Monday, 8 June 2015

Adam and Nicole (1976)

Adam and Nicole, originally titled Erotic Inferno, was seasoned sexploitation producer Bachoo Sen’s first film since 1970’s Love is a Splendid Illusion (which I’ve written about here), and the sole directorial effort of Trevor Wrenn, who’d photographed Symptoms and The House That Vanished for José Larraz.  It concerns a pair of brothers, Martin and Paul Barnard (future Emmerdale star Chris Chittell and pretty-eyed Karl Lanchbury), who are summoned to the family home after the death of their father.  Solicitor Mr Gold (Michael Sheard, before gaining TV immortality as Grange Hill’s Mr Bronson) informs them that they won’t be allowed in the house until the reading of the will, and they’re forced to stay in the cottage occupied by their father’s servants, the Adam and Nicole of the title (Michael Watkins and Jenny Westbrook).  As well as chauffeur and procurer of bedmates (including his own lover Nicole) for Mr Barnard, Adam was his eldest (though illegitimate) son, and Martin in particular is terrified he’ll inherit all the old man’s moolah. 

Tensions run high between the three brothers, but this is all very much secondary to the film’s many sexual encounters: it turns out that despite Adam’s possessive attitude toward her, Nicole is more interested in Martin, while Paul instantly gets hot and heavy with Martin’s girlfriend Brenda. There’s also a subplot (well, plot’s stretching it a bit) featuring the lesbian activities of stablehands Gayle (Heather Deeley) and Jane (Mary Maxted, shortly to rename herself Mary Millington and become Britain’s biggest sex star).   In the unlikely event anyone cares enough not to want the twist ending spoiled, look away now: it turns out that old Mr Barnard is still alive and living it up in his mansion with a lively pair of blondes (Lindy Benson and Lynne Worral) – he was just playing a joke on his sons.  Adam is livid, Martin’s relieved, and Paul’s too busy in bed with Brenda to care.

Adam and Nicole is as close as British softcore gets to proper porn: what little story exists is there purely to string together the sex scenes that take up most of the running time.  The performers are generally more convincing when, well, performing, than when they’re delivering dialogue, though Chris Chittell shows some of the same roguish twinkle he still deploys in Emmerdale (no, not that roguish twinkle – thankfully we don’t get to see that).  Tony Kenyon, who plays old Mr Barnard, impresses by giving the worst performance even though he wasn’t hired to get his kit off.   He, Michael Sheard and Brian Hawksley, who plays a vicar – the only three members of the cast to remain clothed throughout - are all listed in the credits as “guest stars”.


The music in Adam and Nicole all comes from the KPM library.  Simon Haseley's "Precint", used to soundtrack a sex scene between Martin and Nicole, would have been familiar to viewers as the theme to Jon Pertwee-fronted ITV panel show Whodunnit.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

The Abominable Snowman (1957)

The Abominable Snowman, Hammer’s film of the same name tells us, is not in fact the missing link between humanity and its ape ancestors, but a parallel evolutionary development.  The film itself has a similar relationship to another Hammer film, The Curse of Frankenstein, made shortly beforehand.  Both are attempts at following up the hugely successful adaptations of Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass series that had put the studio on the map, but they go about it in radically differing ways.  The makers of the Frankenstein film jettisoned the sci-fi trappings of the Quatermass films and ramped up the horror content for an Eastmancolor orgy of ripped bodices and even more ripped bodies; The Abominable Snowman cleaves closer to the Quatermass template – it’s another remake of a Kneale-scripted TV production (the 1955 play The Creature), and keeps the same director, Val Guest.  But here, the horror is dialled down and Quatermass’s scientific and philosophical elements brought to the fore.  As you can see from the poster, this wasn't considered an attractive enough basis on which to sell the film.

Both films share the same leading man, Peter Cushing (who reprises his role from The Creature in its film adaptation), and in both he plays a scientist – but the two characters are as different as the two films. Baron Frankenstein is a selfish monomaniac, while John Rollason, hero of The Abominable Snowman, is a sensitive soul horrified by the plans of Tom Friend, his partner in the search for the yeti, to exploit the creature for financial gain.   In the TV version of the story, Friend was played by Stanley Baker; for the film the role goes to visiting American Forrest Tucker.  It was standard Hammer practice at this time to improve its films chances abroad by casting American leads (as with Brian Donlevy in the Quatermass films), but Tucker very definitely isn’t the hero of this piece, and by making the character American a whole new dimension is added (an unflattering one to the Americans the film depended on for success).

Guest was adamant that the object of Cushing and Tucker’s quest should never be fully shown on screen, believing the odd hint of its appearance would be more powerful than an unforgiving shot of a man in a monster suit.  He may have had a point, as what little we see of the creature is pretty underwhelming, but the lack of any chance to see what it looks like properly means there’s little pay-off for the endless scenes of men trekking through snow (in the Pyrenees in long shot and Pinewood closer up) and arguing. Cushing and Tucker certainly play their arguments well though, and there are excellent supporting performances from Maureen Connell and Richard Wattis as his wife and assistant, fretting in a Tibetan monastery during the yeti hunt.  As is usually the case in film and TV of this vintage, the non-speaking monks are played by actual Asians (mostly waiters from the Chinese restaurants of Soho), and the Lama - the only one who gets lines - by a white actor (German-born Arnold Marlé) in highly unconvincing makeup.

The Abominable Snowman (of the Himalayas was tacked on to the title for its US release, possibly in case of litigious abominable snowmen from other regions) did well in cinemas, but nowhere near as well as The Curse of Frankenstein.  Few can have been surprised to learn it was blood and guts, not thoughtful science fiction, that audiences were more fired up by, and it was the Frankenstein film’s visceral thrills that would determine Hammer’s future direction – and that of Peter Cushing’s career.


  • 10 years after its release, The Abominable Snowman provided inspiration for a Doctor Who story with the near-identical title of The Abominable Snowmen.  As well as striking similarities in title, theme and setting, this serial featured Wolfe Morris (the expedition’s native guide in both the film and its TV forebear) as a character very like Arnold Marlé’s (though a lot more sinister).
  • For the close-up of the yeti's shadowy face, it was played by character actor Fred Johnson, chosen by Val Guest for his wise, kindly eyes.  Johnson had also been in The Curse of Frankenstein (as the old man who unwisely shoots at the Baron's monster) and would later appear in Hammer's The Brides of Dracula and Taste of Fear.