19 July 2018



'He raped me marvellous-super.'

'A girl only gets raped if she wants it.'

'Are you tired, you know, after all that rape?'

'She needs raping, so you go in there and rape her.'

'Rape?' 'Not today, thanks!'

 BFI releases are available from all good home entertainment retailers or by mail order from the BFI Shop. Tel: 020 7815 1350 or online at www.bfi.org.uk/shop

This is an odd one. It certainly isn't the kind of film you could watch with your granny while sharing a bag of liquorice allsorts. It's based on a play written by a woman who became known for 'pushing the envelope' with her oeuvres. Well, with THE KNACK... AND HOW TO GET IT, the envelope is pushed so far up inside the innards of the audience that they'll need a team of qualified surgeons to extract it.

The film is a strange one indeed. The strange jerky unnatural dialogue would make sense- a kind of sense- if it were lifted directly from the play. Otherwise, well, I wouldn't know what to say about it. Shall we at least attempt to make head or tail of the bizarre plot? We shall. Come with me, folks, through the magic door...

Nancy Jones is the lead character. She's played by Rita Tushingham, an interesting actress whom I've seen and admired tremendously in the Hammer horror movie, STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING, in which she plays a greenhorn young female who comes to the big smoke from the sticks to find love.

What she finds instead may not exactly be love, but it'll certainly be the last thing she ever does. STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING is an electrifyingly good movie. I couldn't take my eyes off it from start to finish, and Rita Tushingham was brilliant in it. It's one of my favourite of Hammer's psychological horror films, which are the ones not involving vampires, Frankensteins or mummies, lol.

The funny thing is that Ms. Tushingham plays a similar character in THE KNACK, which pre-dates STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING by about seven years. Nancy Jones is a young woman in her early twenties who's come up to London around the time of the so-called 'sexual revolution.' She's got her coat and her suitcase and she's asking for directions to the nearest YWCA and she's got 'greenhorn' written all over her.

Michael Crawford, better known to an adoring public as the inept Frank Spencer in SOME MOTHERS DO 'AVE 'EM and as a mighty fine singer and actor in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, plays Colin, a schoolteacher and the lead male character.

Looking ridiculously young and sharing some of the tendencies towards oafishness later displayed by Frank Spencer ('Tolen, I've wet my trousers...!'), Colin is desperate for love. Female attention. Female affection. Sex, of which he's had precisely none thus far. He's attractive enough, but he's painfully shy and he clearly has low self-esteem. It would never occur to Colin to go out and simply take what he wants.

That's the kind of caddish thing Tolen would do. Tolen, played by Ray Brooks, an actor I'm not terribly familiar with, is a friend of Colin's. He's tall, dark and quite arrogantly handsome, and he plays drums in a band. He has women eating out of his hand, amongst, I daresay, other places, and he's the one whom Colin approaches for help with his sex dilemma.

Tolen has 'the knack,' you see, of attracting women, beautiful 'Sixties women with short skirts or dresses, eyes ringed in black kohl and long lovely hair, who all want to have sex with him in his flat. Wild, kinky uninhibited sex in all kinds of mad positions. Is there any other kind, lol? Tolen isn't very helpful or even sympathetic towards his old mucker Colin.

Ingest more protein, he says, clearly taking the piss, or come and live with me and my mate, we share women and you can get in on the action if you want. While Colin is mulling it over, he (Colin) decides that one thing he needs is definitely a bigger bed. He could really do things with a bigger bed. It's not really the bed that's at fault here but he's got his heart set on a new one.

It's while he's out dragging a bed home through the streets, with the help of an annoying Irishman he meets randomly, that he encounters Nancy, who agrees to help them with the bed. There's much hilarity and curious stares as they hump the enormous bed back to Colin's house.

Okay, so, back at Colin's gaff, we have Colin, Nancy, who seems to be enjoying being a part of something, the annoying Irish guy Tom, the enormous bed... and Tolen... What does Nancy make of the criminally good-looking, confident and utterly dominant Tolen?

What does Tolen make of the little girl from the sticks, up in the big city looking for experiences? Tolen could give her an experience, all right, if he'd a mind to. And what would Colin think about Tolen giving Nancy an 'experience,' especially as the viewers have already decided that Nancy and Colin would be perfect for each other...?

This is a mad film. It looks very much of the time with the way it's made in black-and-white, and it makes you think of Carnaby Street, Twiggy, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and all the rest of that marvellous psychedelic Swinging 'Sixties stuff. 

You know, girls in knee-boots and short white mini-dresses with their lips painted the palest pink, so pink it looks white, and everyone rocking out to the new pop music on their transistor radios (or trannies!) and having sex all over the place because of the advent of the contraceptive pill. Wasn't this the era when the whole youth culture thing was invented? Remember the 'Sixties? Oh you do, do you? Then you clearly weren't really there, lol.

Watch THE KNACK AND HOW TO GET IT and enjoy it, but for the love of God don't ask me to explain the last half-hour. I simply can't. I haven't got a clue what was in Ann Jellicoe's mind when she wrote these scenes for her play. I'm off now to get myself raped. Purely in the spirit of the film, you understand. Don't make a big thing out of it...

Dual Format Edition release in June 2018 courtesy of the British Film Institute:

From the director of the Beatles’ films A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965) comes this inventive and hilarious romp through love and sex in 1960s London, made by Woodfall Films. Featuring a wildly frenetic filmmaking style that careers from slapstick to serious avant-garde, this genuinely dazzling film is a mod masterpiece.

In June 2018 it will be released by the BFI on Blu-ray/DVD in a Dual Format Edition – the first time it has been released on Blu-ray in the UK. Numerous extras include a new interview with Rita Tushingham and Richard Lester discussing his career in film.

This stand-alone release follows the film’s inclusion in the BFI Blu-ray and DVD box sets, Woodfall: A Revolution in British Cinema, released in June 2018.

Special features
  • Presented in High Definition and Standard Definition
  • Captain Busby the Even Tenour of Her Ways (1967, 16 mins): Ann Wolff’s surreal riff on Philip O’Connor’s poem, featuring Quentin Crisp
  • Now and Then: Dick Lester (1967, 17 mins): Bernard Braden’s wide-ranging interview with the director
  • Rita Tushingham Remembers THE KNACK...and how to get it (2018, 11 mins): newly shot interview with the actress
  • Staging THE KNACK…and how to get it (2018, 2 mins): interview with the director of the first stage version of The Knack
  • British Cinema in the 1960s: Richard Lester in Conversation (2018, 59 mins): the director discusses his career in film with Neil Sinyard
  • Illustrated booklet with writing by Neil Sinyard and Melanie Williams, plus full film credits
 BFI releases are available from all good home entertainment retailers or by mail order from the BFI Shop. Tel: 020 7815 1350 or online at www.bfi.org.uk/shop


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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