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  Love Ban, The Please Restrain Yourself
Year: 1973
Director: Ralph Thomas
Stars: Hywel Bennett, Nanette Newman, Milo O'Shea, Angharad Rees, Nicky Henson, Georgina Hale, Madeline Smith, Peter Barkworth, John Cleese, Cheryl Hall, Jacki Piper, David Howey, Tommy Godfrey, Marianne Stone, Nina Baden-Semper, Tony Haygarth
Genre: Comedy, SexBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: The marriage of Mick Goonahan (Hywel Bennett) and Kate Goonahan (Nanette Newman) has hit a snag, something so major that it threatens to derail their entire relationship. Ten years into their marriage and they have six children, because Mick is a strict Roman Catholic and refuses to use contraception; since Kate is very fertile, she has spent most of the past few years pregnant and now, ten months after their twins were born, she has turned down all offers of sex from him completely. Understandably, this has led to a high degree of frustration in Mick who is growing ever more desperate to have his marital rights, and it is obvious a solution must be found. But what?

The simple answer would be, well, condoms, the Pill, something like that, but Mick believes he will be sent packing to eternal damnation should his marriage involve something along those lines, then it would appear to be off the table. If that sounded like a slender premise for an entire movie, you would not be far wrong, but its credentials meant it retained interest for movie buffs, or at least movie buffs who were engrossed in the British cinema of the nineteen-seventies, that point in time when the local industry was struggling and resorting to cheaper tricks to secure an audience. One of those cheap tricks was nudity and the promise of a sexual angle, and this team had done so before.

They had enjoyed a sizeable hit with Percy, a sex comedy that had implemented a range of selling points to draw in the viewers, from its soundtrack by The Kinks to its plotline about the world's first penis transplant. Though it was not the funniest thing you would ever see, it was professionally assembled and in Bennett had a likeable, oddly innocent lead, a ploy that was carried over to this, though he was still not especially unworldly, more uncertain of how to deal with his desires in the ever-changing world of the sexual revolution. If he is as strict as we are told, he will not be resorting to any kind of personal relief either, so it's little wonder he breaks down the door of Kate's bedroom.

Not that they do anything, as the kids hear and rush to see what is happening ("Wrestling" is their mother's excuse, how very seventies) and prevent any further behaviour. Mick consults his priest, Father Andrew (Milo O'Shea), who offers advice but no real understanding, and to make matters worse proceeds to show up at the most awkward moments as our hero tentatively decides to take the plunge and buy something for the weekend. As if that were not bad enough, Mick's blue balls have the effect of making him see any attractive woman in his path starkers, which was basically the film's excuse to show unclad female flesh in a relatively non-sexual context: these women are merely going about their day, unaware of Mick's unbidden fantasies. This also gave the film an AA certificate rather than an X.

So more could see it, though you imagine audiences as frustrated as the protagonist would get the most from it. Its claims to be saying something serious about the religious bodies vs the medical establishment (John Cleese!) on matters sexual tended to be lost in hacky jokes about bad women drivers and randy young nannies hiding their equally up for it boyfriends from their employers (Angharad Rees - with an Irish accent - and Nicky Henson respectively, in this case). Ralph Thomas was the director, a man with long comedy experience but as with many of his peers, not wholly comfortable with the increased freedoms of this decade, with Betty Box as producer, someone who always seemed to know what the public wanted to see (Percy's Progress was next, sans Bennett). Would anyone take this as sincerely as that last fifteen minutes wished us to? It's doubtful: come for the sex comedy, stay for the ethical debate was not what many people were attracted to, but as an example of British struggles with morality in the conflicted seventies, it did hold interest. Music by Stanley Myers (adapting classical composers) and a title sequence from animator Bob Godfrey.

Aka: It's a 2'6" Above the Ground World

[Network have released this rarity on Blu-ray and DVD, with an alternate title sequence, trailer and image gallery as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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