Cool it, Carol! – 1970 / Director: Pete Walker

That arse will be the making of your Carol.

Cool it, Carol! is certainly a case of a film that is far more than meets the eye. The opening scenes make it look as though we’re in for the usual low-rent British sex comedy. Brassy ‘comedy’ music, Robin Askwith, a sexy bird working the petrol pumps and a strained sequence in a butcher’s shop where a guy chops his finger off. Fortunately, Walker doesn’t take the easy route of ‘fill ‘er up’ gags or ‘massive choppers’, and instead gives us an uncommonly downbeat, almost cautionary tale of innocent country folk being corrupted by the evils of London. The story isn’t particularly innovative, but in the annals of the British sex film, it’s pretty good. The late 60s/early 70s gave rise to a series of more realistic sex films, like Permissive and Groupie Girl, which were in sharp contrast to fluff like The Wife Swappers and Monique. While they still had plenty in the way of titillation, they tended to show the seedier side of the coin, often portraying the birds as victims instead of simple sex objects.

Here, we start in darkest Shropshire (although my Grandad was from there, and the accents seem to drift a little further north to me), and butcher’s boy Joe (Askwith) dreams of the Big Smoke, as does ex-beauty queen, the amusingly named Carol Thatcher (Janet Lynn). They’re soon off down south on the train, with a quick strip show and sex session in one of those old fashioned first class carriages, and then they hit the streets. The scene where the two innocents walk from Paddington station are just like the one in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, where Naomi Watts is entranced by the bright lights of Los Angeles (it doesn’t end quite as badly here, though). A little quicker than seems realistic, the pair are soon skint and, beginning with ‘a little bit of fun’ with a sleazy predator with a horrendous Austin Powers ruffed shirt, Carol and Joe explore the possibilities of selling her body for cash.

Wearing an unbelievable floor length grey knitted outfit, Carol is soon (very awkwardly) propositioning strangers for sex on the streets. She’s picked up by the kind of balding, middle aged lothario who you’d make dip his cock in bleach, and after a bit of grunting, they’re five quid up. The scene is handled with surprising delicacy by Walker, as Joe cringes at the sounds of sex while making up a tray of tea for ‘afterwards’. In lesser hands, Joe would be hanging round the door, gurning, while pasty buttocks pounded up and down, but Walker and Askwith treat the scene with real respect. Carol soon descends into hardcore pornography films (courtesy of screen veteran Peter Elliot, obviously loving every minute as a grimy pimp), and being fucked by a stream of camel coated old bastards, courtesy of the bald bloke. Keen to stop Joe robbing a bank, Carol submits to the treatment, eventually becoming a high class escort for the stereotypical Arab Shiek (who she calls a ‘wog’ in a cringemaking moment, which does date the film a little).

Cool it Carol! certainly isn’t perfect: within five minutes in the business, Carol is, seemingly, the most popular girl in swinging London, and the pair have moved into a chic Mayfair pad. The score isn’t great, either. While the music is good, it’s more suited to a comedy than to a semi-serious film like this. On the other hand, they’re minor points, really. Carol, even at the height of her fame, is more of an automaton – enduring the sex, happening parties and vacuous hangers-on purely for the cash. Their rise and subsequent abandonment of the life (with no apparent after-effects) is abrupt, but who cares about that. As well as Walker‘s sure direction, the performances all avoid the stereotypes. Askwith (with an atypical posh voice) is as good as ever, and Lynn (about who I know next to nothing), as well as being startlingly pretty, handles the transition from ingénue to harlot well. strong support from Walker regular Derek Aylward as possibly the only decent man in the film (who only happens to take nude photos of young girls) – incidentally, his apartment is decked out exactly how I’d do mine. All 70s orange sofas and brown textured wallpaper. Even a cameo by DJ Pete Murray (as himself) doesn’t derail things – he comes across as far less repulsive than Diddy David Hamilton does in Home before Midnight. Special mention must be give to the house band in the night club where the two meet the brilliantly named Rod Strangeways (Stubby Kaye). Their brand of Hammond Organ fuelled dance music is fantastic.

On a slightly more discomforting note, the seedy bald guy has the same light switches in his living room as I do, and I can’t believe how old everything looks. I was born the year after Cool it Carol! was released, and still consider myself youngish. Looking at the clothes, architecture and, especially, the cars puts the lie to that. The streams of almost vintage looking Humbers and Mk. II Cortinas  (which I can certainly remember when I was younger) make me feel like a right old cunt. Despite being a well made  and non-exploitative film, it was saddled with the terribly misleading title of The Dirtiest Girl I Ever Met in the States and, unsurprisingly, it cleaned up.