Friday, 13 September 2013

Something for the Weekend: A lady Gulliver?

A curious confection, this one, from the pages of Oui magazine's March 1979 issue.  Oui was a joint venture between Playboy in the US and Lui in France.  In the spring of 1972 the Playboy team learned, to their horror, that new rival Penthouse, which was eating into Playboy's circulation at an alarming rate, was planning to launch a second men's magazine in the US in conjunction with French publisher Daniel Filipacchi.

Sandy Bernadou (1957-2011), actress and Penthouse Pet of the Month for April 1976 resplendent on the cover

In the early sixties Filipacchi had decided to launch a magazine in France that would be more like Playboy, with its wider lifestyle interests, than the dozens of girly magazines then being published in the country at the time. The most popular men's magazines in France at this time were the digest sized Paris-Hollywood, first published in 1946, and La Vie Parisienne which had been published ever since the eighteen nineties! France, which had invented the girly magazine, was finding that Playboy and the new American magazines arriving in its wake, as well as European competitors from Scandinavia, were making its men's magazines look very dull and old fashioned indeed. Filipacchi was originally a fashion photographer and had then moved into radio broadcasting, music production and then became a publisher of music magazines. He set up Lui with his friends Frank Ténot and Jacques Lanzmann. The first edition came out in November 1963 and was an immediate success, so Hefner, in 1972, could see that Filipacchi's team had staying power. Playboy barged in whilst negotiations with Penthouse's Bob Guccione had been all but concluded and somehow persuaded Filipacchi that a tie up with Playboy would be better than the deal with Penthouse. Playboy had realised that if there was going to be a publisher with two magazines in their stable it had to be them and not the upstart Guccione, who had invaded their turf from across the Atlantic. Penthouse, it is often forgotten was originally published in London and didn't start production in the US for four years aftger its 1965 debut in the UK.

Hefner's vision on this arrangement was quite clear. Filipacchi would get the license to publish Playboy in France and Playboy would get to publish a new magazine, based on Lui and its stylish pictorials, in the US. The magazine would, according to Hefner have a "European accent in its humor, reviews and approach to photography". It would be aimed at the younger market which Penthouse had targetted and would release Playboy from having to compete with Penthouse in more and more explicit photographic content. Guccione was furious, of course!

Oui was, indeed, somewhat more "European"  (for which, read naughtier) in its outlook compared with Playboy. There were no girl-next-door types gracing the pages of Oui, just the top models of the time photographed by the top photographers.  It was quirkier than either Playboy or Penthouse and often photographed its girls in a more original way, as we can see here.  These two pictures topped and tailed its news section that month.

In the end Oui failed as a device to stop the rise of Penthouse in the US and embarrassingly for Playboy, they discovered that Oui's growing circulation was at the expense of Playboy, not its rival.  Oui never made a profit and Hefner quietly sold it in 1981, ironically to a former Penthouse executive.  

What prompted the picture editoirs of Oui to combine a knickerless baton twirler with Lilliputian troops in tricornes I do not know but it makes for an interesting diversion...

Monday, 2 September 2013

Caroline Munro

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

I first remember Caroline Munro from her performance in the Ray Harryhausen classic, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974), although as a model she regularly turned up in newspapers like the Sunday Express, which my mother read and I always searched through for that week's bikini dolly.

Munro's 1966 modelling card

Munro was born in Windsor in 1949 but attended St Martha's, a Catholic convent school in Rottingdean near Brighton.  At the age of sixteen a photographer friend of hers needed a model. Unbeknown to Munro he sent the pictures he took of her to the Evening News' face of the year 1966 competition; one of the judges being David Bailey. She won the competition and signed up with the Lucie Clayton modelling agency. Bailey helped her out in starting her modelling career and got her a part as an (uncredited) extra in a short film he made (G.G. Passion (1966) that year.  She was immediately popular as a model, despite still being at school, and even picked up a few more bit parts in films including Casino Royale (1967), her first brush with James Bond.

A 16 year old Munro on set for Casino Royale

Casino Royale

She only appears on screen, as one of Dr Noah's (Woody Allen) guards, for a few seconds. although her scenes took two weeks to shoot.  In the two stills above the sixteen year old Munro is fifth from the right in the silver mini dress.  She would return to Bond, memorably, in ten year's time. 

