Girls Come First (1975)

Up and coming portrait artist Alan Street (John Hamill) is employed by the owner of a Soho Swingers Club to paint the nude hostesses. Whilst Alan relishes his new job his beautiful girlfriend (Sue Longhurst) is less than impressed.

A raunchy mini-movie; seen overseas in a full length hardcore version, but released in the UK as a forty-three minute short that nevertheless proved popular as a second feature. The softcore domestic version acted pretty much on the same lines as a ‘square up reel’ i.e. a tried and tested piece of titillation designed to make punters think they’d got their money’s worth should the headlining feature fail to live up to audience expectations. It’s the second in an unofficial trilogy of films (the others are The Over-Amorous Artist and Under the Bed) loosely linked by the character of Alan Street (John Hamill), a cash strapped artist. Hamill’s background as a 1960’s physiques model proved good training for the role, as well as for stripping off in the sex driven horror film Tower of Evil, and flashing for publicly photos that turned up in the likes of Cinema Blue magazine.

In Girls Come First, Alan Street finds a wealthy benefactor in nightclub owner Hugh Jampton, an excitable middle aged swinger who also runs a sex magazine and hopes a few Alan Street originals will boost flagging sales. Ever the skinflint Jampton not only hires Alan to paint nude portraits of his magazine’s models, but also puts him to work as a waiter in his nightclub whose main attraction is a topless bar band. Neither of these occupations goes down well with Alan’s possessive girlfriend played by Sue Longhurst. Alan’s ‘big problem’ is that Jampton’s giggling models aren’t about to stand still and are soon all over him like a rash. Alan ends up in one sex situation to another, to the degree that it is hard to believe he would have the energy to raise a brush, never mind paint the erotic masterpieces that have people queuing round the block to buy Jampton’s rag. In the peculiarly moral ending Alan gives up the careerist sex comedy lifestyle because Sue has a child that needs a father figure, and as a going away present he receives sloppy wet kisses from all his female co-stars.

Hamill’s nice guy personality pretty much rubs off on the entire movie, the good natured tone is doubly surprising given that director Joe McGrath hated directing sex scenes and producer David Grant was merely hated. McGrath takes credit for co-writing the script under his real name yet pseudonymously signed his director’s credit ‘Croisette Meubles’, a move that suggests Grant- who liked to ‘supervise’ his production’s sex scenes- may have had a hand in directing this. Girls Come First certainly feels less like a Joe McGrath film and more like a David Grant one. McGrath’s other well known foray into sexploitation, 1975’s I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight still shares allot of the characteristics of his ‘legit’ films like The Magic Christian and Casino Royale and begrudgingly throws a couple of nude extras into several scenes including a reprise of Casino Royale’s ‘bar room brawl to end all bar room brawls’ sequence. Girls Come First on the other hand is far more pornographically minded, filmed erotically straight and the comedy involving a sex magazine reading Rabbi, a French nympho called Emmanuelle (well there had to be an Emmanuelle in there somewhere didn’t there) and a Japanese chauffeur with a hungry eye on a passing pooch wisely plays second fiddle.

Grant, a ‘Mr Big’ character in 1970’s British porn who owned several sex cinemas in the West End, certainly knew how to mould a film to the tastes of his target audience, not only placing heavy emphasis on the sex, but also including lots of familiar West End location footage and some insider knowledge of the Soho milieu (such as the waiters in Jampton’s nightclub serving watered down, overpriced drinks to customers distracted by topless girls). The rest of the brief running time is a not unappealing cocktail of fine character turns from Bill Kerr and Sue Longhurst, a pre-fame appearance by Hazel O’Connor (here a nondescript candy floss blonde billed as ‘Hazel Glyn’) and a really weird song about seagulls. And where else can you find Heather Deeley and Burt Kwouk in the same movie.