The Seventies British sex-comedy film has been stiff in its coffin these past 20 years.
Read that decade through these productions; use them as a tool to measure the difference between then and now, and you'd conclude that life in Wilson, Heath and Callaghan's Britain was one long Hi-Karate advert; a time when voracious housewives in blue eye-shadow threw off their bri-nylon nighties and peeled off the towelling y-fronts of the monkey-faced pub studs who came to do odd jobs around their homes.
The Home Counties, you'd deduce, were a Tudorbethan Polynesia in which Britons leapt around performing curiously indeterminate sex acts on a succession of candlewick bedspreads.

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So in 1979, what would you see ?
Along with the cellulite and monstrous pubic fuzz - the sight of a generation of British light entertainment stars surrendering their dignity for a few days in front of a movie camera.
John Le Mesurier - the soft-spoken, affable, thanks-awfully-sir Sergeant Wilson in Dad's Army - cupping the breasts of the secretarial dolly-bird sprawled on his mahogany-effect desk in Au Pair Girls (1974).
Diane Keen - wholesome just-scrubbed Diane Keen from Rings on their Fingers - rolling around on a fluffy sheepskin rug in The Sex Thief (1973), demanding: "Will you please rape me Go for me as if you were going to rape me!"
Charles Hawtrey - poor pusillanimous Private Jimmy Widdle from Carry On Up the Khyber - torturing a semi-naked victim in Zeta One (1969) with the assistance of James Robertson Justice from the Doctor films.
Melvyn Hayes - who sang "By a Waterfall" so sweetly on It Ain't 'Alf Hot Mum - trying to blag a sperm sample from the fecund hero of What's Up Superdoc (1978), insisting:
"It's not for me, it's for my sister."

"Actors like to work," shrugs Peter Walker, director of I Like Birds (1967) and School for Sex (1968), He managed to assemble respectable casts for his work in this soft porn field.
"There was an agent who I used to work with a lot, who was always offering me a young man named David Jason. But somehow I never got round to finding a part for him



Let's begin with the genealogy of the genre.
Since the coming of sound, British film comedy has enjoyed an intimate relationship with smutty innuendo.
"Can I have a look at the lady's trinkets?" asks the society reporter from the Morning Star, in a wedding scene from Josser in the Army (1932). "I don't know about that," replies the star, Ernie Lotinga. "I'm only the best man."
Two decades later, in Doctor at Large (1957), a patient walks into Dirk Bogarde's surgery:
"Big breaths, Eva," he urges, loosing his stethoscope. "Yeth," she lisps. "And I'm only sixthteen."



The Carry On films, however, were the immediate progenitors. They share themes, images, fixations and personnel.
The Carry Ons are populated by W C Boggs, Dr Nookey, the Rumpo Kid and Private Syd Fiddler; their successors by Miss Slenderparts, Mellons the gamekeeper, Peregrine Cockshute and Bob Scratchitt. The Carry On team, however, never felt comfortable with the cruder material of the X-rated sex comedy.

Watch a bare-buttocked Kenneth Williams being ravished by Suzanne Danielle in Carry On Emmanuelle (1978), as Joan Sims listens at the keyhole and declares, "they're having a phonographic orgy!" and you'll sense their collective air of humiliation.



Another point of information: although the British sex comedy had plenty of nudity - the production of shots of breasts and buttocks was the principal object of its existence - it was never in any danger of turning anybody on.
The explicit material pledged in the publicity dope often failed to materialise.
Once the lights had gone down on Come Play with Me (1977), for instance, those punters who had slavered over the ads which promised "10 girls being screwed by 10 guys at the same time culminating with a group of Hell's Angels coming to an orgy party," found themselves watching Alfie Bass capering about in long-johns, what a let down !


