Fanny Hill (1983)
(Aka Memoirs of A Woman of Pleasure/Sex, Lies and Renaissance)
Director: Gerry O’Hara
Cast: Lisa Raines, Shelley Winters, Wilfred Hyde-White, Oliver Reed
Novel: Memoirs of A Woman of Pleasure (Aka Fanny Hill)
By John Cleland.
Trotting off to London to seek a new life for herself after the death of her parents young Fanny Hill (Lisa Raines) is robbed for her possessions and lost with nowhere to stay and nobody to visit. Fanny ends up being taken under the wing of a shrewd Madam, Mrs Brown who endeavors to sell Fanny’s “virtue” at least twice, for as much money as possible.
After a night of voyeurism where Fanny discovers the true nature of the house she inhabits, she meets a young handsome customer Charles who falls for her charms and decides to take her away from this house of ill repute.
With Charles, Fanny discovers her first experiences of sexual pleasure with a man, and is happy to settle down, with a baby on the way to a nice life of happiness and engaging sexual passion. Thus it has not be, Charles’s father is opposed to this dalliance, and sends Charles on an errand to one of his ships, where he is kidnapped by the crew and sailed off to shores anew, far from the distraught Fanny.
In her grief Fanny loses her child, and is forced to throw herself into “business” again to escape being thrown in to debtor’s prison. Through her greedy landlady Fanny meets a Mr H, a strutting young sportsman with a penchant for flagellation, whom she is then kept by. But after his love making with the maid and Fanny’s retaliation to this being several sessions with a shy, endearing and happily seduced stable boy. She is found out and again cast out into the world.
After bumping into an old friend Fanny moves into the house of Mrs. Cole (Shelley Winters) and her girls. A whorehouse under the facade of a hat business. Where she partakes in an erotic stage show. Soon after which she is pursued by the pervy old bachelor Mr Barville (Wilfred Hyde-White) seeking out her long lost “virtue”, and finally here Fanny falls on good fortune and finally into the arms of her long lost Charles.
Unlike De Sade’s Justine, where each time some misfortune has befallen the virtuous Justine, whereas Justine try’s to retain her virtue and innocence and stand by her morals, Fanny embraces the desires of her pursuers with open legs, wholeheartedly throwing herself into each situation and obtaining maximum pleasure from each encounter. In this Fanny is much like De Sade’s Juliette (Justine’s older sister) both Juliette and Fanny making the best of the desires around them.
The film is well shot, well lit and the print I saw looked in good condition (unlike the version of Poor Cecily (1973), which I watched the same night). The period detail looked good and would take an expert on period to pick out the flaws. Which I am not! Fortunately it was not set in a modern day setting like Massimo Dallamano’s “Venus In Furs” 1968, which I shall come to later.
The film does seem to be played more for laughs than seriousness, though I have read the novel it has been sometime and without reading it again for the purpose of this review, my memory bids me to think that it was not as comedic as this movie.
The small roles by well known actors (Oliver Reed, Shelley Winters, Wilfred Hyde-White) were interesting. The best of these I thought was Oliver Reed’s camp, nasal performance as a lawyer, which was extremely hilarious. Wilfred Hyde-White was amusing too, as the fragile old hymen hunter, who doses off seconds after copulation. Shelley Winters was a straightforward, greedy but amiable Madam, though not as funny as the other two was still interesting.
All kind of sexual shenanigans take place here, from lesbianism, flagellation a bit of sado-masochism, and a hell of a lot of voyeurism. Once I got past the fact that the movie was mostly being played with it’s tongue planted firmly in cheek (though not always on a physiognomy) I enjoyed it immensely. It is probably not the best period drama about the misfortunes and fortunes of a young girl Cruel Passion (1977), still standing as my favourite) but its’ still very much worth a look.
The nudity both male and female was ever present and in some cases very surprising in it’s explicitness, mostly due to camera angles and the bright lighting. Not that it was explicitly hard core, but it just seemed to have a lot more on display than expected. Though the film was produced by Harry Allan Towers, and shot under the wing of Playboy Enterprises, so I guess I should have expected it!
All in all an enjoyable and amusing romp, and sexier than a tramcar full of nuns, but only just!
Review by Giovanni Pistachio, Giovanni can be contacted at: –
© Owned Giovanni Pistachio.