The non-carnal reason for Jenny featuring next is that one of her most famous films now exists in a sort of legal twilight zone so I thought I’d better watch it while it was still readily available.
Jenny was born in Taunton, Somerset in 1952 but moved around the globe as her father was a British Army officer. She trained at a ballet school which led to a role at 14 in the Disney TV film “Ballerina” and her first proper film role . She has worked steadily ever since, her progression from child star to young woman being famously marked by a series of nude appearances. In the second half of the 70s she moved to Los Angeles but eventually returned to Britain. She has done a lot of stage and TV work as well as films. She is also a keen photographer and has published a book of her snaps. She is married with one son born in 1990 and lives partly in London and partly on the Lizard in Cornwall.
1 East of Sudan ( 1964 )
It's amazing to think that Jenny , who is still an attractive woman , was making her first film while I was still in the womb. But here she is in a historical adventure film at the age of 11 holding her own alongside major British film stars.
Director Nathan Juran came to prominence when he won an Oscar for art direction on How Green Was My Valley in 1941. After the war he got the chance to direct his own films which were mainly sci-fi B-movies including the cult classic Attack Of The Fifty Foot Woman. This is one of his last films before abandoning the movie world and returning to architecture.
It's set during the Sudanese insurgency against British colonial rule in the 1880s and concerns the adventures of a motley group of refugees trying to survive amidst the chaos. The premise had potential but this is a bad film. The major problem is Juran's use of footage from previous films (especially the 1939 version of The Four Feathers ) to an extent that would have embarrassed Ed Wood . This creates credibility and continuity issues throughout the film. For example, at one point the party makes use of a handy herd of elephants to escape a band of Arab villains. To realise this you have the actors running in front of a giant screen showing the animals (in one shot you can spot the herdsman) without regard to relative proportions so that in some shots the elephants have the dimensions of dinosaurs rendering the whole sequence risible. Elsewhere it causes day/night continuity errors and incompatible scenery switches which is particularly unfortunate as the studio sets (at Shepperton) are actually quite impressive.
The film also suffers from narrative incoherence. The first 5 minutes are taken up with a lengthy and largely unnecessary narration of the historical background over stock footage of the Nile and then the beginnings of a battle. It then cuts abruptly to a small boat containing the four main characters whose back stories we're left to deduce patchily from the dialogue. It appears they are refugees from the possibly fictional Bahrash making for Khartoum. They are Baker (Anthony Quayle) a very mature private in the British Army , Murchison (Derek Fowlds) a junior officer of uncertain rank, Ashua (Jenny) the daughter of a deceased Arab potentate and the latter's mistress Miss Woodville (Sylvia Syms). There is also the body of a British major whose death is never explained.
The first half of the film is a reasonably entertaining piece of hokum as the quartet battle through the jungle while gawping at footage of crocodiles, giraffes, lions - and a barn owl ? The two men vie for the attentions of Syms who bats her eyes and flashes some cleavage while Jenny gets into scrapes with a rhino and a crocodile.
The film goes off the rails when the party are intercepted by a Negro tribe and meet the king's brother (Johnny Sekka in a fez borrowed from Tommy Cooper) who fortunately speaks English. It then descends into a stodgy brew of half-baked, un-PC politics, more incongruous footage (a tribal dance with Twentieth Century spectators clearly in shot) and ludicrous Boys Own heroics from Quayle and Fowlds.
The actors do their best with an unhelpful script. Quayle is always dependable but utterly miscast , too old and too posh for his Bogartian role as a resourceful roughneck. The young Fowlds can't do much with an inconsistent role and Sims isn't required to do much other than look decorative and scream in the right places. Much the same can be said of Jenny who is just a spectator in the latter part of the film. Despite being given an awful black wig to wear she does exhibit some screen presence. There's an odd forewarning of her seventh film when she falls into a river and is menaced by a crocodile. Despite being clearly shown competently swimming she is unconscious when Quayle pulls her out and resuscitates her with her shirt open exposing an 11-year old nipple to the world. These were more innocent times and the context is clearly asexual but it's still a startling scene.
Perhaps it's helped Jenny keep her feet on the ground that her first picture didn't trouble the Oscar committe.
2. A Man Could Get Killed (aka Welcome Mr Beddoes) ( 1966 )
It's debatable whether this one should be in the list or not as Jenny's scenes as an ambassador's daughter all ended up on the cutting room floor.
Actually she was well out of this one. It's a tongue-in-cheek sub-Bond spy thriller with James Garner as a dutiful banker who arrives in Lisbon and is mistaken by all and sundry for a government agent pursuing some missing diamonds. Bert Kaempfert's original Strangers In The Night as the theme tune is the only plus. It's neither funny nor exciting, hard to follow and not worth the effort and worst of all stars the unwatchable Melina Mercouri as an embarrassingly unalluring ( at 46 ) femme fatale.
3. Gates To Paradise ( 1968 )
This rare film stars the 15-year old Jenny as Maud one of the leaders of the 13th Century Children's Crusade a grim episode which perhaps fortunately is now considered largely fictional by historians. The film is a real international hotch-potch filmed in Yugoslavia with mainly British and American actors playing French and Greek characters from a Polish novel. To add to the confusion the version I've seen ( thanks youtube ! ) was dubbed into German with English subtitles.
The film begins with a penitent crusader ( Lionel Stander ) taking holy orders as a monk. A year or so later he is tending to a dying knight when he finds himself in the path of the Children's Crusade led by visionary shepherd boy Jacques ( John Fordyce ) . Inspired by their innocent faith he joins the pilgrimage as a confessor but soon gets to hear more than he desires when the teens at the head of the procession start spilling their secrets.
It's actually a very good film that deserves to be much better known.. It's brilliantly filmed ; the images of the motley band trekking on through all weathers carry a real emotional kick the more so as the story gets darker and the final scenes are very powerful. The cast are excellent. The bull-frog faced Stander holds things together as the monk whose avuncular indulgence progressively crumbles with each confession. The nubile Pauline Challoner ( who gave up acting in the early 70s) also makes a big impression as the sexually aware Blanche. Jenny is also very good ( especially for her age ) as the pure-hearted Maud confused by her desire for Jacques although the exigencies of the plot mean she and her unwanted suitor Robert ( Dennis Gilmore) hardly feature after the first half hour.
The only criticisms I would make is that some of the dialogue gets a bit flowery once Ferdy Mayne appears as the exploitative Count Ludovic and Matthieu Carriere gets a little too much screen time as his thoroughly dislikeable ward Alexis
4 .Star ! ( 1968 )
Jenny has a very small role as Julie Andrews' daughter in this biopic of the entertainer Gertrude Lawrence.
I have to say of all the films I've reviewed so far on this blog this one has been the hardest to sit through and I can see why it was a notable flop. For one thing it's ridiculously long ; the version I've seen lasted nearly 3 hours and apparently there's another half hour to the UK cinema version. That's not immediately damning but this film lacks both a strong narrative and an engaging central character and that's fatal in a film this long.
There's an arching meta-concept that Lawrence is giving pre-approval to a cheesy black and white documentary about her life but that's the only 1968 thing about the film; otherwise it seems very oldfashioned. The concept is not particularly well-handled either, failing to give much narrative coherence (which was surely its main purpose) and inconsistently deployed. For most of the film the B & W changes to colour when a scene is being dramatised but this doesn't happen for a toe-curling scene where Lawrence upstages a socialist speaker in Hyde Park and tells the plebs to go to the theatre.
I know next to nothing about Lawrence but it doesn't seem like she had the rockiest road to the top and in fact the more interesting parts of her story such as her promiscuity are skirted around to keep it family entertainment (her lesbian dalliance is omitted altogether). The last decade or so of her life is also missing, the film ending with her second marriage to Richard Aldrich (Richard Crenna) a technical consultant on the film.
So it doesn't work as a biopic but for all the singing and dancing it's not really a musical either. There are no original songs just recreations of Lawrence's performances in a variety of plays and shows wrenched from their original context which isn't always clear from the script. There's a ten minute, mostly dialogue-free scene seemingly set in a brothel run by a Chinaman which is totally incomprehensible to me - perhaps someone could identify it in the Comments box ? There's also a scene towards the end where the three key players see something in a club which has a major impact on the last big number but we don't get to see what they're looking at.
Julie Andrews throws everything into the role and was clearly stretching her wings by playing a less likeable person but it's impossible to care for the character and it's not entirely clear whether Lawence was primarily a singer, dramatic atress or comedienne. Where the film particularly falls down by comparison to Funny Girl is the lack of any real romance. Her first unhappy marriage is very brusquely dealt with then there are some very flat scenes with a British aristocrat (a wooden Michael Craig) and assorted two-dimensional Americans from whom Crenna's character eventually emerges as significant. There's nothing in Andrews's looks or performance to make this magnetism credible.
The best scenes all involve the Oscar - nominated Daniel Massey playing his real-life godfather Noel Coward. I don't know whether the aphorisms were Coward's own or newly-minted for the film but he injects both humour and pathos (looking out for childhood friend Lawrence) which are otherwise notable for their absence in the film. The reason why he isn't romantically interested in Gertie isn't of course broached.
