-MONTHLY VHS & DVD REVIEW-
casts: Fiona Richard, Linda Hayden, Anthony Steel, Robin Askwith, and Graham Stark
director: James Kenelm Clarke
82 / 80 / 90 minutes (18) 1976/7
Village DVD Region 0 retail
reviewed by Andrew Darlington
Exposé (1976) is a thriller, of sorts, with slasher pretensions. He's
a paranoid voyeur and a fraud, haunted by visions of blood and murder. She's creepy,
manipulative, and a psycho-killer. When he rifles through her suitcase he finds a long
white vibrator. But it's the lovely horror scream-queen Linda Hayden who is both wasted
in this role, and who is the real star. She'd seen far better movie-action in Peter
Sasdy's Hammer horror Taste The Blood Of Dracula, in the underrated Amicus classic
Blood On Satan's
Claw, and even the sad sex-comedy Confessions Of A Window-Cleaner. But here
Udo Kier plays a novelist in the remote house on Straw Hill, and he's failing to complete
his second novel 'Straw Summer'. Market expectations, he moans, "are the price you
pay for being remarkably good at your job."
So he hires Linda as his new secretary, unaware that she has her own agenda. Or that she
lies on her bed masturbating to a photo. He picks her up at Hatfield Peverel train station
where the local Salvation Army Band is playing Onward Christian Soldiers. Do they
realise the exact nature of the movie they're guesting in? Fiona Richmond - as Kier's
unsuspecting girlfriend, plays a near-cameo in her own movie. But why does the supposed
writer of such florid purple prose about "the catharsis of lust," slip on white
latex gloves when they have sex? The conniving Hayden also lures Richmond into a lesbian
sex-bout. There's a Straw Dogs yokel-rape shotgun retribution scene. And the disapproving
'lady who does' gets her throat cut.
But it's all so slow-moving there are barely visible life-signs, and it's not as though
giving away the plot is going to spoil anything as vital as tension. It turns out he'd
stolen 'his' first half-a-million-dollar novel 'Deadly Silence' from his friend Simon
Hindstatt who subsequently killed himself. Linda is the vengeful bunny-boiling bitch
from hell out for payback. That, I suppose, almost qualifies as a plot.
Hardcore (1977)... it ain't. Instead, "being the frankly sensational adventures
of a liberated lady..." this movie requisitions feminist semantics to highly dubious
ends, as the fictionalised autobiography of the highly fictionalised Fiona Richmond. "It
all started in a haphazard way," she begins, divulging all to Robert (Anthony Steel)
in a villa in Nice. The chapter headings follow the vague outline of her slim 192-page
heavily-ghosted autobiography Tell Tale Tits (Javelin, 1987).
Born in 1945 in Norfolk, daughter of the local vicar, she becomes the unconvincing schoolgirl
responsible for a pornographic poem about Mata Hari in time for chapter two, 'When The
Cherry Grows Ripe'. Virtually a fictional character, Fiona herself was in fact 'created' in
1971 by publisher Paul Raymond and his Men Only editor Tony Power, played here by 'extra-special
feature director Duncan' (Victor Spinetti) at real-life Millbank Tower. Their masterplan
was to concoct "a girl to road-test men, as other people test cars" ("they
both have knobs," she rationalises) - as Mary Millington was doing for a rival magazine
group. The face they select to 'front' the project conveniently happens to be Raymond's
then-girlfriend, concurrently working as a nude swimmer in his stage-show Pyjama Tops
at the 'Whitehall Theatre'.
This career-path is acted out through chapter four, 'The Roar Of The Greasepaint' featuring
excerpts from a highly-choreographed faux-sex phallus-worshipping stage-show at the post-Mrs
Henderson Presents' 'Windmill Theatre', into chapter five, 'My Struggle With Art', which
"will launch you as a writer, although what kind of a writer will remain forever
a matter of conjecture." Naturally, "prose alone won't sell it," so there
are topless photo-shoots too. From those magazine columns - which she didn't write, she
graduated into a series of novels - which she also didn't write. For example - In Depth
(Arrow) was originally announced as "Fiona's wildest bestseller to date!" and it
revolves loosely around Miss Georgie Deuce's two motivating ambitions, as super-megastar
investigative reporter, and mind-blowing sensualist.
