyone was getting laid was almost an urban legend. Andrews embodies this strange paradox, being an expert on the subject of sex but just can’t get his end away. AGNES was born of a time when all advanced machines needed an acronym which spells a human name, not to mention out of a need to secure even a glimmer of joining in all the bedroom fun which the media purported everybody else to be having. Whilst the notion of a sex-ray is really nothing new, and we suspect that McGillivray got the idea from the head-scratchingly successful Flesh Gordon, released just a scant few years earlier, only a British film could have it created in the pursuit of only a single woman!
I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight was penned by none other than David McGillivray, writer who wrote the script for this in between coming up with screenplays for Pete Walker. In the 90s, the witty and sardonic McGillivray would write a book about the British sex movies, entitled Doing Rude Things, and his participation in I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight proves that he had extensive knowledge of the genre when it came to writing about it. One rather amusing scene showcases writer McGillivray’s ability to get laughs from a subject whilst simultaneously ridiculing those who take it at face value. Andrews arrives at the conclusion that his dim-witted assistant (Keith Furey) might be gay, and explains how he would conduct himself in a restrained, understanding fashion toward the sexuality of his colleague: ‘I’d have kept my distance and kicked his head in.’—these were obviously the days before the term ‘diversity’ was in general use.
The sex research institute is a marvel of 70s design and a reflection of the attitudes towards copulation of the time. The sterile building sees scantily-clad staff being chased through the corridors with lustful professors in hot pursuit. As a matter of fact, for those of us who have spent more time than they really need to watching old smut, one of the funniest concepts in the movie is the sight of a lecture-hall populated by people in white coats watching porno, thins being an ironic reversal of the old movies known as ‘white-coaters’. Said films were ones which were allowed to feature nudity/sexual content on the proviso that it was hosted by a ‘doctor’ as a means of classifying it as educational. Obviously most exploitation filmmakers just put anyone they could find into a white coat and got them to read a cue-card in an authoritarian fashion, but it was enough to meet the criteria demanded. Did anyone see The Birth of Twins? The Birth of Triplets? You are probably spotting a pattern, here.
Indeed, there are many knowing nods to the genre, which comes from McGivilray being involved with a number of them. One particular sequence which put a couple of wry smiles on our jaded faces was one where the sex-ray was used on a traffic warden and police officer. Casual viewers will see it as getting one over on the skum (Fox Video copy of Return of the Jedi spelling!) who plonk tickets on cars, showing such loathsome creatures coaxed into coitus without consent or ability to resist. But for those of us who wear our dirty macs with pride, the scene is a canny parody of Nude on the Moon, Doris Wishman’s epic of whispering telepathy, pointy tits and lunar antics.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was written at a time when harnessing vast amounts of natural energy via technological means and using that energy to create life or have an effect upon the human body. I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight attempts to continue that trend in a manner that was fitting of the late twentieth century; sexual scientists hooking up their machine to a mainframe was something that was explored further in the next decade with Weird Science and the events in I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight make for an interesting precursor to the John Hughes movie.
While the sexual politics (not to mention technology) might be of times past, it’s pleasing to see that some things are still just as relevant. Purely in the interests of ‘research’, our hapless—and sexless—hero has entire rainforests of porn delivered to his house, much to the annoyance of the local postman who has to bring the backbreaking load. After dropping of the latest consignment, the disgruntled postie bids him a heartfelt ‘Get stuffed’ upon departure. Nice to see that the staff of the Royal Mail are just as eager to see the post get through these days.
With the interfering busybody known as Mary Whitehouse railing against just this kind of movie, it was only a matter of time before she was ridiculed by them. Here she is parodied in the form of Mrs Watchtower, a nosy, moralistic old cow who rails against immorality when it doesn’t concern her. She ends up getting a good dose of the sex ray and gets a good seeing to once her tin drawers come down. This was particularly gratifying to us, who always hated they way Whitehouse imposed her religious morals onto others, lobbying though the courts whilst ‘guiding’ political bodies to achieve her goals. We always said that we would crack open a bottle of very nice champagne the day she died, and come autumn 2001, we got drunk on some lovely ‘shampoo’ at the passing of that sacred old cow.
