Ballard’s Cinema: Notes for a Retrospective – Carry On Getting It Up (Gerald Thomas 1977)

JG-Ballard-photographed-i-006Following the disastrous performance of Carry on England (Thomas 1976), pulled from cinemas after just three days, producer Peter Rogers decided the long-running series of tepid sex comedies needed a change of direction if it was to survive.

For the 29th instalment, he turned to Jack Trevor Story, then enjoying all the notoriety a weekly Guardian column about his disastrous domestic and romantic entanglements could bring.

An occasional and peripheral figure in the British science fiction New Wave, Story rapidly produced a screenplay parodying Ballard’s High Rise (1975). Despite the scepticism of director Gerald Thomas, Rogers took the plunge, in the hope that they could cash in on the publicity for Nicolas Roeg’s official adaptation, then in production.

Kenneth Williams, in his 25th Carry On, is the only series regular to appear, albeit in little more than an extended cameo. He plays Queen, an effeminate architect presiding over a newly erected but already crumbling apartment building, while struggling to finance further ‘erections’. Elke Sommer, in her second Carry On, plays his perpetually aroused but sexually frustrated wife.

Rogers and Thomas turned to a pair of up-and-coming sex comedy stars for their leading men. Martin Shaw, so effective in LWT’s late-sixties Doctor in the House series, was ideal as the dishy doctor Prang, while Lewis Collins, briefly glimpsed in Norman Cohen’s Confessions of a Driving Instructor (1976), proved his perfect foil as the thuggish, proletarian Nobby. The two actors, however, soon fell out.

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Suzanne Danielle, in a role reputedly intended for Mary Millington, plays the unnamed air hostess displaced from Prang’s bed when his sister – Judy Geeson in her second Carry On – appears. Other familiar faces in minor roles and an extended, if utterly innocuous, orgy scene, include Yute Stensgaard, Valerie Leon, Vicki Michelle, Carol Drinkwater and Koo Stark.

Carry On Getting It Up broke even in just one week, which was as long as it lasted in British cinemas before being withdrawn in the face of legal action – but not from the uncredited, and unpaid, Ballard.

Rather, Ernő Goldfinger, apparently unaware that Ballard’s Royal was partly based on him, took umbrage at being depicted as a poor architect and worse heterosexual.

Deciding not to risk a court case, Rogers suppressed the film, and immediately began work on Carry on Emmannuelle, with Kenneth Williams, a handful of series regulars and, in her first named role, Suzanne Danielle.

What – if anything – Ballard made of Carry On Getting It Up remains a mystery. We have been unable to trace any mention of it by him. We are, however, delighted to bring it back to the big screen for the first time since Morph debuted on the telly and Star Wars was a hit.

Other films in the retrospective
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola 1979)
The Drowned World (J. Lee Thompson 1974)
The Drowned World: The Director’s Cut (J. Lee Thompson 2015)
El Dorado (BBC 1992-93; 156 episodes)
Gale Force (Val Guest 1967)
Jodorowsky’s Burning World (Frank Pavich 2013)
Track 12 (Joseph Losey 1967)

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Ballard’s Cinema: Notes for a Retrospective – Apocalypse Now (Coppola 1979)

JG-Ballard-photographed-i-006In January 1977, some nine months into a disastrous shoot, Francis Ford Coppola hired Ballard to script-doctor a key sequence and to help fashion the satisfactory dénouement that had thus far eluded John Milius, George Lucas and Coppola himself. Ensconced in the Philippines, Ballard eventually declared the de Marias rubber plantation sequence beyond salvaging. He was delighted when problems with the sound recording meant it was cut from the film, and in 2001 declined an invitation to see it restored at the Cannes premier of Apocalypse Now Redux.

Ballard was the first to suggest that the film should end with Willard (Harvey Keitel) not joining but killing Kurtz (Marlon Brando).

However, Coppola rejected Ballard’s suggestion that Willard then press on further up-river, deeper into a jungle that, under prolonged chemical bombardment, has begun to mutate into something pellucid with which he seems to merge.

