Written by: Christopher O’Neill on August 12th, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: UK, 1973
Director: Wolf Rilla (opening sequence by Jonathan Demme)
Writers: Joseph McGrath and ‘Roy Nicholas’ (aka Dennis Norton)
Cast: Brendan Price, Jean Harrington, Graham Stark, Sue Longhurst, Bernard Spear
DVD released: July 6th, 2009
Approximate running time: 79 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1:33:1 fullscreen
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Strike Force (Network)
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £15.99
With much good-natured humor and a light, breezy tone, SECRETS OF A DOOR-TO-DOOR SALESMAN is a minor but immensely likable British sex comedy. Penned by TV sketch comedy veterans Joseph McGrath and Dennis Norton (the latter using the pseudonym of ‘Roy Nicholas’), the screenplay is fashioned as a non-stop barrage of gags and one-liners which hit as often as they miss but, as performed by its game cast and presented with a quick-witted sense of comic timing, ultimately the venture is difficult not to like. Director Wolf Rilla was an old-school journeyman filmmaker who worked within a variety of genres (his most well-known picture is probably the original VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED) and, although not particularly adventurous in regards to visual style, is more than capable of keeping the gags coming fast and the pace tight enough to rarely let it sag. There is also an amusing lampooning of the British sex film industry during the sequence where the protagonist finds himself on an adult film set located behind a kosher butcher shop (“It’s alright, they’re use to celebrities!”) and ends up shooting inserts for the “foreign version” of the production.
SECRETS OF A DOOR-TO-DOOR SALESMAN has attained much curiosity value over the years due to the fact that American filmmaker Jonathan Demme, credited on the titles as being responsible for the “Opening Sequence”, was originally to helm the picture but left due to creative differences. This scene (set in the fishing village), which is strikingly shot hand-held and atmospherically lit, relates more to the Roger Corman productions that Demme would go on to direct, rather than the competent, yet comparatively bland, visuals of the remainder of the film. It is also worth noting that this material, although not without moments of humor, has a different feel to the remainder of the narrative since it involves a tragic accidental death and ultimately possesses a sense of melancholy. The scene sits uncomfortably with Wolf Rilla’s work, leading one to assume that the reason for Demme’s departure was due to the producers not appreciating his treatment of the material.
Brendan Price, who would go on the following year to play a similar role in Darren Nesbitt’s dire THE AMOROUS MILKMAN, possesses a likeably naïve and gullible charm as the title character. He is amply supported by a bevy of attractive actresses such as Jean Harrington (as the Au Pair that David falls for), Victoria Burgoyne, Elizabeth Romilly, Jan Servais and Jacqueline Afrique, plus there is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance from Jenny Westbrook, a talented comedienne who was used with more substantial effect in THE SEX THIEF and EROTIC INFERNO. Sue Longhurst (CONFESSIONS OF A WINDOW CLEANER) and Felicity Devonshire (INTIMATE GAMES), two familiar faces from many 70s sex comedies, both receive “And Introducing” credits here. There are also some amusing guest appearances from established British comedy performers such as Graham Stark (as David’s long-suffering boss), Chic Murray (as a bumbling policeman) and Bernard Spear (as the catch-penny adult filmmaker).
Strike Force presents SECRETS OF A DOOR-TO-DOOR SALESMAN in an open-matte transfer framed at 1:33:1 fullscreen. It reveals extra space on the top and the bottom of the screen that would have been masked upon theatrical presentation (lighting equipment can occasionally be glimpsed) but no information seems to be missing from either side of the image and, since the cinematography could hardly be described as stylish, the unbalanced framing is perfectly acceptable. The overall picture quality is strong with only very minor print damage throughout while the image is sharp and the colors pleasantly vibrant.
The soundtrack is presented in its original Mono dimensions and is generally clean with only a very mild amount of hiss and crackle that is barely noticeable.
Unfortunately, there is no extra content whatsoever. It would have been nice if a booklet could have been included detailing some background information about the production, particularly highlighting Jonathan Demme’s involvement (incidentally, this British comedy would have been his feature length debut, which instead came the following year with the cult classic CAGED HEAT). Since Simon Sheridan (author of the KEEPING THE BRITISH END UP film guide) supplied liner notes for similar titles released by Odeon Entertainment, it is a pity that Strike Force did not request his talents for this DVD.
Despite its barebones presentation, SECRETS OF A DOOR-TO-DOOR SALESMAN is an above average British sex comedy and this DVD is therefore a worthwhile purchase.