Jenny herself is hardly in it, appearing for five minutes as Lawrence's benignly-neglected teenage daughter Pamela in the middle of the film. She manages to elicit some sympathy then she's gone. Later in the film she's an unseen or heard presence on the end of a telephone when it would have been much better to give her another scene.
The film also features Bruce Forsyth as Gertie's dad whose fate after moving to South Africa goes unmentioned and Dr Who's original Master (Roger Delgado) with one line as a French diplomat observing Gertie and Coward performing for the Lord Chamberlain in another long, unfunny scene.
5. I Start Counting ( 1969 )
Jenny's first starring role and it's a good one in this underrated British thriller which transcends its genre. Jenny plays Wynne an adopted Catholic schoolgirl coming to terms with her burgeoning sexuality in turn-of-the-decade Bracknell. She has a crush on her adult stepbrother George (Bryan Marshall, a ubiquitous presence in British drama throughout the 70s) which hardly diminishes when she starts suspecting he is the local sex murderer.
As a whodunnit it's lousy ; the killer is pretty obvious from the moment he appears on the screen. The joy of the film is in the way it captures that time of your life, caught between the innocence and security of childhood and the allure of adult excitements and the era in which it was made, the tail-end of sixties optimism giving way to the murkier prospects of the seventies. This is well demonstrated in the opening titles as 16-year old Jenny is filmed putting on her underwear (not graphic but lascivious enough) while Dusty Springfield sings the title song (probably unaware that her own countdown to a very barren decade was underway).
This is not swinging London but bleak Bracknell. Wynne and her family have been moved to a Persil-white house that has sucked the soul out of half of them , a bit like The Royle Family without the laughs. It's no wonder Wynne feels the need to revisit their old condemned home before it is demolished which of course also represents the life she's not quite ready to leave behind while her precocious friend (Clare Sutcliffe) pulls her in the opposite direction. The bulldozers are destroying the old heart of the town just as surely as permissive attitudes are demolishing the authority of the floundering priest (Lewis Fiander) who can't answer the girls' questions.
Jenny is very impressive at conveying all this , tentatively dabbling with sex and the occult while remaining fundamentally innocent while Marshall is also good at expressing the weary acceptance of the father-role in the family. The Sixties haven't quite delivered for George and he knows it.
At the time of writing it's on youtube so catch it while you can.
6 .The Railway Children (1970)
Now we come onto Jenny’s best- remembered role of all as Roberta in the perennial children’s classic. Jenny had already starred in the BBC’s adaptation in 1968 (when she was closer to the character’s age) and now stepped up to the plate in the film version.
The film was directed by the actor Lionel Jeffries and is fairly faithful to the novel by turn-of-the-century children’s author Edith Nesbit whose books were still popular in the 1970s if less so today. Roberta is the oldest of three children (although Jenny’s co-star Sally Thomsett as the youngest child was actually 20 at the time) who are uprooted from their upper middle class home in London to a still rather gentil existence in Yorkshire as a result of their father’s arrest for spying. Nesbit was a committed Fabian and her novel does reflect political concerns of the time. Roberta and her siblings make the best of their straitened circumstances by finding their amusements around the railway line that passes their new home and learning a few life lessons in the process. It's often jokingly said that it's the only one of her films where Jenny doesn't take her clothes off but of course she does remove her petticoat for non-sexual purposes at one point in the film.
It hardly needs me to add that Jenny is pitch-perfect in the role so you hardly notice she is not quite a child (the voluminous Edwardian costumes help). Some of her scenes bring you close to tears as the realities of the adult world start to impinge on her innocent consciousness. Amongst the other cast Bernard Cribbins stands out as the stationmaster Perks particularly in the painful scene when he rejects the childrens’ charity. Of the three young stars only Jenny still acts today. Sally Thomsett went on to a small role in the distinctly adult Straw Dogs and TV fame in Man About The House but her career had stalled by the end of the decade and she is now a housewife. Gary Warren as the brother had an even briefer career with just a handful of early 70s TV appearances before the curtain closed and he now works as a furrier in Canada.
Many would say that the real stars of the film are the engines. The film came out just two years after the last steam engines were phased out by British Rail and caught a mood of instant nostalgia for these Victorian relics amongst a public still reeling from the Beeching Axe (and perhaps 60s modernity in general). The Worth Valley Railway was one of the few preserved railways operating at the time the film was made but many more followed in its wake . As the film enjoys regular screenings on TV it’s a gift that keeps on giving.
Jenny remains grateful to the role and returned to the story as the mother in another TV adaptation in 2006.
7. Walkabout (1971)
Another of Jenny's best known roles and the most problematic due to our dear recently departed Labour government. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 which raised the age bar for "indecent" images of women from 16 to 18 could yet result in it being banned. Clearly the legislation wasn't aimed at the work of respected and serious film directors and no one's yet shown an appetite for retrospectively hounding Nic Roeg (or indeed the members of Blind Faith) but the possibility is there.
Jenny plays "The Girl" lost in the Australian outback with her little brother (played by the director's son Luke) after their father goes bananas and kills himself after driving them out there. Their lives are saved by an adolescent Aboriginal male (David Gulpilil) on his "walkabout". In the process he takes them to a lake where the well-tanned Jenny goes for a swim in the nude , her small breasts and modest bush clearly visible at times. Later in the film there are brief scenes where she is topless and nude from the side. The film took a while to complete; the scenes were filmed in 1969 when Jenny was 16. They are not in the least bit pornographic but, particularly given Roeg's skill as a cinematographer, have erotic undertones. Whether the "indecency" threshold is crossed is a matter of opinion.
Jenny does well as a relatively inexperienced actress in a difficult part. The Girl has no back story (telling us why she has an English accent for instance) and no way of explaining herself as neither of her companions can understand her. She seems remarkably unperturbed and incurious about her father's terrifying end but Jenny makes it convincing.
I'm not a great fan of Nic Roeg it must be said. I credit him for being hugely influential with the cut-up style he pioneered in this film but it's not my cup of tea. I want to lose myself in a story not be constantly having to assimilate a cryptic intervention from the director. I have to say he's not at his worst here ; you can generally follow his line of thought - the contrast between the suburban ennui and cynicism that blights the white characters and the joy of living closer to nature in the raw best encapsulated by the scene of an Aboriginal family happily playing around the burnt-out car having stuck the rotting corpse of the father up in a tree. It has to be noted that Roeg does make one or two mistakes with some of the wildlife shots placing certain animals well outside their natural setting. There's also a socio-political subtext clear in the otherwise irrelevant scene of a white tradesman bullying the Aboriginal children who are making goods for him.
8.Logan’s Run (1976)
Jenny's first film role as an adult was in this fondly-remembered sci-fi film. I recall classmates who'd been to see it at the weekend talking about it on Monday morning and it was the scene represented by the pictures above that seemed to have made the biggest impression.
The film is set in the future America (though the four main protagonists are all played by British actors) where , after an unspecified catastrophe, people are confined to a sealed city where computers allow them to life a life of hedonistic pleasure up to the age of 30 when they must be culled (with a vague promise of reincarnation) to maintain eco-balance. Not everyone believes this so the computers have a police force the Sandmen to hunt down and kill those who are trying to escape the city.
Jenny plays Jessica, a secret dissident who is available for sex on call (hence a very skimpy costume) and ends up liaising with a Sandman, Logan (Michael York) . He notices a pendant she is wearing matches one he found on one of his victims and later learns it represents a place called Sanctuary, the intended destination of the dissidents. He is given a secret mission to infiltrate them , become a “runner” himself and destroy Sanctuary . To this end he finds Jessica again and flees the city with her, closely pursued by his fellow Sandman and friend Francis (Richard Jordan) .
There are plenty of logical flaws in the film. Why is Logan’s mission a secret from the other Sandmen when it increases the likelihood he’ll be shot down in the attempt to escape ( as Francis has the chance to do ) ? How’s he supposed to accomplish the destruction of Sanctuary on his own ? Why does he need plastic surgery to make the run ? Indeed, why do the dissidents run at all ; wouldn’t it be easier to slip away in the night ?
Jenny’s most famous scene is itself illogical - she and York take off their wet clothes then put them back on again long before they’ve had a chance to dry – but this is down to the deletion of an intervening scene, in which they pose naked for an ice sculpture by the seemingly benign robot Box, to retain an A rating. Jenny also gets another skinnydipping scene although it’s less explicit than the one in Walkabout. This film made her name in Hollywood and prompted her move to Los Angeles and she is the best thing about the film, carrying an erotic charge in every scene , easily outshining Farrah Fawcett-Majors in a lesser role.
Richard Jordan is also good ; there’s a homoerotic subtext here as Francis seems more of a jilted lover enraged that Logan has abandoned him for Jessica than an upright defender of the system and Jordan plays this well. I’ve never been very fond of York and his arrogant demeanour comes through here as well making it very hard to warm to Logan. The appearance in the second half of the film by Peter Ustinov, while necessary to the story, slows the film down to walking pace as he serves up his lines with an abundance of ham.
