Confessions from the David Galaxy Affair Review
David Galaxy (Alan Lake) is a successful astrologer with a long line of beautiful women conquests. But things change when the police investigate his part in criminal activity...
The late 1960s had been a boom era for British cinema, with the US major studios financing locally-made films in the hope of catching something of vibe of a London then swinging. But the box-office failure of many of those films, interesting as they often are, led to a retrenchment. Apart from James Bond, in the 1970s much British cinema belonged to one of two locally-poduced and financed genres: horror (the slow decline of Hammer, plus the grittier, more disreputable lower-budget work of directors such as Pete Walker and Norman J. Warren) and sex, especially sex comedies. I took the bus to secondary school for seven years, and every day I would pass at least two cinemas that frequently showed British sex comedies (or dubbed and often cut foreign imports), sporting X certificates which meant that I wouldn't be allowed in to see them. It's the mark of a different era that a film like Confessions of a Window Cleaner could be the top-grossing British film of its year and Come Play With Me was a major hit.
Seventies British horror has long had cult followings and critical attention. Ultra-low-budget art cinema is reappearing on DVD, often from the BFI who produced many of them in the first place. While there are cults around some British sex comedies, it's harder to justify many of them on artistic grounds as a lot of them are simply terrible. It's a Seventies thing – sex comedies left cinemas for the most part in the following decade, to find a ready home on the rapidly growing home video market. It's also a British thing: although a softcore French hit like Emmanuelle might take a fortune at the US box office, the Americans had access to hardcore which was illegal in Britain, which made the softer stuff redundant. (A similar situation applied in Australia, which was also notably censored: hardcore was banned, so softcore comedies thrived, good examples being Fantasm and many films directed by John D. Lamond.)
Made fairly late in the cycle, in 1979, Confessions from the David Galaxy Affair is a curious hybrid. In production it was simply The David Galaxy Affair, with the awkward Confessions from added (in a different font) to cash in on the success of the Confessions series. At times it seems almost an attempt at being a serious character study of its title character's come-uppance, which it simply doesn't have the dramatic chops for, while still throwing in enough nudity and simulated sex to qualify as a tit-and-bum epic for the dirty mac brigade.
The publicity for this film aimed at a female audience by trying to promote Lake as a sex symbol (er, if you say so), but it's clear who the true audience for this is. Lake, seemingly aware that no-one in that audience really wants to look at him, goes several degrees over the top, even trying out a variety of accents that would be distinctly un-PC nowadays. Lake's wife, Diana Dors, turns up briefly and sings the title song. The supporting cast features several familiar names from TV and film comedy, including Tony Blair's father-in-law Anthony Booth and Bernie Winters.
Given far higher prominence on the film's billing is Mary Millington, one of the genuine stars of British sex comedy. A former veterinary nurse, and the one-time girlfriend of the film's producer David Sullivan, she had starred in Come Play With Me and The Playbirds, both big successes. Sullivan teamed her in his next film with new discovery Rosemary England. However, The David Galaxy Affair was a box-office disappointment, even when reissued under a new title, Star Sex.
Millington and England, and director Willy Roe, reteamed the same year for Queen of the Blues, which is included on this disc as an extra. An hour-long film – released in cinemas on a double bill with Massage Girls of Bangkok, it's a flimsy excuse to string together striptease routines, some not-exactly-hilarious standup comedy from John M. East, and a token plot about a protection racket at the strip club of the title. Veteran character actor Ballard Berkeley (whose surname is spelled “Barclay” here) turns up briefly. It's threadbare stuff and even at only sixty minutes quite endless. Although Mary Millington appeared in The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle the following year, Queen of the Blues was the last film she made. She committed suicide on 19 August 1979, aged thirty-three.
Confessions from the David Galaxy Affair is released on a dual-layered DVD by Odeon Entertainment. The disc is encoded for all regions.
Both the main feature and Queen of the Blues are transferred in 4:3. I'm certain that's not the intended aspect ratio. Galaxy was a 35mm feature with no chance (then) of being shown on television, hardly likely to play at cinemas which could still show Academy Ratio properly, and by then home video had barely been launched. 1.75:1 or 1.85:1 would be most likely. If you have a widescreen TV, I suggest zooming the picture to 16:9. With that cavil out of the way, the picture – restored from the original negative, looks very good indeed, sharp and colourful with strong blacks, though the picture is a little dark (but that may be intended).
Queen of the Blues looks like it was originated in 16mm, and the picture is naturally softer and grainier, if equally colourful. My quibble about the 4:3 transfer applies here too, though I doubt precise visual composition would hardly be top of the agenda when watching a film like this.
The soundtracks in both cases are mono, as they would have been in the cinema. No complaints here: the tracks are clear and well-balanced. Unfortunately there are no subtitles available for the hard-of-hearing.
Apart from Queen of the Blues, the main extra is Arabian Knights (7:42), a short film – or rather the first half of one - directed by George Harrison Marks (auteur of Come Play With Me, in the same year as the two films above, 1979. Shot clandestinely in the Julius Caesar Hotel in London (an employee shopped them to the newspapers), this film was aimed at the international home entertainment market. Because it was a hardcore short – which would get this DVD a prohibitive R18 rating, all we get is the first part, with plenty of nude women (including Rosemary England) being felt up by the male cast (which include former professional wrestler turned actor Milton Reid) but stops before anything more develops, which makes this film's inclusion seem quite pointless. Shot in 8mm and seemingly transferred in 4:3 from a video copy, the picture quality is as rough and artefacted as you would expect.
An extensive gallery, including publicity stills, poster designs and magazine pictures, comes from the archive of Simon Sheridan, author of Keeping the British End Up – Four Decades of Saucy Cinema. Sheridan also provides three pages of booklet notes on the three films included in this set. The disc is concluded with trailers for some other British sex films released by Odeon on DVD: Cool it Carol, Intimate Games, Spaced Out and Secrets of Sex.