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Director Stanley Long apparently shot this film in 1973 inside the space of two weeks with a budget of £20,000. Not even Gerald Thomas & Peter Rogers could crank out a "Carry On" film within that kind of budget and timescale. The IMDb main page on this title would have you believe that this is a "comedy", but aside from the "18" rating and copious amounts of female nudity, this is more a documentary than anything else (least of all a true "film" in the proper sense of the word), charting the history of the world's "oldest profession" right from the earliest times into the present.
Maybe one should use the term "mockumentary" to describe the film, because by and large, most of the information imparted within is pretty much correct. That would have been no easy task for screenwriter Suzanne Mercer in the 1970s without the aid of the internet and websites like Google and Wikipedia to assist her, so the fact that she was able to get any reliable research done at all on the subject is nothing short of amazing. For instance, when the narrator (Charles Gray) tells us that Roman prostitutes were made to dye their hair he is largely telling the truth (though I do believe purple was a forbidden colour for prostitutes - the colours were yellow and red), and it is also true that the Romans did indeed keep a register of prostitutes, and it is also true that once a woman was on the roll it was impossible to get off - you were a prostitute for life. As near as I can make out then, this film is largely true and therefore quite educational in tone.
Long does try to inject some comedy into the proceedings - it's quite possible that this film is the first one ever to ever pay homage to the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey", but it mainly concentrates on the nudity, of which there is plenty. Val Penny is one of many 1970s young nubile starlets in the film, and gets stripped and placed in a cage and dunked into the River Thames in a 'Ducking Stool' (something that was filmed for real - the actress was apparently afraid of water, but in those pre-Health & Safety days, almost anything goes - Long does recall that he was quite worried about drowning one of his leading actresses!). Apparently though, the main problem with the BBFC censors getting a certificate was the scene right towards the end of the film when one of the customers throws cream buns at a prostitutes crotch area (though she was actually fully clothed). Go figure.
It's certainly more interesting than watching a documentary on the History Channel I guess, but only just. I did learn a few new things about the history of prostitution, even if I wasn't that entertained or amused. Watch out for ex-"Blue Peter" presenter Peter Duncan in an early film role as a gay companion of Henry III of France. Fans of 'Allo Allo' will also spot Carmen (Madame Edith) Silvera as 19th century dominatrix Theresa Berkley who invented the 'Berkley Horse' a piece of BDSM apparatus. Once again, today in the information technology age of 2009, we can Google her name to find out anything we want to know on the subject, but back in 1973, such information was much harder to come by. The makers of this film did really quite well with what limited resources were available. This is probably a film worth watching once just for its educational value, but it's not something I could watch again and again, no matter how many pairs of bare breasts wander across the screen. 5/10
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