Tag Archives: blackmail

Your Past is Showing AKA The Naked Truth (1957)

naked truth“I’ve always considered murder to be rather un-English. I mean, one’s got to draw the line somewhere, hasn’t one?”

In Your Past is Showing, a seedy blackmailing journalist Nigel Dennis (Dennis Price) uncovers the deep, dark dirty secrets of various VIPs and then threatens to expose the nasty details in his potboiler tabloid called The Naked Truth (the film’s alternate title).

The film begins with slimy Nigel Dennis approaching his latest victim. Dennis Price is perfect for this role with his unique, unusual and almost impossible blend of obsequious, respectful insolence. While the film makes it clear that Dennis has many victims, for the purposes of the story, the plot concentrates on four victims: philanderer and shady insurance racketeer Lord Henry Mayley (Terry-Thomas), comedian and slum landlord Wee Sonny MacGregor (Peter Sellers), author and unwed mother Flora Ransom (Peggy Mount), and model Melissa Right (Shirley Eaton). Dennis approaches each of his victims individually and the film shows the characters in their unblemished lives and then Dennis exposes the ugly truth to each victim by showing  the tacky Naked Truth magazine featuring an expose on the victims unless they pay 10,000 pounds.

Wee Sonny MacGregor, for example, is a well-loved television personality, and in his programme, which caters to seniors, he brings on stage various frail elderly guests who then perform some amateur act–one elderly man plays a penny whistle for example. MacGregor publicly acts very generously to his guests, showing tolerance and patience, but in reality, he’s a slum landlord who keeps his elderly tenants in the most hideous conditions. The scenes depicting MacGregor’s show are brilliant as MacGregor frequently comes on stage dressed identically to his ancient guests, and he even mimics their mannerisms. The patronage involved in MacGregor’s behaviour seems to escape his adoring audience, but the plot shows the hard rather vicious man just beneath the surface of the benevolent Wee Sonny MacGregor act.

The late, great Terry-Thomas delivers a tour-de-force performance as the beleaguered Lord Mayley, a man who poses in costume to have his portrait painted just before Dennis presents him with The Naked Truth‘s slimy edition of the facts behind the life of this married, respectable peer of the realm. Lady Lucy Mayley (Georgina Cookson) has no illusions about her husband’s behaviour, but she is curious, and her curiosity leads to some of the film’s funniest scenes as Lord Mayley goes to great lengths to try and deceive her.

Indomitable author, Flora Ransom (Peggy Mount) is a bombastic woman who intends to marry her dotty fiance, the Reverend Cedric Bastable (Milles Malleson). The toast of literary circles and adored by her insipid, nervous daughter Ethel (played brilliantly by the talented Joan Sims) , Flora Ransom doesn’t want the truth about her past to make the cover of The Naked Truth.

Shirley Eaton as model Melissa Right doesn’t get much of the story, and the film’s comic elements rest on the considerable talents of the rest of the cast. The film is a showcase for the talents of Peter Sellers as he slips effortlessly into multiple characters donning disguises and a variety of accents along the way.

While the victims contemplate paying the blackmailer…or the alternatives, fate brings them together. And collectively, they come up with a solution. Your Past is Showing, from director Mario Zampi, is a delightful, good natured British comedy and is certain to please fans of the cast.

A few lines from the film:

“Rely on that stupid idiot? No thank you. I’ll rely on my bomb. And now for the gunpowder….”

“I fell by the wayside.”

“My wife spends a lot of money. If there’s any left over, I spend it.”

“So-called policemen masquerading as ordinary citizens.”

“We’ve run right out of the Geli.”

“Murder by a figment of the imagination.”

“Push him under a bus. That’s the only way to get rid of pests like that.”

“Mumsy, oh mumsy darling. Are you alright?”

 

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Between Your Legs (1999)

 “What if we’re each other’s solution?”

The steamy Spanish thriller Between Your Legs (Entre Las Piernas) is a tale of adultery, blackmail and murder set against the relationship of two people who meet at a Sex Addicts support group. With Victoria Abril and Javier Bardem as the two sex addicts, sparks fly, but they also fizzle in the depths of a murky plot that leaves some questions unanswered.

between your legsI’ve sometimes wondered if having a number of sex addicts attend a meeting together is advisable, and all the spicy scenarios my over-active imagination conjures up come to pass in this film when sex addict, Miranda (Victoria Abril) meets fellow insatiable sex addict Javier (Javier Bardem). There’s an immediate attraction, although Miranda who’s married to detective Felix (Carmelo Gomez) tries valiantly for a moment or two to brush off Javier’s attentions. But who is she kidding? The next thing we know, Miranda and Javier are writhing in the back seat of a car in a deserted parking lot.

