Perils of Promiscuity Double Feature: Permissive (1970) / That Kind of Girl (1963) – By Roger Carpenter
Redemption Films and Kino Lorber have teamed up again to release some British rarities from Redemption’s Jezebel label. Up first is Permissive, a tale about a naive young girl named Suzy who comes to stay with her friend in London. She is quickly introduced to the concept of being a groupie, is used by the road manager, and summarily tossed out. Forced to live on the streets for a few days as her friend travels with the band, she continues to be schooled in the philosophy of free love and is also introduced to the art of panhandling and sleeping in derelict buildings in the back alleys and slums of London. Eventually she finds her way back to her friend and gets into the good graces of the band, boozing it up and sleeping with anyone within arm’s length.
While the film can be seen as a bit of a morality play, it is also quite clear that it was made as a vehicle for the real-life band Forever More who actually put out a couple of albums in the very late sixties. To pander to the type of crowd that would enjoy the folk-rock genre Forever More played, director Leslie Shonteff inserts plenty of nudity and simulated sex to attract the hippie set. In fact, the film is really a series of monotonously filmed dialogue scenes interspersed with long, dreary scenes of Suzy and her various lovers wandering the rainy streets of the seedier side of London, with a half-dozen live songs performed by the band and peppered with some poorly done sex scenes.
The most interesting parts in the film are of the pretty and waifish Maggie Stride who stars as Suzy. Essentially a country girl fresh off the bus, her transformation from a naive and virginal lass to a cold-hearted sexual predator–even sleeping with her best friend’s boyfriend and then dismissing the entire affair as meaningless–is fascinating. The rest of the cast–mostly real-life band members and their hangers-on–sort of stumble about the movie and mutter their lines as best they can.
The groupie subgenre had a brief life in the late sixties and early seventies and is interesting on a more historical note than for good filmmaking. Permissive is typical of the genre and is a middle-of-the-road example; not the worst of its ilk, but certainly not the best.
The second film, That Kind of Girl, has its roots in the sex ed/scare films of the 1930’s road shows. These films were made on the cheap and usually preached about the dangers of low morals and sexual permissiveness but were really just excuses to show clinical nudity on the big screen. Because they were billed as "educational", the censors normally didn’t get involved. These kinds of films would be taken on the road similar to a carnival and would set up just outside a movie theater, complete with carnie hawker, to attract an audience.
That Kind of Girl is a classic scare film from the early 1960’s. Eva is a platinum-haired Austrian beauty. Only 18 and with an exotic accent, she has only just disembarked from the boat to work as an au pair in London. Eva quickly meets several young men. First she meets Max, a young hot head who is wise in the way of politics and enjoys protest marches but is naive about sexual relationships. Eva then meets Elliot, an older man who falls for her immediately. And finally, she meets Keith, a rich young Mod itching to jump in the sack with any woman he can manipulate. Eva takes turns going on dates with the three men, balancing each relationship with the expertise of a high-wire act. She is a bit naive herself, and though she puts up a fight, both Elliot and Keith manage to coax her into bed. Unfortunately for them all, Eva contracts syphilis, and because of her lack of morals, she may have inadvertently spread it to her sexual partners. She seeks treatment and is told she must contact each of her partners.
First she contacts Max who smugly goes to the clinic and tells the physician that he can’t possibly have syphilis as all the pair did was kiss. But the doctor checks Max’s mouth and notices some syphilitic sores on his gums. Elliot has become obsessive and violent towards Eva once she dumps him for Keith, so Eva chooses to send the announcement to Elliot through the post. He harasses her day and night on the phone, traumatizing her emotionally. And finally, she locates Keith to tell him about his possible illness, but it’s too late–he has already proposed to his girlfriend, who also happens to be pregnant. Now Keith has to worry not only about himself, but his soon-to-be wife and also his child.
That Kind of Girl expertly handles the story of a "loose" girl and the damage that she can do, even if inadvertently. The message is clear: sex is to be shared between married couples or else you can ruin your life as well as the lives of others. There are several classic scenes, one of my favorites being when Keith’s fiancée Janet finally gives in to the temptation to have sex with him. She is lying in bed with the covers drawn up to her neck. She asks Keith to turn out the overhead light and when he does, the only light in the room comes from a lamp that shines directly on…a picture of Janet as a young, innocent child. It’s a terrifically manipulative scene calculated to juxtapose the Janet’s innocence with the fact that her innocence is about to be lost. Another great scene is the sermon given by the doctor after Eva leaves the examination room. He proselytizes about all the ways one can catch VD and laments the low morals of "today’s youth" and the trouble they can get into without strong parenting.
But even while the movie preaches abstinence and high moral standards, it titillates the audience with a cabaret striptease as well as plenty of young women who find reasons to undress…at least down to their bras and panties. After all, it’s only 1963, so nudity was still frowned upon and lingerie was about as risqué as respectable films could get.
That Kind of Girl expertly balances the prurient with the preachy. Probably genuinely risqué in 1963, it has now become an historical record of a certain specific and very warped subgenre of sexploitation. It is well-made and well-acted and can be enjoyed both as an unintentional comedy for today’s audiences as well as a drama with a not-so-hidden agenda of fear.
Both films have been remastered by BFI and look gorgeous. Permissive suffers slightly from a low sound mix during dialogue scenes with a much louder mix during the live songs. The two films have been released by Redemption Films and Kino Lorber as a one-disc standard DVD. For more information on this and other titles in the series, go to www.kinolorber.com.