That Kind of Girl Review
London, the early 1960s. Eva (Margaret Rose Keil) is an Austrian student who works as an au pair for the Millar family. One day she meets Max (Frank Jarvis), who invites her out to a jazz club and on a Ban the Bomb march. Unengaged by the latter, she leaves early, only to be picked up and driven home by Keith (David Weston). Eva falls for Keith Unknown to Keith's girlfriend Janet (Linda Marlowe), Eva and Keith sleep together...the first step to disaster.
A well-regarded assistant director, Gerry O’Hara made his debut as full director with this low-budget item. The producer was Tony Tenser (only his second film), who later went on to found Tigon British, the production company of Repulsion, Witchfinder General and others. Many of his productions sold on their sexual and/or violent content, though this doesn't exclude some films of genuine merit as well, such as the above-named. On the surface That Kind of Girl is much the same, proud as punch with its X certificate (then: it’s now a 12) with an Awful Warning – and much lecturing of the audience from John Wood’s Special Clinic doctor – about the dangers of venereal disease, and a barely-disguised moral about what trouble sex outside marriage can get you into. It’s there in the title: Eva is That Kind of Girl, the kind you were warned against. (She’s foreign too – clearly they have loose morals on the Continent, or at least they did in 1963.) This attitude is even more overt in the US title, Teenage Tramp. As so often you suspect this finger-wagging is there to appease the censor so that they would look favourably on the potentially dubious material leading up to it.
O’Hara had no input into the screenplay (which was written by Jan Reed) and was not involved in the film’s editing. Certain sequences are clearly intended to titillate, such as a striptease that results in another early 60s almost-but-not-quite nude scene (see my comments on the same year’s The World Ten Times Over). Yet O’Hara manages to invest this film with more sensitivity than you might expect. Eva is more an innocent than the walking vagina dentata other filmmakers would undoubtedly have made her into. There’s also an awareness of time and place which might not have seemed remarkable at the time but now serves as a time capsule: the jazz clubs, the Ban the Bomb marches (which by now had become a largely middle-class affair), the sexual awkwardness (and at times rank hypocrisy) of a nation which was post Lady Chatterley trial but had not begun to swing. (The Beatles released their first LP and the Stones their first single in the year this film was released.) O’Hara pays some attention to class differences: Eva is contrasted with middle-class Janet (Linda Marlowe), a college student – and one of the beneficiaries of the 1948 Education Act, which increased the opportunities for further education for women – who is not-too-subtly pressurised into bed by Keith. She gets a scene where she disrobes to her underwear – no doubt another selling point for this film, but O’Hara and Marlowe, who gives the best performance here, take it beyond that.
As with other films of this time, there’s a conflict between an urge to push the envelope with an awareness of what the censor is likely to accept. As well as the semi-nudity referred to above, there’s a surprisingly frank discussion of the symptoms and causes of syphilis. On the other hand, one character’s obscene phone calls are deliberately left inaudible (though you could try lipreading some of them) and any sexual activity takes place discreetly offscreen.
Margaret Rose Keil continued to make films up until 1981, but almost entirely in Europe. Apart from Peter Burton, who died in 1989, the rest of the principal cast are working actors to this day, though Linda Marlowe is probably the best known, especially to cult film fans, for her work with Lindsay Shonteff, especially the censorship-plagued Big Zapper from 1973.
After making That Kind of Girl, Gerry O’Hara returned to his old job of assistant director, working for Otto Preminger on The Cardinal. He returned to directing two years later with another Tenser production, The Pleasure Girls. Now in his mid-eighties, he regards himself modestly as a “writer and occasional director”. It’s unfortunate that his best-known film is unutterably dreadful (the Joan Collins vehicle The Bitch, which I suffered through one night on TV) and it’s good that the BFI is doing its bit by presenting some of his better, more rarely-shown films to be presented in high-quality editions and to allow them to be reevaluated.