The film won an Oscar for its special effects which are not bad for the time but it’s a very seventies interpretation of the future. This is in fact the last in the line of dystopian sci-fi films of the late sixties and seventies before Star Wars redirected the genre towards comic book fantasy rather than bleak futurism. It’s exciting ( and surprisingly violent ) at times but quite turgid at other points and the conclusion is a bit predictable. Nevertheless it’s enjoyable enough and a must-see for Jenny-fans.
The film did spawn a TV series with none of the original cast , Jenny’s role being taken by Heather Menzies another former child star who ‘d worked with Julie Andrews and not unattractive herself.
9 The Eagle Has Landed (1976)
Next came a bit of a mis-step. This isn't the poorest film of Jenny's career but it's probably her worst role. Jenny plays Molly, a bored village girl in this hokey WWII thriller based on a book by Jack Higgins. She falls for Devlin (Donald Sutherland) an IRA spy working for the Germans. The problem is that the relationship is not nearly developed enough (and Sutherland is all too resistible) to make her extreme actions to protect him remotely plausible. On top of that she's a spare part for most of the film having little plot function beyond ( barely ) humanising Devlin and her costumes and hairstyle are both unflattering. She does convey the ennui of a young woman with limited and unappealing prospects well in the early scenes but that's the best that can be said for her.
The film is regularly shown on TV and is enjoyable enough despite its flaws. The plot revolves around a plan to assassinate Churchill organised by General Radl (Robert Duvall) and entrusted to Steiner (Michael Caine) a renegade colonel in disgrace for ( in an utterly risible, bordering on offensive, scene ) attempting to save the life of a Jewish girl. Steiner is aided by Devlin and Miss Grey ( Jean Upstairs Downstairs Marsh) another German agent who handily lives near to the manor Churchill is visiting. The mission is compromised when one of Steiner's platoon is killed and his real uniform ( they are posing as Poles ) is uncovered.
Caine is not at his worst here but he's not brilliant either as the principled colonel. Sutherland is fine despite a very dodgy accent but as mentioned above the attempt to make him sympathetic fails miserably. There's good support from John Standring as the vicar and Larry Hagman as the battle-hungry American colonel who injects a little humour into the film. His captain , Clarke is an early role for Treat Williams who must be older than I thought he was. The best performance though is Donald Pleasance's little cameo as Himmler which is superbly creepy despite the bureaucratic nature of the scene.
Given the nature of the source material this is a well-made film which moves along at a fair pace, the action scenes being particularly good. It's just a shame that Jenny is one of the weak links.
10 Equus (1977)
For fans of Jenny's body this is the one to see. The most explicit sex scene of her career is so central to the plot that I can't go into detail and avoid a Spoiler. Let's just say she looks ravishing.
This is a strangely neglected film to say it had an all-British cast and three Oscar nominations. It's only been shown once on TV to the best of my knowledge and that was way back in 1982. Even the blaze of publicity surrounding Daniel Radcliffe's nude appearance in a stage revival of the play in 2007 doesn't seem to have awakened much interest in the film.
The film was adapted by Peter Shaffer from his own play. One possible reason why the film has been neglected is that while the central narrative is not difficult to explain , its exposition is cerebral and challenging requiring some knowledge of Classical mythology to truly understand all the themes raised. There are two main protagonists, a psychiatrist, Dysart (Richard Burton) and his patient Alan Strang (Peter Firth then best known for Here Come The Double Deckers) who has been referred to him by his magistrate friend (Eileen Atkins) after blinding six horses in the stables where he worked. It's a whydunnit rather than whodunnit but works on a deeper level because Dysart is having a mid-life crisis, disillusioned with both marriage and job and comes to envy Alan for the intensity of his experience despite the grotesque conclusion. Through the character of Dysart, Shaffer ( prefiguring Douglas Coupland and Donna Tartt) is decrying the loss of spirituality in modern times; Alan's fleeting moments of sexual ecstasy the equivalent of ancient Dionysian frenzy.
Burton and Firth were both nominated for Oscars but neither won. Burton is better in the interview scenes than the monologues to camera where his declamatory theatrical style starts getting the better of him. Firth is good in a role he'd already played on stage but not exceptional; one gets the feeling his nomination was a reward for being willing to show off a generously proportioned tool rather than anything else in his performance. Joan Plowright as Alan's religious mother and Colin Blakeley as his atheist and hypocritical father provide good support as does Jenny who won a BAFTA for her relatively small role as Jill the sexy stablehand who unwittingly sets things in motion.
Directed by Sidney Lumet the film does seem a bit flat in the first half as Dysart collects information from the other characters and Alan is unresponsive but picks up pace when he opens up and the blinding itself is horrifyingly realised prompting complaints from animal rights activists at the time. Alan's clothes place him squarely in the seventies and the psychiatric techniques seem antiquated but otherwise it's worn very well, its underlying themes as relevant as they've always been.
11 Dominique (1978)
Jenny teamed up again with Logan's Run director Michael Anderson and previous co-stars Simon Ward (I Start Counting) and Judy Geeson (The Eagle Has Landed) in this mystery thriller. It is better known by its US title "Dominique Is Dead" after its lurid trailer featured on many cassettes at the start of the home video boom.
It's a hard one to discuss while avoiding spoilers. In particular Jenny's role can't be explained. She plays the half-sister in law of the titular Dominique, looks great but doesn't have that much screen time and keeps her clothes on ( for plot reasons ). That's about as much as I can say.
"Dominique" was filmed in England with a strong cast headed by token Yank and faded Oscar-winner Cliff Robertson as a stockbroker who may or may not be trying to drive his wife Dominique (Jean Simmonds) over the edge. When she hangs herself (quite early in the film) he starts to get a taste of his own medicine.
The film is a hybrid of Rebecca and an Amicus ghost story. It's rather old-fashioned for its time, not afraid of throwing in horror cliches like voices in the dark , a piano that plays by itself and a sinister housekeeper (Flora Robson in her penultimate role) . It's also quite flawed. Cuts were made against Anderson's wishes which largely removed Ron Moody from the film and made his final scene incomprehensible. It's badly lit too; I can't imagine anyone's watched it at home without fiddling with the brightness control. It also relies too heavily on a rushed dialogue between two Talking Killers in the final scene to explain the plot which is only half-successful. An early scene between Simmonds and Ward can't be squared with the final exposition (unless we're in The Usual Suspects misdirection territory).
Nonetheless it is still watchable, as it should be given the cast. Robertson rather underplays his role as if over-cautious about giving too much away. Simmonds, who played a very similar role in a 1950s film Home Before Dark, is a bit wasted especially as you can barely see her in half her scenes. The other Brits all offer good support with Ward the pick of the bunch as the couple's chauffeur. There are one or two genuinely creepy moments to compensate for the general slow pace of the film.
12 China 9 Liberty 37 (1978)
Jenny stretched her wings next by starring in a late (the film looks far more 1968 than 1978) spaghetti western. She plays Catherine the young wife of Matthew (Warren Oates) a miner who has been targeted for assassination by a railroad company he is obstructing. The company have arranged a reprieve from the gallows for a renowned gunman Crane (Fabio Testi) in return for the deed. Crane fails to fulfil the task when he and Matthew bond but Catherine upsets the applecart when she seduces the gunslinger.
It isn’t a bad storyline but , Oates apart, the film comes undone in the casting. Testi is as uncomfortable with the English language as Adolfo Celi was in The Borgias and every scene he’s in (which is nearly every one) is marred by his leaden mumbled delivery. His scenes with Jenny convey no passion whatsoever. Jenny herself isn’t very convincing as a femme fatale as she struggles to maintain a dodgy Irish accent and makes an horrendous attempt at singing. She does disrobe but beware - those scenes have been cut in many versions of the film. Pride of place though has to go to Sam Peckinpah who sets the ball rolling for Quentin Tarantino-style self-indulgent director cameos as a writer wanting Catherine’s assistance in some ill-specified fashion in a confusing , irrelevant scene in a hotel.
Crane’s gun battles with Matthew’s brothers (who seem to be of different nationalities) are not particularly exciting and an interlude where Crane and Catherine meet up with a circus is just bizarre. I liked the hotelier who looks like Saddam Hussein but that’s hardly enough recommendation to view a very flawed film.
13 The Riddle Of The Sands (1979)
Jenny returned to Britain for her last film of the seventies, an adaptation of Erskine Childers' classic novel of Edwardian paranoia over German naval intentions. She plays Clara the daughter of an English traitor who is helping the Germans in the guise of a salvage engineer called Dollman. The film reunited her with Michael York but they have little screen time together.
It's a long time since I read the book but it seems a fairly faithful adaptation. A young student Arthur Davies ( Simon McCorkindale) is sailing along the Frisian coast where he meets an apparently German family on a luxury yacht. He is taken with Clara and her father, Dollman ( Alan Badel ) , invites him to follow them but then seemingly tries to wreck him during a storm. His suspicions aroused, Davies invites his friend at the Foreign Office Carruthers ( Michael York ) to investigate with him.
