“Russ Meyer’s Fanny Hill”
Finding Her Way
“Fanny Hill” seems to be as much a part of history as the French Revolution. Every generation finds the book and for many young men it is their introduction to sex. I bet there are also as many film versions of the book as there are published editions. I had never seen the Russ Meyer “Fanny” so I was surprised when there was a copy in today’s mail. Because it was a surprise I had no expectations and quite honestly I did not even know thw movie existed before today. I did not even look it up until I finished watching it and writing this review.
This “Fanny Hill” was released in 1968 and is in black and white but I miss say that the blu ray edition is gorgeous to watch—every scene is crystal clear.
We meet Fanny (Letitia Roman) after she has lost her parents and now she must find a way to live in London of the 18th century. She was very lucky to get a job as a chambermaid for a Mrs. Brown who has a large house filled with female relatives who rarely wear more than negligees and are very easy going. Fanny’s new mistress demands that Fanny meet various gentlemen alone especially if they show any interest in her. This is the story of the misadventures of the chaste Fanny is introduced into the bawdy life of a lady of the streets. She goes through several chases to bed and she seems to have no idea of what she is doing.
Fanny discovers what she is doing only when a young man in drag rescues her from a life of prostitution, pulls her away from the man she is with and marries her.
Fanny comes across as quite simple and incapable of understanding the double entendres that come her way. Miriam Hopkins plays the madam of the house and she does not teach Fanny much preferring to have her find her own way.
Roman as Fanny is fresh and has a wonderful body but so do the other girls in the film. So what if it is not the classic that was written by John Cleland? Sometimes we just have to have fun at the movies and we do not always want to be challenged to think about what we see here. There is no need here to do anything but to sit back and enjoy the film. Those of you who know Russ Meyer as a master of erotica might be a bit disappointed. I also thought when I saw his name that I would be in for something resembling porn but it did not happen although there are those that will argue that with me. We, in 2013, have come to expect erotica and I do suppose that for the 60’s, this was a bit wild. However by today’s standards it is pretty tame.
Fanny is so naïve that she had no idea that the woman who took her in was a Madame and she actually thought that she was going to work in a hat shop. She really never learns the truth and she somehow manages to avoid her clients.
The dialogue is silly but the subject matter and the costumes keep us watching
Inane dialogue in this Russ Meyer burlesque farce/love story….but the naughty subject matter and low cut dresses were probably enough to keep the viewing public interested. Our innocent little Italian-born star, Leticia Roman plays Fanny Hill, who is looking for work, and ends up boarding in a house full of “female cousins”. Roman had made GI Blues, along with 8 other films prior to this one. The fast carnival-type music, the hair-dos, and the costumes tip us off that this will be an odd period piece. Mrs. Brown (Miriam Hopkins) takes Fanny in, and claims that the residents and the visitors are all related, which adds another weird dimension to the plot. Try to catch the new lyrics to “London Bridge is Falling Down” as they frolic at the king’s palace….Later, Fanny meets the dashing sailor “Charles”, and when separated, Fanny is devastated. This 1964 version is one hour 45 minutes, and goes on way too long. The 1968 subtitled Swedish version remake is actually easier to watch, since it’s in color, only 91 minutes, and has a more cohesive script. So it is not a great film but it is fun. Director Albert Zugsmith teamed with Russ Meyer to make this movie and it contains some of Zugsmith’s slapstick and satire which mixes well with Meyer’s good looking and well developed women. It comes to us on DVD from Vinegar Syndrome (who just added me to their reviewers’ list) and the DVD/Blu ray combo has these extras: