That Kind of Girl (UK - BD RB)
The Wilson Bros are always eager to get their hands on That Kind of Girl...
Ah, syphilis–the gift that keeps on giving… to others.
Sorry about that–bad taste crept in just a wee bit too early in this review. Now, where were we…?
Ah, promiscuity–where would many dramas of the 1960s be without it? The introduction of the permissive era was something that film producers could exploit, and with the proper title and advertising, it would be a subject that would have people putting their hands in their pockets (including the Dirty Mac brigade, for whom putting their hands in their pockets would serve a dual purpose) and watch the lurid exploits of young people not only getting it on, but also getting into all manner of bother as a direct consequence.
Gerry O’Hara’s That Kind of Girl opens with some beautiful monochromatic cinematography during the title sequence—this showing London at the time when it had well and truly started to get back on its' feet after being intensively bombed during the war. There are, what was then ultra-modern multi-storey office buildings, and you get the feeling from this title sequence that Britain was entering the progressive era and that London was just starting to swing.
Eva (Margaret Rose Keil) is a young Austrian au-pair working in London; she is attractive and somewhat naïve and is employed by a middle-class couple to look after their young son. During the opening titles, Eva is seen getting off a bus in the King’s Road, proving that she certainly is, to use a term from Dracula AD1972, a ‘Chelsea Bird’.
The titular ‘girl’ has an impact upon three men, all from different social and class backgrounds and each one reacts differently to their predicament. Eva meets Max (Frank Jarvis) a young working-class guy at a discothèque and he asks her out. Before Max can get his paws on her, a middle-aged lothario, Elliot (Peter Burton) literally charms the pants off her and from there the wheels of disaster and social disgust are set in motion as Eva gets more than she bargained for after jumping in the sack with Elliot.
At one point, Elliot tries an early attempt at muscling in on Max and Eva’s budding romance by giving Max a couple of tips on how to get down and groove and dance in that generic manner that was seemingly so popular in Britain in the early-to-mid sixties. It’s pretty embarrassing to see a middle-aged man trying to show the younger folk how to do something that was exclusively theirs to begin with—Daddy-O Dancing indeed…
Elliot lures Eva to a club and they watch a stripper who has the nom-de-voyage the Great Margot and Elliot now pretty much has Eva right where he wants her. At this point, the big question on the lips of art-house enthusiasts of this particular era of filmmaking is probably ‘is the Great Margot going to get her tits out?’ The answer, sadly, is no. Curiously, for a film so determined to put a modern and bold spin on a subject that was still pretty taboo at the time, there is precious little of the Great Margot on display—the actress herself was quite clearly getting her not inconsiderable bits-and-bobs out during the shoot, but there are awkward cutaways and abrupt shots that suggest that there was some post-production tampering with the film, whether it be by the producers or by the BBFC. It is amusing to note that in the discothèque in the early part of the film, the décor is largely made up of a collection of British exploitation posters, including George Harrison Marks’ seminal nudey movie, Naked as Nature Intended.
Eva eventually sleeps with Max and also young promising student Keith (David Weston), who also happens to be in a relationship with Janet (Linda Marlowe) and all manner of problems stem from the fact that ad executive Elliot had given something to Eva, who passed it on to the other she came in contact with. Janet wants to save herself for when she and Keith get married, but gives in and soon wishes to hell that she hadn't.
Eva isn't solely to blame for the effect she has on the three men, but society at the time was more than willing to crucify her, rather than any of the three guys, including the one who made her ‘ That Kind of Girl’ in the first place.
A couple of times during the early part of That Kind of Girl, Eva is asked what she thinks of Adolf Hitler; during both points, she is interrupted before she can give an answer. One can wonder if this was included because it wanted to address a socially relevant point as to what Austrians (or for that matter, German civilians) thought of Hitler and the Nazi regime or it can be viewed as the writer taking a cheap crack at people who were also powerless victims. Oh, and for those of you who want to know, Eva eventually says that she hated Hitler.
