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The Christine Keeler Affair directed by Robert B. Spafford (1964)

This is a curious little film re-issued by Something Weird Video in their DVD-R specialist series (i.e they figure its hundreds rather than thousands of people likely to be interested in the title). What is known to 'posterity' as the Profumo Affair broke in 1963 and in essence consists of the fact that in 1961 a London cabaret girl called Christine Keeler (who like my mom at that time worked at Murray's Club in Soho) had a fling with Tory war minister John Profumo, and may have been dogging the Russian diplomat and spy Eugene Ivanov too. Under pressure Profumo made a statement in the British parliament in which he claimed there was 'no impropriety' in his relationship with Keeler, and when it came out that he'd lied he had to resign, and he brought the conservative government of the time down with him.

Anyone at all familiar with these matters will immediately see that this film doesn't follow the facts that closely, but that's why its interesting. We have Keeler (played by Yvonne Buckingham) interrogated in an extreme anti-realist fashion by a judge in a court room with a surreal black out mural behind her. Its like something out of German Expressionist cinema, but about fifty years too late. The film was made in Denmark and all the flashback street scenes (obviously done in a studio) are shot uncomfortably tightly, possibly in the hope that viewers don't notice they aren't actually looking at London (and to save money because only small sets are utilised). But this cheap trick actually suits the claustrophobia of the film, which gets particularly crazy at a diplomatic party where the majority of guests are represented by shop dummies some of which converse with Keeler. There is an equally stylised scene in a steam bath, and some pretty flaky 'orgies'. This was presumably risque by the standards of the day since you do get to see Christine's (I mean Yvonne's) boobies very briefly. Wild, man, wild; as is the cool jazz soundtrack. Towards the end bits of news reel footage are cut in, so you not only get real London landmarks (from the Old Bailey thru to the Houses of Parliament), but actual footage of Keeler's close friend Stephen Ward who looks nothing like John Drew Barrymore (the actor playing him in the film). Best of all, Keeler herself reads the end credits, beginning with 'I was played by Yvonne Buckingham'.

Filmed hot on the heels of the events that inspired it and which it fictionalises, this movie libels the dead (slumlord Peter Rachman is played like Al Capone), and gives most of those still living (aside from Keeler, who was paid for her story) an easy ride. Profumo is seen but once and from the knees down, asking Christine for her phone number as she lies beside a swimming pool (not Cliveden that weekend according to the voice over, presumably the producers where concerned Lord Astor would sue, but it was at his Cliveden country seat that Keeler and this cynical capitalist politician met). Profumo's statement to parliament gets a lengthy reading to shots of London, eat your heart out Bertholt Brecht! Then a typewriter provides a visual stand in for Profumo as his letter of resignation is recited on the voice-over; hello Luis Bunuel! At the end there are working class 'socialist' 'agitators' asking what else lies behind the Eton ties of the establishment; Eton is a 'top' British school attended by members of the 'royal' family and other inbred scum. Then, as a final absurdist cum surreal touch, a male narrator suggests that Harold Wilson's Labour government - whose rise to power was greatly aided by the Profumo Affair - was somehow 'left-wing'. So this film has everything from pathos to humour and usually both at once. John B. Spafford's effort is definitely better than "Scandal", the 'other' movie about the Profumo Affair made twenty-five years after this one. Crazy shit.

And by way of conclusion, I hope the sickening eulogies Profumo received when he dropped dead earlier this year can be rectified by some new and more honest portraits of him constructed without fear of libel writs. This shit-bag 'retired' from politics to engage in highly political 'charity' work in the East End of London, and was endlessly praised by the likes of Maggot (oops I mean Margaret) Thatcher for his 'dignity'. Well when I was unemployed the welfare workers sent me to the institution Profumo ran and contrary to the shit run by the press, it did nothing for local people like me who were supposedly the community he 'selflessly' 'served' for years. In fact what Profumo really provided was a pathetic ideological sop designed to justify the unjustifiable, that is to say capitalist 'social' relations. The fake memories constructed around this con artist need to be trampled underfoot. The two films made about the Profumo Affair so far barely make a start on that. We need a demolition job in the montage style of Eisenstein.

London In The Raw (Mondo Soho)

The Party's Over & The Pleasure Girls

Sleaze Cinema




The Christine Keeler Affair film poster