Five Graves to Cairo

poster3I’ve got a thing for movies written by Billy Wilder. They tend to be brilliantly witty, and to pack in as much sexually subversive material as he could get away with. His films include age play, homosexuality, lesbian hints, cross-dressing, just off the top of my head. And it seems that almost every film he made included a spanking threat, which would be received with purring pleasure by the intended victim.   

Here’s the dialogue from one of his few non-comedy films, the World War II drama Five Graves to Cairo, featuring German supply dumps, Erich von Stroheim doing his arrogant Nazi schtick, heroic resistance fighters and a stranded British corporal. 

Anne Baxter is the heroic resister of all things German, who puts up relatively little resistance to the charms of the British chap played by Franchot Tone.  


hand it

Franchot Tone: If the circumstances we find ourselves in were not so extraordinary, I might turn you over my knee and spank you with abandon.

Anne Baxter: Thank you for your interest.

Franchot Tone: Not at all.


So polite. Since I saw this film I’ve been looking for an excuse to say Franchot Tone’s line to someone, but I haven’t found the right extraordinary circumstances, yet. 

Jimmy Edwards: “Whack-O”, and “Bottoms Up”

That last post includes a picture of a grotesque whiskery “schoolmaster” flexing a cane. I mentioned that I thought it was an English music-hall comedian called Jimmy Edwards.

I got the era wrong: apparently he was on British tv in the late 1950s as a corrupt and sadistic headmaster in a series called “Whack-O.” That was a comedy, which is pretty extraordinary.

You could produce a series about that these days, but it’d be about the soul-destroying damage he caused, and the slow process by which the justice system caught up with him. It would end on a bleak note, with the damaged children watching him being pushed into a van, and some hint of the things that had happened to him that ruined his own soul. “Comedy? Are you out of your fucking mind?”

bums upSo “Whack-O” will never be re-made. Some things change for the better. 

But … he also made a film, called “Bottoms Up!”, apparently a spin-off from the tv show.

I don’t know anything about the film, except that it would have had more sexual jokes – and women – in it than the tv series.

But I do like the poster.

50 Shades, Nine and a Half Weeks, and bdsm exploitation

So there’s a film of 50 Shades of Grey coming out. Not many people on the bdsm world seem to be especially happy about this. Well, based on the trailers, it does look kind of crap.  

The 1980s Mickey Rourke, and Kim Basinger's hair.

The 1980s Mickey Rourke, and Kim Basinger’s amazing acting hair.

I recently saw Nine and a Half Weeks, though, which was made in the 1980s, when Mickey Rourke was a good-looking, promising young actor. If you compare the 1980s film based on a bdsm book with the 2014 film based on a bdsm book, it suggests that there actually has been a tiny bit of progress.

Though it was based on a mildly scandalous bdsm novel, the 9 1/2 Weeks film had no bdsm in it whatsoever. On the other hand, in one of the 50 Shades trailers, Dakota Channing does get tied up, and at one point she has a riding crop waved at her, though it doesn’t actually come into contact with her skin. Maybe they’re saving that for the movie. So at least there’s a miniscule dose of bdsm. But on the evidence so far, the only thing that actually gets tortured is the song Wicked Game.

So there’s progress. From no bdsm at all in the 1980s bdsm film, to a tiny, homeopathic amount of bdsm in the 2014 bdsm film. Actually, unless you thought pouring the contents of your fridge onto Kim Basinger might be sexy, there wasn’t any sex in the 9 1/2 Weeks film either.

Which was a pity in a way, because the book that the film was based on was reasonably competently written. The book, 9 1/2 Weeks, was about bdsm, and it did have a couple of sexy scenes in it. Unlike the movie.

But even the 9 1/2 Weeks book is kind of annoying, because it presents bdsm as a pathology. The dom was fucked up from the beginning (Aspergers plus obsessive-compulsive traits plus psychopathology) and the submissive woman progressively lost the ability to do anything for herself, even brush her own hair. She even had to spend time in psychiatric recuperation after the horror of her actually quite mildly sexy experience.

