MOVIE: Girly (1970)

For many years, our friends have invited a gang of us over to their house for St. Patrick’s Day to eat corned beef, drink lots of beer, and watch one of the god-awful installments of the god-awful horror movie series, Leprechaun.

We ran out of those a couple of years back, and another awesome set of friends have since stepped in to assist by bringing equally hilariously crappy films to any gathering they’re able to attend themselves.  This year’s St. Patty’s day flick?  This 1970 British satire/horrorfest, titled, Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly in the UK and renamed to simply Girly when it crossed the pond (because, of course, here in the sex-obsessed US, what’s going to sell this picture is a shot of Vanessa Howard in a Lolita-style outfit on the DVD cover — Mumsy and Nanny, nuthin’).

The movie is about what, at first glance, looks like a posh British family, living in an enormous estate surrounded by tons of beautiful land.  As the full title suggests, the family consists of the mom, a nanny, and a son and daughter.  Based on how the two kids are dressed, in school uniforms you typically see on young’uns, you’d think they were in their early teens.  But as the film progresses, it becomes clear they’re actually much older, maybe even in their 20s, wearing kid-like uniforms for far more nefarious (not to mention freaky) purposes than boarding school.

The family’s favorite past-time is sending Girly and Sonny out to local parks to look for “Friends.”  As the movie opens, for example, the “kids” have just met a drunk passed out on a park bench and invited him home for tea.  Once in the house, however, Friend learns quickly the invitation was not as gracious as he imagined.  He’s instructed he must follow “the rules,” and when he fails, he’s promptly taken out back and killed.  Golly!  That’ll teach you to take a second crumpet, you uncouth heathen!

Frustrated that Friend didn’t last too long, Girly and Sonny next go after a couple they encounter leaving a shindig late one evening.  They flirt and giggle and somehow manage to talk the couple into joining them at the park.  Using peer pressure to get the woman up on the slide, Sonny pulls her leg, making her fall to her death (apparently, falling six feet is all it takes to kill you in England, where they have more gravity) (um, or something).  The man, though, is so wasted he is easily convinced by Girly that it was his fault she died.  The three pick up the woman’s body and take it back to the estate house, ostensibly to hide it.

“New Friend,” as the man is soon dubbed, finds himself trapped in the house by threats of turning him into the authorities for murder.  When he’s told about the “rules,” he does his best to conform to them, getting sucked into bizarre play dates with Sonny and Girly (Cowboys and Indians, playing store, etc.) and he soon realizes his role is as the patriarch of the family in what he’s discovered is essentially an elaborate and creepy game of “house.”

New Friend, though, isn’t as dumb as the Friends that preceded him, and he soon discovers all the women in the family are jealous of each other.  He decides to turn the game on them, sleeping with each one in turn in an attempt to drive one or all of them into a murderous rage.  And, of course, it works — brilliantly.  Women.  Sheesh.

Though we were laughing a lot at this film, not just because it’s awfully silly at times, but also because it’s so damn weird, thinking back on it the next day, I realized it was actually sort of brilliant too.  Though it fizzles out toward the end, the bulk of it is a pretty sharp satire of British royal life and the crumbling fantasy of the British “Empire.”  It’s also shot beautifully and cleverly and I wasn’t at all surprised to discover the director was Freddie Francis, who has won two Academy Awards for cinematography in his time.

The other thing I really liked about it is that all the gore and most of the sex takes place off-screen and in innuendo.  If someone is killed on-screen, the shot focuses in on the killer, not the victim, and there’s even a masterfully shot scene featuring what we’re left to assume is a head boiling in a pot — Francis pulls the camera in closer and closer slowly, only to not QUITE reach the angle we’d need to see inside.  Pretty clever, as is a lot of the dialogue, peppered with twisted nursery rhymes and lots of wildly inappropriate pseudo-baby-talk.

All in all, this is an entertaining rental that will definitely make you think. (Though what you end up thinking is likely to be something along the lines of, “Man, those Brits sure are whack.”)  Recommended!

[Netflix it | View trailer | Buy it]

Genre:  Horror
Cast: Vanessa Howard, Michael Bryant, Ursula Howells, Pat Heywood, Howard Trevor

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One Response to “MOVIE: Girly (1970)”

  1. Liz Says:

    Man, those Brits sure are whack! But that’s what’s so great about them. We just saw a wonderful documentary/series (streaming from Netflix) on “Monty Python,” so the comic element in British film is something we already like.

    This movie sounds like one of those where you start laughing, and then say “I can’t believe I’m laughing at that!” But not in a bad way, like the way I laughed at people leaping off a building in “The Happening,” because it reminded me of a Monty Python sketch. This movie does sound more entertaining ….. and maybe just a LITTLE disturbing – like “The Ruling Class,” which I saw years ago, and should see again.

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