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What follow are sleeve notes by Stewart Home for the BFI's 2009 reissue of London In The Raw, which also included various sixties shorts as extras.

Sex has always been a popular subject when it comes to entertainment, as well as a very bankable cinematic commodity. That said, while bawdiness has long attracted movie audiences, it often brings with it problems from the censor. By today's standards most 1960s erotica appears rather tame, but with the passing of time it's also gained the patina of period charm. Of the films collected on this disk, London In The Raw (1964) was made to titillate, while the various shorts gathered here are more serious minded attempts at documenting aspects of London life in the 1960s. Nonetheless, all these films are now historical artefacts, and despite its fakery London In The Raw still provides a valuable insight into English urban living in the mid-1960s. As with earlier American films such as Reefer Madness (1936) and Sex Madness (1938), documentary and educational motifs are deployed in an attempt to circumvent censorship problems; but despite some rather tongue-in-cheek moralising, the underlying intent of using salacious material to make money shines through.

The most immediate template for London In The Raw was the Italian film Mondo Cane (1962), a series of newsreel style reports from around the world featuring 'unusual' human behaviour. It was an easy format to copy and it instigated the mondo movie craze of the 1960s, with each flick trying to outdo the competition in terms of shocking content. After seeing how much business Mondo Cane did when it was released in the UK, Soho cinema owners Michael Klinger and Tony Tenser decided to oversee the production of a British equivalent. Tenser came up with the title London In The Raw and hired Stanley Long and Arnold Miller's Searchlight Films to make it on a £10,000 budget. Miller took the director’s credit, while Long was billed as the cinematographer, but they seem to have worked on most aspects of the film-making process together. Where this flick differs from many other mondo movies is in its focus on a single city, and the spotlight it shines on the nightclubs of London is of enormous historical value.

London In The Raw is more varied in its subject matter than its director's earlier venture West End Jungle (1961), but the core of both films is a fascination with sex and depravity. These movies were narrated by Canadian radio personality David Gell, who remained at the side of Arnold Miller and his 'cinematographer' Stanley Long for a final entry in this trilogy entitled Primitive London (1965). Gell also read the commentary on the similarly formatted mockumentary The Wife Swappers (1969), made by Long after he'd split from Miller and was carving out a name for himself as a director. Like Miller, Long's chief inspiration through much of his cinematic career would appear to have been the sensational British Sunday newspaper The News Of The World. The prurient moralizing of mass circulation publications is readily evident in Gell's transatlantic narration on the subject of 'love for hire girls' in West End Jungle. By the time he voiced London In The Raw, his hypnotic sounding words about heartless gold diggers and near-beer joints are also directed against junkies and meths drinkers with an equally over-the-top rhetorical insincerity.

London In The Raw opens with a comedy routine at The Blue Angel club, and John Profumo is invoked in this musical skit and then on the commentary immediately afterwards. What became known as the Profumo Affair climaxed on 5 June 1963 when John Profumo resigned from his post as British Secretary of State for War in Harold Macmillan's Conservative government. The story unfolded over many months with innumerable twists and turns, but it grew out of the fact that in 1961 Profumo had an affair with 'good time girl' Christine Keeler. His girlfriend's principal employment had been as a hostess at Murray's Cabaret Club. After the Labour Party opposition and the press got wind of this relationship, Profumo denied that there was any impropriety in his association with Keeler. However, a few months down the line he was forced to admit he'd lied and this ended his political career. As a consequence, Keeler became an object of public fascination, as did Murray's Cabaret Club where she'd worked as a hostess.

