Apr 16, 2017

Secrets of a Door to Door Salesman (1973)

I was curious what the director of Village of the Damned (1960), Wolf Rilla, could do with a UK sexploitation romp in the vein of Benny Hill and Confessions of a Window Cleaner (1974).  Would he add a certain sinister element to the risque nonsense?  As it turns out, not at all.  But I still enjoy the genre, and am happy to take in as many 1970s Britsploitation comedies as I can get.  Let's have a look...

David Clyde (Brendan Price) just lost his job in his family's lobster business.  Rather than wallow in misery and unemployment, David sells the boat and goes out in search of a new life, exclaiming "I'm free!" along the way.

Driving through the country, he picks up a French hitchhiker named Martina (Jean Harrington). She goes off on her own, but David is forever enamored by the mysterious au pair.

So, David strikes up his new life by renting an apartment in a boarding house shared with five other girls:  Rachel (Jacqueline Afrique), Susanne (Felicity Devonshire), Nancy (Elizabeth Romilly), a Jewish prude (who I think is named Jane), and Penny....

Penny is played by Sue Longhurst - possibly my absolute favorite among the Britsploitation Babes of the 70s.  Not only is she mega-fine and always willing to shed her wardrobe, she can also deliver a comedic line with great skill and timing.... not a common trait with B-movie babes.

She tells David that she's an actress, but "I will only appear in the nude if it is dictated by the emotional complexities of the characters I play... like I Was a Teenage Virgin."

Penny offers David a part in her next movie, while Nancy & Rachel offer him a position as a vacuum salesman in the company they work for.

An apartment in a boarding house with five sexy girls, and now job opportunities thrown at his feet?  The best thing that ever happened to him was losing that lobster fisherman job!

The next day, it's time for his big screen debut.  He is to play a hospital patient and Penny is his nurse.

Penny unexpectedly sheds her clothes and starts making poor David very uncomfortable.  Clearly, he had no idea he was appearing in a blue picture.  The director yells "Cut!" and they'll have to try it again.

This time he's got the hang of it, and the two go at it in every conceivable position.  The problem is - and this happens A LOT in British sex comedies - they speed up the sex scenes Benny Hill style and add ridiculous music.  With John Phillips Sousa's "Liberty Bell" march in the background, an otherwise sexy scene gets totally neutralized.  It's as if the Brits had real issues with filming genuine sex, and always had to make a joke of it.  Go figure.

David can't physically withstand the sex scenes with Penny, so decides to go with the vacuum cleaner sales route instead.  Nancy gives him his first assignment...

As luck would have it, his first customer is the hitch-hiking au pair, Martina.  But she's found a fiance and isn't interested in what he's selling (both meanings intended). It's a mystery why David gives a flying shit when he's got a boardinghouse full of ladies willing to shag....

Susanne gets caught indecent (a running gag)
First there's Susanne who wears next to nothing around the house and keeps throwing herself at him. Somehow he's able to turn down her advances (all for the unrequited love of Martina, I presume).

Plus, she's supposedly seventeen. (!)

Nancy has eyes for David
Then, there's roommate Nancy.  She's a smart top salesperson at the vacuum cleaner business, and she genuinely likes David (not just out for a roll in the hay).  But he'll have none of it.

Sally Cockburn the Stewardess
And, finally, there's stewardess Sally Cockburn (Victoria Burgoyne) who insists her last name is pronounced like "Colburn".  She's an ex-boarder at here, and has dropped in for the night.... and, of course, she's only too willing to get to shagging.  But his heart is still with the elusive Martina....

David and Martina in da club
He manages to get Martina to go out with to a club.  The couple slow dance to a truly ear-splitting ballad sung by Leslie Roach.  Then, David exposes her fiance to be a two-timing fraud.  Once again, Martina runs off, leaving him alone and bewildered.

Edith wants more than vacuum cleaners
Sure, David is getting plenty of sex, but the rest of his life isn't turning out too well.  Martina, his love interest ain't interested, and he's an abysmal failure as a vacuum cleaner salesman.

His boss gives him one last shot to make a sale and keep his job.  He visits a customer named Edith (Noelle Finch) who turns out to not be a customer at all.. but a reporter doing a story on his vacuum cleaner.

Edith (Noelle Finch) gets jilted
Like every girl in this film, Edith comes on to him, and he declines.  She gets pissed off (and get out of bed, showing the fully monty, I may add) and writes a scathing article about his vacuum business.

So, he loses his job, leaves the boarding house, and basically kidnaps Martina.  THE END

Rachel, David and Susanne at dinner in the boarding house
(1) We all know that, to Americans, all British people are great actors.  There's something about that English accent that can turn even the worst performance into Shakespeare.  Thus, there is no bad acting in this film.

(2) The film takes a brisk pace, never allowing you to become bored - at least not for long.  Plus, the nudity is so frequent, it'll keep your attention all along the way.  In other words, if there isn't a nude girl on screen, there's bound to be one in a few moments - so, look sharp!

Susanne (Felicity Devonshire) greets David for the first time
(1) The story is pure shit.  Why in all that is holy does he spurn nearly every chick in this film for the remote chance he might get with Martina.  And who cares about Martina anyway?

(2) It has a few chuckles here and there; but, overall, it's just not that funny.

(3) Brendan Price as David is, sorry to say, a pretty dull and forgettable character.

(4) Believe it or not, Johnathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) was hired to direct this film, but left after only a few days of filming.  I think this could have been a much better, unique film under his direction.

(5) It's as if they thought that the more beautiful British birds the better... but quantity is a poor substitute for quality.  We meet a seemingly endless supply of gorgeous girls, but don't spend much time with any of them.  If you're going to feature Nancy, Sally, Penny, Rachel, Edith, and Martina all within 90 minutes, time with each of them is going to be sorely limited.

Sue Longhurst gets into her part as Brendan Price's nurse
(1) Sue Longhurst is, as always, pure dynamite.  The combination of superb comedic skill with a complete lack of inhibition is a glorious wonder to behold.  I've seen her in plenty of films, but now I'm resolved to see them all.  If only we could have seen her more in this film.

(2) Other than Sue, the nudity, while frequent, is not too swell.  Edith, Susanne, and Sally deliver the full-frontal, but it's quick, poorly lit, and nothing to write home about.  And, of course, I could do without sex scenes in high-speed to oompa-oompa marches.