I, Maximus

George Harrison Marks began shooting his now-legendary series of 8mm ‘glamour’ films in Britain in the late-1950s. During the post-war years the ‘Harrison Marks’ brand became a byword for quality among nudie film connoisseurs and since his death, in 1997, his films have become hugely collectable. Some of Marks’ most famous titles like Witches’ Brew and The Window Dresser starred his one-time blonde muse, and lover, Pamela Green (1929-2010). Whilst Green’s starring appearances were purely titillating, Marks did film hardcore Marks & Greenpornography with other less-inhibited models. One of Marks’ glamour film rivals, Stanley Long, told me that it was an ‘open secret’ that Marks shot far more explicit material, and, despite reports to the contrary, he had been doing this since the early-1960s. Marks had always been a heavy drinker, who loved the company of beautiful women, but by his own admission he was not the best businessman in the world. By 1970 Marks had been declared bankrupt and the following year he endured a high-profile obscenity trail at the Old Bailey. Just six years later Mary Millington would end up in the very same court room on almost identical charges. But far from deterring him, Marks’ brushes with the law only spurred him on with his chosen career.  

Coitus 8mmFrom his modest studios off Cowcross Street in Farringdon, London EC1, Marks established a new company named, rather grandly, Maximus International Ltd. He shot soft and hardcore pornography here – some anonymously for German distributor Charlie Brown – and the rest for his own Maximus label. Many of his productions were astonishingly ambitious, utilising elaborate sets, multiple cast members and exterior locations. Additionally Marks lavished his trademark slapstick humour upon these mini-epics, occasionally making comical cameo appearances. The films promised “the most beautiful models in Britain” and included titles like Aphrodisia (parts 1 & 2), a pseudo-James Bond spoof; the delightfully-named Halfway Inn, starring the Collinson Twins; the ‘purely educational’ Coitus with Stanley Long’s eventual sister-in-law Sue Bond; and Medium Rare showcasing the truly ‘magnificent’ top-heavy Monique Deveraux.

How to HandleMarks produced some 80-or-so titles for his Maximus label, and advertised his films via adverts in the back of magazines like Continental Film Review. By 1975 he had started selling colour transparencies to David Sullivan, who published his photo-sets in Whitehouse, from issue #17, and Ladybirds (later Lovebirds), from issue #1. Additionally, Marks promoted many of his 8mm productions in Sullivan’s myriad titles. The same year Marks began his business relationship with David Sullivan, Goldline Publishing (owned by brothers David & Ralph Gold) brought out a magazine dedicated to Marks’ recent 8mm films. How to Give a Blue Film Party was a misleading title for a publication which had very little to do with organising wife-swapping festivities. Apart from a hugely informative three-page article on ‘How to Handle a Woman’s Breasts’ (“Give your girl an orgasm… by merely fondling her breasts!”), this rarely-seen magazine merely acts as an impressive 52-page advertisement for Harrison Marks’ incredibly varied, and enterprising, productions.

Goodnight NurseIncluded are pictorials on the art gallery frolics of Xhibition and Art for Art’s Sake, restaurant antics in Bistro Bordello, hospital hi-jinks in Goodnight Nurse; Ad for Loving, set in a London advertising agency, plus the backstage theatre thrills of The Princess of Sexcess and the Customs & Excise-themed Unaccustomed As I Am. All were shot in two versions – hard and soft (often with different titles) – and the latter two films feature one of Marks’ most recognisable rent-a-studs, Peter Vernon, who was interviewed on the set of a John Lindsay porn film for Stanley Long’s invaluable 1971 sex documentary Naughty! The films retailed at £9.50 for black & white or £15.50 for the colour versions.

Unaccustomed As I Am, also stars “44-24-46 swinger” Clyda Rosen, a prolific performerClyda Rosen Supersex who occasionally worked for Marks, as well as being employed by John Lindsay, Charlie Brown and Lasse Braun. An alluring brunette, Clyda was not Israeli as many articles inaccurately state, although her dusky looks led to her being labelled as everything from German, French and even Greek. Clyda appeared several times in David Sullivan’s magazines, and in 1976 she was his cover girl for Supersex issues #6 and #9 and Blockbusters issue #2. She had a brief affair with the publisher, and enjoyed incredible longevity in the British adult industry, only retiring in the early-1990s. Today Clyda lives in London, is happily married, and now prefers to be known by another name.

Clyda Rosen Peter VernonThe How to Give a Blue Film Party magazine also devotes a colour spread to one of Harrison Marks’ most exotic 8mm productions. The charmingly-titled Cous Cous is set in a randy Sheik’s tent and stars models Tara Lynn and Lucienne Camille. Lynn was an habitué of Mountain Films’ early-1970s ‘Impact X’ home movies, but is probably best remembered for losing her blouse in 1973’s Holiday on the Buses and playing the sinister swinger Margaret in Ken Rowles’ seminal 1976 film Take an Easy Ride. Camille, however, was one of the few black models to appear in British-made pornography during the Seventies. Like Peter Vernon, she was also interviewed in the Naughty! documentary and starred in hardcore magazines and films in Scandinavia for Color Climax and Private. Sometimes known as ‘Sylvia Bayo’, she also featured in a number of softcore 8mm loops as for Mayfair magazine, including her most famous, Girl Friday, shot in 1970.  

George Harrison Marks obviously enjoyed himself on the set of Cous Cous, as six years later he made a return visit to the Sheik’s harem for the bigger-budget Arabian Knights, shot on location at the Julius Caesar Hotel in Paddington, and financed by Color Climax. By all accounts several of his performers enjoyed themselves just a little too much, and the director spent many hours propping up the hotel bar. But then, of course,  at the end of the day, George Harrison Marks was one man who certainly knew how to throw a blue film party.

All words strictly © Simon Sheridan 2014-2015-2016

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