My notes on Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, which is available on the BFI’s Flipside label.
This ‘swinging Stevenage’ artefact from 1968 is a key source for the most-despised British film cycle of the 1970s and stands as the real movie that Confessions of a Window Cleaner (and sequels) and Adventures of a Plumber’s Mate (and follow-ups) are the exploitative, rubbish versions of (the influence is so blatant that many cast-members from this showed up in the sexploitation series, some in regular roles). Jamie McGregor (Barry Evans) cycles around town talking to the camera like Alfie, but this A-level Grammar schoolboy is far less confident with women (if no less sex-obsessed) than Alfie was: he has a longstanding crush on blonde Mary Gloucester (Judy Geeson), but goes through variously cheerful if unsatisfactory encounters with other girls – runny-nosed (ie: lower-class) Linda (Adrienne Posta), church club raver Paula (Sheila White), up-for-anything Audrey (Vanessa Howard) and capable (ie: aristocratic) Caroline (Angela Scoular) – before hooking up with Mary for a nude swim (though sex is delayed by an intrusive dog) and a weekend at the seaside, only to be repelled that his dream girl doesn’t want him exclusively and swear off women until he gets a smile from Mary’s friend Claire (Diana Quick) at the fade-out.
Like all British sex comedies, it’s as much about class as shagging: Jamie’s father (Michael Bates) insists on quiet while the football results are read out on the wireless so he can check his pools form, which prompts the rest of the family to near-anarchy; Caroline’s posh drunk Dad (Denholm Elliott) is keen on the au pair (Erika Raffael), and her house after lights-out is a farce of creeping between bedrooms; Jamie’s push-bike is constantly trumped by sports cars driven by public school tearaways or older competition (Mary’s seeing a croupier); the Spencer Davis Group play at a church social, where the moments of darkness afforded by the disco light-show are a cue for much snogging ; a teenage orgy of heavy-petting (and perhaps more) takes place after hours in a bed showroom, and Jamie finds even his most virginally useless mate has copped off with Mary before he gets a chance to introduce himself; the concrete underpasses and neat green patches of the New Town aren’t yet the dystopian Hell of A Clockwork Orange, but the nowheresville aspect of the environment is blatant and these kids are rooted to suburbia without even the thought of a brief train trip to London.
Naturally, it privileges the male experience, but also keeps showing Jamie out to be a fumbling idiot around wiser, if more cynical girls. His string of relationships doesn’t earn the disopprobrium that Julie Christie gets in Darling, which suggests a misogynist edge that the stronger actresses – especially Scoular, who is so astonishing as a wildly-dressed golfing kook – have to work hard to counter. With familiar faces Nicky Henson, Christopher Timothy, George Layton and Oliver Cotton as Jamie’s school pals; and Moyra Fraser, Maxine Audley and Marianne Stone as the older generation. Scripted by Hunter Davies, from his own novel; directed by Clive Donner, trying hard to be the Richard Lester of the commuter belt.
Sobering that many of this cast of bright young things have passed away now… Vanessa Howard died 10 years ago (!), Sheila White died quite recently, Angela Scoular had an awful death… Barry Evans left us in mysterious circumstances. Sorry, getting morbid.