Girly (a.k.a. "Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny, and Girly, 1969)
This 1969 curio from director Freddie Francis is so obscure it doesn’t even qualify as a cult film. The title of the twisted tale was shortened from the original MUMSY, NANNY, SONNY, AND GIRLY in order to sell it as a sexploitation effort, and later home video box art (first on VHS back in the 1980s, now on a new Region 1 DVD released in 2010) suggest a horror film. GIRLY is definitely not sexploitation and only borderline horror; truly, it is a bizarre black comedy, whose humor derives from the way the titular quartet engage in extremely strange behavior while prattling on as if they were all a normal happy family.
The children Sonny (Howard Trevor) and Girly (Vanessa Howard) – both of whom are actually approaching adult age – lure men back to their home, where adults Mumsy (Ursula Howells) and Nanny (Pat Heywood) cluck with approval over the “games” they play, which have lethal consequences for their new “friends,” especially if these reluctant friends refuse to play. The story follows their latest victim (Michael Bryant), a gigilo who is fooled into thinking he has killed his client and so must hide from the police in the weird family’s ancient and extensive ancestral manse. At first this “New Friend” (as he is called) seems stuck between a rock and a hard place, but eventually he is able to to use his sexual charms to seduce Girly and turn her against Sonny and the others, although the final fade out suggests his ploy may not have paid off so well after all.
Francis (who helmed some enjoyable horror films for Hammer and Amicus in the ’60s and ’70s, including DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE) considered this one of his best efforts, but it’s not easy to see why. Although initially intriguing, the eccentric English humor goes only so far, and the plot (which is vaguely similar to THE BEGUILED, with Bryant in the Clint Eastwood role as a trapped man using sexuality as a weapon to defend himself) needs more engaging performances and a stronger ending. (Bryant is a good actor, but it was easier to believe that Eastwood had the charisma necessary to turn the tables on his captors). Also, the visual style is not up to Francis’ best work, with little in the way of the prowling tracking shots or carefully choreographed extended takes that distinguish his thrillers and horror films.
Although viewers expecting a full-blooded horror story will inevitably be disappointed by the tame approach (only fleeting moments of violence and restrained hints of sex), MUMSY, NANNY, SONNY, AND GIRLY does tread on genre territory, in an Addams Family kind of way; its closest antecedent is THE OLD DARK HOUSE, which also featured a family full of weirdos in a dusty old mansion. No match for James Whale’s 1932 classic, MUMSY, NANNY, SONNY AND GIRLY is just dark and weird enough to sustain interest as an off-beat cult item; on that level, it is worth a rental, for curiosity seekers and for fans of Francis, who want to see what he could do with an independent project that he himself originated (as opposed to working as a director-for-hire on a studio film).
MUMSY, NANNY, SONNY, AND GIRLY (a.k.a. GIRLY, 1969). Directed by Freddie Francis. Screenplay by Brian Compton, based on the play “Happy Family” by Maisie Mosco. Cast: Vanessa Howard, Michael Bryant, Ursula Howells, Pat Heywood, Howard Trevor.