Sonny and Girly appear to be in their late teens, but they still dress in school uniforms, sleep in large converted cribs in a child’s nursery that is stocked with toys, and engage in conversation better suited for kids in elementary school.
Sadly, over the years, I have heard complaints from people I know regarding how much they dislike going to the homes of their relatives during the holidays. The answers I usually receive when I ask why are as follows: My family is so dysfunctional. My family serves as a source of embarrassment to me. Certain members of my family can’t help but fight as soon as they get in the same room. Well, for those who’ve told me those sorts of things over the years they should be thankful that at least their family is nothing like the one portrayed in British cinematographer and director Freddie Francis’s (Tales From The Crypt) gem “Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly,” A.K.A. Girly.
Released on February 12, 1970, the 102 minute film written by Brian Comport does not fall into one thematic category, but instead treats the viewer to an interesting movie which adeptly blends elements of social commentary, horror, and dark comedy. From the outset it is never established what, if any, familial relationship Mumsy, Ursula Howells, (The Many Wives of Patrick) has to Sonny, Howard Trevor, (ITV Playhouse) and Girly, Vanessa Howard, (What Became of Jack and Jill). Nor do we learn how, when, or why the Nanny, Pat Heywood, (Wish You Were Here) became employed by the wonton, well-to-do, pseudo family, but then again this particular piece of cinema is far from conventional. It has no interest in explaining the characters’ back stories, the lack of a father figure, or, most importantly, the motivations behind the depraved games that are played with the men Sonny and Girly lure back to the secluded decaying country manor house they live in.
Sonny and Girly are tasked with finding new “friends,” as the entire family refers to them, to engage in the criminal quartet’s games; unsuspecting victims are typically found at the public park. Having grown tired of the typical drunks and homeless people that are brought back to the house, Mumsy instructs Sonny and Girly to seek out the latest “friend” elsewhere. They do so, and come across Michael Bryant, (The Ruling Class) simply known during the movie as “new friend,” coming out of a party with his girlfriend, Imogen Hassall (Carry on Loving). At first angered when approached by Sonny, “new friend” quickly changes his mind when he spots Girly sitting in the backseat of his car. After engaging in some silly playground type antics, Sonny’s actions lead to the killing of “new friend’s,” girlfriend and due to his intoxication “new friend” is horrified because he believes that he accidentally killed her. Having little recourse, but to join Sonny and Girly at their home, “new friend” flees with them, and that’s where the games really begin, but not the type the household is used to. At first “new friend” is willing to suffer through the jokes and other indignities that come with being a guest of the household, but his complacency doesn’t last forever. I’ll leave it at that, so I don’t ruin what happens during the rest of the film, for those of you who hate spoilers.
The acting for the entire cast is notable, but it is Vanessa Howard, who was used to market the movie to American audiences, who stands out. She portrays Girly in a manner which reminds me of Sue Lyon’s (The Night of the Iguana) role in director Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film Lolita, based on the novel by Vladimir Nabokov. Howard injects into the part a mixture of school girl innocence combined with a Lolita like essence of flirtatious sexuality, all the while allowing the viewer to see the madness that is festering within her ready to erupt.
The film did not garner great success upon its initial release. For many years it was thought that there were no complete prints available for hardcore cinephiles who were obsessed with seeing it. Several years back at a Freddie Francis film festival, the organizers couldn’t even find a bootleg VHS copy to show to those hungry to see the quirky film they had always heard about. No one has that trouble these days, thanks to the release of the DVD in March of 2010.
The transfer, for the most part, is sharp and contains a good contrast, with only occasional blemishes or changes in color tone. The dialogue heard on the mono audio soundtrack is clear and crisp. The disc contains numerous extras such as theatrical trailers – both in English and Spanish – a commentary by screenwriter Brian Comport, and a television spot. I recommend this film for those of you who love both off-beat cinema and films that contain horror that is more implied than actually shown on screen.