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Home Before Midnight (1979)

Home Before Midnight dvd cover.jpg

In the era of Yewtree and the fallout from the Jimmy Savile revelations, what an interesting piece of work from exploitation maestro Pete Walker this turns out to be. A sexually experienced girl Ginny (Alison Elliott) hitches a lift with successful songwriter Michael (James Aubrey) after she rows with her friend Carol about taking a lift from lorry drivers. She pretends to be studying at art college and  they have sex. She insists on getting a cab home. It isn’t until weeks into their relationship and she has met his friends and gone discoing and drinking with him that he discovers she is just 14. He breaks up with her, she is furious and persists in seeing him and he has sex with her again – and then her parents find out. Daddy (Mark Burns, who had quite the sex scene with Joan Collins in The Stud) simply cannot believe this voracious nymphet has consented to sexual intercourse (Mummy’s not so sure about her sultry daughter who looks about 30) and persuades the police that she was raped. She goes along with his version of events. The case goes to trial and the man’s life is ruined. Now, how you stand on this might be determined by the black and white issue of the age of consent (16 in England). Or how you stand on girls lying about their age and their appetite for sex with hunky men. Or how you feel about people pretending they’ve been raped in order to impress their parents. Or, how you feel about a 28 year old working class boy made very good who falls in love with a girl. (One remembers Bill Wyman and Mandy Smith…!) Considering this film’s provenance, it’s utterly lacking in sensationalism, which is a surprise. Walker, who wrote the story, started out making stag films and then graduated to sexploitation and horror. That this centres on the pop scene and DJs  is timely indeed – David ‘Diddy’ Hamilton (41 at the time…) shows up with hot young totty and Annie Nightingale interviews the band. Walker’s career is mentioned by IQ Hunter in British Trash Cinema but is covered in its entirety up to his last known production in 1983 by Steve Chibnall’s 1998 book Making Mischief (the title comes from how Walker describes his output). This isn’t exactly his usual kitchen sink stuff – we’re well into middle class territory (bar a couple of accent slips) with a fairly liberal London household the backdrop to Ginny’s behaviour. We are left in no doubt as to her and Carol’s depth of experience although she hides her relationship with Michael from Carol as they continue to toy with schoolboys and introduce them to the ways of the flesh. Aubrey’s character is clearly not sleazy in the slightest. Their relationship is conveyed as one of consent and affection – which might now look somewhat suspect, for those watching with a politicised eye. This is what makes this a testing work. Aubrey’s bandmates include Chris Jagger and Andy Forray, who says to Ginny regarding her question on underage groupies, ‘The trick is not to ask.’ Alison Elliott hasn’t got an IMDb credit since 1984 and she had already appeared in Killer’s Moon, another Brit cult classic, from Alan Birkinshaw and she is clearly WELL over the age of consent so don’t worry about that. Debbie Linden, who plays Carol, had appeared on both Dick Emery’s and Benny Hill’s TV shows and her sex scene is the most explicit in the film. She died aged just 36. You may recognise Aubrey (it took me a while) – he was one of the boys in Lord of the Flies. And he had a key role in TV’s Bouquet of Barbed Wire and its sequel. He also acted in The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle – interestingly, Malcolm McLaren had hired Walker to do a documentary on the Sex Pistols but the band broke up before it could be made. The last film role Aubrey had before his untimely death was in Spy Game. Richard Todd (!) materialises as his QC. If you’ve never been in a courtroom you might be surprised to see him chatting about golf with the Prosecuting Counsel while awaiting the verdict but hey that’s how it rolls: all these guys are friends behind the scenes. And people lie on the stand. And their supposed predators suffer. This is really worth re-evaluating in terms of British cinema, above and beyond its cult credentials. Big up to the Talking Pictures movie channel for resurrecting this.

About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

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