Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Not TV: Confessions of a Window Cleaner 1974


I love a 1970s sex comedy, me. Obviously this means I'm deeply superficial but the reason this one is appearing here is because I love it so it deserves one of my rare posts about non-TV subjects.

Actually it's not completely unrelated, because this film shows what was going on in the cinematic world outside the more-controlled world of TV. I have commented before about the war which went on at this time about the nature of what is shown in media. Mary Whitehouse's Clean Up TV campaign started in 1964, and while this film is very far from being porn (it depicts boobs and bums and frequent casual sex) the material in this film is clearly a step on from anything you can see in the TV of the time. Given that Mrs Whitehouse already wanted to clean up TV she must have already thought that what it was showing was unacceptable. I must confess to being somewhat mystified that she campaigned against broadcasting footage of the liberation of Belsen (footage she described as filth) and yet praised the BBC's coverage of the Vietnam War as indicating that the BBC was a proponent of pacifism. To me it seems that footage of Belsen would have a similar effect in underlining the dangerous reality of some human behaviour.

And I suppose that is the difference. I never cease banging on about how I like my TV to be unreal - I suppose the important thing is whether you can tell that what you are seeing is not real and if you have values which shape your decisions. Has there ever been a window cleaner who went round shagging? Probably. Has any young man been inspired by this film to become a window cleaner because of the prospect of sex? I would doubt it. What makes me more uncomfortable is that some people think other people shouldn't be seen stuff in case they go out and copy it. To try to control this for adults is just as dodgy to my mind.

Nor was the rest of society in step with Mrs Whitehouse. You might think this film is either filth or very silly, but it's got a cast of some very serious actors indeed, indicating it was relatively mainstream at the time. These include Joan Hickson, Richard Wattis, Dandy Nicols, Antony Booth and John le Mesurier. It was also the top-grossing British film of 1974. The sexual revolution had become mainstream. That said it was not until 1997 it was shown on UK terrestrial television. I honestly don't know what the danger is - even if you relied on these films for your sex education the you would come out with rubbish ideas about sex and would have to learn properly. 

I see that the location for the street scenes was Borehamwood which means it was filmed in Avengerland Central.

While the Confessions films are clearly not real you have to admire the way Robin Askwith has had a whole acting career based on showing his bum. The films are available as a box set and also on Amazon and if you don't want to finance the odious Amazon they are on the internet archive (search for 'adult comedy adventures' but it won't let me link) and YouTube. The Confessions films also came from a whole series of books which have recently been republished.

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