MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.
ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE. (1976)
PUBLISHED IN 2020 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’
VOICE: Emergency. Which service do you require?
Miss Friggin, an elderly lady: Police. There’s a sex maniac outside.
I remember once watching a brilliant old film of Buster Keaton’s, in which Buster’s character goes out one day to play a nice relaxing game of golf and ends up on the gallows, about to be hanged.
I forget the name of this film but, if you read the film-script book of Michael Armstrong’s hilarious sex comedy, ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE, like I just have, you’ll probably be able to work out why I connected the two oeuvres in my mind…
Derek: How anyone can turn a simple visit to a police station into a low-budget British sex comedy, I do not know …!
We first meet the titular private dick, Bob West, after he’s just delivered what used to be known as a jolly good seeing-to to a married woman, Gretchen Prentiss, whose husband’s out working nights.
Milkman: Morning, Mr. Prentiss. You’re up early?
Mr. Prentiss: Up early? I’m on nights this week.
Milkman: I bet the wife doesn’t like that?
Mr. Prentiss: Doesn’t seem to bother her.
Well, now we know why, lol. Why would she be lonely when she has Bob West, private dick, to keep her company? Although, to be brutally honest, Bob is not so much a private dick as the assistant to a private dick.
His boss, Judd Blake, is the one who really gets all the perks, the life of luxury and excitement … cocktails in St. Moritz, intrigue in Morocco, South of France on the yacht then straight off in a private jet to some dangerous assignment in South America or Tangiers …
Bob is understandably jealous of his suave, sophisticated boss. He works his way through secretaries like a chain-smoker. Judd Blake is handsome, debonair, middle-aged, elegant and vain, and, boy, doesn’t he know it.
Judd to the gauche, socially awkward Bob: Think yourself lucky you’re working for the biggest dick in the business. That says it all … But then one fine day, Judd and his latest secretary sweetie go away for a bit and Bob is unexpectedly left holding the reins.
Judd: Cases, Robert … cases.
Bob’s face instantly lights up.
Bob: Do you want me to handle them while you’re away?
Judd: No. I want you to take them down to the car.
The screenplay is chock-full of hilarious lines like that. Judd is adamant that Bob keeps his nose out of any ‘cases’ which may arise. He’s to hold the fort and take messages and that’s about it. But Bob has other ideas, especially when a gorgeous broad called Laura Sutton comes in to the office looking for help and mistakes Bob for his boss. Laura is a real hot tamale.
Laura: Let me explain. I used to be a professional model- fashion model. To be honest, I lived a pretty wild life, Mr. Blake … Until I met Ashley … Ashley Dotrice. It was love at first sight. The fact that he was eighty-seven and a multi-millionaire with a bad heart condition had nothing to do with it, naturally.
Oh, naturally. You can’t argue with love at first sight. Laura has a little problem, however. A nasty rotten anonymous blackmailer is threatening to scupper her lovely plans to inherit the now deceased Mr. Dotrice’s massive estate.
Will Mr. Blake please help her to see off the blackmailer so she can inherit her ancient lover’s millions without having to keep looking over her elegant shoulder? Bob, now cast ineluctably in the role of Judd Blake, Private Eye, eagerly agrees to help the stunning model in distress …
Laura invites Bob (still thinking he’s Judd Blake, his boss) down to Ashley’s rural seat, the rather sinister-sounding Grimsdyke Manor, to see what’s what. The house is chock-a-block with relatives and aged retainers.
There’s Craddock, the rusty old butler, and Zelda, the busty maid. There are Ashley’s two daughters: Medea, a tall, exotically attired woman with green hair who fancies herself as a bit of a psychic (I see the mark of death upon you), and Violet, step-mother to the well-endowed Clarissa and wife to spanking enthusiast Sydney Burke.
Violet: … We have a lovely house in Esher. Sydney built it. He’s a building contractor. Remember that block of flats that fell down last year? That was one of his.
So much for Sydney …! Anyway, Bob is determined to uncover the identity of Laura’s dastardly blackmailer and prove himself as big a dick as Judd Blake any day. Even if he has to bonk, screw, roger, diddle, fiddle, poke, pork, fondle, caress, ride, bump and grind, hump or jump the bones (did I leave any out?) of every female from Land’s End to John o’ Groats to do it. Well, or thereabouts …!
Sally, a desperate housewife: Then there’s the dustman. We’ve been working our way through ‘Emmanuelle’ in the mornings, then into the high-heeled boots and Gestapo uniform for a quick bit of ‘The Night Porter’ with the window cleaner. It helps liven up the day.
I’ll say it does. And then there’s Jane: Tell me, is it getting harder? Ahem. And as for Little Willy: Another man came and jumped up and down on Mummy last week. I’ll bet he did …!
The humping and jumping of bones Bob can do with one hand tied behind his back. But I doubt if he was prepared for his lovely, farcical sex comedy of errors and mistaken identity to turn into a proper, Agatha Christie-style murder mystery along the way:
Bob: What about the police? I mean, you can’t just go around the place hiding dead bodies when you feel like it. There’s laws about that sort of thing.
Laura: Nobody need know. There’s an old chalk quarry only a few miles from here. He wouldn’t be discovered for days.
Well, well, well. The plot definitely thickens. Bob’s time as Judd comes to an hilarious climax in a spot of cross-dressing:
Stage Manager: I thought we were only booking four girls? Who’s the big ugly one in the middle?
Who indeed? I’ll give you three guesses. By the way, here’s a riddle for y’all. Why did the private dick stab himself in the balls with a fork? Because it’s in the plot, that’s why, silly!
ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE was filmed in 1976 with two of my absolute favourite actresses of the period, the fabulous Diana Dors and Suzy Kendall, in the cast-list. Harry H. Corbett from STEPTOE AND SON also starred, as Sydney the Spanker. The film script book, along with Michael’s other beautiful film books, are all available to buy now from the following links:
I’ll give internationally famous superstar Lisa Moroni the last word:
‘You know, ever since I was a little girl- you know? I’ve had secret fantasies about dicks.’
Haven’t we all, Lisa lovey, haven’t we all … ?
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO