An outrageous scam, a project that collapsed under its own ambition or a lost film? You decide.
As much as we like to delve into forgotten cultural histories here at The Reprobate, there are times when we hit a dead end almost immediately. Such is the case of a curious British adult film from 1986 called King Arthur’s Lady Returns. Although this videotape was advertised in the pages of Video World magazine complete with a special discount price for that magazine’s readers and with several stills plastering the full-page ad, there is every reason to believe that this film does not actually exist.
To make some sense of this, we have to go back to Britain in the mid-1980s, when the Video Recordings Act had not only swept the wild west of uncensored home video from the shelves but also – not unexpectedly – acted as a conman’s charter. As the adult films available to rent from high street shops became ever tamer, so eager would-be porn viewers became ever more desperate, seeking out something more explicit and forbidden via the ads that appeared in the monthly video magazines of the time. These mags were supported by extensive adult advertising in the back pages, especially Video World which had positioned itself as the ‘sexy’ home video magazine with an entire ‘adult’ section – complete with topless pin-ups, reviews and lots and lots of advertising – in the last ten or so pages of each issue. The ads, which ranged from the Private sex shop chain to manner of fly-by-night operations, offered ‘uncensored’ adult videos – the word ‘uncensored’, of course, implying everything but meaning nothing given that even in 1986, the sort of tame adult video productions being offered by companies like Strand International were only rarely going to vex the BBFC. The magazines knew that the ads offering ‘hardcore’ or ‘XXX’ titles were scams – indeed, they had to be because the mags would’ve been on legally questionable ground accepting advertising for illegal material. Had the advertisers had any intention of supplying the content that they were offering, the magazines would’ve rejected their ads – but they were happy to make money from mail order con artists who were scamming their readers.
At best, if you sent away your £30 or more for this ‘uncensored XXX hardcore’, you might get a 1970s European sex comedy. At worst, you wouldn’t get anything at all because the ad was a complete rip-off run from a quickly rented accommodation address that would be vacated within a couple of months. Who was going to make an official complaint about being scammed while trying to buy porn? It was an easy con.
King Arthur’s Lady Returns, however, did not seem to be this sort of thing. For a start, it was advertised with full-page, full-colour ads featuring stills from the movie. And it didn’t really match the profile of the scam ads, which almost always emphasised the forbidden explicitness of their content. This film made no bones about being softcore and even stated very clearly that it would be seeking BBFC approval. What’s more, it seemed an oddly ambitious affair at a time when British softcore was generally stuff like Jane and Janice Get Them Off and Miss Adventures at Mega Boob Manor. This was a time-hopping adventure that went from the Dark Ages to the modern day and emphasised the Fem-Dom aspects of the narrative, which was filmed in Somerset. The whole thing looks ludicrously full of itself at a time when British sex films were at their lowest ebb. Let’s be fair – if you were trying to con porn viewers into parting with their cash, I’m not sure that ‘King Arthur’ would be your go-to scam idea.
The film starred Janie Hamilton, a British glamour model noted – as most were at the time – for her big boobs. Hamilton had made a couple of softcore videos with fellow glamour girl Stacey Owen but was mostly known as a magazine model, appearing in everything from Escort to Park Lane. Like many other British glamour models, she also moonlighted in hardcore photo shoots aimed at the international market – back then, many glamour girls secretly did these explicit shoots figuring that no one back home would ever know (the internet rather buggered up that theory for them years later). Co-starring with Hamilton was “a stunning Amazonian blonde new to the world of video”, which seemed an odd description – did she not have a name or did the copywriter get carried away and forget to include it? This omission is perhaps telling.
I was fascinated by this video at the time – but not fascinated enough to risk £26.50 on a copy. Surely this film would turn up in the rental racks soon enough anyway – it seemed too extravagant just to remain as a mail order exclusive. However, it never seemed to show up anywhere. There were no reviews – again, you’d expect Wessex Video Productions to have at least sent copies to Video World in an effort to maximise publicity. The ads stopped running and the tape was never heard of again.
There is no record on the BBFC website of King Arthur’s Lady Returns ever having been submitted – which of course doesn’t mean much, given how shoddy the BBFC website now is – and there is no record of the film on IMDb, where Janie Hamilton’s career credits consist of three titles. Wessex Video productions (Somerset) Limited really was a registered company in 1986, though you’ll be unsurprised to hear that it no longer exists. The address in Yeovil is now a takeaway. And the phone number given is missing a couple of numbers – another accident or a deliberate mistake?
Perhaps the producers were essentially trying to crowdfund the movie – running the ads to sell copies of the film before they’d even shot it. The stills do look suspiciously like they have been taken from a single photo shoot. Maybe they simply didn’t shift enough units to cover the production costs. Or perhaps it really was an extravagant scam. I do wonder just how many people ordered this film and what happened to their money. Was it refunded? Given the nature of the British adult industry at the time, that seems highly unlikely. Maybe, however improbable it seems, the film really was made and copies were sent to customers. I can’t help but think that if that was the case, it might have turned up somewhere, somehow by now.
As I said at the start, this is a mystery with no real conclusion. I suspect that no one other than the people behind Wessex Video productions knows exactly what was going on here – and unless someone gets in touch with more information (if you have any, then please do!), it is likely to remain a mystery. It’s a shame, though – because I really do wish that this film had existed even if it was awful. It looks much more fun than anything else being made in Britain at the time.
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Wonderful! Let’s say the new cutting edge of Cult Films is the unmade, lost, impossible or otherwise literally unwatchable flick. A true cinema of the mind, without even so much as shadow for substance. Do you want to be involved in an imaginary festival of such, to be not held in the city of Manchester? Might be a wheeze if one or more examples could stir up a rumpus while only existing as rumour … I must say, the Arthurian theme herelends the project a magnificently weird and mystical quality that makes it a prize specimen. Also that the would-be producers had some quirky philosophy … Wessex is a literary reference too, I think? Thomas Hardy? Though it could have all been a pyramid scheme and such allusions may have been literally off the shelf. Has anyone asked the stunning Miss Hamilton about it?
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