Jul 24, 2021

On the Game (1974)


A British faux documentary about the history of prostitution.

Our Narrator (Charles Gray) takes us through time describing the history of prostitution. He begins with the Babylonian times where a citizen could say "In the name of the goddess Mylitta" and throw a coin to a woman to have sex. 

In 600BC Greece, women line up to become certified prostitutes. 

We meet the wife of Roman Emperor Claudius, the Empress Messalina (Nicola Austin).

While her husband sleeps, she puts on a wig and offers her services as a whore.

Messalina becomes the most popular whore in Rome.

Fast forward to 1861. A husband (Arthur Howell) has sex with a masked whore (June Palmer) who turns out to be his wife Emily.

Lady Beatrice (Pat Montgomery) is an upstanding member of London society by day.

But Lady Beatrice enjoys the services of male prostitutes in secret.

Venice 16th century: Venetian courtesan Veronica France (Louise Pajo)

She is visited by the flamboyantly gay Henry III of France (Allen Morton)

Henry's assistant says, "You are nothing but a tart." To which she responds, "Ah, but I am the Queen of Tarts.  And I speak only from one queen.... to another."

But not all Venetian whores get to be wealthy courtesans.  This prostitute (Eva) is jailed and raped by the guard (Joe Murphy).

To dissuade her from prostituting again, she is impregnated before she's freed.

This Venetian prostitute (Val Penny) is being publicly humiliated.

Her clothes are ripped off and she's stuffed naked into a cage.

The cage is then dunked into the river.

17th Century France: Prostitute Giulia Barucci (Fiona Victory)

She is visited by none other than Napoleon III (Francis Batsoni).

But his sexual prowess leaves something to be desired and she strains to not laugh.

The Prince of Wales (David Brierly), eldest son of Queen Victoria, holds an extravagant dinner party.

The lid from the dish is removed, revealing a nude woman underneath.

She is a popular prostitute, Cora Pearl (Mandy Murfitt).

Exotic dancer La Belle Otero (Natalie Shaw) steals Cora's limelight.

19th century England. Prime Minister Gladstone (Lloyd Lamble) speaks with a prostitute named Jenny (Gloria Maley) in an effort to get her on a righteous path.
Jenny describes her sad existence and how she got into whoring in the first place.

When Jenny was young, she was caught stealing bread by Mrs. Duberry (Olive McFarland) who offered to help the poor waif. 

Mrs. Duberry offered Jenny a nice dinner.

But the tea was drugged and Jenny is knocked out.

Poor Jenny is carried off by Mrs. Duberry's servant and brutally raped.

After telling this sad tale, Jenny needs a drink.

We meet Mrs. Teresa Berkley (Carmen Silvera), a dominatrix of the 19th century.

New Orleans Mahogany Hall in the early 1900s

The prostitutes work under the strict madam, Lulu White (Mildred Mayne).

During WWI, a prostitute is brought to the German troops in a "mobile brothel".

1950s London: a Social Worker (Pamela Coveney) tries to help a prostitute...

Lil (Maureen Flanagan) tells her story.

She recounts a particularly odd customer experience...

She is told to sit in the corner on newspaper with legs spread.

The customer (Chris Lethbridge-Baker) excitedly throws cream buns at her.

Lil's friend (Sonia Stevens) has a similarly weird client.

This guy likes to preach to her, proclaiming the word of god... before jumping on her.

The film ends by saying, "You can make prostitution illegal.  But you can't make it unpopular."

Sure, it's just a stupid faux documentary, serving no purpose except to provide a variety of opportunities for nudity.  Yet, there is some real effort on display. It dances across the timeline, joyously popping in at odd and interesting points in history.  It's done well; not particularly funny, but feels fresh and inventive in the way it's presented.  Yes, there's tons of sleaze, but it's all within a nicely framed and put together film. 

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