Written by: Christopher O’Neill on October 2nd, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: UK, July, 1972
Director: Don Chaffey
Writer: Elton Hawke (aka Hazel Adair and Kent Walton)
Cast: Georgina Ward, Alex Davion, Polly Adams, Carmen Silvera, Windsor Davies
DVD released: September 22nd, 2008
Approximate running time: 86 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 4X3 Fullscreen
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Odeon Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £12.99 (on a double bill with SPACED OUT)
Synopsis: Julie Mason is the owner of a London-based health clinic that offers her clients additional services of an illicit nature. Having suffered a tough upbringing, Julie is ruthless in getting what she wants, and exploits those vulnerable and desperate enough to fall under her spell. Her secretary and loyal friend Ann is not aware of the bondage sessions, lesbian gropings (which Julie hates but performs nonetheless) and other unsavoury financial activities occurring behind closed doors, nor that the cash donations being made to the clinic are, in fact, extracted from the most-prominent customers via blackmail. Into this coldly cynical world enters the suave and dashing Lee Maitland, a businessman with an air of mystery whom Julie takes a fancy to, and they soon become lovers. It would seem that she has finally found happiness, but all is not what it seems and the tables are about to be turned on the ice queen.
Unlike the other titles so far released as part of Odeon Entertainment’s Slap and Tickle collection, SEX CLINIC is not a saucy comedy but rather a character-driven drama spiced up with the nudity and salacious plot elements necessary for the 1970s sexploitation genre. Pyramid Pictures, a company run by Hazel Adair and Kent Walton who collectively used the pseudonym ‘Elton Hawke’, produced it and there was a ripple of controversy when the true identities of its proprietors were discovered, as Adair was responsible for creating such ‘respectable’ daytime television serials as CROSSROADS. Her background in such programs is hardly surprising since the plot and the dialogue is pure soap opera, but the extravagant activities go further then what would ever have been possible on the small screen at the time. It is Adair’s tightly-structured script which, along with taut direction and a credible central performance, makes this a superior, low-key melodrama.
The most admirable quality of SEX CLINIC is the film does not have any aspirations beyond its humble intentions, and the film operates as an efficient and straightforward B-picture. Don Chaffey was an old-school journeyman director, helming a diverse range of genres from fantasy (JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS), horror (PERSECUTION), western (CHARLEY ONE-EYE) and even Disney (PETE’S DRAGON). Throughout his career, Chaffey’s filmmaking has generally been pedestrian but reliably solid, and this style serves the material nicely. SEX CLINIC performs like a British 1950s potboiler such as MARILYN but is laced with the nudity and sordid details that would have only been hinted at in that era’s realms of acceptability. That said, the display of flesh is plentiful but rarely presented gratuitously, and is reserved to being a necessity of the plot’s mechanics.
Unsurprisingly for a picture that is essentially a character-study, a strong central performance is of vital importance and it is Georgina Ward’s portrayal of Julie that cements the film’s success. A veteran of the British stage and television, Ward was an ex-debutante who only made a handful of cinema appearances, including Norman J. Warren’s LOVING FEELING. SEX CLINIC was her only feature-length starring role, and it is a thrilling showcase that makes her slim filmography even more unfortunate, since she was clearly capable of so much based on the evidence here. Julie is a despicable character as she is unscrupulous in using people to serve her own needs and shows little sympathy for the plight of those she mistreats, yet Ward conveys just enough compassion that it is difficult not to be effected by her character’s ambiguous fate in the film’s closing moments. Anyone interested in seeing more of Ward should check out an episode of DANGER MAN entitled SUCH MEN ARE DANGEROUS, which was also directed by Chaffey.
The on-screen title is WITH THESE HANDS…, which was the film’s original title. It was first released in the UK as CLINIC XCLUSIVE in 1972 and later reissued as SEX CLINIC in 1975. Odeon Entertainment has presented the film at a comfortable 1:33:1 fullscreen ratio, there is no apparent cropping at either side of the image and is more than likely an open-matte transfer. There is a slight mis-rack during the change over from reel one to reel two but this is only noticeable since the transition occurs during a scene, causing the framing to alter very slightly, and does not disturb the viewing of the film. Apart from a few scratches and blemishes around reel changes, overall the picture is fine.
The mono sound is serviceable with little hiss or damage.
Extras are restricted to a few liner notes from the ever-dependable Simon Sheridan. Since most of the booklet’s space is taken up by information on the disc’s main feature, SPACED OUT, the notes on SEX CLINIC are less in-depth than Sheridan’s usual contributions to the Odeon Entertainment DVDs, but are still a worthwhile and entertaining read.
Rarely seen since its theatrical run over 30 years ago, SEX CLINIC is an effective low-key drama that makes an unusual but welcome second feature on this double-DVD set.