The 1965 Cannes Festival winner was a “How-to” Manual in the art of swinging seduction from the director of A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965), Richard Lester.
An adaptation of the 1962 play by Yorkshire-born dramatist Ann Jellicoe which had no observable story and was concerned with three young men and their total preoccupation with sex, and their ability (or lack thereof) to get it.
Michael Crawford and Ray Brooks starred as teacher and student, learning the fine points of pursuing girls, including Rita Tushingham, Jacqueline Bisset and the young Charlotte Rampling.
To offset the womanising of his tenant, Tolen (Brooks), naive landlord Colin (Crawford) resolves to rent the spare room to a “steadying influence”.
His handwritten ‘To Let’ sign brings two new characters to the door: Tom (Donal Donnelly), whose campaign to whitewash the muddy-water brown of on-trend 60s décor has cost him his room at a boarding house, and trusting northern girl Nancy (Rita Tushingham), looking for the YWCA.
A lion-training scene sees Nancy cornered in the whiteout spare room, subjected to a demonstration of the lodger’s whip-cracking competence with women.
With its suffocating close-ups and frenzied to-fro cutting, it provides a powerful argument that the predator lurks in culturally approved promiscuity.
By the finish, though, the tables have turned. Tushingham’s climactic scatting of an almost Dadaist “Rape!” monologue opens the lid on the slipperiness of sex talk and the latent hypocrisies of sexual license.
A very odd and gimmicky film with lines full of double meaning and moments of real slapstick humour.