The trials and tribulations in seeking out the lost and the forgotten for the sake of completism.
Do you have a list of films you want to watch? Of course you do. I do. I have, at current count, 61 films which I’d like to see – nay, would love to see. The only trouble is that they are, for the most part, as hard to see as Lord Lucan riding Shergar at Aintree.
Being a loveable eccentric, my movie wish list is loveably eccentric. I want to see certain films for rather curious reasons. Let me go through some of my most wanted, and say why they’re my most wanted.
First off, over a third of my list, 23 films, are British sex comedies/dramas made from 1958 to 1983 (softcore stuff, not hardcore). The genre is one of my greatest guilty pleasures. So while I’ve of course seen all the Confessions and Adventures movies (dreadful aren’t they?), I’ve never been able to track down the likes of Some Like It Cool (1961), a very early Michael Winner feature set in a nudist camp (someone on the internet reckons it’ll never get an official release now because there are naked children in it); The Naked World Of Harrison Marks (1966), one of the prolific glamour photographer’s most popular flicks; short The Hot Girls (1974), co-directed by Scottish porn king John Lindsay; The Stud (1974) – no, not that one; this one stars Dudley Sutton and Julian Holloway, believe it or not; Hellcat Mud Wrestlers (1983), the last gasp of erotic British cinema, featuring models as opposed to real mud wrestlers, or many other films too numerous to mention. (Oh go on, then – also ones like Nudist Memories (1961), Eves On Skis (1963), It’s A Bare Bare World (1964), The Window Cleaner (1968), The Office Party (1976), Under The Bed (1977).) By the way, I once watched female mud wrestling in Thailand; it was the most boring thing I’ve seen in my life.
Besides the smut there is also, of course, the horror, notably films brought to my attention by the proprietor of this very website in his essential book Ten Years Of Terror: British Horror Films Of The 1970s. Of the book’s main section of 142 titles I’ve seen all but one flick, and that pesky flick is Whispers Of Fear (1976), which David tells me has basically been disowned by its director Harry Bromley Davenport, so we’re unlikely to ever see a release. But you never know: until last year The Face Of Darkness (1976) lingered in the same no-release purgatory, but then the BFI stuck it on a Blu-ray collection. A section at the back of the book details borderline cases, and there are three I’ve yet to see: House Of The Damned (1974) (half-Spanish and apparently crap); The Quatermass Conclusion (1979) (a feature compilation of the ITV series, and very hard to see as a standalone); and the Ingrid Pitt starring Nobody Ordered Love (1972) (completely lost, and not actually even a horror, but included because everybody used to think it was).
You’ll see a pattern emerging, and get a further insight into my weird psychological makeup, when I tell you I’m also after Children’s Film Foundation entry Egghead’s Robot (1970), because it’s the only British genre movie I haven’t watched in Alan Frank’s The Science Fiction And Fantasy Film Handbook; Girl In His Pocket (1957) and Magic Spectacles (1961), because they’re the only nudie cuties in Bill Warren’s epic Fifties sci-fi movies book Keep Watching The Skies! that I haven’t seen; and The Return Of Sherlock Holmes (1929), The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1931) and The Missing Rembrandt (1932), the only three Holmes films I haven’t seen that are included in Steinbrunner and Michaels’ The Films Of Sherlock Holmes. Similarly, there are five Tarzan films in Scott Tracy Griffin’s Tarzan On Film I’ve not watched, but three of them are probably lost forever (The Romance Of Tarzan (1918), The Revenge Of Tarzan (1920) and Tarzan The Mighty (1928)), and two of them, Tarzan’s Jungle Rebellion (1967) and Tarzan’s Deadly Silence (1970), might as well be. Those two are actually feature-length big-screen compilations of episodes of the Ron Ely Tarzan TV series – someone once said to me, “Oh, you can get hold of the TV series, just watch them there,” and I was like, “NO! It needs to be the actual films,” because, as I say, I’m a freak. A militant completist at any rate.
The thing is this: many of the movies on my list will definitely never turn up. So why do I keep them there? Masochism? Perhaps. Or maybe I just love the old posters that show up on most of the IMDb thumbnails? But I suspect it’s my way of clinging to hope, like hoping I win millions on the Lottery, or believing one day I might be born again and re-live my life without all the mistakes…
I have some really random titles on my list, many of which possibly require explanation: Steven Spielberg TV movie Savage (1973), because it’s literally the only Spielberg film I’ve never seen; Alfred Hitchcock’s lost The Mountain Eagle (1926) because, yes, it’s the only Hitch film I haven’t watched; Journey Into Darkness (1968) because it’s the only Hammer film from the Sixties I haven’t seen, and I love horror compendiums; short Red (1976) because, um, Gabrielle Drake is naked in it… the box-ticking goes on. Clinical psychologists might have a field day with me.
There are also many movies I want to see because, hey, I just want to see them: I’m intrigued by the 1949 version of The Great Gatsby with Alan Ladd; Mini Weekend (1968) sounds like a fascinating Swinging London movie; Inferno Rosso: Joe D’Amato On The Road To Excess (2021, and the most recent film on my list) promises to be an interesting documentary on a director I have a soft spot for and once interviewed.
I have a bit of a thing for mondo movies, so Naked Terror (1961), Secret Africa (1969) and Naked England (1969) are on there; similarly Nazi love camp trash, hence Women’s Camp 119 (1977), East Of Berlin (1978) and Holocaust 2: The Revenge (1980); plus I like compilations of silent film comedians, thus Harold Lloyd’s Funny Side Of Life (1963), The Golden Age Of Buster Keaton (1975) and Funny Business (1978). You can say a lot of things about me, but you can’t say my taste isn’t eclectic.
And because these films have been on my wish list for so long they have acquired almost mystical qualities. I can’t give up now! The more difficult it is to see them, the more I want to see them. The more difficult it was to get to the Moon, the harder they tried (pardon the comparison).
For my sins, I’ve seen all films ever nominated for Best Film Oscar, except for The Patriot (1928) and The White Parade (1934). The Patriot is completely lost, while a rough print of The White Parade can only be viewed at the University of California archive if you make a prior appointment. Seriously, one day I can see myself doing that. I guess it might be wise if I think up some other things to do on my visit to America.
And then there’s Just For Fun (1963), the only Amicus film I’ve not seen and a potentially fascinating British pop music film, one of the very last pre-Beatles ones. The trouble with this one is that not only is Jimmy Savile in it, but his picture is also on the poster! Jimmy Savile, the guy whose reputation crashed almost literally overnight in the UK in 2012. We still might see images of Genghis Khan and Adolf Hitler and Fred West on our TV screens, but not Savile. So I think it’s unlikely Just For Fun will turn up any time soon on Talking Pictures TV – or anywhere.
But I remain hopeful that I will see many of the above films, even though, at the moment, I can’t even get it down from 61 to a round 60 despite months of effort – which includes checking the internet and YouTube regularly, browsing eBay and scouring the TV schedules. If money was no object and I was okay with buying an old VHS copy from Greece or Italy or the US then yes, I could see a handful more, but I’m not quite there yet. I hope I won’t need to: surprises do happen. Six or seven years, I ago I thought there was zero chance I’d ever see Peter Sellers’ only directed movie Mr Topaze (1961) or the sexy British short Over Exposed (1977), but they both went and turned up on the BFI’s website (for free!). And so I must end this article with a predictable plea: if you can help with any of these films, please let me know below, I’d be enormously grateful. My full list can also be made available. Take pity on me.
Reprobate readers are encouraged to share their own wish lists in the comments and who knows, perhaps even help each other out along the way.
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