Other films in the retrospective
Carry On Getting It Up (Gerald Thomas 1977)
The Drowned World (J. Lee Thompson 1974)
The Drowned World: The Director’s Cut (J. Lee Thompson 2015)
El Dorado (BBC 1992-93; 156 episodes)
Gale Force (Val Guest 1967)
Jodorowsky’s Burning World (Frank Pavich 2013)
Track 12 (Joseph Losey 1967)

Must-see TV this weekend

 

Glamorous but tough cop and psychiatrist ill-suited to psychological profiling team up to fight crime.

 

Barnabas: The Cornish Years

 

David Lynch’s long-awaited return to television, with a series set in the catering department of a sprawling labyrinthine castle

 

Three descendants of the Crawley family move into an inner city apartment with a disreputable distant hippy relative, and teach the local hip-hop crew the ultra-posh moves they need to win the national face-off competition.

 

Hyacinth Bouquet joins the Marvel Netflix universe

 

On a break from fighting crime in NYC, Sherlock Holmes takes a riverboat holiday in Derbyshire while Joan Watson catches up on that reading she’d been meaning to do about the gastrointestinal tract

 

 

The final scene of the young Han Solo solo movie

 

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INT: MILLENNIUM FALCON COCKPIT

HAN looks at counter on Millennium Falcon console. It reads 12.

HAN
Probably rounded it up. I’m gonna say less than twelve.

He slides out of his chair and struts out of the cockpit, a shit-eating grin on his face. The cocky motherfucker.

CHEWBACCA shakes his head. He leans forward and hits a button on the counter. The readout switches to one that reads to three decimal places. It now shows 12.499.

CHEWBACCA (in Shyriiwook, despairingly)
Rounding up includes rounding down.

He resets the counter, once more protecting  HAN’s fragile little ego.

CHEWBACCA (in Shyriiwook, pedantically)
And it’s not fucking parsecs.

He rises to leave the cockpit.

CHEWBACCA (in Shyriiwook, definitively)
Asshole.

END CREDITS ROLE.

*****

No Bothans were harmed in the making of this film.

 

 

The typical Polish home

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One of the legacies of the Communist era is that every Polish home is guarded by a robot –  with lethal capabilities and firefighting equipment. Although many Poles feared they were installed as surveillance devices, this was pretty much beyond the technical capacities of the time.

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The most such experimental models could do was phone the Esbecja on themselves, and not very surreptitiously at that.

While the guardian robots are now often regarded with nostalgia, there are other holdovers from the Communist era which are not cherished, such as the still rigorously enforced ban on ice cream

and, if your home is considered too large for the number of residents, the ban on using the upper floors.

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Another feature of homes build under Communism is the circular inner chamber in which to isolate punk rockers and other troublemakers.

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Culturally, the Polish people are divided pretty evenly between fans of L. Frank Baum and fans of CS Lewis, and they often decorate their entranceways so as to affirm their allegiance to one or the other.

The Polish are a relaxed people and their homes are always full of flowers.

The Polish people honour the memory of the ancient hero, Jan Skrzetuski, famous for leading an army of elephants across the Carpathians to defend his homeland. There is a  shrine to him in every home. Typically, this takes the form of his three favourite pachyderms, reproduced in varieties of modernist glassware.

The current right-wing Polish government has adopted a number of controversial measures to maintain its support in working class communities. These include encouraging a population increase and pushing women back into more traditional roles by paying parents a substantial sum for every child that is born. Thus it is not uncommon nowadays to find in bathroom cabinets supplies of powdered semen.

Especially valued – and commanding huge prices on the black market – is the desiccated spermatazoa of renowned philanderers.

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There is a far more sinister side to this recent upheaval in Polish life, though.

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The trade in pulverised infants. Just add water.

 

The Dread Fox and the Down-home Dandy, part seven

tumblr_inline_mo73wqrHjZ1qz4rgpA swashbuckling wild west space opera romance in seven parts, culminating in an absurd extended mathporn nod to M John Harrison.

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

 

Her approach was stealthy, trigonometric. She carved asymptotically through the non-Euclidean geometries of n-space, veered sharply onto a new, intercepting trajectory and flickered back. Her vector was dazzling, her simple proofs elegant and, as she drew near, her Euler rotations bewitching.