To anyone who has seen the odd number of British sex comedies, most come as a bizarre, low-budget version of Hollywood Squares, as there are so many recognisable faces on display, as well as other body-parts. There weren’t all that many women in the industry who were willing to get their kit off for the camera at the time, or at least quality crumpet, so the few who were got used over and over again. This leads to the familiar utterances of ‘Oh yeah…it’s her!’ when watching these films, where you might not know their names, but a few things stick out—in your mind, of course.
As with many low budget movies, I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight makes use of real locations over sets, as it was cheaper to use something that already existed, rather than building a set from scratch. It was a masterstroke in that one of the locations just happened to be in an office block that was situated near the Telecom tower—or GPO tower, as it is called in the movie—and that was the perfect embodiment of phallic imagery that the technologically-based script for the movie required, as it was still relatively new and it represented the pinnacle of technological achievement in the UK, not to mention that it looked like a large erect penis…
What about the threads? Oh man, the fashions on display are really something else! Andrews is a walking example of why high-concept clothing should be the exclusive domain of women. A lot of the time, he embodies the tricky balance of dull/naff which the conservative chose to wear at the time, this being the combination of white polo-neck jumper with a brown parka. This is fine, but at one point, he dons a pair of trousers so verdant that the Green Cross Code Man would rip the guy a new arsehole for nicking them off of him.
One of the biggest surprises was to see that I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight was directed by none-other than Joe McGrath, a veteran of many comedy films and a man used to working with legends of the genre, with Leonard Rossiter and The Goons chief among these. Most famous was his work with Peter Sellers, including the distinctly odd adaptation of Terry Southern’s The Magic Christian (which we are rather fond of) and The Great McGonagall.
The most widely seen of their joint ventures is still the infamous 60s version of Casino Royale, where he was responsible for all footage with Sellers, Ursula Andress and Orson Welles. To put the 1967 adaptation into perspective, imagine if a company had bought the first Harry Potter book, sat on the rights until another Warner hit the big times with the films, then said company spent £100 million on a wacky spoof version of Philosopher’s Stone utilising only a few pages from the book? Our guess is that McGrath was spending time in ‘director’s jail’ and his Hollywood career was on hold afterwards. The old anecdote about McGrath directing INFMT with his back to the actors though sheer disgust of being involved with project is one often told, and we reprint it here for the sake of balance.
McGrath brings a number of inventive touches to something which could have easily been set to ‘auto-pilot’ and still made money. During a bike-chase, our two protagonists are being chased by their nemeses on pushbikes, and McGrath films both parties going round a junction, but instead of just playing one after the other, he intercuts between the two, the camera panning at the same rate, creating a really clever effect. During this sequence, actress Sally Faulkner is visibly terrified of being on two wheels in a manner that recalls Babs Windsor during the final scene of Carry On Girls.
The performances in I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight are variable; lead actor Barry Andrews is fairly weak and uncharismatic, but is able to carry off this character in the same way Barry Evans managed to in Adventures of a Taxi Driver (and Mind Your Language), but James Booth as Jon’s boss, Nutbrown is pretty good, along with Ben Aris putting in a good turn (and a fairly convincing accent) as Nutbrown’s scheming American partner, Hildebrand.
Sally Faulkner is very good as Cheryl—Faulkner always has been an underrated actress who worked her way up from the bottom of the heap (she appeared in the godawful The Body Stealers for Tigon), but despite one or two high profile appearances on TV, she never really became the big star she should have been. It is worth noting for fans of Ms Faulkner, she briefly appears topless in one scene in this film—but any fan of hers has already seen her goodies in the much loved lesbian bloodsucker movie Vampyres.
Most British sex comedies try and drag in a respectable UK comedy stalwart to put on the marque and attempt to lend the thing a degree of respectability— Confessions of a Window Cleaner had John LeMesurier, Adventures of a Private Eye had Harry H Corbett and Keep It Up Jack had Frank Thornton. I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight keeps this trend by including the not-inconsiderable talents of that Man About the House, Brian Murphy, however, the thought of Murphy in possession of a sex drive is both wrong and terrifying. During the shows Man About the House and George and Mildred, there were constant demands for conjugal rights from the sexually predatory Mildred, but George always resisted her seemingly indefatigable libido. A final episode was rumoured to have been planned, but scrapped which entailed George finally conceding to his wife’s lustful demands on the proviso that he gets anal...
