Kinski Watch XIX: The Pleasure Girls (1965, Gerry O’Hara)

1965 was not a good year for Klaus Kinski as far as the quality of the films he appeared in is concerned. The Pleasure Girls, a watery “Swinging London” film that tries to simultaneously explore the familiar country-girl-seeks-fortune-in-big-city theme while also dabbling in some darker film noir stuff, marks no exception. It might not be his worst movie that year but it might be the dullest.

Who knows what the film might have become if either director or producers had had full creative control. O’Hara had initially planned to work with producer Raymond Stross on the project but finally landed at Compton Films for which he had previously shot That Kind of Girl in 1963. Compton Films was interested in the film as a prospect for a wild exploitation movie that would drive audiences to the theaters for sex and violence. O’Hara, of course, had never intended his movie that way. Constantly pressuring for more nudity and sex, the production house finally took the final cut rights from O’Hara and inserted the orgy scenes they wanted themselves. The director alarmed the British Board of Film Censors and those scenes were ultimately cut from the film. 

As it is, The Pleasure Girls remains a fairly well shot indie flick (especially considering it was shot in 20 days for a mere 30,000 Pounds) with performances from Klaus Kinski and a young Ian McShane that seem phoned in at best. The story follows three young women who live the 60’s “Swinging London” lifestyle of parties parties parties, and their romantic entanglements. Klaus Kinski plays a shady landlord who houses the girls. There is a storyline involving some crime elements and one of the girls arrives in the big city to pursue a modeling career while experiencing some inklings of frustration with the London lifestyle, but the film never explores any potentially interesting story avenues.

Kinski’s landlord was modeled on the real life Peter Rachman, a notorious landlord in West London who drove out white tenants from his properties, offered them to African immigrants struggling to find housing under racial segregation and overcharged them immensely. With a character like that it would have been the perfect opportunity to show the underbelly of the “Swinging London” era – something of more interest than Ian McShane courting an aspiring model with no personality. We get a lot of scenes set in a gambling parlor and one of the girl’s boyfriends sells off some of her jewelry to pay off some debt and wants her to get an abortion when he learns she's pregnant (another theme that would have been interesting to explore in the “Swinging London” context) but the film ultimately has not much else in mind than to show some well-off people dancing in apartments and racing around in cars.

Whether that’s the writer/director’s fault who couldn’t craft a significant story, or the result of producers pushing for less story and more smut is up for debate, I guess. One thing is for sure, however: it doesn't make for a stimulating viewing experience.


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