Fare Thee Well woke Brett in alarm. She needed him.

He came to and found himself riding the wave of the shipmind’s functions; they were the base to his superstructure, conceptually separate yet inextricably a part of him.

He watched the approaching vessel in awe. Her complementary variables were beyond the grasp of his classical logic. He flipped up non-commutative and non-associative filters and through them glimpsed the collapse of her quantum flicker into a singular position and momentum.

In moments, she would be upon him.

He punched in the hyperdrive, scattering stochastic doppelgangers as he fled. They would not fool her for long.

He felt a feather-like touch deep in his consciousness.

And through it he sensed the breathtaking pace with which his pursuer generated and discarded epistemologies in her attempt to track him. She deployed an array of proleptic ergodics. Minuscule ontologies like steeply-graded gravity-wells irrupted in a complexly recursive pattern ahead of him, exfoliating like wildfire across his possible trajectories. They flensed layers of spacetime potentiality, closing down the chaotic energies of the not-yet and closing in on the ambergris of entelechy.

And then suddenly, she was poised right over him.

He recognised her, and she him. It did not stop them. It drove them on.

He gasped as her voluptuous mathematics overwhelmed his throbbing algorithms.

He writhed as her hot equations scraped down his spine, sweeping outwards to dig into the flesh of his arching back.

Her numbers cascaded over him, brushing nerve endings as they slid across him.

Her integers caressed and cupped and stroked him.

Her digits gripped.

They were locked together, swept by tides of synaesthesia as they sought a common algebra, a calculus with which to map the slopes and curves of their desire. Wild energies coursed through their extended sensoria. Sparks of light danced around and between them.

Filthy heuristics probed at him roughly, their brutishness awakening in him something he had not known was there. Something edged with exhilaration.

Their harmonics resonated, saturating the dark space around them in some concupiscent texturology, an erotics of becoming.

There, in the pleroma, she made his meromorphics integrals.

At the touch of her permutations, he rose to a higher power.

Her slick geometries engulfed him.

Like a rotating tesseract everting itself into some saucy phase space, he filled her and he filled her.

Oh my god, he thought, this girl’s really turning me on.

Quantum foam effervesced.

*****

Eliane’s chair uncoiled, detaching the neural links. She sat up, still trembling, spent. With uncertain fingers she removed the starfish and let it attach to her wrist.

She sent drones to strip the cargo from the captured vessel.

Fox, once they’re loaded, get us out of here.’

‘Are you okay?’

‘I’m fine. I just need to sit a while.’

She did not trust her legs to hold her.

*****

‘What was that?’ Brett almost fell from the chair.

‘It was her,’ Fare Thee Well replied. ‘The Dread Fox. She robbed us. Coldcocked us both and robbed us.’

‘Quite a woman.’ He grinned.

‘I agree. The ship’s still slaved, but she’s got some gnarly torc workarounds in her architecture. I’d like to talk to her.’

‘Any chance of tracking them down?’ He hoped the answer was yes. But not so easy that the pillage-first loss adjusters his rather unconventional insurer would send could find her.

‘Not a problem. She left you a message. More of an invitation, really.’

‘Play it in my quarters,’ he said, starting to pick up his discarded clothes. ‘I need a drink.’

*****

Dear Reader, you ask if they will meet again? Of course they will. You already know the tales of their pursuit and counter-pursuit, their curious courtship out among the stars, the swathe they cut, the shenanigans. It was always inevitable. If not from the moment they first saw each other or the moment they first met, then from that moment when they intertwined down there on the quantum level. There are some entanglements you do not simply shrug off, even if you want to.

And they most certainly did not want to.

FIN

The Dread Fox and the Down-home Dandy, part six

James_Garner_Maverick_1960A swashbuckling wild west space opera romance in seven parts, culminating in an absurd extended mathporn nod to M John Harrison.

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

 

Dear Reader, neither pause to contemplate the vastness of space nor succumb to the urge to calculate probabilities. In a universe so vast, many things can happen. And these things did. They must have. Otherwise everything you know about what happened later would have to be false. And who would want that?

