London in the Raw/Primitive London (4 stars)

London in the Raw/Primitive London


The British Film Institute launches its DVD strand Flipside with a pair of salacious dirty delights that certainly fulfil the mandate of the highbrow organisation to rediscover and reappraise overlooked and marginalised material. Inspired by the success of the Italian Mondo movies, these two exploitation-style documentaries about the seedy side of swinging 60s London were knocked off – OK, written and directed – by ‘legendary’ low-budget British film mogul Arnold L Miller (producer of the terrible, teasing Take Your Clothes Off and Live, but also of the horror classic Witchfinder General).

These once very risqué but now wonderfully kitsch oddities boast some genuinely fascinating footage – some of it real, some of it staged – of sleazy bars and strip joints, sweaty sauna and naughty wife-swapping parties and the delinquent youth cults of mods, rockers and beatniks. The two features are backed up with excellent extras: more explicit alternative versions, short documentary sketches: Chelsea Bridge Boys and Carousella, interviews with the staff of Soho strip clubs and lavishly produced booklets to pore over that contain useful contextualising essays from London chroniclers Stewart Home and Iain Sinclair. One for the peeping toms.

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