Baby Love (1969)


baby_love

Something reminded me the other day of the well-known Seventies actress, Linda Hayden, who was principally known for getting them off in some of the very early Seventies Hammer Films that was were experimenting in soft-porn, and a couple of the Confessions films, which were also, in their way, experimenting with soft-porn.
But before these ‘career-highlights’, Hayden first made her name in a somewhat more serious film, Baby Love. It was a film for which I was far too young in 1969 to see at the cinema, although I remember the film poster I’ve shown above, and at least one newspaper ad that puzzled me most seriously. I’ve seen it a couple of times on TV, but it won’t be on the box in the foreseeable future, nor will it be getting any release on DVD because, under the laws of the land as they now stand, Baby Love is illegal.
To watch it again, to refresh my memory of it for the purpose of this essay, I’ve had to download an obviously pirate copy, of very poor, very blurred quality. It seemed appropriate for a film which has been praised for its intentions elsewhere on the ‘net, yet which is stiff, static and woodenly acted throughout, to the extent where Dick Emery is actually the most naturalistic player, and all his character is is a rude chortle that could have come out of any Dick Emery Show.
The story does have potential for a psychological study. Hayden plays Luci, a teenage girl from an unspecified terrace street oop north, orphaned when she comes home from school to find her mother has slit her wrists in the bath. Luci, who we learn has been emotionally neglected, and who we see equates love with attention and physical love, is taken in by the Quayles, a rich, middle-class family in London. Robert (Keith Barron) was Luci’s mother’s lover but left her due to his ambition (he is a successful doctor).
The Quayles have their own issues. Robert is dictatorial (this is 1968, remember, when husbands ruled) and determined to stay in control, exacerbated by the barely-concealed chip he has on his shoulder in respect of wife Amy (Anne Lyn), a rich, former convent girl, whose family has opened doors for him, no doubt to the detriment of his manhood. They have a son, Nick, of similar age to Luci.
Into this melting pot comes a manipulative, needy, short-skirted, long-blonde-haired teenage girl. Even if this wasn’t a film, you’d only ever expect disaster.
Luci blows hot and cold on the clearly hormonal Nick, alternating between prick-teasing and shriekingly shoving him off (though this latter aspect is highly understandable, given that he’s the worst kind of teenage know-nothing). Nevertheless, whilst sunbathing on the terrace, Luci removes her bikini-top and invites him to her in a way that implies that the two do have sex.
However, Luci also manipulates Amy into an affair with her. (How could they have sex when neither of them has got a… wondered the uninformed 13 year old me). Nothing is shown explicitly: indeed, the furthest the film goes is right at the start, when Amy agrees to sleep in Luci’s bed to quiet her after nightmares: Luci goes off to genuine sleep, one hand thumb in mouth, the other on Amy’s breast (through her firmly opaque nightie, of course), whilst Lynn emotes the mixture of feelings she’s getting from this sweetly innocent contact.
But it’s when Luci, having just heard that Robert intends to send her off to a boarding school, tries to seduce him by throwing herself – naked – at him in the garden that the film comes to its decidedly underwhelming climax.
Having been rejected by Robert, who tells her she’s just like her mother (and implicitly answers the question he’s refused to divulge thus far, namely why he left the mother in the first place), Lucy races indoors and finds Nick in the shower, so she throws herself at him. He rejects her violently, his urges towards having an in-house fuck buddy having been somewhat tempered by his recently having faced serious violence from a bunch of ‘hooray henries’ led on by Luci’s provocations. During the struggle, he slips, hits his head against the shower tap, and collapses, dead.
Or is he? Because, after Luci runs from the bathroom,screaming, Nick and his fate simply disappear from the story. Robert and Amy, barely changed, discuss a social affair with their friends the Pearsons (the afore-mentioned chortling Emery and the criminally unused Sheila Steafal, who isn’t given a single word to say). Amy agrees that Luci must leave their house, so Luci advances on her, repeating “Don’t you want to play with your little doll?” until Amy bursts into tears and runs out of the room, and the penny finally drops with Robert.
Which leads to the final scene, when Emery arrives at the door, all dress-suit and bowtie, to collect the similarly attired Robert and the evening-dressed Amy. Luci’s staying at home, Robert urbanely claims: she has a bad head. Oh really, chortles Emery, and we cut to Amy, on the stairs, made-up ridiculously, and wearing a completely unsuitable (and quite horrible) dress, ready to join them.
And that’s where it ends. And is Nick dead or not? Because either way, his parents are acting as if he’s never existed in the first place.
It’s typical of the film as a whole. An interesting scenario, with potential for psychological depth, betrayed by ugly, disjointed writing that puts everything on the surface. It’s stiff and static, moving from scene to scene with the alacrity of frozen treacle dripping. And for a film that offers Swinging London for a back-drop, it’s bloody lifeless.
Barron barks almost every line and gets into small-minded tempers, Lynn is as wet as they come, the son a hormonal cypher. Hayden plays her part as well as you might expect of a girl of her age, flat and unconvincing, though she properly foreshadows the rest of her career by her willingness, from the outset, to get her clothes off.
She’s happy to show her breasts when taking off her (ill-fitting) bikini top, and again when trying to tempt Robert, and in between she appears nude in the bathroom, full-length from the back.
And that is why this film wont ever turn up on TV again, or be available on DVD. Because Luci is a fifteen year old girl. And so was Linda Hayden.
Yes, this is a film that even Confessions of a Window-Cleaner is morally superior to because, when Hayden got her tits out in that, she was an adult. For some reason, people who made and displayed serious films thought it was perfectly reasonable to have a fifteen year old girl appear topless and naked in a supposed serious film.
And as a serious film, it’s a load of amateurish crap. Even if it were legal to make this film freely available, you really wouldn’t want to bother watching it. Not if Plan 9 from Outer Space were available.

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