The Best House in London


1h 36m 1969
The Best House in London

Brief Synopsis

Government officials try to organize a state bawdy house in Victorian England.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
NC-17
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Release Date
Jan 1969
Premiere Information
New York opening: 30 Jul 1969
Production Company
Bridge Films
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Country
United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 36m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)

Synopsis

Two diverse factions in Victorian England have vowed to do something about the prostitution in London's streets. On the one hand, a delegation of government officials has decided to try the "French system" by sponsoring an official brothel to be situated in an ancestral home belonging to Sir Francis Leybourne; on the other hand, Sir Francis' niece, Josephine Pacefoot, is engaged in starting a rehabilitation center for wayward girls. When Sir Francis is called away to India, where he maintains a large opium plantation, he turns the administration of the government brothel over to his mistress, Babette, who turns it over to her lover, Sir Francis' disinherited son, Walter. Here in this luxurious bordello many famous Victorians, including Charles Dickens, Lord Tennyson, Oscar Wilde, Lord Alfred Douglas, Lady Dilke, Algernon Charles Swinburne, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, make brief appearances. Benjamin Oakes, a young publicity consultant who has been promoting an airship invented by Count Pandolfo, aligns himself with Josephine's group in order to expose the widespread prostitution. Conversely, Walter is luring Josephine's reformed prostitutes to Babette's establishment. Then the natives on Sir Francis' opium plantation slay him, and Josephine inherits both the ancestral brothel and the plantation. Determined that he shall have control of his father's assets, Walter schemes to get rid of the troublesome Benjamin by framing him on a rape charge and then seducing and marrying Josephine. But his evil plot goes awry when the Chinese trade attaché, disturbed by the sale of Indian-grown opium to his country, kidnaps Josephine and threatens her with a horrible, Oriental-style death unless she turns over the deed to the plantation. Although Benjamin, temporarily released in order to clear himself of the rape charge, attempts to rescue her, he ends up being captured himself. But, with the disclosure of an unlikely filial relationship between the Chinese trade attaché and the Leybournes, and the imminent possibility of a raid, Josephine and Benjamin escape to freedom. Following the confusion that ensues, Josephine converts her uncle's ancestral home into a rehabilitation school, while the former occupants, including Babette, are hired by the French Ambassador to take up residence in Count Pandolfo's newly-invented airship--the first international flying brothel.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
NC-17
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Release Date
Jan 1969
Premiere Information
New York opening: 30 Jul 1969
Production Company
Bridge Films
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Country
United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 36m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)

Articles

The Best House in London -


When the Hollywood system hit the skids in 1968, investment in England's film industry collapsed as well. Among the major co-productions not abandoned were films exploiting the new relaxed censorship that allowed once-forbidden nudity and profanity. 1969's The Best House in London is an expensive, 'X'-rated Victorian era costume farce about the founding of an extravagant bordello. Essentially one long dirty joke loaded with top acting talent and high production values, the show was generally disliked by critics, and condemned by the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures. The smutty, silly story concerns proto-suffragette Josephine Pacefoot (Joanna Pettet), who seeks sponsorship for her League of Social Purity. She wishes to place fallen women in decent jobs, but the sex-obsessed Londoners she meets would rather seduce them. Josephine is aided and hindered by the ambitious Walter and Benjamin (both David Hemmings), identical-looking men with wildly divergent schemes. One connives to establish a palace-like house of pleasure, and the other is preparing to launch a giant zeppelin under construction by a mad Italian genius (Warren Mitchell). Both Pettet and Hemmings give the show their best, but the jokes remain at a sub- 'Carry On' level of wit. Sidebar stories involve spies, a torture dungeon, and a running gag that sees a parade of cameo walk-ons by Victorian figures both famous and fictitious: Charles Dickens, Lord Tennyson, Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, Sherlock Holmes. Interrupting a scene at the docks is the sight of Dr. Livingstone boarding a ship for Africa. The large cast mixes new faces with old reliables: George Sanders, Dany Robin, Maurice Denham, Martita Hunt, Tessie O'Shea, Veronica Carlson, John Cleese, Charles Lloyd Pack, Ferdy Mayne, Margaret Nolan, Thorley Walters. The sex humor tries for a saucy spirit. One of Josephine's girls is a virgin trying desperately to lose her virginity, without success. One prostitute confesses, "Yes, the gentleman had carnival knowledge of me." Dressed as Little Bo Peep, another working girl asks a client, "Has someone come to disturb my wooly flock?" At least one situation steps over the line: George Sanders' depraved Lord becomes aroused when he witnesses a cherub of a little girl reciting a four-line poem about "my pussy." Director Philip Saville uses a zoom lens to crudely emphasize cleavage and fannies, but the frequent nudity isn't particularly erotic. The big premiere of the bawdy house cues some exaggerated leers at a bare breast or two. Poorly reviewed, Best House in London did not receive the widest of releases. It's best enjoyed as a game for spotting English actors, between the wince-inducing smutty jokes.
The Best House In London -

