This is the autobiography of British exploitation legend Stanley Long, London’s answer to Russ Meyer, as ghosted by by Simon Sheridan. Long started out as a photographer, then moved onto stag films for the 8mm home market, before making a couple of non-sex documentary shorts in the late 1950s. However, it was his nudie cuties Nudist Memories (1958), Nudes Of The World (1961) and Take Off Your Clothes And Live (1963) that first made him into a figure that anyone with more than a passing interest in cinema would want to check out. Long went on to make a very notable trilogy of mondo films: West End Jungle (1960), London In The Raw (1964) and Primitive London (1965), which take in both a series of night clubs and the commercial sex scene in Europe’s leading city. A good deal of the footage is faked, but these flicks are nonetheless crucial documents of London in the early to mid-sixties. Long is only listed as cinematographer and producer, but claims he was effectively their director; and that his business partner of the time – Arnold L. Miller – who took the main credit, had only a nominal role in the creation of these trash classics. Long certainly has plenty of interest to say about them. I’ll quote some blurb about West End Jungle to set the tone : “A journey into the dark heart of London, filmed in the actual places of vice…. West End Jungle offers the definitive insight into the seedy reality and cunning artifice of the sex workers of early 60s Soho.” (That’s from the sleeve of the recent DVD rather than Long’s autobiography).
Long’s first big successes were a couple of late mondo movies he made after splitting from Miller: The Wife Swappers (1969) and Naughty! (1971). The former is a series of vignettes about wife swapping, while the latter deals with pornography. In his book, Long details how he developed these projects without ever getting bogged down in boring detail. Less satisfactory are the accounts of the films from around the same time that were directed by his business partner of that era, Derek Ford. Movies like Groupie Girl (1969) simply aren’t as good as the more strictly documentary-style material over which Long appears to have exercised far greater control. X-Rated fails to make the point that Ford’s more fictional efforts are markedly inferior to the faked documentaries at which Long excelled.
Likewise, while the slightly later film Eskimo Nell (1974) is fun, Long talks it up rather too much. It isn’t nearly as good as the series that followed on from it: Adventures of a Taxi Driver (1975), Adventures of a Private Eye (1977) and Adventures of a Plumber’s Mate (1978). Long makes no bones about the fact that these films were a knock-off of the hugely successful Confessions comedies staring Robin Askwith. Personally I prefer the Adventure flicks, they show lots of London locations as I remember them from back in the day; Long didn’t have a big enough budget to hire a film studio. However, the section of Long’s autobiography covering these movies was a slight disappointment to me because I’d already heard most of the stories he relates on the commentaries he recorded for their DVD reissue. That said, Long very honestly admits that Private Eye is the weakest movie in the Adventures trilogy. With that one he moved away from blue collar jobs that lent themselves to picaresque narration. The strength of these films lies is their visual comedy, but the best scene in Private Eye takes place in a hostess club, and hinges on a series of verbal misunderstandings. Fred Emmey believes he is buying the services of a high class call girl, but this is actually Christopher Neil in drag, playing a private dick who is trying to purchase blackmail photographs from the wrong man.
Earlier on in his book, Long provides some cool insights into a couple of cult film-makers via his work as a cinematographer on both Repulsion (directed by Roman Polanski) and The Sorcerers (directed by Michael Reeves). Unfortunately, towards the end he tails off into a snore-fest of anecdotes about John Mills. Since Long surely knows he is far more interesting than a luvvie like Mills, I assume he ends his autobiography on this show-biz note in the hope of flogging a few extra copies to celebrity obsessives (one should not be surprised by this, it goes with his background as an exploitation film-maker). Despite the disappointing ending, X-Rated is still a fun read and useful source book on British exploitation cinema of the 1960s and 1970s.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!