To which end she code-names her first Amsterdam-to-Bangkok assignment 'Around The World
In 80 Lays' during which she gets in-depth into jet-set sex-shenanigans. Punningly,
"everything seems to come together very nicely, but then, with Georgie, it usually
does." This mile-high club and girl-on-girl mutually-oiling sunbathing action is
more-or-less covered - or uncovered, in chapter three, 'I'm Fiona, Fly Me'. But did she
write any of this? Not if her on-screen typing speeds are anything to go by. So, when
she 'takes to the road' to gather exploits to write about - from sex with truckers or
aristos, with home-movie swingers or on an intercity steam-train, 're-enacting' these
incidents are probably the closest she ever got to actually doing them. Yet the final
chapter 'My Search For Happiness & Mr Right' was to prove even more problematic.
Outside the parameters of this movie, driving her FU2-registered Mercedes she'd reached
a kind of lowbrow softcore celebrity status that peaked with appearing on the Terry Wogan
radio show, doing a three-way interview with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, and appearing
as 'Amber Harrison' in Not Tonight Darling (1971). All of which leads into Let's
Get Laid - adapted from her long-running 'Live On Stage' West End sex-comedy with TV's
John Inman in a supporting role. And to Expos� and to... this... 1970s' sexploitation was
a curious phenomenon that flourished during a brief window of commercial opportunity following
the liberalisation of screen-censorship, but before the advent of the domestic VCR.
It provided screen-nudity hung on the excuse of the slenderest of plots. And - of course,
all of this occurred before the age of rampant silicon nip 'n' tuck cosmetic surgery, so
the girls are 'real', although - to be honest, Fiona Richmond's body looks occasionally...
odd. And there's not much of it you don't get to see. One of the high-profile names of
this low-prestige genre, devoid of charisma, and with no discernible acting ability, she's
frequently bested by the more decorative more able starlets located further down the cast-list.
In a heavily-bleeped TV studio interview this Hardcore-incarnation 'Fiona' is confronted
by "tireless campaigner against obscenity and pornography" Norma Blackhurst (Joan
Benham satirising Mrs Mary Whitehouse) who accuses her of writing "a series of sexual
escapades described with neither wit not charm." Fiona responds with her feminist
credentials as "an emancipated female," which might have sounded somewhat more
convincing if it wasn't so obviously scripted for her.
Let's Get Laid (1977) is a title-riff on Get Carter. Let's get that clear
from the off. The deeply unattractive Robin Askwith is Gordon Laid, Gordon Eddison Kitchener
Laid. Geddit? And he's the gormless innocent inveigled into disposing of a dead spy's body,
by doing a kind of less-funny Norman Wisdom gurning-shuffle. He's shorn of his ludicrous
Confessions Of... mullet, but gets stalked by two gangsters and by Graham Stark's
Clouseau-style copper (reprising his Inspector Flaubert' from Hardcore).
Set in demob-happy 1947 London, this is an inept espionage-comedy with chase sequences,
cross-dressing, and mistaken identity confusions. On his way to his Albemarle Court flat
from Deepcock Station, Askwith picks up an artfully replicated copy of Picturegoer
magazine with Fiona Richmond as cover-star Maxine Lupercal - "an actress of modest
reputation in the cinema-screens of the world." The closest she'll ever come to such
a claim in real life. The rest of the dialogue also thinks it's wittier than it is.
"Suspenders, what an absurd word for such an interesting device," says her lover.
"I bet you say that to all the underwear," she deadpans.
There are fantasy-sequences including nude French maids, and deeply-suspect three-way
lesbo-Nazis, plus spoof-excerpts from Fiona's 'movies', the stilted monochrome 'Danger
In Paradise', and Technicolor costume-drama 'Moonlight In Gascony' - both using the same
script, so as not to confuse the audience! It all climaxes in slapstick disruptions at
the 1920s' musical comedy stage-show 'Yes Yes Charlotte'. And incidentally - as though
it matters, the gimmick they're all chasing is the PJ46, a James Bond-ian cigarette lighter
gadget with the power to fuse electrical gadgets. Pity it didn't work on the movie cameras
filming this abysmal tripe. Does nostalgia invest this retro-porn with a kind of indiscrete
charm? In a word - no...