It's a good looking film with some lovely coastal scenery well captured though you'd have to knock points off for the appearance of the boom mike in some of the interior shots. The musical score is also very good adding some necessary excitement to the action scenes. The acting is also pretty good with the underachieving McCorkindale the better of the male leads. York's sudden transformation from fastidious ninny to action hero is a bit difficult to accept. Badel and Michael Sheard ( Grange Hill 's Mr Bronson) are the pick of the villains.
Jenny is as good as the script allows her to be but she epitomises the major flaw of the film ; it's difficult for anyone who hasn't read the book to follow what's going on. Clara is clearly a party to her father's deception and runs errands for him but is her German accent supposed to be phoney and is her final renunciation of him sincere ? What is the point of Dollman's disguise when he's living in Germany and the encounter with Davies is pure chance ? There's a dinner scene midway through the film which makes no sense whatsoever.
As a nicely-filmed period piece with a touching romance and a moderately exciting climax it's not bad entertainment but not a classic.
14 Sweet William (1980)
Jenny got top billing as the central character in Beryl Bainbridge's own adaptation of her 1975 novel and thinks it's one of her better films. I'm not inclined to agree.
Jenny plays Ann, a young woman left behind in London by her lecturer fiance, who falls prey to a touchy-feely playwright William she meets at a harvest festival (what exactly he's doing there is never satisfactorily explained). As she gets deeper involved with him it emerges that William is not being entirely honest with her about his marriage ...
I don't know the book but this is an aggravating film. It's miscast for a start - Richard Gere could convince as the irresistible philanderer but instead we've got Sam Waterston the dour, big-nosed star of The Killing Fields with a dodgy Scottish accent to boot. Waterston's William is quite repellent so when Jenny falls for him so easily you lose any sympathy for her character. When you throw in Anna Massey as his haughty wife and the always-dislikeable Geraldine James as her self-centred cousin you've got a big emotional vacuum at the centre of the film. The only sympathetic character is her dad (Arthur Lowe in his penultimate film role) whose one line cameo is the best thing in the film.
It's also marred by a dreadful soundtrack; a jaunty flute keeps rearing its head at inappropriate moments as if this were a Confessions film. In fact there are one or two supposedly funny scenes which only go to show that neither Bainbridge nor director Claude Whatham have any notion of comedy. One of these involving bonking in a taxi is embarrassingly bad.
Jenny does do some nude scenes but they're brief and badly lit, very unexciting compared to what's gone before. In fact Jenny doesn't look her best throughout the film with baggy eyes, blotchy skin and an unflattering haircut. Her performance isn't bad; in fact it improved on a second viewing developing her growing anger at William's many deceptions well. The final scene hints that Ann has a secret of her own and Jenny's very impressive in conveying that without words.
It's just about worth seeing but it does annoy.
15 Amy (1981)
Jenny returned to Disney for this family film about teaching deaf kids. It was originally made for TV but Disney decided it was strong enough for a theatrical release.
16 The Survivor ( 1981 )
Jenny returned to Australia, with another Brit-made-good, Robert Powell, in this adaptation of a James Herbert novel directed by David Hemmings. It was notable for being the first Australian film to break through the million dollar ceiling in production and was also the last film to star Hollywood veteran Joseph Cotten.
Powell plays the pilot who emerges, the sole survivor, from an horrendous plane crash, unscathed but suffering from amnesia. His guilt-ridden efforts to uncover the truth are aided by the local psychic played by Jenny.
I first saw it on TV in the mid-80s and thought it was stupendously dull. Having re-watched it I'm a bit better disposed towards it but it's certainly flawed. While it's quite a short film, it couldn't be described as pacey and indeed the film company made cuts because they thought it was too ponderous. That, however, made things worse by compromising the narrative coherence so that Powell's romance with his co-pilot's wife (Angela Punch McGregor who is almost wiped out by the excisions) becomes an utterly redundant red herring and, sadly, Cotten's role too seems unnecessary to proceedings. The scenes which just about make this a horror movie are badly placed and, in the final instance, so badly filmed that I'm not even sure of the outcome. Hemmings is also a bit too fond of letting the camera wander around the crash site , an impressive bit of location set-up to be sure but we don't need the constant reminders.
Powell himself is another weakness, bringing along his stary-eyed solemnity from his most famous role when we need a more human figure to fully engage with the story. Jenny does her best as the young medium trying to help him but her character has no depth, she and Powell have no chemistry and it's never properly explained why she's necessary. She got a nomination for the Australian equivalent of the BAFTA but in truth it's far from her best performance. She is by the way fully clothed throughout the film. Apart from Cotten, the rest of the cast are Aussies including Adrian Wright (who played psychotic nurse Neil Murray in Prisoner Cell Block H ) as an unscrupulous photographer at the scene who comes to a sticky end. Being an Aussie film there are hangovers from Picnic At Hanging Rock ; the use of schoolgirls as the agents of retribution is otherwise unexplained.
On the plus side there is an excellent score from Brian May (not that one) which compensates for the sparse dialogue and adds the necessary menace to scenes that would otherwise lack it. There's also a good final confrontation scene which is genuinely chilly -it helps that the villain is a dead ringer for Enoch Powell - despite the arty dialogue.
The film did very little at the box office and not much for Jenny's career either. Her next one was much more successful.
17 An American Werewolf In London ( 1981 )
This is a watershed film in Jenny's career as it marked the end of her golden period. She appeared in only four other films in the eighties doing stage and TV work instead. We'll have to wait for her auto-biography to explain why this happened. I think it's also the last film to date in which she appears nude.
"Werewolf" is a popular and influential film which led to a new Oscar category of Best Achievement in Make-up, deservedly first given to Rick Baker for the still amazing pre-CGI transformation scene and Griffin Dunne's progressive deterioration as a walking corpse. While certainly not the first film to mix horror and comedy it undoubtedly blazed a trail for the likes of Scream and Shaun Of The Dead.
On first viewing in the eighties I loved it ; watching it again its flaws are more obvious and it is beginning to date. It concerns two young (ish) American backpackers Jack and David (Dunne and David Naughton) walking in the North of England who walk into a hostile pub and get themselves thrown out. Stumbling across the moors Jack is killed by a large beast and David injured before a nick-of-time rescue by the villagers. The latter wakes up in a hospital cared for by Nurse Alex (Jenny) and Dr Hirsch (John Woodvine) apparently safe but then he receives a visit by Jack's corpse and the nightmare begins.
The major flaw with the film is John Landis's script which, not untypically, strings together some good comedic ideas but doesn't have narrative coherence. There's a logical flaw at the heart of the film concerning the villagers (well-played nonetheless by Brian Glover and David Schofield) . They are terrified of the werewolf yet dispose of the first one easily enough ( no silver bullet nonsense here ) . They drive the two men to their fate, then come to their rescue and tend David despite knowing that he will become the next werewolf. None of this makes sense and the scene where Dr Hirsch visits the village underlines the problem without resolving it. There are also flat bits; the scene where David mooches around Alex's flat during the day is a perfect time for a pee break
On the whole the horror and comedy (not that I think any of it is uproariously funny) is well-balanced. Many of the subsequent killings are quickly cut away from to prevent the film becoming simply a splatter-fest. The policeman who loses his head is an uncomfortable reminder that Vic Morrow would lose his for real on the set of Landis's next film. The much-vaunted sex scene between David and Alex ( to the strains of Van Morrison's Moondance ) is actually pretty tame stuff and Jenny actually looks a bit bored when he goes down on her.
The performances are uneven. Naughton was best known for Dr Pepper commercials and he's no better than adequate, in fact downright embarrassing in a toecurling scene where he phones his family to say goodbye. Dunne ( who's had more subsequent success ) is rather better in the smaller role. Woodvine is solid and Jenny ( looking as good in her uniform as you'd imagine ) is probably the best performer although you do wonder why she's so quick to throw herself at her nerdy patient and her nipples are conspicuously flaccid during her romp with him. Landis reckoned that the film worked "because the bad things happen to people you care about" which suggests that he's rather fonder of smirking American fratboys than the rest of us. The less said about Frank Oz's completely unnecessary cameo as a consular official the better.
If you haven't seen it it's worth catching but don't expect a work of genius.
18 Miss Right aka La Donna Giusta (1982)
Jenny isn't actually credited here but does appear as a street crime victim in the not entirely relevant title sequence. I'm told she was unhappy with the end product and doesn't want to be associated with it.
Having seen it I can well understand why. "Miss Right" was the brainchild of William Tepper , the young writer - director who blagged his way into the lead role in Jack Nicholson's Drive He Said a decade earlier . Despite Nicholson's patronage he'd completely failed to build on that and his re-appearance in the lead role here was his first film role since then.