Miranda and Javier are characters whose lives are seeped in sex. Miranda is a telephone operator for a late-night call-in show and most of her calls are about…you’ve guessed it…sex. Javier works for a publishing company, and all the scripts he reads are about…yes, right again…sex. No wonder these two poor buggers are sex addicts. They can’t get away from the subject.

Javier, rather rationally, I thought, decides that it makes perfect sense that he and Miranda should be together. He realizes that they both have needs and desires and decides that they can basically solve each other’s problem. Makes sense to me. But it doesn’t make sense to Miranda’s husband, Felix, who soon sniffs that adultery is afoot. Plus being a detective, it’s a fairly easy matter for him to follow Miranda, trace license plate numbers, etc.

But then to complicate matters, a body is found in the trunk of the car that Miranda and Javier appropriated for their impromptu steamy rendezvous. Felix investigates the case, and soon he has reason to place Javier as the main suspect.

Now this sounds like an interesting plot, but unfortunately other elements that appear fairly early on in the film confuse matters. These include fantasy sequences involving Javier and a mystery woman who drew him into sex addiction, the sensationalistic illicit sex story of the man running the Sex Addicts meeting, and the existence of some sex tapes. There’s a sequence involving Miranda’s dog and a trip to the veterinarian that leads nowhere, and there’s also a minor subplot involving a taxi driver and AIDS. I’m still uncertain why this latter sub plot was included unless it was supposed to represent the ‘safe sex’ part of the equation. Anyway, thanks to all these superfluous scenes and characters, the first half of the film was a bit confusing, while the second half ironed out some (not all) of these plot elements.

The optimistic conclusion counteracted the film’s overall noir mood, and I still had a couple of questions left unanswered when the credits rolled. If anyone out there can tell me what Felix stepped on in the last scene, please leave a comment. Between Your Legs is based on a novel by Joaquin Oristrell and directed by Manuel Gomez Pereira.

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Filed under Film Noir, Spain, Victoria Abril

A Gentleman After Dark (1942)

“Have I got a yen to slip into an evening gown and go slumming.”

A Gentleman After Dark begins on New Year’s Eve 1923, when Gentleman thief Harry ‘Heliotrope’ Melton (Brian Donlevy) pulls off a jewelry robbery and then dashes to the hospital to see his disgruntled wife, Flo (Miriam Hopkins) and their newborn baby, Diana. Fatherhood has a strange affect on Melton–he’s suddenly aware of all the responsibilities that fatherhood brings. Flo, on the other hand, can’t wait to get back to her old partying ways, and resents both the baby and Melton’s new attitude. Melton wants the best things in life for his new daughter, and this causes him to decide to go straight after one last big job….

Melton is incarcerated, and Melton’s childhood friend, policeman Tom Gaynor (Preston Taylor) adopts baby Diana. The film skips 18 years and picks up again in 1942. Gaynor is now a highly respected judge and Diana (Sharon Douglas), now a grown woman, is engaged to the son of the wealthy Rutherford family.

Flo, who’s been involved in various lowlife scams over the last 18 years, hears about her daughter’s promising circumstances and returns to New York to cash in through a nice little blackmail scheme with her shady lawyer Calibra (Douglass Dumbrille). Melton is still in prison, but he hears about Flo’s schemes and is determined to stop her no matter the cost.

A Gentleman After Dark directed by Edward Marin is a fairly mediocre but acceptable vehicle that’s been tagged with the term ‘film noir’, but it’s a tearjerker more than anything else. One of the problems with the film is that although it’s supposed to begin in the 1920s, there’s scant reference to those times. The film was made in the 40s, and it feels like the 40s. Another problem is the aging of the characters–after an 18-year passage of time, Gaynor sports a moustache and what seems to be a heavy tan. Flo hasn’t aged a bit, and Donlevy has some thick grey streaks in his hair. The characterizations remain fairly superficial–without nuance, and the emphasis is on stock characters–so we get the gentleman thief, the straight arrow policeman, etc. For fans of 40s films (me), then A Gentleman After Dark is worth catching, but it’s nothing to get too excited about. From director Edward Marin.

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