Fanny Hill (Lisa Foster) was a country girl who when she ventured further afield, fell victim to ill fortune. After a carriage ride to the city where she fended off the advances of a supposed nobleman (Alfred Marks) who was her fellow passenger – he fell in a river during one of his attempts to engage with her – they reached their destination by nightfall. However, no sooner had she disembarked with plans to settle there, she and the nobleman were robbed and she chased after the man with her bag, with the lecher in pursuit for the robber’s partner in crime had accused her of stealing from him. The thief gave her the slip, she escaped the nobleman, and now she had nothing but a few shillings to her name – so what now?
If you’re familiar with John Cleland’s classic eighteenth century novel of erotica, whether by reputation or because you’ve actually read the thing, then you won’t be surprised to see Fanny led astray by a brothel keeper who wishes to sell her virginity to the highest bidder, and from the aggressively comic and lascivious tone of that opening act you might find this something of a turn-off, considering it appeared to be setting up the exploitation of a young woman by less moral characters. Whether that was happening in real life might have arisen in your mind as well: Foster, using the name Lisa Raines, was eighteen years old when she played this, her most famous role, and the masterminds behind it were middle aged impresarios of the movie industry.
The producer was Harry Alan Towers, who never found a public domain property he didn’t like, and so it was here, hiring his team to whip the source into shape as an item of softcore pornography which featured many scenes of nudity and simulated sex. The director was Gerry O’Hara, who had found a fresh lease of cinematic life with the Jackie Collins adaptations The Stud and The Bitch, and Fanny Hill was very much in that style, only dressed up as a period piece with all the costumes and stately homes they could find. Foster, on the other hand, was a model starting out in the industry, and some have questioned how much she was being guided and how much this role was her own choice, but she remained in the industry in various capacities thereafter.
Not so much as an actress, more as an expert in computer graphics, including working for Disney on their digital restoration of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, among other things, but for many who caught her outing as Miss Hill, she remains a fond memory. What was interesting was that although this was a fairly make-do effort, to all intents and purposes purely created to give the viewer a thrill and part them with their cash, not necessarily in that order, once it had established Fanny was stuck in the cathouse, it didn’t leave her there to be taken advantage of and that was a reason why this appealed to women as well as men. Certainly, her initial sexual encounter is with another woman, not too clear why narratively speaking, but she is not given over to the highest bidder by the madam as you might expect.
After a runaround from an older gentleman which leaves him having to give up the chase across the chaise longue because his heart won’t stand up to it, Fanny (whose name is repeated about a thousand times in case you didn’t quite catch it, and not because it sounded rude, oh no) meets a genuine gentleman, Charles (Barry Stokes), and he becomes the love of her life, spiriting her away to a country house where they can enjoy each other’s company. Of course, the path of true love never did run smooth, and maidenhead summarily dispatched with our heroine has to resort to prostitution, yet it’s always on her terms, so we never get the impression she is being abused. Indeed, there’s a sequence where a private show is staged which appears to be entirely made up of women in control of sexual situations, not always the case in these productions. Throw in guest stars like Oliver Reed putting on a funny voice, Shelley Winters as a madam (a nicer one), and Wilfrid Hyde-White finally getting a sex scene in his last ever role, this wasn’t exactly high class stuff, every joke fizzled, but there was a lot worse out there. Hey nonny no music by Paul Hoffert.