Miss Right is self-indulgent nonsense, set in Rome because an Italian company stumped up some of the money. Tepper plays Terry , a journalist working for a press agency in Rome who decides to ditch all the women in his life in preparation for the right woman coming along. So we follow him dumping Marie-France Pisier, Virna Lisi and Karen Black before settling for Margot Kidder . Despite the setting, most of the "action" takes place indoors and consists of little more than uninteresting conversation with the occasional break for tawdry slapstick ( Lisi ends up pouring food on him ) or an arty effect. There's the odd boob on show to try and keep you awake, two of them belonging to Black who was 40 and beginning to sag. The ending leaves you completely nonplussed.
Tepper's dislikeable character has all the depth of Mr Benn and it's impossible to engage with the material. The middle section with Black, his co-star in Drive He Said , is watchable because she is and Kidder is OK but those are the only good things I can find to say about this tripe.
19 Secret Places ( 1984 )
Jenny slipped down the cast list a bit for this one where she plays an English teacher in this coming-of-age-tale set in a girls school during World War Two.
Sophie ( Marie Therese Relin ) is a German girl from an Anti-Nazi family who have fled to Britain. Joining the class she is put with a gawky English girl Patience ( Tara McGowran ) who befriends her and helps her cope with the incarceration of her father ( Klaus Barner ) and the alarming behaviour of her unhinged mother ( Claudine Auger ). The girls friendship is tested when a young man and then the school staff come between them. A sub-plot concerns the ferociously jolly and sex-obsessed Nina ( Cassie Stuart ) becoming pregnant.
This falls somewhere between The Railway Children and a tamer Our Summer of Love . You sort of know where it's going but it takes forever to get there and frankly I was a bit bored for most of the film. It's not involving enough to justify the glacial pace.
The girls are all quite good in their roles although none of them have gone on to great things. Stuart is the most recognisable from her appearances in Lovejoy and Eastenders and you get a couple of flashes of her boobs. McGowran is a little too old for her role but Relin is actually the right age and does well despite her inexperience.
Jenny, the most recognisable name in the cast is fine but hasn't a great deal to do.
20 Dark Tower ( 1987 )
This forgotten horror film has a melancholy significance in Jenny's career as the last to exploit her sexuality ( in a brief, perfunctory way ).
Jenny plays Carolyn Page, an American architect in a high-rise tower in Barcelona where people start dying in inexplicable circumstances. This is investigated by Randall ( Michael Moriarty) , presumably the building's security officer, though this is never really confirmed , who conveniently happens to be psychic. That's about it as far as plot goes , so yeah, we're back in The Survivor territory but that's a work of genius compared to this.
You know you're in for a treat when the leading man's name is misspelled in the opening credits and it's a good indication of what's in store. A wafer-thin, derivative story, cardboard characters, some terrible acting, logical flaws and a special effects budget that must have run to cents make this an endurance test despite a modest running time. The eighties trappings are the only aspect of the film that's scary.
Special mention has to go to Moriarty for an execrably wooden central performance. Whatever they paid him was too much. Kevin McCarthy 's brief cameo as a psychic drunk is almost as bad. Theodore Bikel is a bit better as a paranormal expert ; though he features in the worst scene of all, when he has to deliver an embarrassing soliloquy to the invisible entity. He deserves credit for keeping a straight face.
And what of Jenny ? She probably wouldn't direct you to this one but, considering the material she had to work with, hers isn't a discreditable performance. Her character makes no sense whatsoever - why would someone being plagued by supernatural visions and strange deaths happening all around her continue working alone into the night ? Often the script calls for her to do nothing more than toss her long hair around and look moody. And yet she does OK; her American accent is quite good and she does the obligatory running and screaming convincingly enough.
At 35 Jenny looks great in her power suits and big ear-rings and early on strips down to a black bodice which is nice but over too soon. Then there's the hint of a sex scene - basically a belt being undone and a bare head and shoulders shot next to Moriarty. Perhaps that's all she'd agree to and who can blame her ?
21 Amazon Women On The Moon ( 1987 )
Another appearance by Jenny that's hardly worth mentioning. She is an actress playing Cleopatra and has one line in a sketch so lame it didn't make the final cut but you can see it in the Deleted Scenes section on the DVD.
That's Jenny dealt with - what of the rest of the film ? Well it's basically John Landis opening his filofax and calling in his buddies to appear in a collection of skits very loosely linked to the central concept of a TV station showing a 1950s Ed Wood -style B-movie. Some of them ( the better ones mainly ) are mock commercials ; others are just crow-barred in regardless. One thing does link them all however - can you guess what it is ?
The "Amazon Women" bits are just dreadful ; all the same ground was covered by the Medved brothers a few years earlier and Landis brings absolutely nothing new to the table. I have to record though that my wife let the side down by chuckling at it. None of the big names acquit themselves very well ; Rosanna Arquette is appallingly wooden in a crushingly unfunny piece with Steve Guttenberg and Michelle Pfeiffer isn't much better in an equally dismal hospital sketch with Griffin Dunne as a mad doctor.
Occasionally I managed a weak smile. David Alan Grier as useless soul singer Don Simmons is quite good although the sketch outstays its welcome. The man who thinks he's invisible but isn't sketch isn't funny in itself but will amuse British viewers because of Ed Begley Junior's remarkable resemblance to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley especially as he ends up in the buff. Talking of which Penthouse Babe Monique Gabrielle features early on in a spoof on porn videos. Her voiceover is predictably robotic but she's undeniably easy on the eye as she walks around starkers .
However these better moments are not worth the pain of wading through the dross. This is an awful film ; give it a miss.
A children's film about a horse. I can't tell you much more about it at present.
23 Darkman (1990)
Jenny makes a brief uncredited appearance as a doctor in this tongue-in-cheek revenge horror film. I haven't seen it for a while but remember a great comic turn from Larry Drake (best known as the simpleton in LA Law) as the chief villain.
24 Child’s Play 2 (1990)
This film returned Jenny briefly to the top of the box office chart but it's hardly one of which she'll be proud. It was also her Hollywood swansong ; the following films were all British or European -made (at least up to 2011) .
Jenny plays the new foster mum (with still-dodgy American accent) of the little boy from the first film while his real mum seeks therapy (offscreen) . It's a very undemanding role and she doesn't even get a good death scene, her garroted corpse being discovered after the event.
Like most sequels this lacks any element of surprise. Chucky is resurrected by the company (for no credible reason) and carries on where he left off chasing Andy (Alex Vincent) to possess his body. With only Vincent and Brad Dourif as Chucky's voice from the original the continuity is messy ; Chris Sarandon's cop character is erased altogether to allow a similar "no one believes me" storyline to play out for the first hour. The best thing in the movie is Christine Elise as Andy's spunky foster-sister Kyle who becomes his ally in tackling Chucky and displays an offbeat sense of humour. The finale borrows liberally from The Terminator .
It's not as bad as the later instalments in the franchise but that's hardly a recommendation.
25 Blue Juice (1995)
After five years away from film during which she had a son Jonathan and re-settled in England, Jenny , now in her 40s, took a character part in this British film cashing in on the burgeoning surfer scene in Cornwall. Given the clout a couple of her fellow cast members now enjoy I'm surprised that all remaining copies of this dire rom-com haven't been locked away in a vault.
The hero of the tale JC ( Sean Pertwee ) runs a cafe with his girlfriend Chloe ( Catherine Zeta-Jones ) but is more interested in surfing than sex. JC is hung up about turning 30 and wants to tour the world's beaches but she is more interested in investing in the business. The tension is exacerbated when three friends from London arrive, famous record producer Ross ( Steven Mackintosh ) drug dealer Dean (Ewan McGregor ) and tubby square Terry ( Peter Gunn ) . The main characters are followed around by a chorus of presumably unemployed surfer dudes.
This film proves that a good cast can't rescue a dud script. It doesn't work as either a sports drama or a comedy. While no doubt challenging enough, Cornwall's breakers can't provide a spectacle to rival Bondi or Waikiki so there's little actual surfing action on show. And the humour is so witless , largely reliant on Gunn running round in his undies , that I didn't manage a single chuckle throughout the film.
The problems are exacerbated by the choice of lead. Pertwee is a fine supporting actor but he's struggling here to make his utterly shallow character convincing. His over-tanned appearance is the funniest thing in the film and he resorts to far too much watery -eyed mugging . He does his best to ruin a sex scene with Catherine Zeta-Jones in which she looks fantastic in black bra and panties ( very high cut as if to show her expertise with a razor).
Unsurprisingly she and McGregor are the best performers here. She's sparky and sympathetic though you do wonder how she's ended up with a dickhead. McGregor does very well with an almost impossible role. Whichever way you slice it drug dealers are never funny or likeable and though he does get a good kicking this moral ambivalence is a stain on the film. Mackintosh is alright although the sub-plot around his music is absolutely ludicrous and feels like one of the writers has inserted a personal gripe into the script. Gunn, the comedy fat guy is just awful as is Heathcote Williams as JC's hippy mentor.
Jenny ( visibly aged since Child's Play 2 ) has barely 5 minutes screen time as a famous actress being pursued by the E- addled Terry in another sub-plot with a resolution so lame you wonder why they bothered. Perhaps Jenny ( who has a holiday home in Cornwall ) was walking by and got crow-barred in.
