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Groupie Girl (1970)

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Groupie Girl

‘It’s a great scene when sex goes pop’ In their inimitable style Derek Ford and Stanley Long the makers of The Wife Swappers expose another subject to the masses- rockers who are really ‘long-haired layabouts’ and the 16 year old groupies who love them anyway. Groupie Girl was distributed by Barry Jacobs’ Eagle films and it says allot about the longevity of The Wife Swappers, that Groupie Girl premiered while the earlier Ford-Long film was still packing them in at the Oxford Street Cinephone. Groupie Girl (whose credits are painted on the side of a van) concerns bored music-lover Sally (Esme Johns) who catches a ride with a rock band to London in exchange for the odd wrestle between the sheets.

Arriving in London Sally finds a hitherto unknown world of catfights, backstage melodrama, and groups with silly-sounding names (Orange Butterfly, Sweaty Betty). The funniest scene finds Orange Butterfly reluctantly partying with some older swingers. ‘Everybody’s really hung up on a big screwing drag, but not hip enough to do anything’ bemoans one musician on this meeting of the generations that somehow ends with the cast crawling around on all fours literally behaving like animals ‘what the hell kind of noise does a giraffe make’. Among the men Sally shacks up with is a ‘famous’ rocker played by Donald Sumpter. A fine character actor, as his role as Donald Neilson in The Black Panther illustrates, Sumpter gets under the skin of sneering longhairs in both this and ‘Night After Night After Night’ with ease, even if his lip-syncing leaves allot to be desired.

Smug and misanthropic the Sumpter character spends most of his screen time wining that everything’s a ‘drag’, only Sally licking his ear like a dog manages to stir him (‘you dirty girl’). Their relationship falls apart however when the couple get ‘accidentally’ locked in a hotel room with two sex-crazed groupies (future-Twins of Evil Mary and Madeleine Collinson before Hammer came knocking). Quickly tiring of Sally, Sumpter ends up using her in the little known game of ‘pass the groupie between the two speeding vans’ only to join the choir eternal himself when his van collides head-on with a parked car.

Sally hooks up with the Sweaty Betty Band, but the partying days of Sweaty Betty look numbered when the police turn up at their estate looking for drugs as well as info on Sumpter’s demise. During the bust, poor Sally decides to hide the evidence by swallowing vast amounts of hash and predictably ‘blows her mind’. In her stoned haze she also meets and falls in love with Billy Boyle and his folk music (and you really would have to be drugged to enjoy either) but momentarily happiness is shattered in an ending that one of the longhaired extras might have dubbed ‘a real bummer’.

Groupie Girl seems a mixture of fact (drug raids on rock stars estates made the headlines throughout 1967) and fiction (the ‘hip’ dialogue probably seemed O.T.T even back then) but like Britain’s only other groupie sexploitation movie (1970’s Permissive) its notable for including as many sensationist elements as possible (bongo scored nude dancing and ‘maharaja’ smoking anyone?) whilst at the same time painting a grim and unflattering portrait of the British music industry. It isn’t a very good film but Ford and Suzanne Mercer’s script does have many interesting observations to make, not only about the groupies themselves, but the objects of their affections, with virtually all the singers in the film portrayed as moronic jerks who care more about their guitars than their girlfriends. Even more sinister is the depiction of older record industry types who secretly oversee the pop business, have all the ‘rebel’ pop stars in their back pocket, and sort out troublesome drug busts and groupies when things go bad- if only for the reason of lining their wallets.

From the late sixties on, Derek Ford’s career lay almost exclusively in directing sex films and writing horror ones (occasionally making anagrams of the two with the horrific ‘roughie’ Sex Express and the never-to-be-released gore film Attack of the Killer Computer which was made with a mostly porno cast) and for those reasons alone was the perfect man to depict the darker side of pop circa 1970- but there was at least one aspect of the groupie lifestyle that the late Mr Ford wasn’t so happy to document- the music. Legend has it that filming the ‘groovy’ youth music on a Saturday night caused Britain’s premier maker of exploitation films to spend most of the Sunday vomiting. It’s safe to assume then that Ford wasn’t one of the people who invested in the now rare nine track Groupie Girl LP soundtrack released on Polydor.

The music like the film is of its time, but remains surprisingly credible in particular the affecting Yesterday’s Hero (`you’re yesterday’s hero, in a world of today’) about a faded rock star left alone by his groupies whose impact in the film is sadly undercut by being wedded to a dopy proto-music video that isn’t one of Groupie Girl’s more clever moments. Like The Wife Swappers, Groupie Girl was released in the States with a new title (‘I am a Groupie’) and bombastic advertising (‘I am a groupie, a rock-group freak all the way-but what I collect ain’t autographs’) thanks to ‘Trans-American Films’, which was in fact a company-de-plume of monster and beach party movie loving American International Pictures. Back on home turf Sally’s amorous antics were probably watched most by men who wished they were 20 years younger, while simultaneously wondering if it was such a good idea to let their daughters go to that rock concert while they secretly snuck out to Great Windmill Street to see Groupie Girl.

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