FOR MEN ONLY (1968)/SCHOOL FOR SEX (1969) Blu-ray
Director: Pete Walker
Jezebel/Kino Lorber

Two of Pete Walker's early attempts at feature-filmmaking after hundreds of softcore 8mm loops for the magazine store market come to Blu-ray with the double bill FOR MEN ONLY and SCHOOL FOR SEX.

Under pressure from his jealous fiancée Rosalie (Andrea Allan, SCREAM AND DIE), Women's Vogue journalist Freddie Horne (David Kernan, ZULU) leaves his position covering fashion shows and hobnobbing with scantily-clad models for a more serious position at one of the magazines of Puritan Publications through the recommendation of his stuffy future father-in-law (Neville Whiting, BIGGLES). Showing up at their London headquarters for an interview, he learns from prudish manager Gussett (John Cazabon, THE SNAKE WOMAN) that the rarely-seen chairman of the company Miles Fanthorpe (Derek Aylward, COME PLAY WITH ME) wants to interview him in person at his country house. Freddie is whisked away to the country and first meets Fanthorpe giving a conservative lecture at the local town hall, but soon finds himself in the company of a gaggle of bikini clad models at Fanthorpe's country house. Fanthorpe reveals that the company's various "clean living" magazines are actually a front for his more lucrative publications like "For Men Only" and he believes Freddie would an ideal addition to his staff. An overwhelmed Freddie completely forgets that he is due back in town to celebrate Rosalie's parent's anniversary until Rosalie and then her father come down to the country looking for him (leaving mother Mae Bacon to get sloshed in the restaurant). Also threatening to blow Fanthorpe's cover is the inopportune visit of admirers of his conservative causes Mrs. Whitely (Gladys Dawson, POOR COW) and the local vicar (Tom Gill, CARRY ON CONSTABLE).

Not even feature-length at just under forty minutes, FOR MEN ONLY plays like a digest version of a formulaic 1970s British sex comedy with hypocritical conservatives, outraged clergy and parents, gay caricatures, undercranked chases, and an ultimately conservative ending. The comedy falls flat and the film's nudity and sexual content are fairly mild by today's standards (although the film would be reedited into a later German porn film by Günter Hendel). Cheesecake is provided by Donna Reading (THE LOVE FACTOR)), Valerie Stanton (COMMUTER HUSBANDS), and Carmen Dene (CARRY ON COWBOY) among others who would also make appearances as bikini gals on MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS or THE BENNY HILL SHOW.

Having inherited his three million pound fortune and estate upon returning from military service, Giles Wyngate (Derek Aylward again) goes quickly through five or six wives (among them SECRETS OF SEX's Maria Frost, SUBURBAN WIVES' Nicola Austin, and BLUE PERFUME's Cindy Neal) whose spending habits and divorce settlements drive him to embezzle money from business. Although he has repaid the money through less than scrupulous means, his attorney Berridge's (Hugh Latimer, THE COSMIC MONSTER) depiction of Giles as the victim of "ruthless and mercenary women" earns him a suspended sentence. In need of funds, Giles has decided to turn his country home into the titular SCHOOL FOR SEX. Having been "conned, swindled, and seduced' by the best of them, he believes he can now impart the same techniques to women to use on unsuspecting wealthy men in exchange for a thirty-three-and-a-third percent commission. Berridge comes up with a source of apt pupils by way of his friend in the probation office Mr. Horace Clapp (Vic Wise, KILL ME TOMORROW). Giles soon hires the soused Duchess of Burwash (Rose Alba, THUNDERBALL), a former Windmill Girl whose titled late husband was among those who frequented her own private house, along with a physical trainer in the neighboring estate's groundskeeper Hector (stuntman Nosher Powell, CIRCUS OF FEAR), with befuddled family retainer Fred (Edgar K. Bruce, SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL) destined to be forever frustrated as the millionaire stand-in for the girls' practice. The first four pupils – shoplifter Sally (Françoise Pascal, THE IRON ROSE), thief of the elderly Judy (Sylvia Barlow), fraudster Beth (Amber Dean Smith, MOON ZERO TWO), and falsely accused Sue (Cathy Howard, TWINS OF EVIL's virginal sacrifice) – arrive with Sue's stowaway boyfriend Harry (Alec Bregonzi, RICOCHET) who, after a failed attempt to bust the girls free, becomes the school's gardener and training stud. The threat of exposure comes not so much from "policeman Plod" Sergeant Braithewaite (Bob Andrews) – who feels that people of Giles' station should be above the law in some respects – but from neighboring Colonel Roberts (Dennis Castle, LIFE AT STAKE), who has a longstanding grudge against the Wyngates, and the first graduating class who make the papers with their profitable marriages when they should still be on probation. The notoriety also draws more attention on the school from wealthy families who are under the impression that it is a finishing school whose lessons in deportment have led to socially desirable matches.

Despite the light tone, SCHOOL FOR SEX does anticipate some of Walker's darker works to come with its abuse of institutions and the morally forthright hiding more prurient desires. The girls are procured by the probation officer and initially tricked into believing they are going to participate in an "aggressive rehabilitation" program (shades of HOUSE OF WHIPCORD), and the "justice is served" ending is then capped by a cynical reversal that was perhaps meant to be funny. It is actually the darker implications of the plot that distinguish the otherwise frothy fare from the glut of sex comedies that were to follow in the seventies as mainstream British production slowed to a crawl. A game Aylward, the star of Walkers first five theatrical films from THE BIG SWITCH to COOL IT, CAROL! and MAN OF VIOLENCE gives the film's anchoring performance whether speaking eloquently on what is essentially pimping or being worked over by an aggressive Swedish masseuse, a future spouse, or one of his eager pupils.

Making its home video debut here, FOR MEN ONLY's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.33:1 pillarboxed presentation is relatively clean, crisp, and colorful. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is similarly without any glaring flaws. SCHOOL FOR SEX was released on DVD in the UK under Redemption's Jezebel label but was one of the few titles from that line not to also secure DVD release here during Redemption's involvement with Image Entertainment or Koch Lorber. After a credits sequence full of blown-out whites (which makes the credits difficult to read), heavy scratches, and missing frames, Kino's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC widescreen transfer settles down into a slightly faded but colorful and sharp image with some rarer scratching (including some possibly made in the camera). The 1.85:1 ratio seems a tad severe at some points as the hairlines of Aylward and Powell skirt the top matte, but framing is generally fine. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is relatively clean.

Extras include the SCHOOL FOR SEX's theatrical trailer (2:58) as well as the alternate continental footage (13:35) with full frontal nude takes of scenes in which the women wear just their underwear in the feature version. Since these scenes come with the fully mixed audio, Jezebel could have reintegrated them into the main feature and had the British theatrical takes as extras; and it seems that there was some attempt to do this. In the feature version on this disc, Aylward is seen in bed asleep without a shirt and is joined in bed by maid Polly who strips off her scant uniform to reveal frontal nudity. The take in the extras has Aylward in pajamas and the maid in lingerie under her uniform. It is also possible that perhaps the first reel came from a print of the continental version, but it would seem odd that Jezebel did not then replace it with the softer take they wanted to preserve the British release version.

Elijah Drenner's "Get Cheeky, with Pete Walker" (8:48) finds the director reflecting on his beginnings as a vaudeville comedian when vaudeville theatres were becoming burlesque houses and how he got into shooting 8mm glamour loops (which were available in magazine stores and in a separate section of 8mm catalogues of mainstream, family-friendly fare and could be sold at twice the price of the former). He discusses his working method on those shorts, hiring photographic models by the hour and making four to five films per day. He briefly touches upon the two films included in this set, as well as the aforementioned continental footage which was only used for the Japanese release (apparently the American distributors had access to the material but did not use it). Walker is relatively conservative and regards himself as a filmmaker as no better or worse than his contemporaries in terms of content. Also included are a sampling of fourteen glamour loops (62:59), six of which are carried over from the UK DVD (which has two others not included here), which mainly consist of women in their apartments coming home and getting undressed, or getting up, bathing, and dressing, sometimes with roommates, and sometimes with a snippet of exterior footage. Picture quality is variable given the level of production (shot on an amateur Bolex 16mm camera with few set-ups and limited lighting equipment on a rushed schedule) and the preservation of the 8mm elements used for transfer. The entire package makes a nice introduction and companion piece to Kino Lorber's two Pete Walker sets (although Walker's other sex films are at the moment underrepresented on Blu-ray). (Eric Cotenas)