That Kind of Girl is number 008 in the BFI’s Flipside series, a dual-layered DVD encoded for all regions. There is also a Blu-ray edition, which Clydefro Jones has reviewed here.
The aspect ratio of the transfer is 1.33:1. Academy Ratio was unusual for a 35mm dramatic feature in the UK in 1963. 1.66:1 would be more likely, and (judging by eye) this film could happily be shown in that ratio, thus making this an open-matte transfer. (Further evidence comes in the opening credits and caption, which are clearly designed to be read in a wider ratio than 4:3.) I don’t know if it’s Gerry O’Hara’s preference for this film to be shown full-frame – the transfer notes in the booklet don’t specify one way or the other – and if you wish, and are able to, you can always zoom the picture in. Either way, the transfer, done in HD from theoriginal 35mm finegrain, is excellent, with contrast and greyscale as it should be for this black and white film. There is some minor damage, such as faint tramlines, but these have been minimised and aren't distracting.
The soundtrack is mono, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and is clear and well-balanced. Subtitles for the hard-of-hearing are available for the feature and the extras.
There is no commentary, so O'Hara's views on his own directorial debut are restricted to the booklet. Instead on the disc we get four short pieces, with a Play All option. The People at No. 19 (17:30) is reused from the BFI's The Joy of Sex Education DVD. Made in 1949, it's another intent to educate about venereal disease and to warn about extra-marital sex, but is dramatised in terms more in keeping with its era, when Joan (Tilsa Page), engaged to Kne (Desmond Carrington) learns the price of newfound freedom in wartime with menfolk away. If the relative frankness of That Kind of Girl for 1963 is a surprise, it's even more of a shock to hear the word “syphilis” in a film made in 1949. No doubt it was the educational intent – and the obvious propaganda for marriage and motherhood for women – that enabled the BBFC to pass this, with an A certificate no less. (The X certificate was not in existence then.)
The next two short films give a little context to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament angle in the main feature. No Place to Hide (8:57), directed in 1959 by Derrick Knight, is more a personal essay, contrasting shots of ordinary people at work and play with images of a mushroom cloud and the chemical symbols for radioactive isotopes.
A Sunday in September (26:52) is a TV documentary which, despite the London setting, was made for the Manchester-based Granada Television. The Sunday in question is 17 September 1961. Famous protesters against the Bomb included playwright Arnold Wesker (whose wife is seen changing their young baby daughter) and the then 89-year-old philosopher Bertrand Russell. The Committee of 100, a radical offshoot of CND planned a sit-down protest in Trafalgar Square. James Hill (who went on to be a feature director, best known for the 1971 Black Beauty) and twelve cameramen were there. Narration is sparing, mostly used to identify famous protesters, among them Doris Lessing, John Osbourne and Vanessa Redgrave, and mostly the visuals are left to speak for themselves. The film was rush0-edited and shown as an unscheduled addition on the ITV network the following night – except significantly the London region.
Finally, there is an interview with That Kind of Girl producer Robert Hartford-Davis (13:27). The interviewer was Bernard Braden, from his unfinished series Now and Then, the unedited footage having been passed to the BFI. Hartford-Davis discusses his career and spends most time on the business aspects of the industry, mentioning That Kind of Girl in passing as as successful example of a profitable low-budgeter.
On to the booklet (twenty-eight pages plus covers). “Who would be a girl in 1963?” asks Cathi Unsworth in her essay “It's a man's, man's, man's world”. Well, I can't answer that directly, being both male and not born until the following year, but Unsworth makes a persuasive case for That Kind of Girl being – possibly unconsciously - revealing of the pressures on young women at the time. Also in the booklet is a three-page piece by Gerry O'Hara whose memories of the making of That Kind of Girl are warm if modest. The rest of booklet comprises credits for That Kind of Girl, biographies of Gerry O'Hara and Linda Marlowe, a reproduction of the That Kind of Girl press kit over two pages, credits and notes on the extras, and the usual DVD credits and transfer notes.
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