‘There’s a lot I’d like to tell these young things who come sailing in here …’
Directed by Gerry O’Hara (The Pleasure Girls, All the Right Noises, The Mummy Lives) from a script by Jan Read (Grip of the Strangler, Jason and the Argonauts, The First Men in the Moon), this 1963 Compton-Tekli picture is a British entry in the cycle of educational sexploitation movies. An opening caption reveals the film has been made after consultation with many doctors and whitecoated John Wood issues stern moral pronouncements about extra-marital sex along with reassurances about the treatability of syphilis and gonorrhea if diagnosed early – the upshot being that this sex business is all very well, but too risky to be undertaken outside strict laboratory conditions and that the sort of blighter who’d spread VD to an au pair is probably close to a psychopath anyway. I imagine audiences lured in by the titillation factor – an out-of-focus strip show in the background for one scene, a lot of implied sex, ‘frank’ dialogue – would be impatient with this sort of thing, and the relationship stuff is a bit trite (‘you shouldn’t listen to what I say,’ a girl tells her dim boyfriend, ‘you ought to know how I feel’). But it’s a fascinating relic from a bygone era, trembling on the edge of the swinging sixties and shrinking back somewhat.
White-blonde teenage Eva (Margaret Rose Keil) is an au pair for youngish middle-aged middle-class parents (Sylvia Kay, David Davenport) and courted by both earnest library employee/CND leafleteer Max (Frank Jarvis) and older ad-man smoothie Elliot (Peter Burton). She turns up for an Aldermaston March with high-heels and is impatient with the rough sleeping arrangements en route, which prompts her to ditch the somewhat priggish Max, whose political awakening hasn’t opened him to women’s issues to judge from his sniffy statements about learning his lesson and marrying a virgin. The older predator has a clear field with the girl but creeps her out, and Eva impulsively sleeps with nice-but-dim Keith (David Weston), who is temporarily estranged from his fiancé Janet (Linda Marlowe). Eva is battered in the street by the persistent Elliot and given the once-over by a police surgeon (Wood), who diagnoses syphilis and insists she send registered letters to all her sexual contacts – only she doesn’t know Keith’s last name. Meanwhile, he gets back with Janet, going so far as to impregnate her, before getting the news and having to tell the girl that she (and the baby) might be infected. The later stages are heavy on the self-pity, with Marlowe getting the worst lines (‘I’ve never been to a doctor to tell him I’m an unmarried mother and that the man who got me pregnant has VD’; ‘This just doesn’t happen to people who respect their own bodies. I feel so cheap, a common tart …’), but it’s worth seeing for the incidental details: the club scenes, with enthusiastic if amateur dancing or wolf-friendly ‘sophistication’; footage taken at a ban-the-Bomb rally which, in its use of a real event as backdrop for a fiction, prefigures Medium Cool (the film could have been sold as ‘when CND meets VD’), the London location-work.
As if sensing that the business with the ronde of infection was sidetracked by all the lectures and tut-tutting, the last reel throws in a thriller aspect as the unbalanced, obsessive Elliot makes obscene phone calls to Eva – which enable the coppers to track him down to a call-box in Chelsea and haul him out to face charges. Also known as Teenage Tramp, which doesn’t even have the ambiguity of the UK title – when Max dismisses Eva as ‘that kind of girl’, he marks himself out as one of the useless men who seek to blame her for his own shortcomings. It has a nice, jazzy Malcolm Mitchell score.