When she was seventeen, Munro, who was always keen to be a singer, recorded a song called Tar and Cement.  This was a cover of a song by Verdelle Smith., recorded in 1966, which was itself based on an Italian song Il ragazzo della via Gluck.  The Legatus best knows it in its French version by Francoise Hardy, La Maison ou j'ai grandi.  The backing group for Munro's recording consisted of, rather amazingly, Eric Clapton, Steve Howe, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, all in early phases of their careers. She would later go on to make a record with Gary Numan, with whom she had a fling in the eighties.

Lamb's Navy Rum

In 1969 she signed a contract for what would become a ten year partnership with Lamb's Navy Rum and appeared in many advertisements for them, which would brighten many a day for the Legatus throughout the seventies.  

Also that year she won a contract with Paramount and appeared in A Talent for Loving (1969) a sex-comedy, western spoof which never even got a release in the US and only appeared on TV there five years later.  Munro appears as Richard Widmark's daughter.

Publicity photograph by George Whitear for Dracula AD 1972

James Carreras, the Chief Executive of Hammer Films, saw one of Munro's Lamb's Navy Rum posters and set about seeking her out and giving her a contract.  Her first film was the Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee Dracula AD 1972 (1971), where she plays Dracula's first victim in this groovy update on the traditional tale.

Munro on set at Elstree Studios for Dracula AD 1972

It was during the shooting for this that Munro decided that she would rather be a full-time actress rather than a model who did a little acting.  She was, however, still doing a lot of modelling work and like many of the glamour girls of the period appeared on the cover of one of those cover version compilations of chart hits.

In her case it was Hot Hits 11 from 1972 where she appeared fetchingly, and for no apparent reason, dressed up as a sort of fantasy, pantomime Robin Hood in hot pants and boots.

She didn't appear on the cover of the rival Top of the Pops compilation, unlike just about every other top model at the time.  Well, not on the UK edition, anyway, but she did feature on one of the European versions.

In those far from politically correct days models could also make good money from appearing on the covers of lurid paperbacks and Munro did a number of these too.

Munro with Horst Janson in Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter

The following year she made another film with Hammer, the rather bizarre Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter. The only film directed by Brian Clemens, who was the key figure in the development of The Avengers. Clemens had written the script and had produced Hammer's earlier Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) which had been a great success.  

Clemens had worked with director Robert Fuest on The Avengers and adopted many of his techniques, such as extensive storyboarding, for Kronos.  Munro had been in both Fuest's The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971) and Dr Phibes Rises Again (1972) in an uncredited part as Phibes' dead wife which only required her to lay in a coffin.  Hammer, however, were disappointed with Clemens' stylish but off beat Kronos and it wasn't released for another two years.  However, the film was a big boost for Munro, in her biggest part so far.  

Munro in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

Clemens then helped her get the role in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) for which he had written the screeplay, actually against the wishes of Ray Harryhausen and producer Charles Schneer who wanted a bigger name for the role of Margiana. 

Munro promotes Sinbad in Amsterdam in 1974

In the end Clemens sent Schneer and Harryhausen some footage of Munro in action and they, not surprisingly, immediately changed their minds.  Oddly, Munro had nearly worked with Harryhausen in 1971 on the aborted Hammer film The Day the Earth Cracked Open.  

While doing pre-prodcution publicity for The Golden Voyage of Sinbad she have an interview which appeared in April 1973's Oui magazine in the US.  Oui was a joint venture between Lui in France and Playboy.  It was designed to be a more "European" (i.e. slightly naughtier) challenger to Penthouse, which, at that time was eating into Playboy's circulation at an alarming rate.  

In this piece Munro said "No, I've never been nude in a film.  I don't really think it's essential.  You can get so much more - meaning, out of a bikini or a little decolette, if that's what they want."  

In fact, it had been this stance that had caused her not to be hired by Hammer for any more of their films. 

She had been offered the lead in Hammer's Vampirella but turned it down because of the required nudity even though she had actually gone to Italy and shot some publicty photos.

The same went for her modelling except for a couple of mild topless pictorials done in 1969,  For the sake of completeness I felt compelled to include some of these shots.

