By Virgo Spectre
Amazon Prime has opened my eyes to new treats. A week ago I happened across The Top Secret Adventures of Clara Chapman (dir Simon Roptell 2018) and it was a thorough joy. This film takes its inspiration from the British WW2 daily strips popularised by cartoonists like Norman Pett who devised the infamous Jane series. On the surface Pett’s cartoon is about a saucy British heroine defending Britain and the like from the Nazi menace. But dig deeper and it is much more. Jane’s plight represent the plight of Britain at this time. Exposed, vulnerable but fighting on and this is why the Jane series ran for so long in British history.
Jump to 2018 and the Top Secret Adventures of Clara Chapman is attempting just that. However; Britain isn’t vulnerable and the women losing their clothes genre is as far removed as is the ventriloquist themed film (See Danny Kaye’s Knock on Wood 1954). But it works. How and why? Well, for precisely the reason it shouldn’t. Currently, we are on a steady diet of “How to behave films” and we are all sick of it. It is patronising, dumb and circular. Clara Chapman addresses this hysteria. The film starts in the conventional way and it is not to long until the titular characters is fighting her nemesis on a London bus in her undergarments until the film takes a sharp right turn. Suddenly, we are in a public library and a top navy brass is being blackmailed by a gormless library loafer. What over? Imprints in library books of naked illustrations he has been drawing of his cute assistant. There is a lot at stake for the poor fellow. The scene is both hilarious and confrontational and addresses all the movements that are around now that serves to defame people for their private behaviour. Excellent stuff.
This led me on a sojourn to explore this type of genre and a few titles popped up and whilst such hidden meaning was not as obvious in the ones I viewed, they are nonetheless worth a mention. Jane (1982-1984) and Jane and the Lost City (1987) were both produced in the era of the lad. Political correctness was not yet the glint in the milkman’s eye and these pieces could easily have been overlooked due to the proliferation of the Carry On films, the Benny Hill television show and ‘Allo ‘Allo half hour that came before. Jane, starring Glynnis Barber captured much of the comedy and antics of the original Norman Pett comics, whilst Lost City drew on the swashbuckling films that came later. It even featured Flash Gordon’s Sam J Jones and James Bond’s Maude Adams.
After the 1980s, nothing. It is now the era of the cynic, the social justice movement. Political correctness. Sure, Tarantino, the Coen Bros and Woody Allen were producing works unseen before, but something for the lad had defiantly died. That is why it is so good to see something like the Top Secret Adventures of Clara Chapman, because it is solid proof that genres aren’t dead because a handful of journalists and public speakers say they are. Jane was the most popular character in British comics for at least three decades. Here’s hoping Clara Chapman can keep doing her bit and carry on.
The Top Secret Adventures of Clara Chapman can be viewed at Amazon.com