In West End Jungle an unnamed club run along similar lines to Murray's is depicted as being simply a cattle market where businessmen can hire girls for sex. This faux 'documentary' was made before the Profumo scandal broke. By the time London In The Raw was being shot, getting a film crew inside Murray's on Beak Street would have counted as hitting the cinematic jackpot. Percy Murray wanted his club to continue trading on its established reputation for being almost respectable and yet simultaneously racy, but he'd had more than enough publicity to achieve this end. Fortunately for Long and Miller, Murray's wasn't the only 'up-market' London club featuring a stage show, topless girls and hostesses for hire. In London In The Raw there is a section inside Churchill's, an establishment almost indistinguishable from Murray's; and Miller liked the place so much he also featured it in his follow-up movie Primitive London. This return visit to Churchill's was only possible because Miller overlooks the fact that it is a high class clip joint and portrays it instead as being simply a cabaret venue.

Like Murray's, Churchill's in Bond Street featured a floorshow with singers and dancers, as well as the more immediate attraction of drink and hostesses. When they weren't dancing, showgirls were allowed to entertain customers alongside the ordinary hostesses who did nothing but sit with patrons; commissions were earned on the amount of alcohol ordered by the client each girl entertained. Hostesses collected cocktail sticks to show how much money they were owed, and made private arrangements to engage in after-hours assignations. As Long and Miller make clear in West End Jungle, such establishments are merely a glitzy variant on the near-beer joints where lonely men 'buy conversation with pretty girls and pay club whisky prices for blackcurrant juice'. While Long and Miller reversed their public line on cabaret clubs like Churchill's between the making of West End Jungle and London In The Raw, their take on the near-beer con is reassuringly stable and barely re-scripted for Gell's narration in the latter film.

When it was set up, Churchill's was run by Bruce Brace and Harry Meadows in association with south London gangster Billy Howard. Meadows had assumed sole control of the club before Long and Miller turned up to immortalize the enterprise on celluloid. Meanwhile, Brace and Howard opened a rival hostess and cabaret joint called Winston's across the street, the name a tongue-in-cheek dig at their former partner Meadows. Although the footage of Churchill's in London In The Raw and Primitive London was clearly taken at different times, the interior of the club shows no sign of change. Jim Woodley who worked at Churchill's for ten years told me that the owner Harry Meadows believed the club should never be closed and since decorating would have meant closing, it didn't get makeovers. Among other things Woodley said: "Harry, bless him, was… into bon homie and general fun ‘n’ frolix - and good food and even better booze! Sadly the last of an era. Odd names leap into my mind, Leslie Butterball, Lew Lane, Sandra Blair, Jaqueline Jones and the long serving Charles Yates who was a great friend of dear ole Bob Monkhouse."

The account Frankie Fraser provides of Churchill's in his book Mad Frank's London, fills in further details. Among other things Fraser notes Meadows also owned the Celebrity club in partnership with his brothers. In the swinging sixties, Meadows had the reputation of being King of the West End, but by the mid-seventies Churchill's would have closed without a huge cash injection from an oil sheik. In 1977, Meadows and his son Andrew were charged with living on immoral earnings, but when the case went to court they were found not guilty. Finally Meadows got into a dispute over the distribution of tips to his staff, and after laying off a number of waiters who'd taken industrial action, he had to pay them compensation. Churchill's closed in 1980. Also featured in London In The Raw is the 21 Club in which Meadows had a stake alongside Billy Hill, a man the press dubbed 'King of the Underworld'. True crime books about London in the 1960s depict The 21 as a straightforward albeit crooked gambling joint. Jim Woodley recalled it with the following words: "the 21 Club, a tad faded, but still classy and with food to die for; no pun intended. We, Churchill's, usually put on part of our current floorshow as part of the new year celebrations at the 21."

In his autobiography Born Fighter, gangster Reggie Kray writes about the sixties being the greatest decade ever known in London and he records with rising excitement the expansion of his own club 'empire', as well as the various joints he'd visit before he was sentenced to thirty years imprisonment for murder. Among the clubs Kray mentions in his book are Quaglino's, The Astor, The Pigalle, The Society, The Connolly Club and L'Hirondelle. The last joint is featured in London In The Raw, and for me the film really brings to life a whole series of night spots that I'd otherwise only know from true crime and showbiz memoirs of the period.

