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Young Timmy starts as a window cleaner in the little company of his brother. Soon he learns that some female customers expect additional service. Young and curious as he is, he reluctantly accepts the juicy duty. However his heart belongs to Liz, who demands the highest commitment until she lets him go all the way. Written by
Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>
Contrary to popular belief, the scale of film quality isn't a straight line; it's circular. Rather than a range from "Classic" to "Turkey", it's possible for a film to become so truly terrible that it spins all round the scale and ends up a work of undeniable genius.
Confessions of a Window Cleaner is one such film. Robin Askwith plays virginal Timothy Lea in a movie so charmless it's superbly charming. Askwith looks like a genetic cross between Mick Jagger and Keith Chegwin, yet somehow he can't help but be seduced by hoards of girls wherever he goes. In fact, this film is so outrageously sexist that it features full frontal female nudity within the first three minutes. Also look out for the credits, which feature an actress as the role "Dolly Bird".
Cheesy one-liners abound. "I don't know what came over me," says Tim, losing his ... er, concentration ... during a sexual encounter. "Well it wasn't me" replies his unsatisfied partner. Lines like that are awful, but they become so terrible they're hilarious. And you haven't seen an orgasm metaphor until you see the lightning strike and bursting bubble. Tim's loss of virginity is accompanied by a full burst of the Hallelujah Chorus.
Askwith does a voice-over for most of the duration, where he gives insight to his innermost thoughts. Views like "What a knocker factory!" and "She was the type of girl you say 'Please may I?' before you give her one" are matched only in shock value by the size of Askwith's flares. It's all so superbly crass. Askwith's sister ("All I wanna do is make you happy" says her husband. "Then p*** off" she replies) thinks she's going into labour... only to let out an enormous belch. Other characters fare less well, with Bill Maynard wasted in a minor role. Though Askwith really needs no support, perfect as the gormless, clumsy hero.
This is all sub-soft porn, though it's never long enough or serious enough in it's approach to be erotic. Other notable moments include Askwith paying back a particularly mischievous customer by tossing a whole plateful of marshmallows up her crotch, and the funniest scene where a partner complains that Askwith isn't skilled enough in the area of foreplay. "No, no, you've got to say hello to her first", she urges, hinting for a sexual favour. Cue Askwith looking up her skirt and shouting "HELLO!!!"
Often compared to the Carry On series of films, of which they had only tenuous links, the Confessions series would eventually finish off that institution. Askwith had actually made an appearance in Carry On Girls and before making 1976's England, Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas had viewed Driving Instructor at the cinema. As a result, the Producer/Director team decided to spice up the sex content in the Carry Ons - England was a flop, while 78's Emmannuelle killed off the entire series. A single attempt to resuscitate was made fourteen years later - Columbus - but by then the Carry Ons were dead and buried.
The laws of decreasing returns applied to the three Confessions sequels. Pop Performer (where Askwith does indeed get mistaken for Mick Jagger) had more obvious jokes and forced humour, and suffered from a defined narrative. Window Cleaner's series of loosely connected vignettes appealed to the series' sensibilities much better. Askwith's humorous accident-prone nature is here exaggerated to a ridiculous degree, and, like all the sequels, it lacks the original's spontaneity.
The series' ethical morality - that all women are nymphomaniacs, eyeing up nude schoolgirls is just a bit of fun, unprotected sex is fine, and infidelity is acceptable, even when married with a child - are, at the very least, dubious territory. But one of the nice things about the series is that, apart from its unremitting sexism, it was initially so harmless and malice-free. Driving Instructor was the first one to veer slightly from this route, with a homosexual gag (George Layton as the effeminate Tony Bender) and, as well as a commentary on class divides, some racial remarks. Though the sole mention of race presented here is more satirical, dealt with well in the capable hands of Maynard, a bigot who bemoans of a menu "There's only one English thing on here and that's Spaghetti." With Askwith's narration now completely removed, and the visual gags even more forced (Would a car really fall to pieces just because he was having sex in the back of it?) it falls to Maynard to grab the film's biggest laugh. At an Italian restaurant a violin player is getting uncomfortably close, causing him to ask: "Can you play in a monastery garden?" "Ci Senor!" "Well p*** off and play there!" It's an old gag, but Bill's assured, pitch-perfect delivery makes it killingly funny.
The final movie had its set-up initiated in the final scene of Driving Instructor. The abysmal From A Holiday Camp was definitely a film too far, though in fairness the lack of a fifth movie is purported to be from Columbia's disinterest and not any lack of financial success. Taken out of the their traditional environment, the cast struggle in a grotty resort which looks like a paddling pool in someone's back garden. Maynard again makes it worth watching, and Lance Percival is fun as the gay stereotype, but Askwith's innate likeability in the role is tried to the limits by his now-desperate mugging. The narration reinstated, he gets a dozen overdubs, with his opening "Hello it's Timmy Lea... yet again" indicative of how tired the whole thing had become. For a bawdy sex comedy the sex quotient is remarkably low this time, while adding children to the equation is a misjudged attempt to give it broader appeal. The appalling script, full of feeble puns and entendres (Well, more feeble than usual...) tries it's best, though Askwith even has to break the fourth wall in a pitiful attempt to raise a laugh. It's a sad end to what started out as a great series, and when the theme tune's a xenophobic song ("Give Me England") sung by The Wurzels, you know you're in trouble. It's alleged that the final movie also features some racist remarks, though if this is indeed the case then they're removed from television screenings. Perhaps the weirdest thing about all these films is that Askwith's long-suffering brother-in-law, Sid, went on to be the father-in-law of the British Prime Minister.
Yes, the sequels range from so-so to pretty awful. But this, the original, is generally still tremendous entertainment. If, of course, watched with a
very ironic frame of mind.
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