There are a number of recognisable faces from British cinema, with our favourite being that of Marianne Stone. We’ve seen her in movies like The Hijackers, and others from Butcher’s Distributors, but most will know her from the Carry On series. The same year as IMFMT, she appeared in Carry On Behind, where she memorable exclaimed the words ‘Oh my Gawd!’ near the beginning. Here, she is once again in an alarmed state, and gets a good laugh from her brief stint in front of the camera. Proof that to get the best out of her, she had to be as distressed as possible. If we are talking of picking out faces, we spotted two of the cast of The Final Conflict, one of which suffers the hilarious indignity of being called a ‘silly old fart’.
With Joe McGrath at the helm, it seemed almost inevitable that one of his favourite stalwarts (and friend of Peter Sellers) was going to make an appearance, and the legendary Graham Starke doesn’t disappoint, though there is one sequence near the end of the movie that presents a huge continuity problem; this involves Starke being in one scene interacting with the two main characters, then appearing in the very next scene with him speaking in front of a room full of people. It is possible to appreciate just why this happened, and that the movie flows better with the scenes in this order, but the enormous continuity cock-up cannot be overlooked. The kitty was probably empty by the time they needed to re-hire Starke for re-shoots, too.
Special mention must go to that stalwart battleaxe of UK comedies, Rita Webb. Here she plays the only woman not getting laid in an institute devoted to entirely sex, which makes a change from her usual puritanical stints. Who can forget the exchange in Confessions of a Pop Performer, where she asks Robin Askwith if knows the where-abounds of her daughter: ‘Have you seen my Fanny?’ she enquires, to which Askwith shudders: ‘Blimey, I saw Curse of Frankenstein and that was enough…’
We aren’t saying that the UK movie industry was quite small at the time, but we spotted something rather weird, and it’s possible that our minds are so demented that we’re probably the only ones to pick up on it. Comedy stalwart Ronnie Brody appears as a neighbour affected by the sex-ray. In the following scene, Andrews smashes a grapefruit into Harmon’s face when he gets on his nerves. A few years later, Brody appeared in Superman III, sitting down to breakfast with Sandra Dickenson. When reading an astronomical bill he thinks his wife has run up, what does he do? Yup, smashes a grapefruit into her kisser in exactly the same way. Apropos of bugger all…
Whilst it’s always great to see Mary ‘Gee, I’d really fancy a Sex Pistol’ Millington on-screen, one cannot help but be continually reminded of the fact that she was never comfortable in front of a film camera. INFMT writer David McGivilray has spoken of her discomfort onscreen many times, and it really seems as though certain people were pushing her into areas of the sex industry where she didn’t want to go. The poor little sod always had the appearance of a deer caught in the headlights, but here she comes across quite well in the couple of appearances dotted around the place—probably because dialogue wasn’t really required of her. Under the name ‘Mary Maxted’, she is called in whenever some nudity is needed. Need some sex to start the movie? Mary! The lavish party needs spicing up a bit? Mary!!! You get the idea. The same thing was employed a couple of years later in the Millington porno extravaganza Come Play with Me, and filmed just and cheaply and quickly using locations.
Indeed, some of this juiced-up footage is more ‘dirty’ than the content of the Confessions movies, though this material was shot later in order satisfy the bookers and get the film played in porno theatres. This material is in stark contrast to the ‘comedy’ nudity expected of the genre—this film might have been trying to compete with the Confessions movies and in one respect it succeeded because at no time in Columbia Pictures’ quartet of films did loveable Timmy Lee ever show his todger on-screen. Yes, you read that right: a couple of trouser-snakes flap into view during the finale.
Whilst we have very Catholic tastes when it comes to movie, from the controversial and outrageous, the ‘worthy’ and arty, we have no qualms with mixing them all up and put sex comedies on equal footing with the rest. You can fight the urge to giggle at what is usually flagged as ‘lowbrow’, but there is some primeval jelly in the brain which battles against millions of years of evolution, leaving you helpless to chuckle at such things, and we have a prime example here. Sex is taking place on a diving board, and the soundtrack has been kitted out with a comedy ’D-o-i-i-i-n-g’ to accompany the onscreen copulation. Yes, it’s very cheap laugh, but it succeeded!