There's also a phoned-in performance from Keith Allen as a tabloid hack unfathomably interested in the surfing shenanigans , another completely superfluous character.
The lovely scenery and the presence of the two A-listers just about make this worth catching but otherwise it's a pile of tripe. No wonder Jenny lay low for another six years.
26 The Parole Officer (2001)
Jenny opened the fifth decade of her acting career with a small straight role as a widow in Steve Coogan's comedy vehicle. She's only in it briefly but does well , keeping a straight face despite some ridiculous lines.
While not being a massive fan of Coogan I found this film moderately amusing. Coogan plays Simon a gauche , incompetent probation officer who witnesses a murder by corrupt cop Burton (Stephen Dillane) in a night club and has to retrieve a security tape of the incident from a bank vault to avoid being framed for it himself. To effect this he gathers an unlikely team from amongst his former clients making it, in essence, a caper movie.
There are plot holes galore. Why has the tape been preserved rather than wiped or destroyed in the first place ? The murder itself is unconvincing, Dillane not having the physique to strangle a man with his bare hands. There's a ludicrous scene where Burton raids Simon's home and the victim's head is planted in his fridge , removed from it and taken outside, then brought back in and placed in a saucepan, all going unnoticed despite every character being gathered in the same room.
The funniest scenes seem bolted on rather than integral to the main plot like Simon's queasy ride on the Big One ( because his associate played by Om Puri is now a Health and Safety Inspector in Blackpool ) or his dilatory visit to an art gallery with policewoman girlfriend (Lena Headey). The bank raid itself is noticeably short on laughs and ends in confusion with a bizarre cameo appearance from Omar Sharif.
The romance between Coogan and Headey isn't really convincing. There's an obvious mismatch in terms of physical attractiveness which makes her opening scene where he's not really interested seem like a sop to Coogan's well-attested vanity. Other than that Headey is fine in her straight role . Coogan too is OK though, as ever, not the comic genius he thinks he is. Perhaps the best performance comes from young Emma Williams as Kirsty the poster girl for ASBOs. Puri suffers from a dearth of funny lines, Steven Waddington plays the same character he did in Face while Ben Miller is woefully unfunny as the neurotic computer genius.
It's not bad but it's not essential viewing either.
27 Number One Longing, Number Two Regret (2004)
Jenny's only recent lead role was in this offbeat independent thriller . Unfortunately it's a pile of tosh.
Jenny plays Kenosha a police detective investigating the murder of a young girl where an unconscious man at the scene, Spears ( Paul Conway ) becomes the chief suspect. He soon makes a rather unlikely escape from custody and his back story starts to unfold with the limited help of his friends and flashbacks. Kenosha and her colleague Fett ( Jeremy Bulloch ) are initially the viewer's guides to what's going on but are eventually revealed to be as cooky as everyone else.
The film was written and directed by Neil Wassell a complete unknown and likely to remain so on this showing. What you have here is basically a low budget mash-up of ideas nicked from every modern thriller of the past 20 years - the Bourne films , Rodin , Mission Impossible, Swordfish to name a few - disguised by an icy topping of arty pretension and puerile humour ( there are apparently a lot of Stars Wars references in the script if you can be bothered to listen).
It fails to engage partly because the characters are so unconvincing. Spears, who looks like an addled Jamie Theakston has just spent 5 years dawdling in his apartment and yet suddenly turns manic popping up all over London committing acts of violence often against himself. It's impossible to care for him particularly after he kills his colleague Mitchell for just being in the wrong place. (However on learning that Mitchell was Wassell in a cameo role I watched it again to cheer Spears on ) . His romance with obligatory femme fatale Landridge ( Kendra Torgan ) is one of the least believable on film. John Moraitis has some screen presence as the curiously ineffectual crime boss Woods but you do pity him for having to listen to a pretentious monologue from Spears's mysterious friend Illya ( Laurent Maurel ) in the film's worst scene. You can see him thinking "How am I supposed to react to this shite ? " The revelation of the murderer ( long after you've ceased to care ) is just laughable.
Alas I can't spare Jenny either. In the first part of the film she does a mean impression of Helen Mirren's Jane Tennison ( with Bulloch as Otley ) but when Spears starts turning up on her sofa and she becomes spellbound by his invisible charms it's just embarassing. Her last scene when she's just moping on the couch after inexplicably deceiving him is awful.
There is some nice cinematography in parts. The opening night time scene is arresting ( it's explanation less so ) and the scenes in Spears' s apartment work quite well but too often the arty touches seem gratuitous. There's no real reason for Kenosha's station to look bombed out and when Spears escapes into the streets of modern London the effect is just to jar. Likewise the insertion of monochrome video footage of Spears being interrogated at regular intervals is just an irritation when none of it reveals more information.
Not very good at all and the next one's worse !
28 Heroes And Villains ( 2006 )
Jenny plays June the mother of the main character Jack (David Raymond who also wrote the script) in this British rom-com. Her role is small but quite important in plot terms.
I hardly know where to start with this deeply terrible film. Jack works for a vaguely delineated "property" firm in London and lives in Richard Curtis-land with his sister (Olivia Poulet) and three unachieving mates Sam (James Corden) , Oli (Richard Sumitro) and Nick (Brendan Patricks). After devising a hidden camera sting to catch out Sam's unfathful girlfriend (presumably after watching Thaila Zucchie's "Bunny Boiler" slot on Balls of Steel one night) Jack decides to set up his own business setting honey traps for untrusted partners. After the first of way too many chance encounters in the film he starts pursuing Emma ( Jenna Harrison ) the outraged. high class girlfriend of his unmasked former boss.
Raymond, who hasn't another film to his credit yet, isn't that bad an actor but his script is all over the place. It's hard to pick out which is the most ludicrous, implausible scene; there are so many from which to choose. The business becomes a roaring success despite the marketing strategy comprising placing a small ad in the local paper. The first commercial sting involves a man posing as a tennis player and getting blasted off court to a terrible cod-Noel Coward song mining the huge comic potential of the word "balls". Anorexic Oli (an Asian John Cazale) pulls from a group of four attractive girls who clearly have nothing better to do with their time than sit and watch a group of strangers playing three-a-side rugby in the local park (cleverly placed after a scene where Jack takes Emma to practice her oratory in an empty Twickenham stadium to which he presumably has the keys). Actually it isn't that difficult to pick out the worst scene; it's the climax which throws in not one, but two more unlikely encounters, a risible fight and, at the very last minute, the most gratuitous, tacked-on gay revelation ever (it has no relevance to the plot whatsoever so that's not a spoiler !)
I'd never heard of James Corden before his recent appearance in the pro-celebrity football tournament but he gets a generous amount of screen time here where he's not so much a character as Jack's wet liberal conscience about the ethics of the business. This leads to another unbelievable scene where he - moreorless the firm's receptionist- is collared by an angry wife. Why has he given her his name, home address and physical description of himself we wonder ? Sam's ultimate fate is telegraphed at least half a dozen times so you get bored with waiting for it to happen.
Despite all the above, there is quite a good bit in the middle where Jack and Emma's relationship develops over a visit to his parents. Harrison is very engaging here and elsewhere and the expertise of Jenny and Roy Marsden as Jack's dad helps. You get the feeling that if Raymond had had an editor they would have advised him to strip everything else out and build on this passage. Instead we go straight to a scene showing Jack at his nastiest , an horrendous mistake just as we were beginning to warm to him.
It bombed completely, not even having a wikipedia entry at the time of writing. Watch it at your own risk !
29 Irina Palm (2007)
I bet Jenny enjoyed herself playing against type as a rather bitchy character in this oddly engaging film which constructs a rather charming fairy tale from very unlikely material.
Sixties survivor Marianne Faithfull takes the title role. Her real name is Maggie a lonely widow in late middle age who needs to find money to pay the travel costs of her son and his wife to accompany her seriously ill grandson to Australia for medical treatment. She eventually finds employment working in a sex club run by the Transylvanian Micky ( Miki Manojlovic) . I won't say what she actually does but let's just say she proves to be a dab hand at it.
Faithfull isn't the most expressive actress but her lived -in voice is absolutely perfect for the role and she convinces as a woman rediscovering the joy of being wanted after becoming a spare part in other people's lives. The scenes with the grandson are refreshingly economical; the real heart of the film is her relationship with Micky who is slowly revealed to be a nice guy. In truth this is a bit unlikely but the sad-faced Manojlovic carries it off. I didn't warm to Kevin Bishop as Maggie's disgusted son but the script didn't offer him any opportunity to become sympathetic.
Jenny plays Jane, Maggie's nosy bridge partner. It's not a big role but she's good, particularly when playing an impressively straight bat in the film's funniest scene as Maggie reveals her new vocation during a bridge session.
30 The Magic Door (2007)
It's a risky thing to say not having seen everything that preceded it but this is probably the lowest point of Jenny's film career. She is first -billed playing the Black Witch in this half-baked sub-Narnian nonsense which went straight to DVD.
