Dead-eye Dick (Gillies) is a one-eyed peeping tom who has spent the last few weeks spying on a handsome young lothario Mexico Pete (Lazareff). When Pete confronts him, the pair strike up an unlikely friendship, mainly based on Dick’s infatuation with a prostitute he claims to have met in Alaska, Eskimo Nell (Anoux). Dick describes her as a ‘whomper’, something Pete hasn’t heard of. Let’s just say it’s not the kind of creature you’d find on Hoth. Against his better judgement, Pete accompanies Dick across the Outback in an attempt to reunite the love-struck Dick with Nell. Being a ‘sex comedy’, there are plenty of risqué encounters along the way, but just as many moments that put our heroes in jeopardy. It almost has an anthology feel to it, which actually makes it a lot of fun to watch, even when some of the gags fail (either due to the passage of time, geographical differences or just plain poor judgement).
The poem which began the legendary character inspired another film made around the same time, namely the British sex comedy Eskimo Nell (which was directed by Martin Campbell, who would later helm Bond movies, and written by and starring Michael ‘Mark of the Devil’ Armstrong). The Antipodean version makes a little more of the tale than the Pommy version, and stands up (ahem) much better for it. The feature debut of Oz exploitation king Richard Franklin (Patrick, Road Games, Psycho II), it’s almost surreal in its portrayal of the Australian ‘wild west’. Gillies is perfect as the tragic Dick, a desperate loser with just one motivation.
While The True Story of Eskimo Nell is promoted as a bawdy comedy in the mould of the Confessions films, it’s really an occasionally moving drama, focusing on a team-up of unlikely friends that actually brings to mind Midnight Cowboy more than Carry On Cowboy. Yes, there’s a lot of adult humour and nudity (certainly no worse than you’d see on HBO), but the likeability of the characters is probably enough to win most viewers over, if you can ignore the dated sexism and toilet humour (clearly Blazing Saddles was another flatulent influence).
THE TRUE STORY OF ESKIMO NELL / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: RICHARD FRANKLIN / SCREENPLAY: RICHARD FRANKLIN, ALAN HOPGOOD / STARRING: MAX GILLIES, SERGE LAZAREFF, BUTCHER VACHON, GRAHAME BOND, VICTORIA ANOUX / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW