Alvin Purple

Year: 1973
Production Co: Bi-Jay
Director: Tom Burstall
Writer: Alan Hopgood
Cast: Graeme Blundell, Abigail, Jacki Weaver

I'm sure at the time (Melbourne in the very early 1970s) the creative and financial principals who sheperded this movie into being fully intended it to be an interesting story rather than the icon of a movement, but it's much more successful five decades later as the latter than as the former.

Alvin (Graeme Blundell) is a young man at a time where huge shaggy hair, flared pants and very particular sexual mores are the cultural backdrop. He exists in a cloud of cloying carnality – if it's not the way women dress (watch for an early fantasy about going up to an attractive woman on the tram and tearing her top open to fondle her) it's the way they constantly throw themselves at him.

If you're Australian and over a certain age you might wonder if Blundell had been some sort of sex symbol back in the day or if the script by writer Alan Hopgood was just male wish fulfilment, but director Tim Burstall said at the time that even though they wanted him to cast a real male icon like Jack Thompson, he thought it'd be funnier if his oversexed lead was someone you wouldn't imagine getting laid so much like Woody Allen or Dustin Hoffman.

Either way, it quickly hobbles the plan Alvin makes early in the film that it's going to be the 'sexless seventies' – apparently he either gets so much pussy he's sick of it or he's decided relationships or affairs just aren't worth the effort.

If it's not the nubile young girl next door asking for a cup of suger and leaving with much more or the female customers wanting more in the bedroom than his job as a travelling waterbed salesman, Alvin is soon worn out.

While he tries to quietly woo a local girl he's also in therapy for his constant shagging, but his attractive shrink's colleague sees a business opportuity, setting Alvin up in a custom-made boudoir where frustrated female patients only need a good banging to cure them (yes, the film's appreciation of the nuances of female sexuality is that lowbrow).

It all blows up in Alvin's face when he and the doctor's scheme is discovered and finds its way into the media, and he might have lost his big chance with the girl he really wants – the only one not trying to get him into bed. How it all ends up with him as a gardener in a convent will make you shake your head and wonder if there's a missing reel.

It's pretty much as ridiculous as the above description makes it sounds, and under any other cicrumstances I'd have guessed some producer simply wanted to cash in on the social mood at the time and commissioned a story to film to embody it. It was the height of the hippie movement and the times were all about libertarian hedonism – it's no accident Number 96 was so popular on TV at the time.

But Hopgood's story was already written and chosen by Burstall out of several to make into his movie, so it undoubtedly had no such pretensions of hitching its wagon to a social movement, intending to just be an entertaining and coherent story.

Unfortuantely it's not. The concept of a nerdy boy who can't get away from sex because of the permissive times he lives in is much more identifiable than the tale that goes along with it. It's not very clear why the sleazy psychiatrist sets Alvin up as a professional gigolo and the wheels never quite re-attach themselves to the vehicle from then on.

Other than that it's worth watching for some of the historical anachronisms of Australian cinema like the women all having curiously British accents to look virtuous and winsome and differentiate them from the larrikin ockers men are all portrayed as (see Don's Party and The Adventures of Barry McKenzie for more).

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