There are a couple of sequences which come across as remarkably brave for this kind of movie, and one in particular will probably offend more people today than it did at the time. In a bid to get information about the sex ray from Andrews and his dim-witted assistant, our villain resorts to interrogating him, using a bevy of stunning ‘researchers’—clad in revealing outfits—to get what he wants. The lighting used is as it would be in a film about the practices of the SS, and really comes off as something you would not expect in a sex-comedy. The moronic comedy assistant approaches the scene in a straight manner, and the dramatics are sincere, playing out as though Peter Jackson had employed his directorial approach from The Frighteners to this movie. Whilst anyone who has sat through some of the crappier Nazploitation films might be immune to such things, the blending of interrogation, torture, leather-clad nymphs performing the Nazi salute and intentional comedy really is jarring.
Here in the 21st century, we don’t have that same sense of longing to get laid and difficulty doing so as displayed in I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight. Just to get his leg over, Andrews makes incredible breakthroughs in science, creating a machine to stimulate sexual desire and decrease inhibition. These days, it’s much easier to get your hands on Crystal Meth and achieve just the same results. If you want things a little more anonymous, try combining it with Rohypnol.
It was commonplace for the lower end of the sex comedy genre to steal pieces from studio movies, but I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight manages to become a cannibal at the same time, nicking a piece from Confessions of a Window Cleaner, which was funded by Columbia Pictures. The latter sees Robin Askquith unwittingly stowing away in the back of a removal truck, and a very similar incident happens in this film. It certainly was a small industry...
We’re not giving anything away when we reveal that the whole movie ends in a punch-up at a conference, where the dastardly head of the sex institute plans to reveal ‘his’ amazing discovery. What follows is a fight involving men dressed as cowboys, female nudity and heavy doses of slapstick. These shenanigans are clearly inspired by the recent success of Blazing Saddles, itself playing host to a massive comedy brawl. In the midst of this surreal battle comes something to give even the most jaded of viewers a jolt, that being the surprise appearance of a couple of rather large penises. OK, they’re flaccid, but still very much unexpected when there hasn’t been any below-the-belt male nudity throughout the rest of the film. The clearly uncut members seem somewhat out of place in the midst of all the comedy, although you can’t deny that they are a real (brown?) eye-opener.
Oh, and also watch out for the sight of a beer-pump serving Skol on tap! Whilst you can still get it in cans, it does the old heart good to see it served on the bar, bringing back old memories. By the way, there is no truth to the rumour that the beer is so-called because Vikings couldn't spell piss…
Network DVD really has managed to drag an obscure movie out of the darkness and into the light with expert style. The 1.33:1 image here is pretty damned impressive for a film made for next-to-nothing over thirty years ago—the print is pretty clean, with only the odd blemish and the level of detail is quite surprising. The colours are strong and vibrant, with Jon’s green trousers looking suitably garish. Whether or not Network were able to make this transfer from the original negative or whether it’s from a well-archived video master, I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight looks unexpectedly wonderful on DVD.
The soundtrack to I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, but is quite robust, providing quite a strong showing whenever the eponymous catchy theme song plays.
Trailer: This trailer really lets you know what you are in for, as it runs for around three minutes and has the theme song playing over it. This is essentially a potted version of the film, with some of the best moments included.
Photo Gallery: A number of black and white stills from the film have been included. The some of the pictures are quite near the knuckle, as they contain, as Kenny Everett would have said ‘naughty bits’.
Not an extra, but we have to express our appreciation to Network for the work they have put into this release, as it restores the movie to its original, full length. Upon release through Stablecane in the 80s, it was shorn of an incredible twenty minutes! Network have devoted the care, time and money to set things right and let viewers experience I'm Not Feeling Myself Tonight as only seen in cinemas.
I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight may not be as enjoyable as some of its contemporaries, such as the Confessions movies, but there is an undeniable warmth and charm to this film, with the lovely transfer provided by the people at Network allowing it to be welcomed by a new audience clamouring for films from a bygone age where things were smutty, yet still surprisingly innocent. We are devotees of British sex comedies, and this one certainly gets our seal of approval.
Now how about following this up with titles like Keep It Up Jack, Commuter Husbands and The Amorous Milkman...?
Review by Wilson Bros
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 23rd November 2009
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Aspect: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono English
Extras: Trailer, Photo Gallery
Easter Egg: No
Director: Joseph McGrath
Cast: Barry Andrews, Sally Faulkner, Graham Starke
Length: 81 minutes
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