Written by: Christopher O’Neill on September 22nd, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: UK, June, 1976
Director: Tudor Gates
Writer: Tudor Gates
Cast: George Baker, Suzy Mandel, Anna Bergman, Peter Blake, Felicity Devonshire
DVD released: September 22nd, 2008
Approximate running time: 81 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Odeon Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £8.99
INTIMATE GAMES opens with a montage of bustling 1970s London. Over various shots of busy commuters, loving young couples and lonely middle-aged men there is the following voice-over: “Everyone has their private, secret thoughts and amongst these secret thoughts… everyone has their own sexual fantasies”. Professor Gottlieb is lecturing his psychology class in preparation for the project he has assigned for the upcoming vacation. Paired into groups of two, the students must question each other and someone outside of the class – a family member, friend or stranger – about their private erotic thoughts. While the eager pupils discover and experience a variety of sexual exploits, the overworked Professor grows obsessed and ultimately unhinged by the findings reported back. “Fantasies can be pleasant, but dangerous too… We all know what the over-creation of fantasy is called – it is called madness”.
Prolific writer Tudor Gates was no stranger to the British sex comedy when he embarked on this likable addition to the genre. Having worked on THE LOVE BOX and THE SEX THIEF under the pseudonym ‘Teddy White’, Gates took a huge leap with his third saucy picture, INTIMATE GAMES, not only due to the fact that he was credited under his real name, but also because he took the directorial reins. Apparently, Gates wanted neither and suggested that Martin Campbell would be a good choice of director, but distributor Tigon wanted a recognizable name and Gates reluctantly accepted. Campbell did come on board as ‘Production Supervisor’ and was responsible for handling much of the location work. These exterior sequences, which are rich in atmosphere and illustrate a pleasing sense of place, are a major asset to the film since they achieve a grander look than its £60,000 budget might suggest. And despite Gates’ hesitance to direct, his does an admirable job of drawing capable performances from his young cast in the studio-bound scenes.
While the narrative is little more than a series of loose vignettes strung together with a slim plot, the script is well structured, its pace pleasingly progressive, and the nudity and comedy elements are balanced nicely. Such care and attention alone puts INTIMATE GAMES ahead of many of its contemporaries but when considering that Gates contributed to the screenplays of BARBARELLA and DIABOLIK – as well as authoring Hammer Horror’s controversial Karnstein trilogy, beginning with THE VAMPIRE LOVERS – there is the expectation that he would bring something new to the genre. The screenplay for INTIMATE GAMES is solid but often hackneyed (many of the carnal encounters are frustratingly predictable) and fails to tread new ground. Having worked on the refreshingly imaginative THE SEX THIEF, which ranks as one of the best British sex comedies of the decade, it is a pity that Gates could not have written something more accomplished than what is on offer.
Despite its assembly-line screenplay, there is much to like about INTIMATE GAMES. The film’s most significant quality is that it boasts possibly the finest ensemble of the era’s British sexploitation starlets who not only look exquisite, but also deliver competent performances. Suzy Mandel notably makes her cinematic debut here and proves to be a delightful actress. It is particularly telling that in later films she was often awarded larger speaking roles than many of her counterparts and has been cited as one of the genre’s most charismatic and talented players. Anna Bergman appears in her second British film following THE ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER (which was shot before INTIMATE GAMES but released later). Due to her statuesque figure and blonde hair, Bergman was typecast throughout her U.K. acting career as a dizzy bimbo and while it is a pity she was never able to perform beyond this persona, Bergman is an entertaining actress and her nude snooker scene with Ian Hendry is a highlight in the film. Heather Deeley and Felicity Devonshire lend ample support, while Monika Ringwald and, possibly Britain’s biggest sex symbol of the 1970s, Mary Millington contribute fleeting, non-speaking roles.
While the nubile young ladies are clearly the film’s chief selling point, it should also be acknowledged that INTIMATE GAMES features a strong cast of comedy performers whose thespian skills often provide the film with humor when the screenplay is sorely lacking. Most impressive is Peter Blake, whose deadpan portrayal of the slack-jawed student John is easily among the best things about the film. His comic timing is impeccable, particularly in his scene with Maria St Clair, making her sole film appearance, in which he complains about his classmate’s cleavage (“I’d like to see you concentrate if you were a bloke with them tits leaping about like a ferret in a poke in front of you!”). Hugh Lloyd and Queenie Watts make enjoyable cameos as John’s parents, while George Baker’s performance as Professor Gottlieb, which climaxes with his show-stopping breakdown scene that results with him being carted off while foaming at the mouth, is especially memorable.
Odeon Entertainment presents INTIMATE GAMES at a letterboxed ratio of 1:66:1. Utilizing the same materials used for the Jezebel/Image Entertainment disc, both DVDs are identical in terms of print quality and framing. The picture, while adequately sharp, suffers throughout from scratches and instances of debris – most notably at reel changes – but none of it disruptive enough to affect the viewing experience.
The soundtrack, presented in its original mono mix, is generally clear with occasional but minimal damage or hiss.
Apart from trailers for other Odeon Entertainment releases, there are no extras on the disc itself. There is, however, a very welcome booklet containing text from Simon Sheridan and featuring interviews with Suzy Mandel and Anna Bergman. Entertaining and enlightening, these liner notes are a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the film and its stars.