‘What’s a lovely young girl like you doing in a dreadful sex institute like this?’
Yes, it’s a British sex comedy from 1975 – and, great-looking DVD transfer aside, has little to offer beyond an all-time-great fnarr fnarr title, the spectacle of some distinguished British actors getting embarrassed around naked dolly-birds and the kind of sexual politics which make you wonder if Mrs Mary Whitehouse – parodied here as frustrated matron ‘Mary Watchtower’ (Geraldine Hart), turned into a gin-swigging libertine by a zap-gun – didn’t have a point after all.
Jon Pigeon (genre fixture Barry Andrews), the sort of loser who moans ‘who would fancy me?’ to his even-bigger-dork best mate Keith (Billy Hamon), is so incapable that when, in the opening sequence, a blonde (Mary Maxted, soon to be Mary Millington) gives him a come-on he winds up ogling as she gets it on with a balding workman in the street. Jon works at one of those sex research institutes which only exist in films like these, but ignores the naked women doing exercises on stationary bikes in order to pine over Cheryl (Sally Faulkner), the p.a. of his irascible boss (James Booth). Unable to get anywhere with the girl, Jon invents AGNES – a sonic device which turns people into uncontrollable sex maniacs: at the same time in Canada, David Cronenberg was making Shivers, in which a similar scientific advance leads to the horrific collapse of society, but here it’s just sped-up comedy orgies no one feels violated after being forced into (screenwriter David McGillivray appears at a party scene, telling a blonde ‘your dress is coming off’ before ripping it away – he manages this without getting his face onscreen). The silly sex ray has the same effect as the tablet in The Love Pill and a perfume in She’ll Follow You Anywhere – in none of these films, is it suggested that using a drug/machine to force someone to have sex is, like, well, you know, wrong.
It has a bitter edge, with Jon’s zap-gun accidentally prompting Cheryl to ‘pleasure’ an unappealing old janitor (Chic Murray) and the hero raped several times by a buxom blonde temp (Katya Wyeth). There are an unusual number of limpwristed gay gags (Keith calls up his parents – both also played by Hamon – to ask them if they think he’s ‘a poove’), cash-the-cheque guest turns from Rita Webb, Graham Stark, Ben Aris and Bob Godfrey, a sex lecture/orgy/western parody barroom brawl finale in Blazing Saddles mode (climaxing – if that’s the word – with a bucket of beer poured over two cat-fighting nude girls), many elaborate undergarments and the sort of 1975 male fashions which even the script has to admit are eye-abusively hideous. Joe McGrath, a few years on from The Magic Christian, directs with contempt. The girls all look like they come from the Knave layouts used as art direction: Heather Deeley, Gennie Nevinson, Juliette King, Sally Harrison, Jo Peters, Penny Croft (a traffic warden who ravages her policeman boyfriend in the street with many an obvious truncheon and ‘anything you say will be taken down’/’knickers’ jokes), Andrea Lawrence, Pat Astley and Monika Ringwald.