The Best House in London -

When the Hollywood system hit the skids in 1968, investment in England's film industry collapsed as well. Among the major co-productions not abandoned were films exploiting the new relaxed censorship that allowed once-forbidden nudity and profanity. 1969's The Best House in London is an expensive, 'X'-rated Victorian era costume farce about the founding of an extravagant bordello. Essentially one long dirty joke loaded with top acting talent and high production values, the show was generally disliked by critics, and condemned by the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures. The smutty, silly story concerns proto-suffragette Josephine Pacefoot (Joanna Pettet), who seeks sponsorship for her League of Social Purity. She wishes to place fallen women in decent jobs, but the sex-obsessed Londoners she meets would rather seduce them. Josephine is aided and hindered by the ambitious Walter and Benjamin (both David Hemmings), identical-looking men with wildly divergent schemes. One connives to establish a palace-like house of pleasure, and the other is preparing to launch a giant zeppelin under construction by a mad Italian genius (Warren Mitchell). Both Pettet and Hemmings give the show their best, but the jokes remain at a sub- 'Carry On' level of wit. Sidebar stories involve spies, a torture dungeon, and a running gag that sees a parade of cameo walk-ons by Victorian figures both famous and fictitious: Charles Dickens, Lord Tennyson, Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, Sherlock Holmes. Interrupting a scene at the docks is the sight of Dr. Livingstone boarding a ship for Africa. The large cast mixes new faces with old reliables: George Sanders, Dany Robin, Maurice Denham, Martita Hunt, Tessie O'Shea, Veronica Carlson, John Cleese, Charles Lloyd Pack, Ferdy Mayne, Margaret Nolan, Thorley Walters. The sex humor tries for a saucy spirit. One of Josephine's girls is a virgin trying desperately to lose her virginity, without success. One prostitute confesses, "Yes, the gentleman had carnival knowledge of me." Dressed as Little Bo Peep, another working girl asks a client, "Has someone come to disturb my wooly flock?" At least one situation steps over the line: George Sanders' depraved Lord becomes aroused when he witnesses a cherub of a little girl reciting a four-line poem about "my pussy." Director Philip Saville uses a zoom lens to crudely emphasize cleavage and fannies, but the frequent nudity isn't particularly erotic. The big premiere of the bawdy house cues some exaggerated leers at a bare breast or two. Poorly reviewed, Best House in London did not receive the widest of releases. It's best enjoyed as a game for spotting English actors, between the wince-inducing smutty jokes.

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Copyright length: 98 min. Released in Great Britain in 1969; running time: 96 min. Location scenes filmed in and around London. Several other real and fictional Victorians appear in the film, among them Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, Soames Forsyte, Sherlock Holmes, and William Gladstone.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer July 1969

Released in United States Summer July 1969