Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Games That Lovers Play (1971)

Back to the pop culture today, as we leave behind current events to take a brief look at the 1971 British sex comedy Games That Loves Play.  Written and directed by Malcolm Leigh, the film is decidedly livelier than his black magic documentary Legend of the Witches, released the previous year.  Shot in colour and, unusually for a sex comedy, a 1920s setting, (low budgets tended to dictate contemporary settings), Games That Lovers Play moves its straightforward plot along at a reasonable clip, delivering some reasonable entertainment, but no real surprises.  The film sees two rival Madams, Mrs Hill (Diane Hart) and Lady Evelyn (Nan Munro) make a wager over which of their top girls can seduce the most un-seducable man.  The girls in question are Fanny Hill (Joanna Lumley) and Lady Constance Chatterley (Penny Brahms), who are tasked with seducing Lady Evelyn's gay nephew Jonathan and a chaste Bishop, respectively.  Both succeed in their missions, making the wager a draw, so. as a decider, they are both tasked to lure Lothran (Richard Wattis), an upright and apparently highly repressed wine merchant, with whoever succeeds first being declared the winner.

Nowadays chiefly remembered for Joanna Lumley's numerous nude scenes, perhaps the most interesting aspect of  Games That Lovers Play for contemporary audiences, (aside from Lumley's knockers, that is), are the typically confused early seventies attitudes toward homosexuality it displays.  Whilst not as overtly homophobic as many of its contemporary sex movies, it still confuses homosexuality with transvestism and transsexuality, with Jeremy Lloyd's camp Jonathan wearing women's clothes and being seduced by Fanny Hill after she lies to him, telling him that she is a post-op transsexual.  All of which, in today's somewhat more enlightened time, seems highly bizarre.  That said, Jonathan is at least played as a more-or-less sympathetic character rather than as the usual comedy homosexuals of the era, who were generally portrayed as predatory opportunists fixated o seducing young straight men, (see Mr Humphries in Are You Being Served? for one the milder examples of this caricature).

Most disturbing for those of us of a certain age, though, is the sight of Richard Wattis, an actor best known for playing fuddy-duddy establishment types in British movies and sitcoms throughout the fifties and sixties, (and, for many of us, a familiar childhood fixture on Jackanory, where he read the 'Mary Plain' books), cavorting in bed with two naked women at the film's climax.  It really isn't the sort of thing I'd ever expected to see him doing, but Wattis seems to be enjoying himself immensely (as well he might), after his character reveals that he likes nothing better than a threesome, rendering the contest a draw as he apparently takes both Fanny hill and Lady Chatterley simultaneously.

The names of the main female protagonists, (the film was released in the US as Lady Chatterley Versus Fanny Hill), seems to have caused some confusion among some viewers, with many assuming that they are meant to be the actual literary characters - in reality these are simply the working names of the prostitutes, reflecting the fact that one Madam, Lady Constance, likes to see herself as being 'high class', catering to the well heeled, whereas the other, Mrs Hill, is something of an upstart.  That said, the film makes a mod to D H Lawrence by having Lady Chatterley servicing various upper crust clients (all dressed as gardeners) in the garden maze of a stately home.

Made a time when the format of the British sex comedy hadn't yet been fully formulated, Games That Lovers Play makes an interesting diversion from the usual modern day suburban escapades of the likes of Robin Askwith and Barry Evans.  What it lacks in laughs compared to some of the later sex comedies, it makes up for with a very nicely realised period setting and some elaborately staged set pieces - most notably the gay ball where Fanny Hill picks up Jonathan.  Not a classic, but still a diverting ninety minutes of entertainment, Games That Lovers Play turns up every so often on Talking Pictures TV.   




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