OK, those of you who have been reading our reviews for a while now will know that we’re Doctor Who fans; we mention this because there are quite remarkable similarities between the characters of young working-class East-Ender Max and young working-class Cockney sailor Ben Jackson (Michael Craze) who joined the show in the mid-sixties. Both of them are drawn into life-changing chains of events by means of a pretty young woman in a swinging discothèque. Think we’re reaching a bit on this one? You’re probably right—back to the review…
There is one moment of unintentional hilarity in That Kind of Girl—during one scene, Eva tells someone—in her heavy Austrian accent—about her future plans and the number of children she would like to have; ‘when I get married, I want to have sex’. Well, that generally follows…
Eva is compelled to break the news of her unfortunate situation to her employers, as she is informed that the disease could even be passed on to the young son by physical contact (yes, it’s tenuous, but it works in terms of raising the stakes and ramping up the drama). The head of the household—who looks like a Kenneth More wannabe, complete with Pipe and stern-yet-sympathetic expression on his face—is shocked by the revelation, but decides to keep her on until she can sort out her return to Austria.
There isn’t really much in the way of a preachy moral in That Kind of Girl—thankfully, we are spared the sort of lecturing that was often found in similar melodramas of the previous decade; there are no stern white-coated medical-types here and the audience is left to really make up its own mind as to where guilt can be assigned as far as the predicament everyone finds themselves in.
Though That Kind of Girl would have been seen as daring and groundbreaking for the time it was made, it still had to conform to many of the conventions of the period, most notably the lack of profanity (one scene has Elliot making an obscene telephone call, but his words are obscured by blaring dramatic music) and nudity—there is one sequence where characters go skinny-dipping, but they’re not actually skinny-dipping, as they are still wearing clothing to protect their modesty (not to mention avoiding the wrath of John Trevelyan)—the compromise could possibly be referred to as ‘skimpy-dipping’. The closest that this movie comes toward being preachy is when it says that sex outside marriage is risky—this is of course, complete bullocks, as it is still possible to risk catching something within marriage, it just depends upon the status and circumstances behind the partnership; see one of the short films included as an extra to illustrate this point.
There is a nice amount of suspense generated during the final act, particularly in a sequence that has the police trying to trace a call from the menacing Elliot, who has been terrorising Eva via obscene phone-calls. This scene is reminiscent of Bob Clark's classic Black Christmas and works very well indeed.
The cast are pretty good here; the standout has to be Peter Burton, who plays the sleazy Elliot with the right kind of creepy intensity that will have audiences hissing. Burton probably spent much of his career kicking himself, as the previous year he played Major Boothroyd in Dr No and was unavailable for From Russia With Love (possibly due to being in this movie) and was replaced by Desmond Llewelyn, who went on to play the character for over thirty-five years.
Much of the film rests on the shoulders of lead actress Margaret Rose Keil and though her accent is fairly heavy, she is able to allow the audience to empathise with her plight. Keil went on to have a career that lasted for twenty years, mostly appearing in various European exploitation movies—her last known movie appearance was in Bitto Albertini’s Star Crash II (a.k.a. Giochi Erotici Nella 3a Galassia), which was probably enough to kill off anyone’s career.
Arguably the most recognisable face in the cast belongs to actor John Wood, who plays the doctor who has to break the bad news to the lovely Eva that she has been given VD. Wood has made a career playing authority figures (not to mention playing Professor Falken in WarGames—no jokes about computer viruses, please) and he certainly gives a commanding performance here, having to deliver a large amount of educational dialogue about venereal disease without sound like a public information film; he does this so well that you feel like giving him a round of applause, or the clap at the very least…
Actress Linda Marlowe plays Janet, the girlfriend of Keith, who also goes down with a nasty bout of the pox, but the seriousness of everything is increased when she discovers that she is pregnant. Marlowe turns in a great performance, almost certainly the best in the film, and it’s a wonder that she didn’t go on to be as well-respected as some of the other young talented actresses of the time, such as Diana Rigg—she certainly seemed to have the makings on display here, giving a performance that generates far more audience empathy and sympathy than Margaret Rose Keil. Sadly, it was working for Lindsey Shonteff a couple of times that blasted her rising star out of orbit. Still, in this movie, Marlowe’s character is desperately hoping that a course of penicillin is going to be the Big Zapper…
That Kind of Girl rattles along nicely and there are barely any slow patches in the thing—except maybe when John Wood is delivering all the necessary information about the ills of sex outside marriage—and the seventy-four minute running time just zips by, keeping the viewer spellbound in a tawdry mix of sex, venereal disease and loose morals in early permissive Britain. What more could you possibly ask for?
