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  Games That Lovers Play Whoever Wins We Lose
Year: 1971
Director: Malcolm Leigh
Stars: Joanna Lumley, Penny Brahms, Richard Wattis, Jeremy Lloyd, Diane Hart, Nan Munro, John Gatrell, Charles Cullum, Leigh Anthony, George Belbin, June Palmer, Graham Armitage, Sydney Arnold, Harold Bennett, Colin Cunningham, Michael Day, Frank Dreycott
Genre: Comedy, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  2 (from 1 vote)
Review: The time is the Roaring Twenties and at a poolside party at a country house Lady Evelyn (Nan Munro) is contentedly watching the girls frolic unaware that she is not alone in appreciating the female form, for Mrs Hill (Diane Hart) is doing the same. However, both have ulterior motives, as they both run brothels and are always on the lookout for new talent, but as Lady Evelyn says her goodbyes to the assembled and climbs into her horsedrawn carriage Mrs Hill accosts her and joins her to compare notes, being fully aware of how she makes fortune. Soon an argument has broken out, with insults flying and a wager emerges: they will settle this once and for all with a contest...

Games That Lovers Play is remembered now as a film Joanna Lumley would like to forget, and although it was her first starring role it's not something she was particularly proud of. If you hadn't seen it, you might have thought that was down to the fact she was embarrassed by her lack of clothes, but on actually watching it you would quickly realise it was more thanks to the material being absolutely dreadful. Quite how she was involved in it is none too clear, but it might have been something to do with her fiancée, then husband, Jeremy Lloyd, starring alongside her; Lloyd was a comedy stalwart both behind and in front of the camera, but his instincts let him down in this case.

Even the sorriest episode of Lloyd's co-creation Are You Being Served? was a lot funnier than anything writer and director Malcolm Leigh conjured up for his high concept but fatally muddled sex comedy. It may have been set in the nineteen-twenties, but for reasons best known to himself Leigh did a spot of time travelling to bring together those celebrated figures of erotica, Fanny Hill (Lumley) and Lady Chatterly (Penny Brahms in the largest role she ever won - she retired from the screen shortly after). Never mind the books they hailed from were published during different centuries to the twenties, and indeed each other, our director had been struck by inspiration and nothing was going to stop him crafting the movie his way. Not that it really mattered one way or the other.

That was because, well, for one thing we don't know if these ladies are THE Fanny Hill and THE Lady Chatterly (which they aren't, if you think about it), and for another the results were about as creepy as a Dr Phibes movie with its emphasis on Art Deco, the odd vintage song courtesy of the New Vaudeville Band, and the overall sickly nature of the enterprise as it mined humour from dispiriting smut. There wasn't even that much nudity, never mind sex, from the characters, enough to abash Miss Lumley but hardly anything hardcore, as much of the plot was taken up with Fanny and Chatterly pursuing impossible males as a goal for seduction, all to prove whether Mrs Hill or Lady Evelyn were in possession of the best prostitute around.

Charming, right? Not really, and terminally boring to boot, assuming you were not feeling uneasy at the whole look of the thing which had Lloyd play a homosexual drag queen Lumley takes back to the brothel and has no trouble in turning, and Brahms sets her sights on Bishop John Gatrell who is a celibate friend of the family. When both succeed, thereby proving neither the winner, Mrs Hill picks a name at random out of the phone book who turns out to be none other than Richard Wattis, evidently fallen on harder times than his regular gig on hit sitcom Sykes might imply. He played a wine merchant who each girl has to get into bed, at one point shown round Mrs Hill's brothel (anyone uncomfortable about the way she has sent her own daughter into prostitution - this is supposed to be funny, isn't it?) where we saw and heard the contents of a few rooms, including a few depressingly queasy fetishes. The merchant's own proclivities lead up to a punchline that resolves nothing but the viewer swearing off ever watching this again. Music by David Lindup.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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