Monday, 8 November 2010

Naked(er) as Nature Intended

I recently managed to get hold of the US version of Naked As Nature Intended (1961), and was pleasantly surprised to find a very different version of the film than the one I’d previously encountered on video in the UK. In fact it turns out the film was completely re-worked for its American release by Crown International. Not only was the narration re-voiced for the American market, but the US version also draws on ‘stronger’ takes than appear in the UK version, and more tantalizingly includes all of the footage cut from the film’s British release version by the censor John Trevelyan in 1961. Material that was generally thought of as being lost, since the film’s original negatives-which are held by the BFI- were cut, and the censored footage was also missing from subsequent UK video releases.


Officially the only BBFC cuts made to the film, re-printed in and quoted here from John Hamilton’s book about Tony Tenser, were:

Reel 5
Remove all shots of girls on beach when they are seen front view, naked or virtually naked, full length.
Remove shot of Pamela posing on the edge of the water, with a filmy scarf in her hair.

Reel 6
Remove all shots of girls, both before and during the game with a ball, when they are seen naked front view, full length
”.

Of course this doesn’t really tell the whole story, since back then allot of censorship took place at a script or post-production stage, and its been well documented that even before the ‘official’ censorship began, Trevelyan nixed a couple of scenes from NANI. Trevelyan seems to have been especially fixated by the idea that the film was “really” about lesbianism, and on the basis of the material cut from the UK version but reinstated for the American release, he seems to have been more concerned with removing that perceived aspect to the film rather than the nudity itself. Its very hard not to turn Trevelyan into a figure of fun in all of this and portray him as some kind of doddery old fool, shifting through nudist films for any lesbian subtexts and accidental full frontal shots. In fairness we are talking here about a film in which two of the main female characters work as petrol pump attendants, don’t appear to have boyfriends and go on nudist holidays together, so maybe Trevelyan was onto something. Also according to one of my more colourful sources of info for that era there was a bit of chatter within the industry about someone connected to the film (in a none directorial capacity). Now whether “those rumours” about this person were true or not, if this gossip did reach Trevelyan’s ears it would explain why he was so on the look out for any lesbian leanings to the film.

Anyway these are the differences I’ve been able to spot by comparing the British and American versions.


-The US opening credits are different to those in British version, no doubt this was mainly done to accommodate a re-title (the American version is merely known as ‘As Nature Intended’, somewhat ironic that a version with more nudity should remove the ‘n’ word from its title). The American version of the credits also drops the narration credit for Guy Kingsley Poynter, and presents GHM’s ‘directed by’ credit in standard bold lettering (the British version uses a reproduction of his signature.) The American version also shortens Pam’s long, pre-title walk to the camera.

-In the UK version the opening scene showing Petrina working as a secretary is missing close-ups of her legs and shots of her boss trying to cop an eyeful of them. This presumably was originally meant to visualize the line in the British version “that reminds me of that definition, even a girl who can’t add up can certainly distract” but of course the shot got cut from the UK version and the line re-voiced for the American version.














-The “shower scene” is cut out entirely from the UK version but remains in the US release. Originally meant to appear in the film in-between the scene of Bridget and Angela leaving the petrol station and the scene of Pam and Petrina picking up Jackie at her parent’s house, it basically consists of Pam emerging from a shower (demonstrating the same quick use of a towel to cover herself that also comes in handy during the later beach scenes) and chatting with Petrina over tea about their upcoming holiday. Trevelyan’s justification for cutting the scene was that it features nudity outside of its ‘proper’ nudist camp context, and since the two girls are shown living together; “there could be a connotation that they’re lesbians” Trevelyan is said to have told GHM. Something that clearly went over the head of the American narrator who seems more amused by the tea drinking (“very British… those British”) and uses the scene as a platform for sexist wisecracks about women being unable to read maps.

-In the US version the scene with Bridget and Angela undressing in a field shows both women topless, albeit briefly. In the UK version the shot of Angela cuts away just as her top is about to come off, while the shot of Bridget taking her top off pans down just as her top is coming off (the US version uses a stronger version of this shot which sees Bridget go topless before the camera pans down.)















- The “payoff” at the end of the scene in the boat, in which Jackie Salt falls overboard, gets rescued then is dried off by Pam and Petrina, is different in the two versions. In the UK version the two women dry her off while, absurdly, she still has her clothes on. On the other hand the US version uses a take in which Jackie is topless and Pam and Petrina are rubbing her breasts. Something that no doubt gave further ammo to Trevelyan’s theory about the characters being lesbians. Even Marks’ production manager had doubts whether this scene would pass the British censor, reportedly telling Marks during filming “They won't wear it, George, women rubbing each other down!”. Presumably they filmed clothed and unclothed versions of the scene in the (correct) belief that the censor would refuse to pass the unclothed take.


- The scene on the beach prior to Pam meeting Bridget and Angela, originally includes a shot of Petrina with her top off, which is in the US version but is cut out of the UK one. Presumably this shot was removed by Trevelyan because it once again shows nudity outside of a nudist camp.

- Given the amount of cuts made to the film before the characters even reach the nudist camp, its quite surprising then to find that the scenes on the nudist beach and in the camp itself seem to have been mostly passed uncut. Confusingly all of the material the BBFC’s records suggests was cut (“shots of girls on beach when they are seen front view, naked or virtually naked, shot of Pamela posing on the edge of the water, with a filmy scarf in her hair.. Etc, etc”) is still in the UK version, suggesting that those cuts were either never made or appealed at some point? The only cut made to the film during the nudist camp sequences, effects the shots of Pam riding nude on a swing, which is briefly seen in the UK version, but goes on allot longer in the US version and from angles that show more than Trevelyan was clearly prepared to pass in 1961.


While NANI is never likely to be regarded as the most exciting film ever made, the added bits and bobs of nudity do give the film more of a pulse. Plus the sustained nudity throughout makes the film play more like a typical American nudie of the era, as opposed to the British version which keeps its audience in suspense with around 40 minutes of travelogue before showing nudity of any kind. What really distinguishes the American version from the British one however is the narration. Whereas the UK narration comes across like something out of a Pathe news reel with a couple of GHM’s old music hall one liners thrown in, the American narration is far more obvious in its sexploitation motives.

In particular there is lots of leery ‘carrot on the stick’ type comments to the audience, during the nothing special opening scenes showing the girls working 9 to 5 jobs, emphasizing that the girls will end up taking their clothes off at a nudist camp.. eventually. The unnamed American narrator actually soon becomes bored by having to talk over all the British travelogue footage and “introduces” his British friend Cedric to chat through several sequences, at which point the narration actually reverts back to the original Guy Kingsley Poynter narration. Even so our American narrator cant help but occasionally chipping to take the piss, remarking “Oh, thats a good one” after one of the film’s bad puns and “I’ll treasure that information” after some Kingsley Poynter titbit about Cornwall which is of bugger all interest to Americans.

Given the American narration track was put together by Crown International rather than Marks himself, this version can hardly be considered true to Marks’ original vision, and I suppose a ‘Director’s Cut’ version of the film would include the UK narration track and all of the censored material put back in. Still at least the American version has preserved the material cut from the film, and its existence suggests that they might be versions of other 1960s British horror and sexploitation films existing overseas that managed to sneak back in footage cut from the UK releases. We can but hope.


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