Skip to content

Plot: can Pervirella save Condon from the evil Queen Victoria?

After the fall of the great houses of Hammer, Amicus, and Tigon and with directors-producers as Norman J. Warren and Pete Walker moving out of the filmmaking business British exploitation – and cult cinema seemed destined for obscurity. For a while, at least, that was indeed the case… until 1997. That year two figureheads of counterculture, two masters of fringe cinema joined forces for Perverilla, a vaudevillian throwback of deliberate kitsch and cheese that, for all intents and purposes, was to be a celebration of yesteryear’s celluloid heroes of the preposterous, and the grotesque. Far from a critical – and commercial success upon original release it attained something of a rabid cult following in ensuing decades. In no small part responsible for that following was it being an early outing for two future British television personalities, the last great hurrah for ailing British - and Italian exploitation mainstay David Warbeck, and a showcase for the considerable assets of a young (and often very naked) Emily Booth.

The mad genius behind Pervirella is Josh Collins - a first class honors graduate from Central St. Martins school of Art and Design in London in 1990 - who made a name for himself in British nightlife with his underground cabaret and burlesque club The Frat Shack, RHB Exotic Entertainment as well as his bars in Melbourne and Perth. Collins and his entourage are behind the annual retro music festivals Wild Weekend Festival in the UK and Spain as well as the Las Vegas Grind in Las Vegas, Nevada. With his Zombie Zoo Productions production company Collins conceptualizes, designs, and manufactures everything from sets, costumes, and props for the various live performances of his artist collective. As an avid fan of cult cinema from the sixties to eighties Collins was bound to envision his own deviant feature and with The Perv Parlor (1995) that was indeed what happened. Helming The Perv Parlor (1995) was underground filmmaker Alex Chandon who by then had helmed micro-budget splatter epics as Chainsaw Scumfuck (1988), Bad Karma (1991), and Drillbit (1992). In short, Josh Collins is the embodiment of decadence and excess, and more or less the British equivalent to notorious boob-lovers as Jim Wynorski, Andy Sidaris, or Bill Zebub.

Pervirella was to be Collins’ most ambitious and engrossing production up to that point. A spiritual successor to his The Perv Parlor (1995) filled to the gill with oneiric fantasy images, Victorian Age period costumes, ornately designed candy-colored full-size sets, cartoony miniatures, and model animation. It was to be the scion to everything from School For Sex (1969), Zeta One (1969) and Girl Slaves Of Morgana LeFay (1971) to Flesh Gordon (1974), Marie, the Doll (1976), StarCrash (1979) and Galaxina (1980). Following in the footsteps of Luane Peters, Judy Matheson, Kirsten Lindholm, Yutte Stensgaard, Pippa Steel, and Mary and Madeleine Collinson was 21-year-old Cheshire hottie Emily Booth, a curvaceous cutie with an aversion to clothing. As Pervirella Booth was modeled after Jean-Claude Forest’s Barbarella and the Roger Vadim adaptation from 1968 where female libido is the strongest currency, as well as Modesty Blaise. Collins’ creation had a penchant for dressing in pink just as Hanna-Barbera's Penelope Pitstop from Wacky Races (1968) and there never was a situation where Pervirella couldn’t get out of by flashing her breasts or swinging her ass. Among the many guest stars are Redemption Film muses Eileen Daly, and Rebecca Eden, as well as the controversial, BAFTA award winning Jonathan Ross (BBC’s highest paid star as of 2006) and The Word and Never Mind The Buzzcocks host Mark Lamarr. Early in the production Caroline Munro was to guest star as well, but she left after a few weeks. That Pervirella was a satirical jab at the the Royal House of Windsor is an added bonus. Before America got in on the action with Superstarlet A.D. (2000), there was Pervirella.