The plot such as it is involves a troll. Raglin ( played by Yorkshire-accented dwarf actor Big Mick ) wandering around some Cotswold woods looking for a magic door and being spied upon by an elf Flip ( Aaron Johnson ) at the behest of the Fairy Princess ( Emma Ford ) who is really the Witch in disguise. In the course of bin-raiding at a large isolated house he is spotted by Sally ( Alix Matthews , one of the director's kids ) . She and her brother Liam ( Liam Matthews, the other one ) are having problems adapting to life with their father ( Anthony Head ) and his new bride Rachel ( Patsy Kensit ) so take to the woods in search of adventure.
It's dismal stuff with little to entertain an adult beyond a well-timed four letter word and the hope that Ford's costume will slip ( she does seem to be holding it up at one point) . My three year old son lost interest after half an hour. The story is a vague re-hash of ideas from The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe and the cheap CGI effects are so over-used they become risible. The only laughs are unintentional, the witch turning into a pantomime lion, a search party which looks suspiciously like a passing group of ramblers were corralled into becoming extras and , sad to say, Jenny's performance.
She's never been worse than this. In a fright wig , white pancake and a dress that looks like it was made from bin liners she's completely unconvincing. Her heart's clearly not in it and she can't keep the voice going for more than a couple of lines, slipping back into her normal cut glass tones or , worse , some embarrassing Vicky Pollard-isms.
Big Mick's committed performance is the best in the film while Head and the often-atrocious Kensit play it straight and are passable ( but my, hasn't she got chunkier in recent years ? ) . The child actors don't look like they're going places the girl being the better of the two siblings.
All in all it's a tiresome waste of celluloid.
31 Act of God ( 2009 )
Despite having a great cast this one took a long time to come out and I'm a bit doubtful as to whether it had a theatrical release. It's barely an hour and a quarter long and does have the look of an ITV drama. However it is being run on Movies4men at the moment so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.
32 Glorious 39 (2009)
This is, I think, the best film of Jenny's hit and miss Noughties even though she's not in it that much. It was Stephen Poliakoff's first feature film for 12 years after extensive TV work. It combines family drama, murky history and conspiracy thriller and for the most part it works very well.
The central character Anne ( Romola Garai ) is the adopted daughter of a Norfolk squire and Conservative MP Alexander Keyes ( William Nighy ) on the eve of World War Two. At a family dinner party in August 1939 the guests include excitable MP Hector Haldane ( David Tennant ) who is switching support to Churchill and sober Home Office man Balcombe ( Jeremy Northam ) who is moving some records into disused stables at the family home. Anne is intrigued to discover that some foxtrot 78s are actually audio recordings of meetings but when Haldane commits suicide shortly afterwards and his voice is heard on the vinyl the find takes on a much more sinister significance.
I'd never heard of Romola Garai before watching this film but she is absolutely fantastic here and stunningly beautiful to boot. She is in virtually every scene and captures the heart as a resourceful heroine trying to uncover the truth behind what she has heard. It's both a tough physical performance and emotionally draining as her quest takes her into ever deeper peril in an increasingly friendless environment. She's the star of an impressive cast although one or two of the performances have a whiff of deja vu about them. At least in the first half of the film William Nighy's father is very similar to the one he played in Poliakoff's TV film Gideon's Daughter while Balcombe is to all intents and purposes the same man Northam played in Enigma. Julie Christie excels as the subtly menacing Aunt Elizabeth. Jenny plays Ann's mousy mother, a small and not very demanding role although she does get a moment to shine towards the end.
The other major star is the Norfolk countryside, Poliakoff making full use of the big sky landscape across which Anne runs and drives. There's a marvellous scene where she has to make her way through a charnel house of pets put down at the start of the war, followed by another where she finds herself marooned in a field surrounded by unlikely villains evoking the spirit of The Prisoner .
It's not perfect by any means. The plot does start to strain credibility as it progresses ; the third death is particularly hard to accept and the audio quality of the recordings, one of them a phone call, is completely incredible for 1930s technology. The present-day epilogue is trite and marred by Christopher Lee ( playing the survivor of the previous events) being obviously too old for the part. Nevertheless this is an enjoyable and thought-provoking adventure with a terrific central performance that's well worth catching.
33 . Burke and Hare ( 2010 )
Jenny teamed up with John Landis for the third time here. Unfortunately her part is no more substantial than ( and actually pretty similar to ) the one in "Amazon Women On The Moon". She has a few seconds as an old ham auditioning for Macbeth then she's gone. It's not even funny.
This was John Landis's first feature film for 12 years and in returning to Britain he was clearly aiming for the horror / comedy crossover he achieved with "Werewolf nearly thirty years earlier. Besides Jenny , David Schofield and John Woodvine also appear in both films. It hasn't turned out that way.
The immediate problem is that the source material doesn't lend itself to an amusing interpretation. Burke and Hare were nineteenth century serial murderers who killed 16 people in Edinbugh in order to sell the corpses to an unscrupulous anatomist who looked the other way as to their origin. The discovery of their crimes led to a scandalously unjust outcome which did nothing for the reputation of Scotland's courts. Landis's scriptwriters attempt to solve the dilemna by introducing a wholly fictitious romance for Burke which causes more problems than it solves.
The film has good production values and makes great use of the streetscape of the old city . In the main it's well cast although you can't imagine it was ever one of Tom Wilkinson's ambitions to play a scene with Ronnie Corbett or Andy Serkis's to have comedy sex romps with Cheryl from The Royle Family. Serkis looks the part as Hare but he's not a comic actor and Simon Pegg as Burke can't do much when his character as written is completely implausible. He and Isla Fisher as his self-absorbed girlfriend Ginny play their romantic scenes well despite her appalling accent but you just can't accept their liaison in context and its final resolution insults the intelligence. Wilkinson as the duo's amoral paymaster plays it straight and seems to be from a different film altogeher.
Then you have Ronnie Corbett as the chief of the local militia. How on earth did that happen ? You have to be impressed by the 79-year old's physical performance ( Christopher Lee's cameo by contrast sees him entirely supine in bed ) but otherwise he's just embarrassing and doesn't even have funny lines - mind you he'll be used to that. There are brief cameos from the likes of Bill Bailey, Paul Whitehouse and Reece Shearsmith which are more distracting than effective
Although it's by no means Landis's worst film it ultimately fails on both counts. Post- the Hostel films and live autopsies on Channel 4 the "horror" element is exceptionally tame; I can't spot anything that merits a 15 certificate rather than a 12. The murders are depicted ( if at all ) in slapstick fashion in a doomed attempt to keep Burke sympathetic but it only makes the film seem flippant and distasteful. There is the odd good gag like Greyfriars Bobby observing their first attempt at graverobbing but they're very few and far between . Mostly it's just dreary like a sub-standard episode of Blackadder stretched out to no good purpose.
34. Outside Bet ( 2012 )
Jenny proves once again that her quality control has gone south with another role in a dire British film. This is so embarrassingly bad it's almost a classic.
The signs were ominous before the opening credits were finished when I saw that it was based on a novel co -written by Paolo Hewitt, the gormless-looking cheerleader for all things Mod who's had his head stuck up Paul Weller's behind for most of the last three decades. That might account for the latter's creaky singing on the gobsmackingly awful theme tune which gets two outings to compound the misery.
The film is yet another attempt to cash in on the Full Monty formula of a motley ensemble of working class characters trying to beat the cruel capitalist forces that beset them with an unlikely endeavour. This one's set in the mid-eighties with a group of print workers, soon to be turfed out by Murdoch, deciding to buy a race horse off a man in the pub.
It's hard to believe the writers actually lived through the times as the script resembles nothing so much as a half-understood school project . It's both historically inaccurate -the Wapping dispute occurred before the British Gas sell-off - and economically illiterate - Calum MacNab's character receives "thousands" in redundancy money despite being in his early 20s. It leaves no political cliche unplundered - MacNab shouting "Go on you flying picket !" at a colleague on screen is my favourite. In fairness it does suggest that the old school printers may not always have done a full day's work ( although keeping the geriatric Dudley Sutton on the payroll may be taking it a bit too far ). At other times it's just plain inept e.g, the trifling matters of where the horse and then its expert trainer ( Vince Regan ) have come from remain unexplained..
I did enjoy some of the eighties music captured for the soundtrack although it's not particularly well deployed; the use of Vienna ( not exactly contemporary anyway ) for a racing sequence is spectacularly inappropriate. Budget constraints mean that the racing scenes are visibly under-populated and the characters dressing up as if it were Ascot only makes it more obvious.
The main character Mark Baxter ( MacNab ) is the sort of aggressive, charmless Cockney wide boy that London writers perennially fail to realise repels people north of Watford Gap. That he gets the girl despite neglect, glaring irresponsibility and sleeping with Murdoch's hatchet woman ( Kate Macgowan ) just shows what a male-centric view Hewitt and his ilk have. There isn't a decent female role in the film. I'm not sure Linda Robson as Sutton's wife even has a line and wasting Rita Tushingham is a crime.