That Kind of Girl comes to you in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Though the copy presented here in high definition almost certainly looks the best it has ever been seen outside of a cinema, we would be remiss in our critical duties if we did not mention that the print isn’t quite up to the ridiculously high standards set by previous titles in the Flipside catalogue. That Kind of Girl was transferred from a 35mm fine grain that is held at the BFI, and for much of the movie there are thick vertical tramlines down the screen, along with some of the thinner, more familiar ones that you generally see on old prints of movies. There has been considerable restoration work carried out on this release, but sadly the results are not perfect, as the thick vertical tramline scratches are only effectively masked when the camera is still—when the camera moves, they appear thicker than ever.
This may sound as though we are putting the boot into this transfer—far from it—this still looks fabulous and the amount of detail is at times breathtaking; the opening titles look so crisp, detailed and vibrant that you would scarcely believe that it was show the best part of half a decade ago.
The BFI have presented That Kind of Girl with the original monaural soundtrack, mastered in PCM (48KHz/24-Bit) and it sounds fine. There is, however and interesting audio issue that has nothing to do with the mastering, but down to the original recording—during a scene in which Eva is being seen by a nurse, all the close-ups of Eva have prominent traffic noise on the soundtrack, but on the wide-shots of the two of them, there is no traffic noise at all.
As is usually the case, the BFI enhances the viewing experience by including additional material that compliments and enhances the main feature.
The People at No. 19: This 1948 short clocks in at seventeen minutes and highlights the melodramatic goings on between newlyweds and the young woman’s parents. This monochromatic drama starts off fairly conventionally, but once a shock revelation is made, it really kicks into gear and becomes riveting. The tawdry goings-on of premarital affairs all come out in the wash and the whole thing is complimented by two strong leads (who end up carrying the other members of the cast). This is entertaining stuff and a fascinating look back at how the stigma of poor sexual hygiene would remain long after the penicillin took effect.
No Place to Hide: This ten minute documentary takes a look at the Easter ‘Ban the Bomb’ march of 1958 that saw three thousand make their way from the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston to London . This is wonderful stuff, as it shows the diversity of people who took part on the march, at a time when the sort of antiestablishment loonies who populate such events these days didn’t really exist and much of the marchers were just concerned ‘ordinary’ people.
A Sunday in September: This documentary examines in detail a nuclear disarmament demonstration that took place in London in the early sixties. This twenty-eight minute short presents a fairly well-balanced look at the event and the various factions present during the protest. This march was considered a seriously big deal and the government ensured that several high-profile public figures were ‘unable to attend’, but perennially outspoken actress/activist Vanessa Redgrave attended the march. Though there are no shots of members of the police force giving protestors a bloody good shoeing, at the time, images of the coppers manhandling people into vans were probably quite startling to average members of the British public who were more used to Dixon of Dock Green. This is wonderful stuff that captures a pivotal moment in modern British history and is compelling from the outset, keeping you glued to the screen until the very end. It should be mentioned that the image quality of A Sunday in September is outstanding; the resolution is so high that it allows the viewer to pick individual faces out of the crowds. A sterling effort from the BFI!
Robert Hartford-Davis interview: The producer of That Kind of Girl talks for thirteen minutes on the pitfalls of making movies in Britain. Hartford-Davis makes for a very interesting interviewee, painting the viewer a fairly detailed portrait of the financial realities of low budget filmmaking; he seems obsessed about owning the negatives of movies in perpetuity, but it’s perfectly understandable, seeing as so many filmmakers have been ripped off by not owning the film itself (George Romero famously got screwed over on Night of the Living Dead).
Booklet: As always, a booklet with further information on the subjects featured on the disc is included, packed with interviews and essays.
That Kind of Girl is a very entertaining movie—beautifully photographed and presenting what is almost certainly an idealised look at the time, whilst presenting a message that is not overtly finger-wagging. It all builds to a satisfying climax (no pun intended) and your enjoyment will be further enhanced by the love and care the BFI has put into this release. Oh, and the extras are equally as fabulous as the main feature—if not more so. We heartily endorse this one.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Wilson Bros
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 25th January 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: PCM Mono English
Extras: The People at No. 19, No Place to Hide, A Sunday in September, Robert Hartford-Davis interview
Easter Egg: No
Director: Gerry O'Hara
Cast: Margaret Rose Keil, Peter Burton, Frank Jarvis, Linda Marlowe, John Wood
Length: 74 minutes
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