In the realm of Condon, evil Queen Victoria (Sexton Ming) has decreed that dissidents – intelligentsia, perverts, and otherwise - are to be rounded up and summarily executed. To that end the Queen orders that a wall be built around Condon establishing her long pined after “Monarchy of Terror”. In the underground dissent and discord with the establishment are rife and soon a rebel alliance is growing in the bowels of the city. The rebels call themselves The Cult of Perv and are presided over by the Demon Nanny (Rebecca Eden). For as long as she has been their ruler the Demon Nanny and her Cult of Perv have indulged themselves in the “Sins of the Depraved”. In her death throes she gives birth to a girl (Anna McMellin) who within seconds grows into a voluptuous babe that the Pervs name Pervirella (Emily Booth, as Emily Bouffante). In Pervirella the Cult see their long prophesied savior and a fellowship is soon formed. Professor Rumphole Pump (Ron Drand), Monty (Shend, as The Shend), Sexton Ming (Anthony Waghorne), and special agent Amicus Reilly (David Warbeck) are to embark on a “Crusade Of Doom” and assist Pervirella in any way they see fit. On their zany globetrotting adventure Pervirella and her fellowship are besieged by agents of the malefic Victoria and a trio of witches. If her journey wasn’t dangerous enough Pervirella has one tiny problem: within her bountiful bosom resides a sex demon and whenever she loses her magic talisman she’s overcome by raging nymphomania and an urge to tear her clothes off; both of which she finds impossible not to indulge…

First and foremost Pervirella aimed to revitalize the British sex comedy by taking it back to its Benny Hill roots. Next to that it’s also a very lively steampunk fantastique that lovingly spoofs Eurospy conventions and that two decades prior would probably have been made in either France or Spain. It looks as if Monty Python, Peter Jackson, Renato Polselli, and Luigi Cozzi went on a bender and in their collective state of inebriation produced a screenplay that defies description. In other words, Pervirella is delightfully insane on about every level. It also happens to be Alex Chandon’s most entertaining feature by a wide margin. Here Chandon merely serves as a conduit to Collins’ vision and most, if not all, of his shortcomings are wholly absent. The candy-colored, circus sideshow, Victorian steampunk production design is a wonder to behold. It took cosplaying (a phenomenom that originally came from early 1980s Japan) and LARPing to a then-unprecendented level and we wouldn’t be surprised if much of its cult following derived from those spheres. Also not unimportant is that Pervirella at no point takes itself seriously and that its primary concern is to have fun, above all else. It’s also a good excuse to see freshfaced 21-year-old Emily Booth cavorting around in what seems like a permanent state of partial undress. Pervirella was the injection that the very British and all but extinct knickers and knockers subgenre needed. In any case, there’s an abundance of both but it never reaches Zeta One (1969) levels of camp. Pervirella even has her own swanky, sexy theme song, just like Barbarella (1968) and Galaxina (1980)!

What to say about Emily Booth (here still calling herself Bouffante) without becoming redundant? For one thing the Bouff debuted simultaneously in Hollywood as well as in British (and, by extent, European) trash cinema. Not only did she play the lead role in a vehicle with her mind, she also made a cameo in Paul W.S. Anderson’s failed sci-fi/horror hybrid Event Horizon (1997). If anything else, it goes to show that a terrible screenplay cannot be salvaged by a swathe of respectable Hollywood actors or a big budget. Event Horizon (1997) was a lot of things, but it wasn’t good by any metric you choose to employ. Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, and Joely Richardson couldn’t save Event Horizon (1997) – so how was the Bouff going to stand a chance? No, Ems did right by focusing her mad energies on Pervirella, which was never going to have any mainstream appeal. To her credit the Bouff was able to parlay her turn in Pervirella into a lucrative television – and modeling career. Just two years later Emily rechristened herself Booth and went on to host Bits (1999–2001), season three of outTHERE (2003), as well being a regular presenter on Eat Cinema (2006) (now My Channel), videoGaiden (2008), and the Horror Channel. In between her television gigs Ems found time to act in Alex Chandon’s Cradle Of Fear (2001) anthology and Inbred (2011), among many others. Not bad at all for a bubbly British lass never afraid to take her top off when and where it mattered.

