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  Eskimo Nell Screwed By The Industry
Year: 1975
Director: Martin Campbell
Stars: Michael Armstrong, Christopher Timothy, Terence Edmond, Roy Kinnear, Katy Manning, Rosalind Knight, Richard Caldicott, Stephen Riddle, Jeremy Hawke, Anna Quayle, Christopher Biggins, Gordon Tanner, Diane Langton, Beth Porter, Max Mason, Lloyd Lamble
Genre: Comedy, SexBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dennis (Michael Armstrong) is fresh out of film school and set on becoming a director, but when he goes round to the London offices of the main film studios, none are interested in hiring him. As a last resort, he visits the Soho office of Benny U. Murdoch (Roy Kinnear) of B.U.M. Productions, who is delighted to hire Dennis to direct his latest venture: an adaptation of the infamously pornographic poem Eskimo Nell. Although this isn't quite what Dennis had in mind for his film debut, he's happy for the work, and recruiting his friends Clive (Terence Edmond) and Harris (Christopher Timothy) as casting director and writer, they're all ready to go. They just have to find the money first...

There's not much to chuckle at in your average British sex comedy of the 1970s. However, adding nudity and sex scenes to Carry On-style plots and jokes was one way of making money in the declining British film industry of the time, and it's this set up that is spoofed in Eskimo Nell. Written by actor Michael Armstrong, it patently derives its story and humour from the trials and tribulations of the film makers who would like to, say, be adapting literary classics, but are forced to aim for the lowest targets to keep themselves in the business.

One advantage Eskimo Nell has over its competitors is that it, surprisingly, raises quite a few good laughs. It's not the accustomed tale of a laddish hero bedding all the women he can get his hands on, but instead says a lot about untrustworthy producers, impossible to please backers and the various eccentrics films attract, be they actors and actresses or the crew behind the scenes. The problem that arises for Dennis and his friends is that they have obtained money from three different people who each want a different film. One wants hardcore pornography, another wants a gay western, and the third wants a kung fu musical.

Nothing is ever easy in this business as Dennis finds out all too quickly. Writer Harris has to script pornography despite being a reserved, penguin-infatuated virgin, the backers each want their girlfriends and boyfriend cast in the lead role, and when they finally do get the money, Benny absconds with the cash leaving the three innocents with their names on the contracts, so they have to shoot the film or face paying back the money, which they cannot do. A saviour in the form of Dennis' girlfriend (Katy Manning) suggests that her rich mother, a Mary Whitehouse figure who heads a group for moral reform, fund the film, which means they now have to make a wholesome love story, too.

If a lot of the jokes are too forced, many of them are very funny. Each of the characters have their own obsession, from seedy Benny's breast fetish (see Kinnear amusingly working himself up into a macho frenzy at one point), to the moralists' fixation on clean living. The sequence where they finally shoot the film(s) is the funniest, displaying many the pitfalls of the work: accidents with a clapperboard and the leading man's manhood, too-tight cowboy jeans that rip when the hero gets off his horse, or the prima donna antics of the cast. The kung fu musical is particularly ridiculous, with its unsuitable nun extras and high kicking number. The whole adventure ends up in a predictable case of mixing the cans up, but by then Eskimo Nell has proved you could make a funny sex comedy - so why didn't it happen more often? Music by Simon Park.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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