A name to conjure with if you're a chap of a certain age. Coronary inducing Swedish nymphette on the one hand. Decorative fixture in some of the early 70s most iconic films on the other. There can't be anyone unaware of the phone sex sequence in 1971's Get Carter, and who could ever forget her orgiastic wall thumping nude dance in 1973's The Wicker Man. But sandwiched between the two, how many remember her full frontal strip in an obscure and sleazily compelling little film called Night Hair Child?
The film is enough of a rarity in its own right. Seldom shown - if ever - and never officially released on dvd to my uncertain knowledge. But until I excavated this recently out of a local charity shop I had no idea that it was based on an even rarer original novel. At least, that is what the book itself leads you to infer: "now filmed by James Kelly for American International Pictures" it proclaims proudly on the back cover. And, yes, it similarly boasts a publication date fully a year in advance of the film's release. But that is Hardy Kruger on the front cover with Britt, and the book itself reads less like a novel than a transcribed screenplay. No conventional novel of a meagre 149 pages would ever find itself divided up into 43 chapters like this one is. But one following camera set ups just might.
Of academic interest though this might be it is ultimately neither here nor there whether it was Britt or the book which came first.
THE NIGHT HAIR CHILD tells the story of Elise, the vain and vacuous twenty two year old trophy wife of successful writer Paul Bezant. Hers is an indolent endless routine of shopping and sunbathing at Bezant's Portugese villa. But a rather large spanner is thrown into the works of Elise's superficial existence by the unexpected and unheralded arrival of Bezant's twelve year old son, Marcus: sole product of the writer's first marriage to the unfortunate Sarah who was electrocuted in her bath (shocking, positively shocking). Elise takes an instant dislike to the super precocious Marcus, a dislike which swiftly escalates into an obsession which leads her down some rather unsettling - frankly disturbing - paths of behaviour.
Is Marcus really the murderous psychotic that Elise comes to believe he is, or is it all a delusion on her part and is it she, really, who is the paranoid schizophrenic?
The answer when it comes is really rather good, and the final few pages of the book cast an entirely new sheen over everything that has gone before. But, oh my word, to get to those final pages is a real slog undertaken in the company of three of the the most insufferable, unsympathetic, self-absorbed, narcissistic bastards you could ever despair of meeting.
The creepily self-assured Marcus is less of a child than a pint-sized adult. Whereas the immature Elise is more of an over ripened adolescent. The sexual frisson where the intellects and intentions of each interact is frankly disturbing. Add to this the boorish self-important Bezant and the ghastly trinity is complete.
Its not a badly written book by any means, and is in fact quite clever in the way it drip feeds Elise's spirralling paranoia. There is no humour in it apart from the unexpected hilarity afforded by the dated grooviness of the hedonistic ex-pat party, and the use of eating chinese as a metaphor for sophisticated living. But the characters are so off putting as to elicit no sympathy whatsoever and they make the reading of the book a real chore. And then there is that aforementioned sexual frisson which is blatant enough to leave one feeling in want of a bath.