The other big name was late New Zealand actor David Warbeck, a veteran of nearly 80 films in a career that spanned a quarter of a century, then in his twilight years. Warbeck started out in theater productions, and performed with a small touring company in New Zealand before being awarded the New Zealand Arts Council scholarship in 1965. The scholarship allowed him to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England which he did for four terms. Sources differ whether Warbeck quit or was expelled (he was rumoured to have had an affair with Geraldine McEwan, the wife of Academy principal Hugh Cruttwell) which led him to a modeling career wherein he figured into various print – and television commercials as well as a number of fotoromanzi with Marisa Meil. His modeling engagements quickly led to opportunities in acting and Warbeck’s first role of note was in Trog (1970), the swansong of Hollywood Golden Age leading woman Joan Crawford. From there David was whisked to Italy by spaghetti western specialist Sergio Leone for A Fistful of Dynamite (1971). He returned to England for the Hammer horror Twins Of Evil (1971) from director John Hough and with Mary and Madeleine Collinson. In 1973 he was tipped to play James Bond in Live and Let Die (1973) before producer Albert R. Broccoli vetoed up-and-coming television actor Roger Moore from the spy-action series The Saint (1962-1969) who cut his teeth for the role as suave Simon Templeman.

In the years that followed Warbeck alternated between horror and action-adventure working for directors Lucio Fulci and Antonio Marghereti on The Last Hunter (1980), The Beyond (1981), Hunters Of the Golden Cobra (1982), and The Ark Of the Sun God (1984). Before Pervirella Warbeck’s last notable effort was Rat Man (1988) with Nelson de la Rosa. Warbeck famously shared the screen with everybody from Joan Crawford, Ava Gardner, Anthony Quinn, James Coburn, Jack Palance and Peter Cushing to embattled Italian exploitation babes as Janet Ågren, Laura Trotter, Tisa Farrow, Catriona MacColl, and Cinzia Monreale. While doing Pervirella Warbeck was under investigation for running a brothel out of his restored high Victorian gothic Hampstead palazzo, a colossus built by associates of Sir George Gilbert Scott at the time of the construction of St Pancras station. It was custodian to a miniature salon theatre that witnessed performances from Gilbert and Sullivan, George Grossmith and Ellen Terry.

That Pervirella is acquired taste almost goes without saying and it definitely isn’t for everybody. It’s intentionally kitschy in every aspect and the pastel – and cotton candy production design is enoug to send anyone away screaming. Yet there’s something strangely appealing about a steampunk pastiche that closely mirrors Flesh Gordon (1974) in terms of plot but is completely its own beast otherwise. It wouldn’t be until some twenty years later that Josh Collins took to directing his second feature with the equally irreverent and satirical Fags In the Fast Lane (2017). In the two decades after Pervirella Alex Chandon went on to produce a number of music videos for British extreme metal band Cradle Of Filth which culminated in the band featuring in his proper debut Cradle Of Fear (2001). While Cradle Of Filth exploded into the mainstream (at least in metal terms) and have carved out a very… er, interesting career path for themselves Chandon remained a humble unknown. Chandon’s most recent feature is the suprisingly entertaining Inbred (2011) and the short film compilation Shortcuts to Hell: Volume 1 (2013). Perhaps it’s unfortunate that the Pervirella universe was never expanded or explored with a sequel. Or perhaps not, as Pervirella draws as much strength from not having been tainted by sequelitis. Only one question that remains: who will replace Emily Booth as Britain's n° 1 bra-busting cult babe?

Plot: where Monika goes confusion follows. Hilarity ensues!

Monika (released domestically as La Ragazzina that translates to Young Girl) is historic for being the debut of blonde bombshell Gloria Guida. In a blitz career that would only last 8 years Guida would be the star of a series of almost interchangeable bawdy sex comedies that banked heavily, if not entirely, on her willingness to shed clothes. The credit of discovering one of Italy's most enduring and popular commedia sexy all'Italiana Lolitas is Mario Imperoli, who would direct her in Blue Jeans (1975) and shoot her to domestic superstardom with nothing but a pair of very low-cut jeans.

Miss Teen Italy 1974 Gloria Guida

In the wild and exuberant seventies Gloria enchanted everyone everywhere she went. Guida was Miss Teen Italy, 1974 and bound to turn heads. In 1974 Gloria was 19 years and starred in only two movies. The following year would be one of her busiest as she starred in 7 (!!) movies and played, chronologically, a novice nun, a disgruntled socialite heiress, her world-famous schoolgirl, a naughty maid, a young and willing debutante, and a wayward prostitute. Gloria was frequently paired with slapstick specialists Lino Banfi, and Alvaro Vitale, as well as genuine comedic talent as Enzo Cannavale, Lando Buzzanca, and Vittorio Caprioli. In 1981 Guida married to crooner, actor, and showman Johnny Dorelli. Like her husband Guida maintained a singing career until that ended too in 1991. Since retiring Gloria has lived in Italy with her husband and remains a star domestically despite not having done anything significant in many years.

