The Nine Ages of Nakedness moves at a faster pace than Harrison Marks earlier films like Naked~as Nature Intended. Undoubtedly because at the end of the Sixties,Marks no longer needed a socially redeeming excuse like wearing the mask of nudist camp propaganda in order to show his female cast members letting it all hang out. Nine Ages is in fact an epic ode to Marks’ three favourite subjects,nude women,old time music hall comedy and himself.
Synonymous with glamour photography throughout the 50’s and 60’s,Marks is his own leading man in Nine Ages. A contemporary wraparound story features a beatnik looking Marks visiting a Harley Street shrink. For most male viewers Marks seems to have the dream job. Even so the life of a nudie image maker isn’t without its follies as depicted in the slapstick opening credits in which clumsy models knock over cameras,and accidentally snapping a snogging couple in a park causes our hero to wind up in a Benny Hill type foot-chase.
Marks tells the shrink about how his ancestors have also suffered misfortune through the ages-mainly because of their involvement with pretty women and ‘the arts’. Which acts as a nice bridge between the film’s nine ‘historic’ flashback sequences in which Marks gets to play all of his ill-fated ancestors, from a lowly Egyptian slave, to a Fu-Manchu like mystic and a poet obsessing on nudes. The most creative of Marks’ anecdotes takes us back to the prehistoric age where sculptor ‘Harry Stone Marks’ is called in to draw a cavewoman housewife in the nude. Interrupted by much grunting from cavemen played by burly wrestler types as they capture big busted women in the woods and drag them back to their caves for sex and domestic duties.
Cutting to Victorian England,Marks is incarnated as music hall impresario ‘The Great Marko’,a persona that seems closest to the director’s heart as well as a try out for his ‘Cornelius Clapworthy’ character in Come Play with Me. Marko comes up with the idea of presenting a show based around ‘Living Statues’-the pre-striptease concept of women posing motionless in the nude-only to get busted by two Bobbies on obscenity charges. Fortunately the judge turns out to be a closet pervert who in passing sentence on our buck toothed hero,gives him a knowing-one dirty old man to another-wink and fines him 7’6 pence.
Finally Marks imagines a space age future where women wear the trousers. Or rather where women wear fetish gear and big black wigs or are painted head to toe in silver paint. Men played by the same grunting cavemen extras seen at the outset,are whipped and grovel around futuristic sets. Issuing orders like ‘take them to the extermination centre’ the space women’s leader is played by fiery Monique Devereaux,who two years earlier-and in the same getup-had presided over Marks’ rarity-seen sadomasochistic feature Pattern of Evil. The only man the space women allow to live is a pathetic freak in a fright-wig destined to inseminate women through a glory hole for all eternity. Nine Ages ends with a smiling Marks bidding cheerio to the unseen psychiatrist who throughout has sported a Peter Sellers ‘Indian’ accent. The film’s final gag unveils the shrink as a woman: who in a further insider joke is played by Marks’ long suffering wife Toni. By all accounts her final diagnosis that Marks should ‘try to keep away from these beautiful women’ fell on deaf ears in real life.
As with many portmanteau structured films some segments are too brief to leave much of an impact and generally the humour wanes but Marks gives good value for money,prancing around in a variety of jokestore false noses,fake beards and bushy eyebrows. Just like Come Play with Me nearly a decade later,the supporting cast are a curious line-up of old showbiz types and glamour girls. And it has to be said that most of the old pros seem to be having ball playing pervy authority figures and providing novelty value. For instance Max Wall~somewhere in-between Crossroads and Samuel Beckett~pops up as an Oliver Cromwell aide who gets mooned at by Sue Bond. However the real raison d’etre behind Nine Ages-as was the case with Marks’ entire career-is of course the wall-to-wall nudity. While playing master of ceremonies to these nine sexploitation costume parties,Marks seems to have offered employment to just about every top nude model in London at the time including June Palmer,Maria Frost and Pat Schaefer~who was later involved in a multi-million dollar alimony case.but that’s another story. In Sixties Britain the mere sight of these models darting around topless was enough to have people queuing round the block to see the latest Harrison Marks spectacular. So the stronger ‘overseas’ version of Nine Ages-which appears to have been the version released on UK video in the early Eighties-holds many surprises in terms of explicitness-going beyond mere nudist camp nakedness and boasting full nudity from the men and the women, as well as cutaways to lesbianism and oral sex scenes in which you can sense Marks making his first reluctant steps towards hardcore.
After Nine Ages,Marks fell on hard times,suffering a personal and professional decline similar to that of the Donald Pleasence character in The Shakedown. Yet he continued working in the sex industry long after many of his competitors had been confined to the history books. By the time of his death in 1997 Marks had gone from being the celebrated glamour photographer,to the man who made Come Play with Me,an anonymous hardcore pornographer,and a director of spanking shorts like Lesson for Lolita,Rawhide and Late for School in which bored overaged ‘schoolgirls’ are chastised by middle-aged men with red faces and false moustaches.
Overall Nine Ages is a charming,fun time relic of both its maker and the end of the first wave of British nudies,even if you’re left with the lingering impression that Harrison Marks the photographer of nudes was far more talented than Harrison Marks the comedy man,or indeed Harrison Marks the film director.