That is, in the best tradition of the exploitation novels and films of, oh, 1930 to, well, now, the woman character goes off the rails of proper decent normality after a few introductory scenes. The reader or the audience gets treated to the promise (not always actually delivered) of some outre sex scenes, and then at the end the heroine comes back to the straight and narrow world. This is important, so that nobody’s ideas are ever actually challenged.

(Jenny Diski’s first novel, Nothing Natural, was one of those, too.)

Bend over, dollface.

Bend over, dollface.

I gave up on 50 Shades after reading a few excerpts on-line. There were sentences like, “Oh my god, he’s spanking me!” Though I treasure this one: “Pulling off his boxer briefs, his erect penis springs free. Holy cow!” *

Based on the bits I’ve read – supposedly the sex scenes – I’d say it’d have read better if it was entirely in text-speak.

On the other hand, if you figure that bdsm is roughly where homosexuality was in the 1950s in terms of social acceptability, then visibility in crappy exploitation books and films (that promise more exploitation scenes than they deliver) is one of the stages that we’re just going to have to live through.

Still, one day someone will make a decent bdsm date movie, a rom-com with canes and nipple-clips.


penis* According to that sentence, Christian Grey’s penis pulled off his boxer briefs for him. I wish I could train my cock to do that for me. I could stand there doing the Charles Atlas pose, or make a paper airplane, while my cock does all the work.

But the thing I really love is that once the penis gets its kit off, she looks at it and thinks, “Holy cow!

Don’t leave us in suspense, woman: what the hell is wrong with that penis?

Flower and Snake (1974)

I’ve just seen this Japanese soft-core bondage porn film from the 1970s, “Flower and Snake”.

A rich businessman asks a hapless salaryman to “train” his wife, played by Naomi Tani, who he seems to have bought. It’s never explained where she came from or who sold her. (Or if it was, I missed it.) Anyway, the salaryman practises bondage on a blow-up sex doll, and then ties up the “wife”.

Eventually he rapes her so, this film having been made in the 1970s, he falls in love with her and she with him. But the whole film is barking mad, just weird. Sometimes it plays like a film about adult sex made by 5-year olds.

But time has taken away much of its power to be shocking: the comically terrible acting, the 70s haircuts, and some weird Freudian stuff about mothers, undercut it a lot. A lot of the time I couldn’t tell if it was trying to be funny, or if it just was unintentionally funny.

As I’ve said, the sexual politics are pretty dodgy, but “Flower and Snake” is probably less misogynist than, say, any Clint Eastwood film made that same year. Which isn’t a strong defence, and it’s not meant to be.

flower and snakeBut if you read it as a document from the past, and interpret it for what it says about being bdsm-y in Japan in the 1970s then it’s fascinating.

Also, the woman star, Naomi Tani, is amazing. Maybe the cinematographer was in love with her, or something. But she glows on screen while everyone else has faded. It’s still a weird, terrible film, but Naomi Tani is astonishing. She is beautiful and she can act. What the hell is she doing in this film?

Anyway, for people who think Japanese culture can get weird (how do you explain shops with one wall stacked with freeze-dried panties, worn once? how do you explain “unuseless inventions”? how do you explain goth lotita? how do you explain horror films about a giant moth?) this is one more example of The Weird.

I’m going to get back to my story tomorrow. I’m still catching my breath at the moment. 

Jean Harlow

I saw Red Dust last night. It stars Jean Harlow as the slut with a heart of gold, and a young, pre-moustache Clark Gable as an excessively pragmatic rubber boss.

Jean Harlow, chained and cuffed, naked, in a photo set taken before she was a star.

Jean Harlow, chained and cuffed, naked, in a photo set taken before she was a star.

It was made before the puritanical Hayes Code came along, so it was possible for Harlow to do a bath scene, with the lucky filmgoers seeing her sleek bare back and at least being able to imagine what the rest of a naked Harlow might look like. It also means the dialogue can make it clear that Gable fucks both of the two women in the film, and have the characters talk about that, when it matters, like adults. 

It’s a good film, mainly because of Gable and Harlow sparking off each other, and because of any other moment that Harlow spends on the screen. 

If I had a time machine, there are things I ought to do, like giving embarrassing and career-killing speech impediments to Hitler and Stalin, also Constantine before he marched back to Rome to force Christianity on its citizens. And teaching those stupid sods at Medina to shoot straighter, when Muhammad’s forces were coming. But those would be duties. 

What I’d really like to do right now is go back in time to 1932 to meet Jean Harlow with flowers, wine and chocolate to make my intentions clear. And if I am lucky and sufficiently charming, to fuck Jean Harlow. 

Die pervert die

I’ve been sick, as I mentioned, lying about in bed reading policiers. Ed McBains, and some British stuff.

The most interesting was A Pinch of Snuff by Reginald Hill. It’s a book about two British cops, Dalziel and Padcoe. They got made into tv cops in the 1990s, I think. I’ve not seen the tv show, but the book’s better than I expected. I could probably read a couple more before I get bored with them.

This one was was set in the 1970s, with bosses calling their women workers girls, and most of those girls working as nurses or banging on typewriters. And feminists being a sexual threat who might just steal a man’s wife away.

With a rope, in the library. And six of the best across his bum. Ha ha, pervert.

With a rope, in the library. Found with six of the best across his bum. Ha ha, pervert.

There was a masochistic villain, who got murdered and no-one minded because he was a filthy pervert. He’d recently had six of the best with a cane, probably paid for, when they found his body. The cops thought it was funny. The writer, Reginald Hill, seemed to think that “masochism” was a good trait to give a villain who turns into a murder victim.  

I didn’t really bother getting indignant about the bigotry. It was just of its time.

We’ll know we’ve made it to respect when there’s a television series about a smart bdsm-loving detective  who solves crimes with her gender-bending role-switching partner.

In the meantime, in crime shows and movies, masochists will be portrayed as unsympathetic victims, while a character who is revealed to be a “sadist” is almost certain to turn out to be the murderer. 

I think the the “Dalziel and Pascoe” tv show is set in the present, but it shouldn’t be. The book was as distant and quaint as Dickens’s London.

In spite of that I quite enjoyed it. If you get indignant about finding the prejudices of the past in books that were written in the past, you won’t be able to read Jane Austen, or Biggles books, or Goethe, or even Henry Fielding.   

As well as reading, I’ve been drinking hydralite drinks to stop myself dehydrating. There’s more, but the rest is too damn pitiful to write about.  

But while I was down with some hideous viral thing, a sentence I’d written kept coming back to me. The sentence was something like this: “When I cane her, I cane hard.”

A Dangerous Method

I finally saw this last night. 

It’s a film that owes most of its fame, I think, to the few seconds of screen time that Michael Fassbender, as Carl Jung, spends spanking Keira Knightley, as a patient-turned-psychoanalist, Sabina Speilrein. Which is not in any way a hot scene, though Knightley’s character is appealingly happy to be spanked. But Ms Knightley’s bottom is bony enough to use as a letter-opener, though it’s a bit ungallant to say so. 

The film was written by Christopher Hampton, based on his stage play. I found it slightly odd, in a way, because Hampton does treat psychoanalysis almost with the disrespect it deserves. But if we accept that psychoanalysis was pseudoscience, and a conscious business product, then why do we need a film that takes its infighting over ideas seriously? I’d have found a film about the marketing of psychoanalysis more interesting. Because Freud’s influence lasted longer than it ever should have, and that’s an interesting story.

The soundtrack – Howard Shore adapting snippets of Wagner – is great. It may be the best thing about the film, and I may buy the disk. 

Intermission: Betty Boop (boop a doop)

Paramount announced on 23 March 2012 that they’re finally going to release all the original Betty Boop cartoon films made in the 1930s. (That’s all of them; she made her debut in 1930, and her final film in 1939.) It’s about time. 

Pirate girls: Jessica in bondage, Betty as dominatrix

Betty Boop’s interesting because she was just about the only animated cartoon woman to be sexy, 58 years before Jessica Rabbit. And though she was never promoted by a company with the power and reach of Disney, who squeezed every buck (and all the character) out of the Mouse and the Duck, she’s probably more popular right now. And a hell of a lot cooler.

Betty, not blue. 82 years old, and in better shape than Mickey and Donald

Part of the reason that the owners of her image seem to have tried to bury her is that she was always a bit sexier than the studios were comfortable with. So the studios sulked while Betty and her fans went out to play together.

The Betty Boop revival wasn’t driven by the people who own her image. Lions Gate Entertainment isn’t producing any new Betty Boop product. In fact Betty Boop hasn’t been seen in a movie since she turned up for a few seconds in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). Her last film before that was in 1939. (There were a couple of crap TV specials, which we’re going to ignore.)

But studios can’t hide her, or clean her up. In her later cartoons she wore more, and played with pets rather than men; they dumbed her down and they domesticated her. Somehow it never took. She remained Max Fleischer’s original and independent creation, Betty Boop the little sexpot with a taste for surrealism. People who’ve never seen a Betty Boop movie still know that she’s a bad girl. A bad girl with a heart of golden mush, and defiantly sexy.

But even the “official” Betty enjoyed the company of disciplinarians
Pirate Betty reveals a taste for light discipline.








You do get Japanese knock-offs that only exploit her cuteness, giving us a Hello Kitty version of the Boop. But generally she’s still about sex, often with a slightly fetishy flavour.

Betty in bondage

There’s her knowing echoing of Marlon Brando’s famous bike and leathers pose from The Wild One, the tee-shirts of her saying “If you’re going to ride my ass, you could at least pull my hair”, and the tee-shirts and posters showing her in bondage, or posing as a dominatrix.Though the original, official Betty products occasionally had her tied up, too. 

Somehow she’s refused to go away, or let her owners change her. Sure, she’s a male creation, and you could go all deconstructive on her excellent ass; but her feistiness (weird word that, or what?) was real. For example, the first Hollywood film to raise the issue of workplace sexual harassment was a Betty Boop short. More importantly, she was one of the sexiest women ever to have been made entirely of ink and pixels.  

Trouble in Paradise

There’s this bit of dialogue in Ernest Lubitsch’s 1931 film, “Trouble in Paradise”.

Gaston Monescu: Madame Colet, if I were your father, which fortunately I am not, and you made any attempt to handle your own business affairs, I would give you a good spanking – in a business way, of course.

Mariette Colet: What would you do if you were my secretary?

Gaston: The same thing.

Mariette: You’re hired!

Gaston Monescu, by the way, is played by Herbert Marshall, who acts, talks and moves impossibly smooth. But he did his entire film career on a wooden leg, because he’d had the original blown off in the First World war. You’d never notice. Mr Suave indeed.

That Lubitsch touch, that meant so much.

Here’s another still from “Trouble in Paradise”, showing that Gaston Monescu knew his duties as a secretary. It’s not all filing correspondence and spanking the boss, you know.

I’ll come back to Lubitsch films later, because they’re surprisingly, and persistently, perverse. But in the meantime the next post is going to start dragging the tone of this blog down. Not before time.

Blog archeology. Also fur bikinis.

People always talk about the opening sentence of a novel, but no-one ever reads the first sentence of a blog. My book about bdsm opens with: “About twenty-one thousand years ago a tribe crunched across white grass in the frozen landscape that is now Russia.”

That’s okay, as beginnings go. It’s not about bdsm, but at least it suggests the possibility that the cast will turn out to be wearing lambskin boots and fur bikinis. As seen in pretty much all films about caves, clubs and fire-starting.

Hammer Films' idea, in 1967, of what women wore in 1,000,000 BC. The fur bikini offers excellent protection from pterodactyls, but may be unsuitable for swimming.

Raquel Welch is the obvious example, from the film poster that became a lot more famous than the film it publicised. That was “One Million Years BC”, from the Hammer Horror crew in 1967, and it had babes, dinosaurs, grunting-as-dialogue and Harry Harryhausen’s stop-motion pterodactyls. Also a man-eating brontosaurus, which must have annoyed dinosaur-savvy kids even at the time. Raquel Welch plays “Loana the Fair One”, and she’s out-acted by the pterodactyls. But it’s still a cool film.

Anyway, by the time I get readers this first post will be long buried.

But greetings to anyone who finds this. If you’re a web archeologist from 2023, drop me a note and I’ll send you a Special Gift.