Three Routine Short Reviews from 1976

Three short reviews for the Monthly Film Bulletin in 1976, the first two for their April issue (vol. 43, no. 507), and third for their November issue (vol. 43, no. 514).  –- J.R.

TheBattleofBillysPondBattle of Billy’s Pond, The

Great Britain, 1976

Director: Harley Cokliss





Finding a dead fish in a pond where he frequently goes fishing, Billy Bateson takes it home, where his cat makes off with it and becomes ill. Informed by a vet that the cat’s illness was caused by chemicals, Billy investigates the pond further with his friend Gobby, discovers more dead fish and eventually learns the cause: industrial waste is being emptied into an underground stream, originating from an abandoned quarry, which feeds the pond. After secretly witnessing two lorry drivers in the quarry and then seeing green fluid enter the pond, the boys report their findings to the police and learn from Billy’s father about “Breeze”, a detergent manufactured at Con-Chem nearby. Getting into the factory by subterfuge, they videotape the tanker drivers with Gobby’s father’s camera and sneak out to the quarry that night to trap them in the act, rigging up speakers and lights and then letting air out of the tanker’s tires. The drivers seize Gobby, lock him in the cab and chase after Billy, but meanwhile a local eccentric has reported oil leakage from the tanker to the police. The latter arrive at dawn in the nick of time, after the drivers have destroyed the boys’ equipment and Gobby has cut the tanker’s transmission wires and started a fire. The boys are proclaimed heroes.

On the evidence of this tight featurette and numerous testimonials, it would seem that the Children’s Film Foundation maintains a level of workaday efficiency exceeding most of the rest of British commercial filmmaking. While there is nothing particularly inspired about this thriller of boy-detective ecology heroes using their parents’ expensive equipment to flush out villainous working-class lorry drivers, director Harley Cokliss manages to breeze through the closely-scripted narrative with a minimum of fuss. The only strained moments involve the pained grimaces of a village eccentric, as consistently unfunny as equivalent character parts in British rural sex comedies; especially effective are menacing sequences involving the tanker as it charges down country roads like a brutal beast, threatening everything in its path, and an appealing cat who offers an unusually expressive performance before chemical wastes remove him from the plot.




Enjambées, Les (Cat Dance of Sex)

France, 1974

Director: Jeanne Varoni [Jeanne Chaix]

Cat Dance of Sex


Lamenting that her husband Jacques hasn’t made love to her in a week, Nicole begins to masturbate with a pillow when her friend Béatrice rings up; learning thatBéatrice has been doing the same thing. Nicole invites her over and they take turns trying to arouse the plumber, who flees in terror. When they discover a neighbor spying on them, they make love to provide him with a spectacle and then watch him make love with his wife. Meanwhile, at work in his record business, Jacques shows no interest in some topless girls and a gay singer who are auditioning, and fires his assistant Etienne for having too much sex on the job. Béatrice invites Nicole to a sex party at a bordello on the pretext that it is a seance; after discovering the ruse,  Nicole agrees to participate, put one of the men she sleeps with turns out to be Etienne, who threatens to tell Jacques if she doesn’t sleep with him again. A doctor advises Nicole to use erotic shock tactics to get Jacques over his impotence, and when she dresses up as a geisha and massages him, he is aroused; but after she runs off to dress up successively as a prostitute, little girl, vamp, policewoman and airline hostess, he grows indifferent. Invited along with Béatrice and Etienne to a sex party given by her voyeur neighbor, Nicole brings Jacques, who proves to be the most popular man there, sleeping with several women in a row. Too tired to sleep with Nicole, he nevertheless declares that his problems are over, plans a flight with her around the globe, rehires Etienne at four times his original salary, and delightedly runs off with Nicole at dawn to a park, where their lovemaking provokes the interest of a cab-driver.

A pathetically inept but doggedly good-natured sex comedy, Les Enjambées has been altered by cuts so that it now seems to cater to the tastes of a highly specialized  audience quite different from the one to whom it was initially addressed. Whereas the original appears to have been aimed at average couples and individuals seeking to arouse flagging sexual appetites, the elimination of all the scenes of simulated orgasm – particularly when coupled with the heroine’s uncompleted acts with a pillow and a bar of soap — now makes the film largely unsuitable for that purpose,  but unusually provocative, it would seem, for coitus interruptus enthusiasts.


TheGreatScoutandCTGreat Scout & Cathouse Thursday, The

U.S.A., 1976

Director: Don Taylor

Former scout and Indian fighter Sam Longwood [Lee Marvin] and his sidekick Billy make a lot of money in a saloon wager, while Joe Knox, a half-breed Indian cohort of theirs, drives off with a wagonload of prostitutes, who were bound for jail and whom he proceeds to rename after the days of the week. The three then join forces to confront Jack Colby, a fight promoter in the ‘Taft for President’ campaign who ran off with all the money they had jointly made in a gold claim fifteen years ago. Knox meanwhile releases the prostitutes, although Thursday — the youngest, who has been kept as the mistress and semi-captive of Mike, the prostitutes’ madam -– stays behind with the men, and falls in love with Longwood. Foiled in their efforts to recover the money they demand from Colby, the foursome follow him to the town of Serenity, where he has staged his next fight, and proceed to kidnap his wife, Nancy Sue, who was engaged some years ago to Longwood. They discover that Colby is happy to be rid of her, but finally succeed in stealing Colby’s cashbox with the help of a boxful of wasps at the fight in Serenity. Colby, Mike and their employees chase after Longwood, Billy, Knox, Thursday and Nancy Sue, before Colby and Longwood agree to fight one another single-handedly for the money. Colby wins, but after Billy,  Longwood, Knox and Thursday drive off with four other prostitutes, it is revealed that Knox has left Colby his old collection of scalps instead of the money.

THEGREATscout-ADSoporific Western farce whose title seems to have been inspired by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and whose manner mainly suggests a dehumanized Disney formula roustabout, spiced with prostitutes, ‘dirty words’, and witless gags involving VD and cow turds. Chases are invariably accompanied by banjo music, editing is frequently disjointed and awkward, and Oliver Reed’s hammy impersonation of a supposedly ‘anti-white’ half-breed is only the most obnoxious of a series of lugubrious performances and cardboard characters.



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