Monika (Gloria Guida) is a fun-loving sixteen-year-old who has an unrequited love for her art professor Bruno De Angelis (Andrés Resino). She doesn't like her boyfriend Leo (Gian Luigi Chirizzi) too much, and when he isn't annoying her she's courted by an uncredited middle-aged gentleman. The situation at home isn't much better. Her lawyer father Massimo Moroni (Paolo Carlini) is married to his job leaving his bored, stay-at-home wife Sandra (Colette Descombes) to seek her pleasure elsewhere. To Monika's dismay her mother holds up an affair with her art professor when she's not tempting her neighbour with topless sunbathing, striking sexy poses, and skinny dipping. All Monika wants is to be loved, but all men seem only interested in one thing. If only Monika could meet the right man...

As low on story as Monika is it never fails to showcase Gloria at her finest. In that capacity she can be seen sporting impossibly short mini-skirts, getting the prerequisite medical check-up, in the shower as well as a a bout of topless sunbathing, and her soon-to-be signature: running around across the countryside with little to no clothes on. While most of Gloria's comedies tend to be identical there are thankfully some exceptions. Her most creative probably is The Minor (1974), and her most iconic La Liceale (1975). Usually (but not always) her sexy melodramas tend to be stronger than her comedies and as such That Malicious Age (1975) and So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious (1975) come highly recommended. If Gloria has one classic to her name it would be the Fernando Di Leo satire To Be Twenty (1978), a scathing polemic so rich in political subtext and some of the darkest cynicism disguised as a sex comedy that it was misunderstood upon original release. It also helped that it co-starred that other famed Lolita from the Golden Age of commedia sexy all’Italiana, miss Lilli Carati.

Supporting Gloria Guida are Paolo Carlini, Colette Descombes, and Andrés Resino. Paolo Carlini debuted in 1940 and his first big break came with the William Wyler directed Roman Holiday (1953) with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Carlini also appeared in It Started In Naples (1960) with Clark Gable and Sophia Loren. In the 1970s Carlini frequently appeared in comedies and Imperoli would cast him once more for the crime flick Like Rabid Dogs (1976). Colette Descombes was a French actress that ended up in Italy, and her most notable entry is the giallo Orgasmo (1969) from Umberto Lenzi. Andrés Resino played a professor earlier in the León Klimovsky directed Waldemar Daninsky epic The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971) with Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy.

Never underestimate the appeal of a blue-eyed blonde that's prone to get naked. Guida played just about every possible male fantasy figure, everything from a naughty nun, a night nurse, and (more often than not) sex-crazed socialites or horny Catholic schoolgirls. The only thing that Gloria never came around to play was the l'insegnante or the teacher. As unbelievable as it may sound Gloria etched out a career almost exclusively in sex comedies and coming of age dramas. Whereas her contemporaries Barbara Bouchet, Evelyne Kraft, Edwige Fenech, and Rosalba Neri branched out into a variety of Eurocult genres, for some reason she never did. Imagine what a giallo with Gloria Guida could have been. Imagine what Renato Polselli or Luigi Batzella could have conjured up with her starring.

Monika comes from a time when Gloria Guida had yet to define herself as the penultimate Italian sexbomb, and the once-and-future queen of lowbrow Italian sex comedies and coming of age melodramas. It seemed that everybody realized early on where Guida's strengths lie, and in the years to follow she would be taking her clothes off in increasingly absurd (and sometimes genuinely comedic) situations. While not all Guida comedies are created equal she did some excellent work with Silvio Amadio, and Mariano Laurenti. She would never equal or surpass her lone stint with Fernando Di Leo (and neither would her co-star Lilli Carati for that matter) and fortunately she never ended up working with hacks like Alfonso Brescia in her post-1975 and post-To Be Twenty (1978) years. Gloria was wise to quit when she did, by her own volition and with her dignity intact.