All the experienced players do OK such as Phil Davis as Baxter's dad although the sub-plot around him being a great pub singer is another embarrassment ( and he looks like he realises it too ). Jenny plays his wife and does a decent job although as usual she fails to maintain the appropriate accent for more than a couple of lines. She's also part of one of the very few genuinely funny scenes playing it straight in a masturbation sight gag.
The film has now acquired a sad significance because shortly after its release Bob Hoskins announced his retirement from acting following a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease thus making this his last film appearance. There's a tell-tale credit for "Mr Hoskins's Stand-in" for a part not requiring much physicality and he appears tired and bloated as the veteran shop steward and fount of dubious wisdom. It's a dignified performance given that the character is a walking cliche and has some terrible lines but you'd wish for a better send-off than this.
35. The Avengers Assemble (2012)
This is a first , the first time I've actually gone to a cinema in order to update a post on this blog. This was to see Jenny's surprise return to big Hollywood movies as "Council member" in the latest and biggest Marvel-tied special effects extravaganza. As you can probably guess from the character's lack of name it's not a huge role ( two scenes, half a dozen lines ) but she does register.
Actually Jenny's appearance isn't quite the only reason for going to see the film. In the mid-seventies I was a Marvel comics buyer though my allegiance to particular titles was fickle. I think I probably bought more of Spiderman than any other but there was definitely a period when The Avengers was my main subscription. I liked the team angle and the way the cast was periodically freshened up to retain interest.
Although this is the first strictly Avengers movie the majority of the line-up featured here have been the sole focus of previous films and continuity with those is the priority rather than faithfulness to the original comics. The main plot of the film follows directly from events in Thor (2011). Most of the relevant cast members returned ( the notable exception being Kenneth Norton who acrimoniously withdrew from reprising The Hulk ) though some like Gwyneth Paltrow as Iron Man's girlfriend are reduced to mere cameos. Out of necessity the backstories are not thoroughly explained; I was OK, with childhood memories assisting me to mostly fill in the gaps but I think someone coming to it completely cold would get a bit lost.
The story goes that S.H.I.E.L.D, a UN -sponsored but American led defense agency are guarding an extra-terrestrial source of energy the Tesseract ( no relation to the Alex Garland novel ) when it is stolen by evil Norse god Loki ( Tom Hiddleston ) who also hypnotises agent Hawkeye ( Jeremy Renner) into his service. He will use the Tesseract to open a gateway to an invading force of demonic creatures to wreak havoc on Earth largely, it seems, to spite his brother Thor .Security chief Nick Fury ( Samuel L Jackson ) calls upon known superheroes Black Widow ( Scarlett Johansson ) , Captain America ( Chris Evans), Iron Man ( Robert Downey Junior), Thor ( Chris Hemsworth ) and loosest of cannons David Banner/Hulk ( Mark Ruffalo) to thwart his plans. And then the pyrotechnics begin ....
So is it any good ? Well, it's watchable. The CGI action would certainly have enthralled the 10-year old me but as it doesn't clear the bar set by Lord Of The Rings you look to the script for a bit more. That bears the usual signs of schizophrenia caused by numerous rewrites with ideas only half-developed or left as loose ends such as the "revelation" that S.H.I.E.L.D might not be using the Tesseract for entirely noble purposes (golly !) which isn't really pursued or Captain America's thirties mindset which just disappears in the second half of the film. There is some humour, most of it entrusted to Downey Jr although he has to deliver it so fast you can't catch all of it. The romantic sub-plot involving Hawkeye and Black Widow is so perfunctory it might as well not be there and the handwringing over the death of a minor character , Agent Phil, is just risible.
There are some logic flaws as well. In his first appearance the Hulk is a genuinely terrifying, unstoppable force of pure rage chasing down Black Widow because she's the first living being available to vent it on. In his second he's biddable , able to pause and take stock and has a sense of irony. There's no explanation for this turnaround. And the idea of involving Norse gods in sci-fi adventures seemed uncomfortable to me as a child reading the comics and it works no better here.
As far as the acting goes everyone is OK without pushing the boat out. Downey Jr ( the senior member of the ensemble ) is suitably droll and cynical while Ruffalo manages to elicit sympathy for his predicament. Hiddleston achieves the right blend of malice and childishness for Loki with the effect of turning Hemsworth into the Viking Bobby Ewing rather than the God of Thunder. The real boring chump though is the ultra-bland Evans (which is actually being quite faithful to the comics ). And Johansson seems to be taking it all just a tad too seriously.
Jenny , who got the part through director Joss Wheedon's affection for Logan's Run and American Werewolf, isn't required to do much other than look glum in a blonde rinse while her council deliberates on Armageddon with Jackson. But it surely must have been nice for her to work alongside A-listers at least one more time.
36. Captain America : The Winter Soldier ( 2014 )
Jenny retained her role for Marvel's next blockbuster.
As the title suggests this one concentrates on Captain America played by Chris Evans. He is called upon by SHIELD chief Nick Fury ( Samuel L Jackson ) to rescue some hostages from a ship alongside Black Widow ( Scarlett Johansson ). His disgruntlement at not being told the full story and scepticism about SHIELD's latest project, the launch of three giant surveillance satellites convince Fury that the Captain is a trustworthy ally in his efforts to uncover a fascist sub-organisation within SHIELD, the Hydra led by villainous Senator Pierce ( Robert Redford ) . When Fury is hit by Hydra's deadly assassin the Winter Soldier ( Sebastian Stan ) , the Captain, alongside Black Widow and the Falcon ( Anthony Mackie ) takes on the fight himself which involves uncovering some of the secrets of his own past.
The original point of Captain America was that he was a superhero without actual super powers , just the sort of strong athletic upright guy that Marvel readers could aspire to becoming if they bought the Charles Atlas equipment advertised every week in the comics. The film stays reasonably true to that - though I wouldn't advise jumping off a multi-storey building and relying on a metal shield to cushion the impact any time soon - which means the pyrotechnics have had to be relatively curbed and the trio's adversaries are only human, though surgically enhanced in the Winter Soldier's case.
This also allows for a more coherent conspiracy thriller storyline than The Avengers Assemble though not a particularly original one, with ideas liberally borrowed from Three Days of the Condor, The Marathon Man , Mission Impossible, Blade Runner and Minority Report . It's always watchable though I struggle with the ultra-fast CGI violence these days ; it seems to me that the line between films and computer games is getting increasingly blurred.
The film also suffers from the terminal blandness of Evans who can't convey anything other than a mildly pained concern at events in the manner of Dallas's Patrick Duffy. Perhaps wisely the sparse hints at romance in the film are perfunctory in the extreme. Johansson looks great but not quite sure what she's doing there and possibly realises that it means her character won't get a movie to herself. Jackson makes the most of his extra screen time and Redford deploys his enduring charisma to good effect in a rare outing as a villain.
Jenny has a bit more screen time and even gets to participate in some action heroics of her own in this one. Her character isn't killed off - in fact, for all the violence hardly anyone dies in the film- so maybe she'll be in the next one too.
37 . Queen Of The Desert ( 2015 )
Jenny's next film was this big budget biopic of the explorer Gertrude Bell in which she plays Bell's mother.
Gertrude Bell was the daughter of Liberal MP, Lowthian Bell ( who I've already covered in The Clarke Chronicler's Politicians ) who travelled extensively in the Middle East just before the First World War and became a valuable source of information to the British Empire. I'm not sure how historically accurate the film is in the claims it makes for her influence on the post-war settlement in the Middle East but she was certainly an interesting personality.
Here she's played by Nicole Kidman, who I must say is wearing pretty well . Uninterested in British society she's given leave to visit Tehran where she romances a young diplomat Henry Cadogan (James Franco ) who commits suicide when her father ( David Calder ) vetoes their wedding plans. Thereafter she wanders the deserts, exploring the archaeology, keeping a diary and meeting local potentates with occasional visits to Baghdad where her new , already married suitor , the British Consul General Charles Doughty Wylie ( Damian Lewis ) awaits.
At over two hours long this isn't a film for the impatient. Herzog's sumptuous cinematography offers lingering widescreen vistas of the best scenery Jordan and Morocco have to offer as Gertrude's caravan plods its leisurely way across the sands and at times it seems to be more of a travelogue than a drama. The first half hour covering Gertrude's doomed romance with Cadogan works best on a human level with a first class performance by Franco. By contrast the affair with Wylie is less engaging despite Lewis's skills. There's a political subtext in depicting the British as cackhanded and ignorant in their dealings with the Arabs but this isn't overplayed.
Kidman's a seasoned character actress and plays her well although she doesn't quite tug at the heartstrings. It's a very sexless picture with only a brief glimpse of her nipples in a bathing scene. Robert Pattinson, who I believe is something of a girls ' favourite in teen pictures , has a dreadful cameo as T E Lawrence and Christopher Fulford isn't much better as a comedy Churchill.
Jenny's only in it for five minutes near the start in an unsympathetic role as Gertrude's conservative mother.
38. Tin ( 2015 )