Thursday, 31 December 2009

Confessions from the David Galaxy Affair / The David Galaxy Affair / Sex Star

During the 1970s the bottom pretty much fell out of the British film industry. One of the few genres to remain profitable was the sex film. Because of the strictness of British censorship laws hardcore porn, never became the dominant form as in the US and in continental Europe. Instead, a particularly British kind of softcore sex film continued to dominate, much as it had done in the previous decade.

At the same time new players entered the game. Some were established filmmakers struggling to find work in even more marginally respectable genres such as horror – take a bow Val Guest, for instance. Others were part of the emergent pornocracy. Of these the most important was arguably David Sullivan, the UK’s answer to Penthouse’s Bob Guccione. Unlike Guccione, however, Sullivan had no pretensions to art: The idea of producing a Caligula, of making a serious and would-be respectable X film, would never have crossed his mind. Gore Vidal, John Gielgud and so on cost real money.

Rather, Sullivan was a master of bait and switch, promising the dirty mac brigade more than his films ever delivered and taking them for a ride. There was no benefit, after all, in either telling the truth or endeavouring to actually offer punters the hardcore they wanted, as demonstrated by the fates of John Lindsay – sent to jail for openly selling hardcore – and Mary Millington– hounded to suicide for believing in sexual liberation as a freedom issue and practicing what she preached.

Instead, it was always about reaching a comfortable and profitable arrangement with the established order rather than really challenging it.

The mark of quality - not!

But Sullivan was also like Guccione in another way: An early master of media synergy, he promoted the films he produced via his porn magazines and vice versa. Though Confessions from the David Galaxy Affair doesn’t go as far as The Playbirds – a nasty, giallified remake of The Cover Girl Murders with a title derived from one of Sullivan’s magazines and Millington’s policewoman going undercover as a model – it nevertheless again features Millington alongside other models from his stable such as Vicky Scott.

In truth, however, this is the first con aspect of Confessions from the David Galaxy Affair, insofar as the roles played by Sullivan’s models are relatively minor.

Or perhaps it isn’t a con, in that the title at least foregrounds Galaxy himself, even as it alludes to the Confessions of series that it has nothing whatsoever to really do with, alongside throwing in a general purpose Affair for good measure.

This only leads to a larger problem, however, inasmuch as Galaxy, as played by Alan Lake is really a pretty repulsive individual that its difficult for anyone to feel much for; indeed in the course of the narrative he telephones his mother, who tells him in no uncertain terms to fuck right off.

He’s a sexist, racist, homophobic unreconstructed example of 1970s machismo with a profitable sideline in fortune telling. He may also be guilty of involvement in a bank robbery some five years ago, a robbery in which a guard died.

This last aspect is the thing that amounts to a narrative drive, although it doesn’t exactly propel the story along at pace. Rather, we have subplots involving Galaxy’s new potential landlady, played by Lake’s real life wife Diana Dors – she also contributes vocals to the truly awful theme song – and his attempt to raise some cash by being the man who can give the woman who’s had 1000 lovers what she’s never had, namely an orgasm. (Hence the opportunistic “Mary Millington meets Super-Stud!!” tagline.)

Somewhat incongrously, we also have a trip to a VD clinic – a strange interjection of reality, albeit a strangely comforting one from a time when everything could be cured by a quick course of penicillin – and a visit to the racetrack.

Dors, the British Marilyn Monroe (or Jane Mansfield) was actually a pretty good actress, as demonstrated by her work in Yield to the Night. Unfortunately by this point in time – four years before her death from cancer and Lake’s suicide soon after – her talent was very much in decline.

Much the same might be said for Lake, though it’s questionable how much talent he had in the first place. Had it not been a David Sullivan production one could almost imagine his intention in playing Galaxy as being to alienate the audience, to set them against the character or make them begin to question their own assumptions and attitudes.

Alan Lake - sex god or Mr Self Destruct?

But Sullivan certainly didn’t do irony; as we’ve said, gold was all he was interested in.

As such, the hints of self-hatred that may be detected in Lake’s performance must be ascribed a darker, more personal motive. One moment that encapsulates this, as Lake’s own De Niro/La Motta moment, comes at the end of the film when he’s in a cell, Lake having himself been imprisoned for his part in a pub brawl. Revenge will be his...

As is often the case in this kind of production the supporting cast, the kind simply grateful for the chance of some work, provide less troubling relief. Euro-horror fans will note John Moulder-Brown of The House that Screamed and Vampire Circus, the most fantastique of Hammer’s vampire outings. Followers of British TV of the time will surely recognise Glynn “Dave” Edwards; in a possible in-joke the apartments where Galaxy lives are called Winchester, just like the club ran by Edward’s character in the long-running series Minder.

Willy Roe’s direction is functional and efficient, certainly more than this was too much to ask for, but perhaps thankfully he at least doesn't give us any less.

In the final analysis, Confessions from the David Galaxy Affair can be recommended to scholars of British sleaze and low culture, if no one else.


iain said...

Many years ago I interviewed Diana Dors (for Penthouse magazine!) and got on well enough with her to find myself inviting her & Alan Lake to dinner - at my house. They were quite a hoot of a couple, and I liked her very much (she remained a much better actress than you're giving her credit for) but I remember she was very protective of Lake - with good reason, as it turned out. You might also recall John Moulder-Brown from that wonderful, hard-to-find film 'Deep End', with Jane Asher (& Diana Dors, again), directed in 1971 by Jerzy Skolimowski.

K H Brown said...

Perhaps I was unfair on Dors - I liked her in Nothing But the Night.

Thanks for sharing your memories :-)

Anonymous said...

Daybreakers is in theaters on FRIDAY!