Even so, the best scene in the film is one of its more obviously fictional sections. This is a beatnik life-drawing and pornographic photo session that concludes with various ban-the-bomb types eating cat food! Despite its absurd ending, this vignette does show something that many more serious commentators have overlooked, the fact that the sex industry provided much of the funding for the beatnik and hippie subcultures. Long and Miller were seasoned Soho pornographers and would have known just how attractive the money that could be made from 'glamour' modelling was to those who wished to drop-out of the rat race. I suspect that those historians of the counterculture who ignore the matter know about it too; with the rise of feminism it became one of the more shameful secrets of the love generation.

Another link between hostess clubs, London In The Raw and the broader sex industry, is embodied in the figure of Janie Jones. At the time the film was released, Jones was still using her birth name Marion Mitchell and belonged to a singing duo called The Mitchell Sisters. Janie and her sister Valerie arrived for the premier of London In The Raw in risqué topless dresses. In what has been described as the 'PR coup of 1964', and much to the chagrin of innumerable wolf-whistling men, they were promptly arrested. In his autobiography Stanley Long suggests producer Tony Tenser had a hand in the incident. Tenser had given Bridget Bardot her 'sex kitten' tag and was highly regarded as a publicist.

Both the film and The Mitchell Sisters benefited from the headlines and photo opportunities their arrests generated. Jones had been a showgirl at The Windmill Theatre in the late-fifties, but by the mid-sixties she and Valerie were appearing at hostess and cabaret clubs such as The Astor, The Latin Quarter, El Sombrero, Quaglino’s and The Establishment. Valerie quickly faded into the background to concentrate on song-writing, while Janie enjoyed a minor pop career. Jones would eventually become far better known for the lavish sex parties she hosted at her Kensington home. But all good things must come to an end and in 1973 she was convicted of controlling prostitutes and found herself banged up with child killer Myra Hindley. Much of this is documented, albeit from a rather subjective perspective, in the book The Devil & Miss Jones by Janie Jones and Carol Clerk Jones.

Sixties movies that boast London hostess club scenes include the espionage spoof Spy With A Cold Nose (1966, directed by Daniel Petrie) about a dog that has a bug surgically implanted in its body before being presented as a gift to the head of the Soviet state. In a rare comedy role, sixties Brit flick stalwart Laurence Harvey plays a sex obsessed high society vet blackmailed by the security services into assisting them bug the dog, and his character is very obviously modelled on Profumo Affair fall guy Stephen Ward (who was a sex obsessed society osteopath). The hostess club scene in Spy With A Cold Nose underlines parallels with this scandal; Ward's flat-mate and Profumo's lover Christine Keeler worked as both a showgirl and hostess at Murray's Cabaret Club. More than a decade later, Stanley Long set a section of his 1977 comedy Adventures Of A Private Eye in one of these clubs; with Adrienne Posta performing a Liza Minelli Cabaret skit, and Fred Emney giving a swansong performance as a dirty old man attempting to negotiate the price of sex with a private dick in drag who he's mistaken for a hostess.

The 1959 Street Offences Act, which introduced harsher penalties for anyone creating a disturbance in a public place, brought about a proliferation of hostess clubs and related establishments. The authorities believed that these more draconian punishments would sweep prostitution off London's streets. Long and Miller used London In The Raw to demonstrate that while this legislation may have transformed the trade in commercial sex, it failed to curb it. One of the ways they do this is by juxtaposing a beggar with a tin whistle and a harlot leaning out of a window, and simultaneously stressing that it is the busker who is in danger of being arrested for obstruction. Long and Miller addressed such visible changes to London life not out of philanthropic concern, but because such matters caught the popular imagination and created an exploitable audience. Also serving to fuel the public fascination with prostitutes during the sixties were the innumerable headlines generated by both the Profumo Affair and the murder of six west London streetwalkers by a serial killer dubbed Jack The Stripper.

