Before Russ Meyer brought the world his own euphoric brand of movie-making known as "Bosomania," he would occasionally crank out cheap costume comedies overseas. Such is the case with this recent paragon release, Fanny Hill. Meyer himself claims to have served only as a hired hand on this European production produced by noted schlockmeister Albert (High School Confidential) Zugsmith. But while this time-worm tale about the renowned lady of promiscuity proves tepid at best, it's still important to see simply because Meyer was involved with it.
Made in 1964, this black-and-white production takes place during the 1700's in a small village near Liverpool, England. Fanny Hill, played by the fetching Letitia Roma, is a naïve young woman – amply endowed, - who finds herself looking for lodging at the village employment office. The proprietor, Mrs. Snow (sporting more than a hint of a moustache), finds the young wench a perfect occupation as part of a stable of prostitutes looked after by Mrs. Brown (Miriam Hopkins).
At first, Fanny is confused by the surroundings. Bumbling patrons like Dingelspear and Mr. Norbert can't understand why the lovely girls is reluctant to have a go at it. Even Mrs. Brown entertains callers in the parlor. Is Fanny frigid?
No, not quite. One rainy night, Fanny meets a young mane named Charles. They have a roll in a haystack, and Fanny is swept off her feet. She decides to save herself for him. And in the film's finale, as Fanny is about to marry a man she really doesn’t love, Charles returns to save the day in true Graduate fashion.
Few sexual sparks fly in this film. The sexiest scenes feature women with barebacks and in tight low-cut blouses. Undoubtedly, if the film was released today it would be raged PG. There is little evidence that suggest Russ Meyer directed this project. His trademarks, like ultra-Macho male characters, cartoonish humor and lightning quick editing style, are strikingly absent. Even what passes for humor here – speeded up chandelier-swinging antics and men's wigs going up in flames – are decidedly off the mark.
Still, those interested in the roots of one of America's premier satirists of sex should take a look at Fanny Hill. Mountain-climbers have to tackle small, obscure peaks before they reach Mr. Everest. The same is true of filmmakers.