‘Life is a cocktail all ready to mix… Live for the moment and drain every drop. When you’re really living, who knows when to stop’.
So sings Annie Ross over the closing credits of 1963’s The Party’s Over, the first of two BFI Flipside releases out on 17 May.
What’s not to like about Bond director Guy Hamilton’s hard-to-find, once controversial, black and white gem: the hip Chelsea locations; the cool John Barry jazz score; a script littered with great one liners about youth, rebellion, politics and revolution; and Oliver Reed doing what he always did best – drink, smoke and act so goddam cool. Oh, those were the days.
Future Days of Our Lives soap star Louise Sorel plays chic American Melina, who falls in with Oliver Reed’s wild partying beatnik gang (all upper middle class layabouts) to escape her wealthy controlling father (Eddie Albert). When her fiancé Carson (Clifford David) arrives from the US, she refuses to see him. Undeterred by her cat and mouse antics, Carson moves into the gang’s digs (the famed Pheasantry at 152 King’s Road) to wait it out. But when it looks as though Melina has skipped town, Carson soon finds himself falling for the charms of Nina (one-time Star Trek actress Katherine Woodville).
The sudden suicide of one of the gang, medical student Phil, and the arrival of Melina’s father sparks a dark turn, and soon the party’s really over as the shocking, awful truth about what really happened to Melina is slowly revealed. And the shock twist is still truly disturbing.
The second Flipside release out is 1965’s The Pleasure Girls. This is great pairing as it’s also about 1960s youth culture – this time, the modern independent woman – and again set entirely on location in the streets of hip Chelsea and South Kensington.
Here the action revolves around No. 48 Tudor Court, W8, a grand Victorian house occupied by a group of nice girls with posh accents all trying to make it in London and trying their darnedest not to become fallen women.
Amongst this lot are Sally (Francesca Annis), a wannabe model from East Grinstead; her best friend Angela (Anneke Willis aka Doctor Who’s Polly); and Dee (Hammer vixen Susanna Leigh). Offering the girls tea and sympathy is the loveable Paddy, who enjoys his ‘stag nights’ with the ‘lads’ while the girls paint the town red – well this is the Swinging Sixties after all.
Despite its lurid title and bevy of beauties, this is no a porn film. Instead director Gerry O’Hara gives us a slice of London life, about independent women making it on their own. New chick Sally’s big dilemma is whether she should ‘put out’ after meeting Ian McShane’s youthful photographer Keith; while Dee has her hands full trying to convince her gambling slumlord boyfriend (Klaus Kinski) that she loves him as well as his money.
It might be light on drama, but it’s heavy on location shots – which is simply fantastic as Sloane Square and its environs never looked so good.
For a nostalgic trip into London’s not to distant past, these new Flipside releases are a definite must-have, though The Party’s Over is a true classic that deserves a big screen re-release.
Released 17 May (Dual Format – DVD and Blu-Ray)