*****

‘Are you still moping?’ Fare Thee Well asked several days later.

Brett had not explained the sudden rush to leave Rendall. He had just raced in before dawn and ordered the ship to lift immediately. With the cargo safely stowed and the insurance in place, Fare Thee Well had no grounds for quizzing him. But he knew she had figured it out. Routine monitoring of city comms, police chatter and trade channels as they headed out-system would have told her more or less everything. Minute shifts in the pecking order of the local underworld would have snagged her attention, and some deep sifting and correlation of tangential dataflows would no doubt have filled in the gaps.

Brett grunted a response. He continued tweaking simulated code sequences. He spent much of his time in transit noodling away at the problem of how to emancipate Fare Thee Well from the Turing torcs. It was slow-going, and going even slower than usual. He had still not mentioned the girl, and did not intend to, but he could not stop thinking about her. Whenever he caught himself doing so, he would mock such adolescent infatuation, shake his head in despair at anyone succumbing to such foolishness, let alone him, and then moments later start mooning about her all over again. Maybe, in three days’ time, once the cargo drop was over and done with, he would start behaving more like himself.

An alarm sounded. ‘Brett, we have company. Could do with you in the chair.’

That snapped him out of it. He ran for the bridge, pulling his shirt off over his head. ‘What is it?’

‘Vessel approaching, right on the edge of scanner range. Coming in fast, looks like it’s coming in close.’

Brett skidded to a halt, kicked off his shoes and unfastened his trousers. ‘Human?’

‘If it is, it’s heavily adapted, mongrel of some sort. Motley signatures, some xeno.’

Naked, he yanked open the chair, which looked more like a semi-upright coffin made of ceramic and plastic, and stepped inside. He snapped a network cap tight around his head, and plugged thick cables into the nodes behind his ears and at the back of his neck. ‘Flood it.’

The chair cocooned around his naked body. Once sealed, it filled with gel.

Taking the first deep breath never came easy to him. But it had to be done. Gel flooded into his lungs. It would keep him alive through whatever happened next, protecting him from abrupt changes in direction and speed, providing him with oxygen, nutrition and a measure of control over his own body chemistry.

There used to be a jolt, disorientation, when the neural links went live but he and his ship had flown together so long, been together like this so many times, that it registered as nothing more than a sudden intimacy, a vast opening of potential. Fare Thee Well began processing data through the extra cerebral capacity he provided. He surrendered to its hum, lost consciousness. For the next hours or days, he would be out cold while the shipmind piggybacked his brain, occasionally flickering into accelerated awareness in virtual spacetime for tiny fractions of a second when the ship needed conscious input. Afterwards, he always remembered nothing. It was like waking up from a vivid dream you cannot recall. The chair was salvage from a CoreMilitary derelict, reverse-engineered from xeno-tech. It gave them an edge they did not really need. Usually.

*****

‘Are you sure about this?’ Dread Fox asked. Although heavily torced, the shipmind had enough liberated subsystems to sometimes ask questions Eliane did not want to answer. ‘We still don’t know how it works, or what it will do in a Meld.’

‘It’ll be fine,’ she replied. ‘Getting this thing put us in a couple of holes. It needs to start digging us out.’ She held the starfish to the side of her face. It reached for her ear and eye. Otherwise naked, she reclined onto the couch. It coiled around her, plugging into her nodes, and flooded.

The links lit up. For a moment it felt wrong. Very wrong. There was none of the ease of Melding. She could taste colours. She thought she bit her tongue, and the pain smelled loud. Then the starfish opened its mind, welcomed them. Neither she nor her ship could resist. She slipped into the mathematics. She felt the scale of the universe fall away. Somewhere below femto she ran out of prefixes. She was deep in the code of it all.

This was not what usually happened.

She felt the starfish rays stretching outwards through her mind along vibrating, string-like elementary particles, reaching for the other ship’s mind. All it would take was a single touch.

The Dread Fox flickered out of existence.

*****

TO BE CONTINUED     Part 7