Who’s Whose What?

“Girl Stroke Boy” – Directed by Bob Kellett – Starring Joan Greenwood, Michael Horden, Clive Francis, Straker – Classic Victoria (834 6388) – Cert “X”

05-197208xx-8The basic idea is good, and has a lot of potential – two boys are in love, and want to meet each others parents. How will they break the news, and what will the reactions be?

Unfortunately, that is all it remains – a good idea, which gets swallowed in a mess of theatrical jokes and finally drowns in a confused sea of innuendo. Why Ned Sherrin thought this script, which flopped on the West End stage, was “a strange comedy . . . perfect for the times”, remains a mystery.

We see the whole situation from the point of view of Laurie’s parents, in their middle-class home counties residence, coping with bitchy neighbours, central heating jammed at full blast, and the nagging worry that their son has never shown any interest in girls. What, then, will his West Indian girlfriend be like? Mother, who writes romantic novels, including one titled ‘Love in Marrakesh’, feels that all will be well when she has her boy home, although her racial prejudice makes that unlikely. Dad, played with some depth by Michael Horden, wants peace after a tough week at the sec.modern school where he is headmaster, and when the young people arrive, he attempts to keep the situation calm.

Mother (Joan Greenwood) doesn’t know the meaning of the word, and the ambiguity of the girlfriend, Jo (Straker – Peter Straker of ‘Hair’ to his friends) leads to some of the nastiest bitching since ‘Till Death Do Us Part’.

The son, Laurie (Clive Francis) attempts to protect Jo from his mother, but she has her say, several times, until we see what Laurie means when he tells her he showed her books to his psychiatrist, and “he couldn’t believe they were written by a happily married woman”. While the ‘young people’ escape to the pub, Lettice persuades her husband to phone Jo’s parents – Michael Horden has his best moment panicking over the telephone – only to find that the Caribbean High Commissioner and his wife are looking forward to meeting Jo’s girlfriend Laurie. A row follows when Laurie and Jo find out about Lettice’s spying, and the story limps to a close in which the family close ranks in the face of an evil neighbour, the boys claim to be married, and Jo asks if he/she can call Lettice “Mother”. What a cop-out.

There are some good moments, including Michael Horden’s sincere but confused assertion: “I don’t give a damn if she’s a man – if she is she’s a jolly fine chap!”, and a radio weather report which refers to snow “in the homosexual counties”. The setting, a country house referred to in the credits as Faggot’s End, is attractive, if rather cramped, and one feels that the cast, especially the inimitable Miss Greenwood would really have felt happier on a stage. From the point of view of gay awareness, the film is so cramped it hasn’t even opened the closet door, and don’t let any publicist tell you otherwise.

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