Like London In The Raw, the 1965 short Carousella (directed by John Irvin and included on the Primitive London companion disk to this release) begins with an invocation of the Profumo Affair. This takes the form of the song Christine by Miss X played over the credits. The track was issued as a single by Ember Records in 1963 and promptly banned by the BBC because on it Miss X (actually actress Joyce Blair) fakes it up as Christine Keeler. Carousella was very much the brainchild of its writer and producer Richard Wortley, who wanted to make an art film about a commercial subject. In his book Skin Deep In Soho (1969), Wortley not only documents strip clubs, he also describes the experience of making Carousella.

While Carousella attempts to portray the real lives of strippers, when writing about making the film, Wortley candidly admits that parts of it were set-ups. Among other things, Wortley's crew were not able to shoot when the Carousella Club was open to the public; therefore when we see the girls stripping they are performing for the camera rather than to punters. Peter Davis, Staffan Lamm and Don DeFina, appear to have been working under similar restrictions when making Strip (1966); their short lacks any identifiable punters, and one posing routine is framed with a couple of empty chairs.

Strip is set in the Phoenix Strip Club and is even more claustrophobic than London In The Raw or Carousella because it focuses so intently on just this one Soho club. Mostly we remain inside, but even when the exterior is flashed on screen, the shots are effectively close-ups of the premises. Towards the end of the film a stripper is shown leaving the club, something which serves to underscore the fact we've been immersed in a very fetid environment.

Before Strip, Davis and Lamm made Chelsea Bridge Boys (1965) about rockers and their motorcycles. Here they get closer to their subjects than in Strip, although their interview questions are at times unnecessarily condescending. The gloriously pure London accents of all but one of the rockers (who speaks with an attractive Scottish east coast brogue) more than makes up for this; as do the very fetishistic shots of boys in leathers (which seem to unconsciously invoke the work of Kenneth Anger), some lovely footage of south London from a motorcycle and a wonderful sequence of the electricity sub-generating station on the Elephant and Castle roundabout. If Tony Tenser had been called upon to write ad copy for this particular example of art cinema, he might have archly described it as 'modernism at full throttle'. Finally, there is the Peter Davis short Pub (1962), which is the only piece on this disk that isn't suffused with sexual longings; but it remains an interesting record of London life in the sixties and a timely reminder that some aspects of the city haven't changed that much over the past fifty-plus years.

Although wandering camera work gives the shorts by the Davis team an appearance of greater verity than London In The Raw, the small crew making them didn't know their subject matter as intimately as Long and Miller. As already noted, the latter pair started out as pornographers and consequently there is a depth to their fakery that stems from their hard won status as fully paid-up Soho professionals. In Strip and their other shorts, the Davis team come across as interlopers who provide us with a snapshot of a scene to which they very definitely do not belong. What they capture appears to rely on chance, even if some of these escapades are camera set-ups. By way of contrast, what Long and Miller recorded very much reflects the weary cynicism of a world they both belonged to and exploited. But even if the fictions of exploitation merchants like Long and Miller are more accurate than the innocent fly-on-the-wall 'realism' of their more serious-minded rivals, we actually get the best and broadest picture of London 'leisure' pursuits in the 1960s by embracing all these movies.

BFI Flipside Reissues of That Kind of Girl, Privilege and Permissive

The Party's Over & The Pleasure Girls

Sleaze Cinema

The films of Manchester exploitation legend Cliff Twemlow

Iain Sinclair and Chris Petit's TV films

Peter Whitehead and The 60s (mostly Wholly Communion)

Trocchi's State Of Revolt (Arts Lab continuation of Wholly Communion)

Julia Callan-Thompson & The Swinging London Film Scene

From Soho Clubs To Bloomsbury: Glamour in early sixties London

London In The Raw From The BFI


London In The Raw film still

London In The Raw film poster

London In The Raw DVD cover

Primitive London DVD cover

Primitive London video cover

West End Jungle DVD cover