The genre has been ignored by film historians, forgotten by the public, policed from a false historical perspective.
And yet, the sex comedy sustained film production at a time when the studio system was in terminal decline.
It yielded some of the most profitable British films, and it provided breaks for all kinds of unknowns who moved on to better things:
Michael Nyman supplied the musical score for Keep it Up Downstairs (1976);
Elaine Paige made her acting debut in Adventures of a Plumber's Mate (1978); and, years before Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia ,Jonathan Demme took his first directing assignment on Secrets of a Door-to-Door Salesman (1973).



The archive, moreover, offers reams of evidence for the cultural and economic importance of the genre: a full-page ad in Screen International, congratulating Robin Askwith - star of Confessions of a Window Cleaner (1974) - on being named as "Most Promising Newcomer"



In 1975 Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver was comfortably outgrossed at the UK box office by Adventures of a Taxi Driver, a low-budget sex comedy starring that bloke from Mind Your Language.
In 1976 Photographs of the massive neon marquee for Confessions of a Driving Instructor (1976) loomed over Piccadilly Circus;
That's the kind of nation we were.
Lest we forget, the Seventies was a decade in which millions of satisfied viewers watched speeded-up footage of Benny Hill chasing models around a car park; in which cinemagoers made Come Play With Me Britain's longest-running and most profitable domestic movie - a record it still retains.
Whether you consider them evidence of depressing ideological backwardness or a refreshing absence of modern prudery, these phenomena are just as much part of the fabric of the period as Arctic Roll, Anthea Redfern and Morecombe and Wise.






But is the seventies sex movie making a comeback ? School for Seduction will soon bust out all over the multiplexes: another resolutely unerotic sex comedy in which cinemagoers will be able to see Kelly Brook make a memorable contribution to the genre. The scene in which she stands behind the counter of a Tyneside chippie, driving male customers into a tumescent frenzy by staring at them and caressing their saveloys, is quite as gruesome as anything from the Seventies canon. As painful as watching Askwith and Danielle in Confessions Of A Window Cleaner.



Further ahead, however, a film is on its way that aims to push the genre in a slightly more sophisticated direction.
The Gigolos is British. It's low budget. It's a comedy. It's about sex. Audiences are looking for something more. And we thought a lot about that when putting The Gigolos together."





The Gigolos explores the relationships between a pair of male escorts and the four clients who keep them in brandy and cufflinks. The script is wholly improvised, and Anna Massey has relished the opportunity to build up her character from scratch.

The dresser slides Anna Massey's head into a green turban, and adds a little colour to her eyebrows. It's time for Anna to do her scene: turning away her gigolo - who has committed the cardinal error of rolling up at her door without an appointment,




"We want to tell a story about these four women," explains Bracewell. "They've all decided to do without a husband, and to fill that gap by using the services of a paid gigolo. I'm not sure if 30 years ago anyone would have been able to tell a story like that." Talk to the veterans of the Seventies, and they'll agree.

For most, their involvement with the world of randy plumbers and traffic wardens was pragmatic.
Tudor Gates wrote the screenplay of Intimate Games (1976), in which George Baker - the future Inspector Wexford - stars as a sexology lecturer who invites his students to document the erotic fantasies of any "visiting tradesmen" who might call upon them in the long vacation.
"We didn't have any particular fascination for the genre," he admits, "but we made them because we wanted to make films and there was an enormous market for sex comedies."
Alan Birkinshaw, who directed Roger Lloyd Pack as a breast-obsessed architect in Confessions of a Sex Maniac (1974) says:
"It was almost impossible to lose money on a sex comedy," he recalls. "If you wanted to direct, that was the kind of work that was available - and you hoped it would take you on to better things."


For Bracewell, The Gigolos is not a means to an end, or a passport to something more prestigious. Unlike his forbears, he has no guarantee of making any sort of profit from the picture: he's doing it as much for love as money.
"I'm not going to pretend that The Gigolos isn't a commercial idea," he argues.
"But I'm making it because I want to tell this story with these actors."
Let's hope this idealism is legible in the finished film.