With Doug McLure in At the Earth's Core

Munro cemented her fantasy film credentials by appearing (with Peter Cushing once more) in At the Earth's Core (1976), an adaption of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel.  She received third billing, behind Cushing and Doug McLure, as Princess Dia.  The costume department and publicists made the best of her assets.   The following year she appeared in an episode of Clemens' The New Avengers, The Angels of Death.

 Bond tries not to get distracted in The Spy Who Loved Me

1977 also saw Munro's most celebrated, despite not being her biggest, role in the Roger Moore James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me.  Munro played bad girl helicopter pilot Naomi and really made the most of what was actually a small  part.

She has two key scenes, firstly where she picks up Bond and an understandably scowling Anya Amasova (Babrbara Bach) to take them out to Stromberg's base and, of course the helicopter chase where, ultimately, she becomes the first woman that any Bond kills on screen.  Her wink at Bond from the cockpit of the helicopter being the most famous cinematic example since Elizabeth Taylor's in Cleopatra (1963).

It being a Bond film, of course, the publicity machine went into overdrive with some splendid shots of Munro appearing just about everywhere,  The Wetbike featured in the film was a new invention so it was obvious that Munro should be put into a gold crochet bikini and sat on one.  The one used in the film was actually the prototype and it didn't go on sale until the following year.

Caroline Munro in a gold crocheted bikini.  No further words are really necessary

The Spy Who Loved Me is very much the Legatus' favourite Roger Moore Bond film.  We thought Barbra Bach was absolutely gorgeous (unlike most of my class at school who though her bust wasn't big enough), Munro's appearance was an unexpected bonus as was Valerie Leon's as the Sardinian hotel's receptionist.  Interestingly,  Leon also turned down the role in Hammer's proposed Vampirella film after Munro declined it, also because of the nudity required.

When it was announced that John Barry wouldn't be doing the score (he was unable to work in the UK for tax reasons) I was quite anxious about the film's music but Marvin (The Sting) Hamlisch turned in a very different but still enjoyable score. This score also resonates because we first heard the record in its entirety in the bedroom of A, our first proper girlfriend.  She did a little belly dance in her underwear (having stripped off her school uniform) to the Arab-type music (actually written by Paul Buckmaster not Hamlisch) which was most diverting.

More publicity shots for The Spy Who Loved Me

After The Spy Who Loved Me Munro was advised to go to America by Cubby Broccoli but she decided to stay in the UK to be close to her family, condemning her to career of low budget (often Italian) films and TV appearances.

You didn't get much more low budget than Italian Star Wars rip-off Star Crash (1978) which starred a pre-Baywatch David Hasslehof and Christopher Plummer, who really, really must have needed the money. Munro's husband, Judd Hamilton (who she had met on the set of A Talent for Loving in 1969 - they married in 1974 but divorced 12 years later) also featured, as did one of the Legatus' favourite seventies actresses Nadia Cassini (at her best in Pulp (1972), Mike Hodges follow up to Get Carter (1971)).  We will feature Miss Cassini in the future.

The film got far more publicity than it deserves, almost entirely due to the publicity shots of Munro in her minimalist leather costumes.  Bizarrely, although John Barry couldn't do the soundtrack to The Spy Who Loved Me he did do the soundtrack to Starcrash, giving the film a far better soundtrack than it deserved.

The Last Horror Film

Her husband, Judd Hamilton, co-produced her in the Last Horror Film (1982) and although she kept working during the decade she dialled right back on her film appearances.

As a hostess on 3-2-1 in the eighties

She spent three years working as a game show hostess on the ITV quiz 3-2-1 between 1984 and 1987, which must have been something of a come down. She even played a game show hostess in a Christmas 1986 TV pantomime: Cinderalla: the shoe must go on (cringe).

In Midsomer Murders (2013)

In the nineties her appearences were largely confined to cameo roles as herself in an number of small productions but lately she has started working on screen again, recently appearing as an "evil priestess" in Midsomer Murders.

In the world of the seventies, when there were perilously few attractive girls to lust after (at least, ones whose names you actually knew) Caroline Munro was a particularly splendid example of English womanhood.  Long may she prosper!