Monday, December 22, 2014

#1,589. London in the Raw (1965)

Directed By: Arnold Louis Miller

Starring: David Gell, Emmett Hennessy

Tag line: "The world's greatest city laid bare. Thrill to its gay excitement, its bright lights, but be shocked by the sin in its shadows!"

Trivia: This movie was inspired by the success of Mondo Cane

Inspired by the success of 1962’s Mondo Cane, director Arnold Louis Miller’s London in the Raw is a pseudo-documentary that takes us on a whirlwind tour of the great city during the Swinging ‘60’s, visiting everything from restaurants and nightclubs to Beatnik hangouts, all the while exploring sections of London you’d never find in a travel guide.

Described by narrator David Gell as “a city solidly encamped on the banks of the Thames for 2,000 years”, London is, as the film’s tagline boasts, “laid bare” in this fascinating motion picture, which at times is as much a straight-up exploitation flick as it is an informative documentary. The movie begins innocently enough with some exterior shots of a Public school, with narrator Gell praising the British educational system. London in the Raw then makes a quick stop at a clothing store, where an elderly gentleman is being fit for a bright red hunting jacket. From there, the film veers off in a new, and much seedier, direction, stopping at a betting house where you can put money down on the horse races, something that, thanks to what we’re told was “recent legislation”, is now 100% legal (a few years earlier, gambling facilities like this operated outside the law). In the very next scene, however, we meet a bona-fide lawbreaker: a vagrant playing a tin whistle on the side of the road who could be arrested at any moment for blocking the flow of pedestrian traffic. As he performs for the passersby, a prostitute sticks her head out a 2nd-floor window and beckons to a man on the street, who Gell says, tongue firmly planted in cheek, is “a friend” of hers. This sequence, designed to draw attention to the laws the police choose to enforce as opposed to those they turn a blind eye to, is one of the movie’s more humorous scenes.

Throughout the remainder of its running time, London in the Raw continues its expose of both the “respectable” side of town (a visit to a hair loss center features a graphic, and kinda gross, hair plug procedure) and the back alleys where courtesans and belly dancers apply their trades. Once in a while, the filmmakers discover a location that’s downright bizarre, like the restaurant where patrons, after eating their meal, can, if they like, sketch the nude model sitting on-stage. In many ways a milder version of 1975’s Australia After Dark, London in the Raw introduces us to areas of London that might otherwise have never been explored, and isn’t afraid to shine a light on some of the city’s shadier sections.

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